September 16, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Launches Historic Artificial Reef Expansion with Rail Car Drop to Hempstead Reef

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Launches Historic Artificial Reef Expansion with Rail Car Drop to Hempstead Reef

Deployment of Rail Cars, Tugboat, and Steel Turbine to Hempstead Reef will Enhance Marine Habitat and Improve Region's Fishery

Wells Fargo Rail Corporation Donates 75 Rail Cars to the Department of Environmental Conservation to Support New York Reef Program

Third Year of State's Artificial Reef Expansion Bolsters Long Island's Economy, Increases Opportunities for Tourism and Recreation

Governor Cuomo: "We are going to be the model of public health response in New York State. We were reliant on the federal government - they were supposed to be in charge of global pandemics. CDC, NIH, Department of Homeland Security, they were supposed to be the international monitors. Shame on them. We now know what we have to do to manage a public health emergency and we're going to do it in New York. We also know what we have to do to get in front of climate change before there's another wakeup call that may be a heart attack. And we're going to do the same thing."

Cuomo: "We are already the nation's leader when it comes to climate change and the environment and we're going to even increase that, and I'm going to speak to it next week and the DEC Commissioner and our team is working on it. We to recover from COVID, we have economic damage, fine. Let government stimulate the economy and let us do the long-term projects that we need to do like the renewable energy. That's going to be the silver lining here when they write the history books if we do it right."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the third year of the largest artificial reef expansion in New York history as part the State's ongoing efforts to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off Long Island's shores. Governor Cuomo directed the strategic deployment of recycled materials—including a rail car donated by Wells Fargo Rail Corporation (the first of a 75-car donation) and the 70-foot steel tugboat, "Jane"—to Hempstead Reef to improve New York's diverse marine life and boost Long Island's recreational and sport fishing and diving industries. Fifteen more rail cars and a steel turbine are set to be dropped to Hempstead Reef as part of the first phase of deployment.

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 today's remarks is available below:

Thank you all for coming out today. What a day. We needed this. Little bit of a break from the usual that we've been doing. I think you all can appreciate that. You know it's been a bizarre summer when this is the first time I've been on the water all summer, first time I'm on the boat, which is saying something for me.

We have a lot of great friends here today, and it's a good day. I want to start by acknowledging Commissioner Basil Seggos, who's doing a great job. We have Kelly Cummings, who's the director of operations, who just makes things happen, and that's so important, especially now. We have our great Nassau County Executive, Laura Curran, sporting her Islanders mask, go Islanders, what a game last night. We're going to do it. We are going to do it. I believe it, that's the New York spirit. Let's thank Captain Nick Dionisio and the Atlantic Pearl for hosting us today, thank you very much captain. We have my colleagues from Albany, we have Senator John Brooks, Senator Gaughran, Senator Kaminsky, Senator Kaplan, Senator Martinez and Senator Thomas and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, thank you all very much for being out today.

Let me talk about, even in this setting, we're still dealing with COVID, obviously. Today is day 200 that we've been dealing with COVID since is started. We are the most advanced state in the nation in terms of doing testing. People talk about COVID, how are we doing. In New York, we know how we're doing because we have data. We have more numbers than any state, more numbers than any nation on the globe pro rata. Yesterday we did about 75,000 tests statewide. To give you an idea of what 75,000 tests means, when we first started COVID, we had the capacity to do 500 tests per day. 500. We're now up to 75,000 tests. No one had ever talked about testing like this before, and many of the other states are still struggling because frankly they haven't been able to come up to speed the way we have. But 75,000 tests. Statewide the infection rate was .87 percent, which is very good. We had four New Yorkers we lost yesterday from COVID. 483 who are hospitalized, which is just about where it was. 138 people in ICU, which is actually down a couple, which is good news. Long Island, the infection rate was 1.3 percent yesterday.

Our calibration now between managing COVID and managing businesses, right. That's an ongoing tension. We're opening businesses all across the state. We have precautions, we have regulations on opening businesses, but every business wants to be open. Movie theaters want to open, concert theaters want to open. New Yorkers want to get back to life, normal life. Yes, I understand. But we're not yet at a point where we can get back to normal life. That is just the fact. They talk about the new normal. We still have to manage COVID. "Well, it's not a crisisthe way it was." It's not a crisis the way it was, because we managed it. Had we not done what we are doing, it would have been a crisis. You look at these other states where you see the infection rate going through the roof, what's the difference between those states and New York? The virus is the same. It's just that we are managing it, and we are informed, and we're taking the tests, and we're disciplined.

