May 24, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New Vaccine Incentive Providing a Free Two-Day Pass to Any New York State Park to Those Vaccinated Between May 24 and May 31

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New Vaccine Incentive Providing a Free Two-Day Pass to Any New York State Park to Those Vaccinated Between May 24 and May 31

Every Person Vaccinated Anywhere in New York State Will Receive a New York State Park Pass

15 New Vaccination Sites at New York State Parks

Governor Cuomo: "Things are looking good. We're reimagining, we're rebuilding, but we have to maintain our containment of the beast. That is the vaccines and the vaccines are dropping off. Two groups, the youthful and the doubtful. The youthful, because young people really, the way we introduce this, this was not a young person problem, right? It was introduced that if you're young, you may get it, but it's not going to kill you. Plus, you're young. You think you're a superhero anyway, when you're young, right? Nothing can hurt you. When we started the vaccines, we said it was for older people, not younger people. So we introduced COVID saying young people don't have to worry about it, but young people do have to worry about. They can get sick and they can transmit it to someone without even knowing. So focusing on young people to get the vaccines. And then what I call the doubtful. People who are doubtful of a vaccine. I don't like needles. I don't know that I need it. Government tells me to do it. I don't believe government about anything. And I'm nervous. I'm just, I'm nervous about it. I don't know if it works. 10 million New Yorkers have taken it. It has been proven internationally. Almost every major medical official in the country will tell you, take the vaccine, it's safe."

Cuomo: "Today we announced a new incentive, a shot in the park. You like that? Shot in the park. I didn't come up with that. As a matter of fact, whoever came up with that one, shot in the park. Shot in the park is if you get a vaccine this week, anytime this week, you will get a two-day family pass to any state park. If you come to a state park on Memorial Day weekend, if you get a shot, when you come - Jones Beach is perfect. Driving in, you have to go right past the vaccine center. Stop get a vaccine. You get a two-day free pass to come into any state park. This is for all 16 parks across the state. State parks have been rejuvenated the way Jones Beach has. This is a new Jones Beach and you should really take a look at it. But people have discovered our state parks and I think partially our work rejuvenating them. Last year, 78 million people went to state parks. Set a new record. On long island, 32 million people went to state parks. So, we're going to use those state parks, use Memorial Day, enjoy the park, come get a vaccine."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that every person who gets vaccinated with either a first dose, or single dose of Johnson & Johnson, anywhere in New York State between May 24 and 31 is eligible to receive a free two-day pass to any New York State Park, valid through September 30, 2021. Passes can be picked up at any New York State Park. Today's announcement was made at Jones Beach State Park, where the already-operational mass vaccination site will offer the same incentive for those who receive their eligible vaccination. Additionally, 15 New York State Parks will host pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites. These 15 sites will offer vaccinations on a first come first served basis utilizing the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Go Islanders! Good morning. It is a beautiful morning, isn't it? Let me acknowledge some of the guests who are here with us. First, Erik Kulleseid, who is the commissioner of parks and is doing a great, great job. Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. Did you Northwell people know that Michael is going to be performing at Northwell Health? He actually sings a beautiful Irish ballad. Let's give him another round of applause. We have State Senator John Brooks, who's doing a great job. We have Matt Cohen, who's the new president of the Long Island Association, so congratulations to him. We have John Durso representing the brothers and the sisters of organized labor, good to be with John. We have Suffolk County Presiding Officer Rob Calarco, who's doing a great, great job, pleasure to be with Rob. And we have Suffolk County Legislator Jason Richberg, pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

I love coming to Jones Beach Jones Beach brings back all sorts of memories for me. As a kid, this was it, Jones Beach, right. This was where we went during the summer. My grandparents used to take me. My father was doing whatever he was doing. You know those politicians, they work all the time, those people. But the choice would be Jones Beach or Sunken Meadow. That was the big choice. That was the variety, where we would go. And I would come out as a kid with my grandparents and some of my sisters, and we would spend all day at the beach, just all day at the beach. I remember trying to explain this to my children, who are now 25, and they would say, well, what did you do when you were at the beach? I said, that was it. You were at the beach. You would go, you'd go into the water, you'd come back, you'd sit on the towel. "Yeah, but what would you do?" I said, that's it. That's what you did. You went into the water, you swam, you came back and you played, you know. But, think about it now. No telephone, no texting, no Instagram. So you sat there for five, six hours and you talk. You talk. And I was so close to my grandparents, I think partially because of that. You know, all the stories that they had a chance to tell, all the lessons they had to chance to tell. Different days. I remember thinking that the Jones Beach parking lots had to be the largest parking lots in the world. Remember when you would get a spot and then you'd have to walk all the way across.

