March 18, 2018
Albany, NY

Audio, Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Delivers Remarks at God's Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn

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Governor Cuomo: "Now public housing is a federal program run by President Trump. He says he wants to make American great again. I say, you want to make American great again? Come visit public housing in your hometown of New York and you tell me if you made American great again. Go visit a unit like I did with vermin and mold and a child who has asthma and you tell me if you made America great again."


"We should act, and we should tell the truth and acknowledge the problem. You will never solve the problem in life you refuse to acknowledge. Denial is not a life strategy and the truth is, discrimination is alive and well in America and in New York today. The truth is, the Tale of Two Cities is still true today - that the wealthy and the powerful have one reality and the poor and the voiceless have another reality."


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at God's Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn. 


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Governor Cuomo: Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good morning to all of you, God is good. It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you to members of the church for allowing me to be here. I am not a member of the church. I am a Catholic. We believe basically the same teachings that you believe, we just do it without the rhythm. That's what being Catholic means. I try though, I try. To Dr. Cockfield and Reverend Cockfield, it's a pleasure to be with both of you. First lady, it's a pleasure to be with you. Let's give them a round of applause. There's a number of my colleagues from Government who are here today. And I'd like to acknowledge them. We have my colleagues from the Assembly—Assemblyman Perry and Assemblyperson Diana Richardson, pleasure to be with both of you. Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, pleasure to be with you, Councilmember. We have a Congressman who is a big rising star in Congress, I say it's easy for him because he's good looking, he's smart, and he's charismatic. Its guys like me it's hard for. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. And I have my counsel, who is the brains of the operation. I say I'm just the good looks of the operation, he says he's both—the brains and the good looks of the operation—Alphonso David, why don't you stand. It's a pleasure to be with them.


It's---it brings back a lot of great memories for me to see this father and son team. As the Reverend mentioned, my father, Governor Mario Cuomo served this state with honor for many years. We lost him two years ago. I loved him very much, I miss him every day, I believe he's here with us today, and he's here with me every day. And just as Reverend Cockfield follows Dr. Cockfield's footsteps, I believe there's no higher compliment a child can serve a parent then to follow their footsteps. Quick story about a father's love—I worked with my father all of his life. I was his campaign manager when I was 23 years old and we were very close. We did everything together and he was my father, my best friend, he lost in 1994. I had run for office and lost in 2002. So, we went through a bad period together. 2006 I run again for Attorney General and I win. And he sees it as redemption, my father. We're at the kitchen table once and we're having dinner and he starts to explain to my mother and my brother—you know, when people go in the voting booth, they really only look at the last name when they vote. They don't really look at the first name. So, he believed when they went in 2006 and voted for Attorney General, they were voting for him, not me. So, I let him have that.

Governor Cuomo Delivers Remarks at God's Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn

But it was a special relationship and it was a special love. He was getting very old and he was starting to deteriorate. And my father was a very prideful man, he was a very dignified man. And he called me over just before Thanksgiving and he said you know, I don't want to live like this. It's not who I am. He had aides at that time, God bless 1199 who were helping him take care of himself. But he just, it's not who he was, and he was not comfortable with it and he said I don't want to live like this anymore. And I knew what he was saying, but I said well pop it's Thanksgiving coming up and the whole family is going to be here and we have to be together for Thanksgiving. He said ok. Calls me back after Thanksgiving and he said, you know we had the conversation—I don't want to go on like this. I'm not doing any good. My father was all about service and all about helping and achieving and contributing. And he said I don't want to go on like this. I said pop, Christmas is coming up. And all the grandchildren are going to come and they're all going to be here and we need you here for Christmas. And he gave me a wry look and he said ok. We have Christmas--after Christmas he calls me back over—he would summon me to the house. He'd have my mother call, your father said come over. I said, "what does, I have this - come over. I said, okay. I went over and my father said, ok, we had a beautiful Christmas, I don't want to go on like this. I said pop, one week is New Year's Eve. I said and I get sworn in to my second term on New Year's Day. And I need you to help me on the speech. And he said, baloney, you don't need me to help you on the speech, you don't even listen to my suggestions anymore, you think you know better—God bless you, you don't need me. I said no, I need you for this speech, it's the inaugural speech, I need you. And I looked at him and I said you promise me you will be here for that speech. And he wouldn't say, and I said dad, you promise me you will be here for that speech. And he looked me in the eye with tears in his eye and the first time I ever saw my father cry. And he made me cry. And he said I will be here for your speech.