What is the calibration between opening businesses and managing COVID? It's actually as simple as math. It's a mathematical equation. We don't want to see the COVID infection rate go over 1 percent for any period of time. So calibrate the economic activity, open as much economic activity as you can to go up to that 1 percent infection rate. 1 percent means 1 person is actually infecting one other person. That is a rate of spread that you can manage. That's what 1 percent means. So, keep opening up economic activity to get right up to that 1 percent. Okay? You want to drive from here to Pennsylvania as fast as you can. Fine, the speed limit is 55 miles an hour. Do 55 miles an hour all the way. Do 55.9 miles an hour. That's the fastest you can go. The fastest we can go is 1 percent. Yesterday we were over 1 percent statewide, first time in about 40 days but we were over 1 percent. Today, .87. Some days we're at .9, so we're right up at that limit of 1 percent. Why don't you open more movie theaters, open more concerts? You're at 1 percent. Why don't you increase restaurant percentages? You're at 1 percent. It's not like we have a margin of error here my friends. We are right up against it and that's the smart calibration on managing COVID so do as much economic activity as you can without going back into an outbreak crisis.

And by the way if you go back into an outbreak crisis, you know what you do then? You have to close down the economic activity that you opened. That's what happened in all these other states. We have to increase economic activity right away. Let's get back to normal. Bang - the infection rate went right back up. They had to close everything back down. That is the last thing we want to do. But when people say, you know, we want to get back to normal, we want to do more, we are doing as much as we can and still managing the infection rate and you'll see it on a day to day basis. Yesterday being over 1 percent, I didn't sleep last night. You do not want to be over that 1 percent for any prolonged period of time and that's why today being back at .87 is actually good news for us.

Another point about COVID - COVID was a trauma for this country. COVID was like being at war. I don't know that we've even fully appreciated all the effects of the trauma that we've gone through. There's going to be PTSD from COVID. This was frightening. This was a science fiction movie come to life and you have seen people struggling with it. People struggle with it psychologically. Next week we're going to be talking about the mental health consequences of COVID. We are so much in the middle of it right now dealing with it every day, every day, every day, we haven't really taken a moment to step back, but you tell me what the effect on school children is going to wind up being. You tell me the effect of the increase in domestic violence, the increase in substance abuse that we know has been going on. So COVID, yes, deal with it today but this is a profound transformational moment in society and there are a lot of lessons from COVID.

One of the lessons to me about COVID is it shows you how dangerous denial is. Well, COVID, who would have known? Anyone who was paying attention would have known. That's who would have known. We had the SARS outbreak in 2002. A coronavirus from China that came from a wet market. That was 2002, SARS. We had Ebola. We had Zika. We had H1N1. We had Dengue. We had MERS in 2012, a coronavirus that came from China. What did we do? Nothing. Nothing. And then we have COVID. It's not that it came out of the blue. It's that we denied all the warning signs. Why? Because to make the kinds of changes we had to make was hard. We knew that the World Health Organization had missed MERS and had missed SARS. We knew the CDC was not ready for this. We knew we needed a public health emergency response that we didn't have in this country. But, warning, warning, warning, and then COVID happens and now it's undeniable. That is a dangerous pattern in life.

You know where else you see that pattern? You see it with climate change. How many warnings have we had? How many times do there have to be wildfires in California? How many times hurricanes? How many scientists have to sign a letter? How many superstorms? How many times do you need to hear the projection that the global temperature is rising and sea levels are rising? How many warnings have we had and if we don't act the same lesson from COVID will see a calamity and then it's going to be a calamity that is going to be transformative and disruptive and do economic damage and possibly cost human lives. It is the same pattern: Warning, warning, warning if you do nothing. If you have a chest pain, chest pain, chest pain, you don't go to the doctor, don't be surprised when you have a heart attack. The lessons of COVID, the lessons of climate change, to me, the pattern is very similar. We learned from COVID - New Yorkers learned from COVID. You don't have to tell us twice.

We are going to be the model of public health response in New York State. We were reliant on the federal government - they were supposed to be in charge of global pandemics. CDC, NIH, Department of Homeland Security, they were supposed to be the international monitors. Shame on them. We now know what we have to do to manage a public health emergency and we're going to do it in New York. We also know what we have to do to get in front of climate change before there's another wakeupcall that may be a heart attack. And we're going to do the same thing.