I didn't appreciate, really, the marvel that Jones Beach was as an accomplishment. I mean, think about it. Robert Moses, say what you will, Jones Beach, seven miles of fill. Jones Beach, but there was no beach, right? It was all marsh. They filled seven miles with 14 feet of fill to create Jones Beach, and then built those magnificent structures, right? If you propose the project like that today, they would say it's impossible. Why did our ambition and confidence drop rather than increase? Think about it. Why were they so sure they could do it? The whole highway system that was going to come out. They believed in their capacity. They believed in what they could do. We need that. We need that back.

Let me give you some facts and numbers on where we are today. Today the positivity rate, really yesterday, the positivity rate, State of New York, was 1.09, okay? That's very, very low. To give you an idea of how low, 1.09, the national average was 2.6 percent, okay? So we are less than half of the national average. Give New Yorkers a round of applause. You see in the numbers and we've seen this all along, and we're going to have to study it at one point, but different regions in the state, different positivity rates all throughout the state. Why? One state, everybody gets the same message, same facts, same laws. Why do we have all these different positivity rates? Because it comes down to our behavior as individuals and our behavior as a community. You tell me how you act and what you do, and I'll tell you your likelihood of catching COVID. Tell me if you got vaccinated, tell me what precautions you take, but you see a different rate all across the state.

Finger Lakes, New York, highest positivity, yesterday 2.3 percent. Central New York, 1.5 percent, Western New York, 1.4 percent, Capital Region, 1.1, Mohawk Valley, .9, Mid-Hudson .7. Long island .7, New York City .69. Southern Tier, lowest in the state, .6. At one time Southern Tier was one of the highest, and that message communicated, and the community changed its behavior. Statewide, .9 percent. Our 7-day positivity, .9, lowest level since September 21, 49 straight days of decline. Isn't that great news? Long Island, 7-day positivity, .7 percent, lowest since August 29th. So that's really great news. We hit over 10 million vaccinations done. 64 percent of New Yorkers now have at least one shot. Long Island, 69 percent, the highest in the State of New York.

Just so we know, it's not yet time to fully celebrate. Some people want to say, "well, COVID is over now. It's over." It's not over. It's managed, it's not over. Fourteen people passed away yesterday in the State of New York from COVID. And a troubling trend, the number of vaccinations is dropping off dramatically. We're now doing fewer than 100,000 per day. That's a dramatic decline, 55 percent decline in how many vaccines that we've been doing. So, we have to make sure that this complicated message, we're managing COVID, we're doing well, the positivity rate is not misunderstood to say it's over. It's not over. We are managing it by what we are doing. And the tool that manages it is the vaccination. And that is key to keep that vaccination going.

But there's no doubt, on the other hand, that we are in a much different place in COVID. And we're on the beach getting ready for Memorial Day. Seasons change, right, and the season has changed. The longest night eventually gives way to the dawn, and the coldest winter literally yields to the sun at the end of the day. And COVID has been a long, cold, dark winter. But the season has changed and we're on the right side. We have the beast contained, but we have to continue to contain the beast.

Now, we're in the reopening phase. I talk to governors all day long. This year I'm chairman of the National Governors Association. And the governors are talking about, we have to reopen, we have to reopen. Countries talking about, we have to reopen, reopen. I don't talk about reopen. Reopen suggests we're going to go back to where we were the day before COVID. We're going to reopen, we're going to go back to where we were the day before COVID. No. Life is not about going back. Life is about going forward. I don't want to go back to where we were the day before we started COVID. I want to go forward, I want to learn from this past year. I want to learn from the pain. I want to learn from the positive of what we've learned, and make sure that not only do we reopen, but that we reimagine New York and we reimagine what we can be, and we build the back better than we've ever been before. That's what we do, we seize the opportunity.