January 1, I was on my way to do the inaugural speech. I pass by the house, I say "Pop, why don't you come?" He said, "No I don't want to go out like this but I'm going to hear the speech. Your sisters going to go and she's going to bring the cell phone and hold it up and I'm going to hear the speech." I said, "Are you sure you don't want to come?" He said, "No I don't want to come. But I read the speech, I love the speech, and I'm proud of the speech."He said it's a better speech than I would have given. Which was not true, but it was nice of him to say. I go, I give the speech, my sister holds up the phone. I get on the plane. I fly to Buffalo where I was going to give a second version of the inaugural speech. I'm in the middle of the Buffalo speech and I'm watching and I see in the back of the room the person who was with me take a phone call in the back of the room. And I see him hang up the phone and just shake his head. And I knew what that meant. My father heard the speech, he did what he said he was going to do, and then he passed on. That was such a love, such a connection to will yourself to live just out of love, just out of connection. In many ways, I see myself as continuing my father's work. And that is the greatest legacy that I can bring, it's the way to honor his legacy. And people say, "You know, Mario Cuomo talked great. He gave great speeches." The nasty critics. We have some nasty critics in this society. When I come back, I want to be a nasty critic. It's a great job. You don't have to do anything. You just have to be a nasty critic about what everybody else does. But they said, "Mario Cuomo gave great speeches. He didn't accomplish much." So my administration has been dedicated to accomplishing everything that he talked about and we have accomplished more in this administration than any administration in the history of the state of New York. And I am proud of it.


Now we have a challenging time because we have a federal government that is against everything this state stands for. Everything we believe as a people. It's against social justice. It's against unity. It's against community. The Congressman fights this every day. They preach hate. They fester hate. They breed the anger and then they breed the anger and it turns into division. And they try to separate us. We have more Neo-Nazi groups today since this federal government took office. We have more acts of anti-Semitism today in this state than before this federal government took office. They had the rally in Charlottesville for the white supremacists, and their answer was, "Well there are good people on both sides." By definition there is no good white supremacists. So they're spreading this division, in their rhetoric, in their policies - trying to end health care for the poor. Trying to demonize immigrants. They forget, they're anti-immigrant. Unless they're a member of the Apache, the Sioux, the Navajo, or another Native American tribe, we're all immigrants. 


And my father's whole teaching was summed up in a speech he gave that I was reminded of yesterday, called a Tale of Two Cities. He gave the speech at a Democratic Convention. We talked about the Tale of Two Cities and talked about the division in society, that there's one set of rules for the wealthy and the powerful, and then there's another reality for the poor and for the voiceless. That we still judge people by the color of skin rather than content of their character. And that speech he gave is just as real and vital today than the day he gave it. With this federal government, it's probably more real and vital. So then we have a choice, we can curse the darkness or we can light a candle. We can ram against the federal government - which we should and hopefully it's a short-lived federal government, but I don't want to get into politics. But at the same time, we should act. We should act, and we should tell the truth and acknowledge the problem. You will never solve the problem in life you refuse to acknowledge. Denial is not a life strategy and the truth is, discrimination is alive and well in America and in New York today. The truth is, the Tale of Two Cities is still true today - that the wealthy and the powerful have one reality and the poor and the voiceless have another reality. And it's all through society, starting with the criminal justice system. That's the base of Democracy. The justice system. Justice for all, regardless of color of skin or wealth or position or power - bologna. Young person gets caught with some drugs, young person gets in trouble and goes before the judge. The judge sets bail. How does he set bail? Depends on how much money you have and if you have money and you can pay bail? You walk. And if you don't have money and you can't make bail? You sit. And where do they have you sit? In Rikers Island - the worst jail in the state of New York. More deaths, more stabbings, more assaults on Rikers Island than any jail in the state of the New York. Everybody says it should be closed. Everybody. It's too big, it's putting people all in one place - we have to close it. The City comes up with a plan to close it. How long does it take them to close Rikers Island? Ten years. Ten years is two mayors from now, three city councils from now. What is the chance that a mayor, two mayors from now, is actually going to recognize the plan to close Rikers Island? I'm not implementing any plans from Governor Pataki. Ten years.

We're building a new LaGuardia Airport, it takes four years. We're building a new bridge over the Hudson River, it takes five years. They wanted to build Yankee Stadium, it took them one year. You know what it means when they say it takes them 10 years to build a jail? It's not a priority. They don't care about it. They just want to put it off. 