We are already the nation's leader when it comes to climate change and the environment and we're going to even increase that, and I'm going to speak to it next week and the DEC Commissioner and our team is working on it. We to recover from COVID, we have economic damage, fine. Let government stimulate the economy and let us do the long-term projects that we need to do like the renewable energy. That's going to be the silver lining here when they write the history books if we do it right.

Today, we are going to do something that we've been talking about that is long overdue, that is common sense, which is build artificial reefs. The artificial reefs help Long Island in so many different ways, they help with shoreline erosion, they help with the ecology, they help with fisheries, they stimulate tourism. Fishing is not just a great hobby, it's also a great economic development tool. Tourism is a great economic development tool. And these artificial reefs, our children will thank us for them years from now. The divers and the people who fish in the fishing industry will thank us next year. These reefs start to develop a fishery literally in months. It's amazing how they stimulate a whole ecosystem onto themselves. To do this was hard - everything is hard, right? There's really nothing worth doing at this scale that is easy.

But the DEC, God bless them, Nassau County, thank you very much, our legislators who gave us the authorization. I want to thank Wells Fargo - we're going to be dropping 70 rail cars into the reefs as structure on the bottom. We're also going to be doing vessels, tugboats, turbines, et cetera and an array of equipment, material that makes diving interesting. It will be cleaned, it's environmentally sensitive but it's going to create the reefs. Wells Fargo has donated rail cars to the DEC and I want to thank the DEC for having the creativity to do it. These are rail cars - you learn a lot of trivia as Governor. At one time, they used to use subway cars as reef material - subway cars, commuter cars, Long Island Rail Road are now made out of aluminum and the aluminum doesn't last and it's actually being destroyed by the current. These are our rail cars that carry lumber, heavy material, they're all heavy steel, they'll be here long after we are gone. This is the Hempstead reef, we'll be out about 3 miles, but this is another installation that we're doing with the 12 reefs all along Long Island and in the Long Island Sound. I like it because it shows while we're dealing with COVID, there are other things we have to do at the same time, just because we have to deal with COVID doesn't mean everything stops. And it says, yes there are things that are hard and complicated and difficult, but we can still do them.

And this is a time where everything we're doing is hard and complicated and difficult. Opening schools is hard and complicated and difficult. Fighting COVID is hard and complicated. Regulating the economy is hard and complicated. But we are New Yorkers - we thrive on hard and complicated. New York is a community of people who took on a tough place and a tough community and they rose to the occasion. We did it during COVID- no community rose to the occasion like New Yorkers rose to the occasion. We went from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest infection rate in the nation. That's what the history books are going to say. That happened for one reason: Because New Yorkers stepped up and were loving and believed in community and cared for one another. That's why New York has made the progress it's made in COVID. It's not over; there's more to do. We're still wary but God bless New Yorkers and God bless the state of New York. Thank you all for being here and let's give a big round of applause to our great DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Basil Seggos: Thank you, governor. Great to be here with you all. I want to make some quick acknowledgements here. We have a fantastic group on the boat. Senator Todd Kaminsky, Senator John Brooks, Senator Jim Gaughran, Senator Anna Kaplan, Senator Monica Martinez, Senator Kevin Thomas and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. We also have Kelly Cummings, a great Director of State Operations, Bill Ulfelder from The Nature Conservancy - executive director, and my first boss Eric Goldstein from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Also the great Captain Tony DiLernia - everyone knows Tony - he's uh he's with us today. And from Wells Fargo Karen Elinski - Karen thank you for everything that you've done for us as a state.