What did we do after Hurricane Sandy? Nobody said let's replace everything that was there. That was an old goal. We learned a lesson from Hurricane Sandy. We got knocked on our rear end. open your eyes and learn from what happened and improve. There were homes that were wiped away, where I was there with the owners, crying, everything gone, their life gone. You go back to those homes today, they're elevated. Why? Because we learned. The electric grid was all under water. Why? Because the transformers were on the ground, and the water came up, and all the transformers were submerged. Elevate the electric grid, elevate the transformers, get it out of the water. And that's the new electric system we have. And let's take a moment to say, "What should we have done that we hadn't done?" We just announced a new Bay Park Treatment Plant - Bay Park Treatment Plant was a problem for 15 years. It would get overwhelmed and drop everything into the channel. And now we have an entirely new treatment plan with a pipe that goes three miles out into the ocean. Why? Because you learn and you grow. And that's what we have to be doing here. And that's what we have to be doing now.

We're off to a great start with our state budget, which we passed. It's on time, we got it done this session. But it does just that. It says let's invest, let's learn, let's grow from this experience. Let's do the things that we should have been doing. Let's fix the Long Island Rail Road, add that third track, make it a commute that is decent and safe and sound. Let's build a new Penn Station. Who wants to sit on the Long Island Rail Road for 45 minutes to wind up in Penn Station, which is like the seven levels hell? What kind of way is that to start a day? So we're building a new Penn Station so the commute actually works.

We've been talking about transferring to green energy for how long? How long have we been talking about renewables and getting away from fossil fuels? Do it now. New York State is embarking on the largest renewable energy project in the United States of America, in this State, on this island, with wind turbines and cables bringing power to Long Island. So we finally, finally have a sustainable energy source that saves the planet.

And understanding that people need economic relief. Taxes on the middle class are out of control. We cut taxes for the middle class in this budget. Finally, we cut middle class taxes and we said to Washington, "The worst tax we have in this state is what?" It's not the state income tax. It's the property tax. Highest property taxes in the United States of America. Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk. Property taxes are higher than the income taxes in this state.

And what did the federal government do over the past four years? They passed something called SALT. State and local tax deductibility. They ended the deductibility of state and local taxes. It was complicated. They got away with it because people didn't really understand it. It basically raised your property taxes, 30, 40, 50%. And we're saying now to the new administration, if you're actually going to repair the damage caused by the prior administration, start by repealing SALT and reducing our property taxes.

It was a great budget and I want to applaud Senator Brooks for his great work. They say, we call it a budget, budget diminishes what it is. It's really a whole action plan for the state. To get it done, you have to have the Assembly pass it, you have to have the Senate pass it. That's over 200 people. To get 200 people to agree to anything is hard. To get two people to agree is hard. I'm divorced. I can say that.

We now have in New York State politics, we have a microcosm of the country. We have the most conservative conservatives in the country. We have extreme conservatives on one hand, and then we have the most liberal, not even liberal. We have socialists. Now they call themselves socialists. So you have extreme conservatives on one side, you have socialists on the other side, and to get a budget passed, you have to find a way through the middle and it is hard to do. And I'll tell you, Senator Brooks was a champion in getting it done.

So, things are looking good. We're reimagining, we're rebuilding, but we have to maintain our containment of the beast. That is the vaccines and the vaccines are dropping off. Two groups, the youthful and the doubtful. The youthful, because young people really, the way we introduce this, this was not a young person problem, right? It was introduced that if you're young, you may get it, but it's not going to kill you. Plus, you're young. You think you're a superhero anyway, when you're young, right? Nothing can hurt you. When we started the vaccines, we said it was for older people, not younger people. So we introduced COVID saying young people don't have to worry about it, but young people do have to worry about. They can get sick and they can transmit it to someone without even knowing. So focusing on young people to get the vaccines.