Discrimination in housing - I was in a public housing unit, a NYCHA unit, it was disgusting. Disgusting. You have people in public housing still living in lead paint. Lead paint was a problem we took care of in the 70s. It's no joke. Lead paint is poison. It does irreversible damage to a child. Units filled with mold. Units will with no heat. No heat. I was in a project yesterday and heat went out on Christmas Eve. You would have thought it was a Charles Dickens novel. And it hasn't been back since, it goes in and out. That's discrimination in housing. Now public housing is a federal program run by President Trump. He says he wants to make American great again. I say, you want to make American great again? Come visit public housing in your hometown of New York and you tell me if you made American great again. Go visit a unit like I did with vermin and mold and a child who has asthma and you tell me if you made America great again. Or if you're just focusing on one part of America, the rich, who just got the biggest tax break in history, but nothing for public housing. The city runs public housing through an agency called NYCHA. NYCHA is another failed bureaucracy. Came before the city council, couldn't answer anything. Is there lead paint in the units? We don't know. Did you abate the lead paint in the units? We don't know. Were the people who abated the lead paint trained? We don't know. You know how long NYCHA says it's going to take to replace a boiler? Four years. How can that be? How can it be four years to change a boiler?


There's employment discrimination. Minimum wage in this city - $9 an hour. How do you make it on $9 an hour? Most families on minimum wage, they're not kids. They're over 25 years old and they have a family. How do you support a family on $18,000 a year? You tell me. You have to choose between paying for food and paying for rent. We passed a law last year. Minimum wage is going to $15 at the end of this year, highest minimum wage in the United States of America. How do you generate wealth for minority businesses? The state has a program called Minority and Women Business Enterprises that says, when you do government work, a certain percentage has to go to minorities and women. We have the percent set at 30 percent of all the government work, highest percentage in the United States of America and I'm proud of it.


Discrimination exists in our education system and it's probably no more damning than it is in the education system. The truth is we have two education systems in this country, in this state, and in this city. Not public and private, not public and charter. It's one school for the rich and one school for the poor and you go into a school on the rich side of town and they'll show you their new gymnasium and all their equipment. You go to a school on the poor side of town, they don't even have a basketball net. You go into a school on the rich side of town they'll show you their new fancy computers with first graders on computers. You go to a school on the poor side of town the most sophisticated piece of electronic equipment is the metal detector you walk through on your way to the classroom. That is discrimination in education. New York State is going to fund education $30 billion this year. $30 billion. New York State will spend more money per pupil than any state in the United States of America. Double the national average.


There's a big "but", however. The big "but" is this: we spend more money than anyone, but, the question is, who gets it? The question is who gets it? That's always the question. We're the richest country on the globe. More millionaires and billionaires than any other country. We also have the highest poverty rate we've ever had in history. Who gets it? State of New York issues a check to Buffalo. Buffalo has 50 schools. Some are doing well, some are not doing well, some are on this side of town, some are on that side of town. How does Buffalo distribute the money to the 50 schools? Nobody knows. New York City, we're going to hand a check for $10 billion for education. Question is, who gets it? Who gets it? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. You ask the city and they'll say, well there's a website that has the information about what school. You'd have to be an engineering student to figure out their website and the website doesn't even show all the money. So if you say to your Assemblyman or you say to your City Councilperson, or your Assembly member, congratulations you got another $10 billion for New York City, that's great. How much does my school get? How much does my school get? They can't tell you because they don't know. They need to know. We need to know. Because then there's a second conversation. The money should follow the need. The money should got to the poor performing schools and the students who actually need it.


Same is true for college, same is true for college. 50 percent of all jobs in seven years are going to require a college education. You're going to need - these young people are going to need this college education. It's not like the old days where you can figure out another way to be a success. You're going to need that college education, except college is unaffordable. Some families can't afford it. Some students have to take a mountain of debt to get out of college, but we say education is the great vehicle to opportunity. What's the common denominator among all these things? Common denominator, people who can't make bail. Common denominator, people who sit in RikersIsland. Common denominator, people who live in public housing. Common denominator for the underemployed people. Common denominator for the children who have the failing schools. The common denominator for the children who can't pay for a college education. What's the line that connects all of them? They're all poor, they're all minorities. And that, my friends, is the tale of two cities. And that's what is wrong and that's what we have to change. And that's what we're fighting to change in Albany this year.