The governor mentioned where we are with the environment and I think we're at an inflection point or we're beyond the inflection point on the environment. You look at the skies above upstate New York this morning and they had a yellowish tint from the fires in the West. Our country is literally burning as a result of climate change. And as the governor noted, you have a federal government that either doesn't care or is intent on making it worse by making the mistakes of the past and here we are as a nation confronting multiple crises at the same time. In my view that is why we are fortunate to have, as the chief executive of this state, Andrew Cuomo who has been leading us through so many crises over the years, none more impactful than COVID. Certainly, the world knows the governor from his work on COVID, but I know the governor from eight years in the trenches with him on the environment. And I could say for certain that there is no governor anywhere in the nation that is as committed to addressing environmental problems and writing the wrongs of the past as Governor Andrew Cuomo. He's established the legacy that will be written about for years to come and when the chips fell at the federal level and the feds backed away from the environment, the governor already had six years of action in the bank that we can point to an use as a catalyst for some of the incredible work that's happened over the last few years. The nation's leading Climate Law which we are implementing now. All the talk of climate- we are implementing here in New York the work on protecting our drinking water supplies and the incredible amount of energy that's gone into restoring our water quality upstate that long been taken for granted; protecting lands in the Adirondacks, in Long Island and everywhere in between; boosting recreation to the point where we're seeing levels never before seen here in our state parks in DEC facilities, which is a good thing and it's because we made investments in those spaces and that's all because of the governor. But of course a commitment to environmental justice which is the centerpiece of everything that we've been doing at DEC for years.

So, on to reefs and why we're here today. Just a quick bit of history. The first reefing in New York took place back in 1949 at a reef just a couple of miles south of Long Beach, and that program grew over time for a couple of decades and then went dormant, really, for the better part of 30 years until 2018 when the governor said, "hey we have this bridge coming down in the middle of the Hudson River, what can we do to make use of it, to restore some of our habitat off the coast of the Atlantic, and what can we do to make use of that material?" And that's really what this is. This is about improving habitat, it's about making use of perhaps derelict equipment and construction material, and it's about boosting the economy. And if you know the economy here in Long Island is so powerfully focused on this beautiful ocean with thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity. So, you know bringing this material today, bringing the material that we brought to these reefs over the last two years, you know we're taking effectively inanimate material, material that does not exist in a living form, dropping it into the water and then it immediately becomes living material just like a normal reef. So the Hempstead reef itself is 3 miles offshore. I'm going to put this slide in motion- here we are at the Hempstead reef right here. We have a number of other reefs as the Governor mentioned— 12 reefs in total. We'll be bringing more on-line in the coming years. Just a quick trivia question: why do you think 12-Mile Reef is called 12-Mile Reef? It's 12 miles off-shore, so some of these have intricate names, some are very descriptive. But we're focused on all of them.

So this particular reef, we've gone obviously from sea level, ground level and will be going out three miles to a depth of about 50 to 70 feet. It's a 744-acre reef that has effectively, it's a flat area but there is some angulation. So the method of deposition of these materials is to create a patchwork design. What we're envisioning today is almost a circle underground— maybe 300 feet, 300 yards in width, with a number ofemplacements of these rail cars to effectively cluster them horizontally and vertically.

The more space you can create between each drop, the more chance there is for life to find habitat. And you do that in a way, you're changing the structure of the floor of the Atlantic in this area. Because it's largely flat, so if you want to create space where fish and habitat can survive, then you need to create those structures and you need to create distance between them. So you have the rail cars, you have the Jane which is a tug, and then you've got a turbine, which comes all the way to us from the New York Power Authority in Niagara Falls—so nice trip there, that that turbine has made.

So I mentioned some of that distancing— so what we're doing with this particular reef is a nice circular emplacement and that will be distanced at least a football field away from the next emplacement. Again, creating those interstitial places, and really, it's amazing. As quick as we put the materials down in the water, we began to see life. We begin to see that life because it's a haven immediately for fish. It begins to teem with life. And you'll see as early as later on this afternoon and tomorrow— tautog, scup, porgy, they're going to move in. They're going to take advantage of some of the sheltering, the ocean currents and some of that space provided by the reef structure. And you see the colonizing organisms, opportunistic colonizing organisms— and those are the ones that really begin to create that structure, that permanent structure on the reef. You think about anemones and sponges, mussels, algae. Things like that. They begin to occupy the reef and they begin to create that food chain. And then the shellfish come: lobsters, crabs, other crustaceans. They begin to take hold and create that additional hard-bottom habitat. And finally, the larger marine species: dolphins, sharks, striped bass. They begin to visit the reefs for feeding opportunities. And then the top predator: the people come to fish and, of course, diving, which has been a very popular economic activity for years in this area and now we can certainly anticipate more traffic. So this is very exciting for us. It's been an exciting couple of years and there's a listing of all the materials we've dropped so far. This will continue in earnest for the coming years. So again, I want to thank you all for being here. I want to thank the Governor for his leadership on everything from COVID, keeping us all safe, to his leadership on really driving climate action worldwide. So, thank you, Governor, and thank you all.

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