And then what I call the doubtful. People who are doubtful of a vaccine. I don't like needles. I don't know that I need it. Government tells me to do it. I don't believe government about anything. And I'm nervous. I'm just, I'm nervous about it. I don't know if it works. 10 million New Yorkers have taken it. It has been proven internationally. Almost every major medical official in the country will tell you, take the vaccine, it's safe.

So those are the two groups we're targeting and we're adding incentives. If you get a vaccine, you get a lottery ticket. Scratch off tickets, you could win $5 million. When you take the Long Island Rail Road, MTA, you get a free pass if you get a vaccine. To go to a baseball game, you can sit in a vaccinated area, you get more seating. You want to go see an Islanders game, better chance if you're vaccinated and then - which is a reason of itself. They're going to win tonight. Then they're going to come home and they're going to clinch the series at home in the Coliseum.

So today we announced a new incentive, a shot in the park. You like that? Shot in the park. I didn't come up with that. As a matter of fact, whoever came up with that one, shot in the park. Shot in the park is if you get a vaccine this week, anytime this week, you will get a two-day family pass to any state park.

If you come to a state park on Memorial Day weekend, if you get a shot, when you come - Jones Beach is perfect. Driving in, you have to go right past the vaccine center. Stop get a vaccine. You get a two-day free pass to come into any state park. This is for all 16 parks across the state. State parks have been rejuvenated the way Jones Beach has. This is a new Jones Beach and you should really take a look at it. But people have discovered our state parks and I think partially our work rejuvenating them. Last year, 78 million people went to state parks. Set a new record. On long island, 32 million people went to state parks. So, we're going to use those state parks, use Memorial Day, enjoy the park, come get a vaccine.

We're going to set up a vaccine site at every one of the 16 state parks. Northwell is going to set up sites at all of the parks on Long Island, right after Mike Dowling performs at the Northwell theater, because first things first. Then they're going to set up their pop-up sites for all the state parks on Long Island. It's easy. It makes sense. It's smart. You don't have to go out of your way. And it is the right thing to do.

My last point is this. It's Memorial Day, and we remember those who gave their lives on Memorial Day, gave their lives for this country, fought for freedom, because freedom isn't free. I also think we should remember this past year on Memorial Day, remember the 42,000 New Yorkers who died. 42,000. Remember the 1,000 essential workers who died giving their life, giving their life. Seasons change, but memories have to remain, lessons have to remain.

Remember how frightening COVID was when it started. Remember how frightened people were. They wouldn't come out of their homes. Walk into a hospital during COVID and it was like you were landing on outer space. People covered with garb, head to toe, face shields. You couldn't even see a person's eyes or face. They wore name tags with pictures in the hospital, just so the patient could see some humanity. Nobody knew how it spread. Nobody knew how really it was transmitted. And you had people who showed up every day to fight that disease. It takes a special person to run into a fire to save someone. It takes a special person, when every instinct in your body says, that's dangerous, don't go there run away, it takes a special person to say, no, I'm going in because I think I can help someone.

And the essential workers did that day, after day, after day, after day, every day, walking into the fire, not knowing, God forbid, am I getting infected? God forbid, am I getting infected and then bringing it back home to my child. Nurses, doctors, hospital staff, teachers, food delivery workers. All these brave people, bus drivers, Subway drivers. I stand up there every day and I say, stay home, be safe, stay home. Don't go out, keep your kids home, stay in. But not you. You're an essential worker. You have to go to work tomorrow so everybody else can stay home. And they did. And they did. You want to talk about brave or you want to talk about courage? You want to talk about selflessness? You want to talk about that question in your mind? What would you do? If the circumstances ask you to really stand up and put your life on the line, what would you do? Would you stand up and run into the fire, or would you walk away?

They walked into the fire every day, and we owe them a profound, profound, thank you. We went from the highest infection rate on the globe in New York, on the globe, to the lowest infection rate, and we saved tens of thousands of lives, because there were no people on this planet, like the people of this state. And they showed their character, and their strength, and their courage, and their unity. And remember them and their families on Memorial Day. Thank you and God bless.