We want to change the bail system. We want to change the bail system you see it is very simple. No more cash bail. Doesn't matter how much money you have. The judge, you come before the judge, if the judge thinks you're dangerous and you're going to go out and hurt somebody? Then he says, I'm going to hold you. If the judge thinks you can be released on your own recognizance? Then he releases you. I don't care if you're black, white, green rich or poor—same justice for everyone.


Our Riker's Island is a national disgrace. Our Riker's Island reminds me of Robben's Island off South Africa where they kept President Mandela. Put them out there on the island and just forget about them. Ten years? No. Make it a priority. Show that you care. Show that you're repulsed by the indignity we're going to pass legislation on the state side that helps the city build it faster, but I want to see the City Council stand up and every elected official in this city stand up and say I'm not going to let you keep poor, minorities locked up when they're not learning they're only going backwards and don't tell me it takes ten years because when you want to do something you can move heaven and earth but when it comes to poor minorities all of a sudden it takes you a decade to make a difference and that's what justice is all about. Proverbs 31:8-9 speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all for destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.


And when it comes to the people in public housing, 1949, this country promised safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans. 1949. We're 2018. Safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans. It's going to take them four years to change a boiler. If those were wealthy, powerful people living in those buildings, do you think it would take themfour years to change a boiler? Do you think they would tolerate four years to change a boiler? It would never happen. Even the City was sit by it and say, "Oh yeah that's the best we can do. Four years to change the boiler." Mr. Trump has to come visit public housing and put his money where his mouth is and make American great again. And the City of New York has to stop funding a failed bureaucracy of NYCHA and actually get a contractor in there who can make a real difference rather than throwing more money into a failed bureaucracy. The tenants are now gotten attention. You know why the tenants got attention? Because they sued the City of New York, not because anybody stood up and said, I'm going to do the right thing. Because they had a lawyer and they sued and I said I love it. I love it. Sue them, sue them all if that's what it takes. And I stand with the tenants 100 percent.


The education budget, we're going to fund education, but I'm not going to give any local government one dollar until we know where the money goes and we make sure the poor schools are getting what they deserve and that is the priority. And we are going to make sure that happens.


We create more jobs, I want to take up minority women business percentage up to 30% I want to apply it to every state dollar that we give to local governments. It would add a billion dollars more in minority and women business enterprises and that's one reason to do it. That is that is the state the tale of two cities. Yes, we rail against the federal government but we also have to take the opportunity to make New York lead by example and set the standard. Let's recognize the injustice, let's tell the truth, let's acknowledge that discrimination is inherent in society and it's been institutionalized in these government institutions. And the time has come not to talk about it, but to do something about it. John 3:18 Let us not love in word or talk but indeed in truth. Let us actually bring justice and let us make change. Let folks know that American promise opportunity for all.


Let's fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King's words the arc bends towards justice if you bend it. It doesn't bend naturally you have to stand up and grab that arc and you have to bend it by social action. As Mario Cuomo's quest for social justice I need your help to do it. Because at the end of the day, you know what politicians respond to? Votes. And you have them. And they respond to it. And you have to exercise it. I know it's been a long struggle, I know we've been fighting this fight a long time, but it's no time to give up, and it's no time to get weary. Galatian's 6:9 says let us not grow weary of doing good for a new season we will reap if we do not give up.


New York must lead. We must show this nation there's another way. You don't need to divide people, you don't need to fan the anger of people, you need to give people hope and you need to give people love and you need to show people that we can come together and do what we said at the founding of this nation. Opportunity for all, one community. We can educate every child black and brown and rich and poor and imagine how strong we will be when every child is participating and we stop the poor schools that have failed generations upon generations of poor children and we give real economic opportunity with a real wage that pays a fair, decent amount so people can live a decent life and we have education system that's working and we give people a safe, clean decent place to live because that's the basis of everything. If you don't have a safe clean home to go to, if you don't have a place for your family to come together then you have nothing. These are all promises that were made, and these are all promises that were broken, and New York is the place to say we're going to change that. We're not going to talk about it, we're not going to yell about it, we're going to change it. And we're going to do it this year, this year. No more procrastination, no more excuses, no more I'm afraid I'm going to offend this one, I'm afraid I'm going to offend that one, I don't care who we offend. 


We're going to bring justice to the state of New York. Thank you, God bless you.

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Contact the Governor's Press Office