Let's get my friend and a real - talk about an essential worker, talk about a hero. Michael Dowling's name is at the top of the list. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Dowling.

Michael Dowling: Thank you very much, Governor, and it is a delight to be here. And, you know, it's hard not to be here and just look around this wonderful park, which is like a wonder of the state park system and what has been accomplished here. And I reflect back on what the governor said about the people who built all of these years and years ago. It took vision. It took courage. It took perseverance. It took resilience.

It's the very kind of vision and resilience that the governor displayed and leadership that he displayed during the COVID crisis over the last 12 months. And the same as he's now projecting what we've got to be doing going forward, because we're coming out of this, but we're not fully out of it as the governor said. I will come back to that in a moment.

But just reflect again, following up on what the governor just talked about, this past 15 months. This has been a traumatic period, a difficult period, but just think, you know, where we've come from just 12, 15 months ago. I'll give you a couple of statistics just with regards to North Shore. Back in March or April, we had in our hospitals every day, 3,500 patients. Every day.

And as the governor mentioned, that was an experience that you want to have to go through once in a lifetime. You don't want to do it over and over again. You don't want to see it again, because when you were on those floors, as I was almost every day, and as the staff here, Northwell staff on the side who were on the floors every day, but they saw what you only want to see once.

Back then we had 3,500 patients. Today we got 195.

We actually saw all the 200,000 COVID patients at Northwell. That's what the pandemic does. So we've made lots of progress. We've come a long way. We're on the home stretch. We can see the finish line, but COVID is not gone. It's here. And this is a message for everybody. You know, COVID, the virus is sneaky.

It hides. It hides in the shadows. The biggest danger is thinking it's gone disappeared. I'm out. I'm having a great time. I'm going to the beaches and going to the restaurants and I don't have to do the things you should do. But no, it's hanging around and it's waiting to pounce on. We don't know who is going to pounce on. It can be anybody. There's only one short away that we can get to the finish line and that's to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated. That is the cure all.

So everybody, everybody here and everybody that's watching has to become an ambassador to say, if you want to get to the finish line, if you want to put COVID in the rear view mirror, and you want to say we are out of it, what we have to do was to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated. It works. It is safe.

The science works. Now we have people who are hesitant. I understand that, but that takes an obligation on the rest of us to continue to educate them, continue to inform, continue to advise, continue to say to them that they have an obligation and a responsibility to themselves, for their families, to their neighbors, and to the rest of us, because you don't want to repeat what we have seen for the past 12 months.

And it affected certain populations a lot more than it affected other populations. People of color were disproportionately affected. Raises the obligation for everybody, people of color and everybody to get vaccinated. Now, as the governor mentioned, we will be vaccinating over the next couple of weeks and all the parks around here, because what we want to do at the governor's direction is to make it simple and make it easy.

So we are going to bring the vaccine to where you are going to be. So it is our obligation and everybody's obligation -everybody who's watching -to basically be saying, I from now on, I'm going to convince people. I'm going to leave here today. I'm going to convince three people that I know who are hesitant to get the vaccine, because we want to put this behind this.

We want to rebuild the economy. We want to get back to a new, normal, not going back, as the governor said, the way it was pre-COVID because the world has changed. Every organization, including Northwell and including the state are all now re-imagining how to readapt to the new world that we're in. What are the new challenges? What are the new opportunities? How do we rebuild anew? And the governor at the beginning of his comments reflected, as I mentioned a while ago, the rebuilding of all of these parks, whereby they talk real vision. Well, we can do it again. The governor is demonstrating that by rebuilding what he talked about.

Penn Station, every time I drive past LaGuardia, right? That took vision. That took leadership, that took commitment, that took risk. Leadership is about taking risks. It's about walking into the unknown. It's about thinking of what can be, not what is, what can be. We can come out of this better. And I believe we all will because what did the COVID crisis prove that when we walk together, we become part of a community, we share when we have a common sense of purpose. When we have a commitment, when we have dedication, when we have courage, and when we have an attitude that nothing is going to beat us. COVID was not going to beat us. And it won't, if everybody does what everybody has to do. We're very fortunate. And again, we are, we have been doing an awful lot.

Recently we have at Northwell, we have a number of events coming up we call side-by-side, which is honoring veterans. By the way, let me make a plug on this: On the 27th of this month, we'll have an NBC show, celebrating essential workers and veterans and all we sit here and all looking around this beautiful scenery and being free, living in a democracy because of the work that other people have done to make it possible for us to be here.

So this is a special time to reflect, learn, and then move forward and rebuild stronger than we were before. And that takes leadership.

And that takes the kind of leadership that the Governor possesses. The leadership that I observed so closely all during the past 15 months, and of course, we've known each other a long time and I have observed it many years in the past. But that's the kind of leadership we need going forward. Optimistic, positive, not looking at a challenge, but looking at opportunity.

But in the meantime, now we put COVID in the rearview mirror. We say goodbye to it. We've had enough of you. You've lived with us for a year and a half, to hell with you now. You're gone. Vaccinate. OK? Thank you so much.

Governor Cuomo: A great friend, a great colleague, a great representative for all of Long Island, State Senator John Brooks.

Senator John Brooks: Thank you, governor. Good morning. And I want to thank the governor for the outstanding leadership he has shown through this whole pandemic process. I think the announcement he's making today is important, but I think the recognition that he gave to the essential workers across this state is something we all have to take heart and recognize.

All across the state, when there was a need, they went into the fire, as the governor puts it. Day in and day out. We can never, ever, ever fully recognize or reward all of the essential workers of this state. But we can remember what we saw. Heroes each and every one of them, all across the state,

We are in a situation today and we're joined with our parks commissioner, Erik Kulleseid, and the president of Discover Long Island, Kristen Jarnagin on a program that has been announced to allow families across this state to have the opportunity to enjoy our parks system. By doing what? By doing the right thing. By getting themselves and their families vaccinated.

Michael has it right. COVID is not gone. It's still there. And we've seen the wicked and nasty turns it can take. But we collectively, by getting a vaccine, can help put this to bed. So on this coming week, all of us have an opportunity to do the right thing, to go out to one of our state parks and be vaccinated. It protects you, your neighbors, your family, all of us, as we put this nightmare to bed. But never, ever, ever let us not remember the thousands and thousands and thousands of citizens across the state, the essential workers, who stepped forward and saved the lives of so many of us.

We have a lot to be thankful for. Let's take advantage of this proposal to get the vaccines that we still need and enjoy the benefits that state parks like this one make available to all of us. So for all of you that have gotten your vaccine, thank you. For those of you who are unsure, look around. Look around that everything that we have to offer. Protect yourself, to make sure you can continue to enjoy those benefits.

Thank you very much.

Governor Cuomo: I think the message was loud and clear. To Kristen Jarnagin of Discover Long Island, lets thank her for being here today and for what she does. Commissioner Kulleseid and the whole team at Parks that is going to figure out how to make this work seamlessly and flawlessly. And if there is any confusion, His number is nine one seven five seven five. Let's give Erik a round of applause. Senator Brooks, this state budget is going to build back a New York that we've never seen before. And it was about time. And thank you for the leadership center. Thank you very much.

And to Michael Dowling and Northwell. Not only did they come to the rescue on Long Island, they came to the rescue all across the state of New York. Michael I've known for many years. Michael was the health advisor to a gentleman named Mario Cuomo who served as governor of New York. And I worked with Michael then and my father had inestimable trust in Michael and he was right. And when COVID started and we thought we were heading into the apocalypse, the first phone call for me was to Michael Dowling to come and sit down and put a group together. We did it at the Javits Center, where we were setting up the largest field hospital in the country -2,500 cots. It looked like you were getting ready for the day after the apocalypse, all army personnel, jeeps, it was frightening. And Michael's leadership shown through.

So Northwell never says no, they were a champion all across the state. And then we helped other states and Northwell actually went to other states. I was going to get my vaccine at Northwell. I called Michael and he said, come in. No problem. I'll do it myself. It's six shots in your posterior. I think that was just the personal shot so to speak. Thank you, and god bless you.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474-8418
New York City: (212) 681-4640