Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grand opening of the eastbound span of the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, an iconic twin-span cable-stayed crossing linking Westchester and Rockland counties. The $3.98 billion project to construct the 3.1-mile bridge - the first cable-stayed bridge across the Hudson River - and its ancillary facilities, is one of the largest in the United States and the biggest in the history of the New York State Thruway Authority. Operations to shift four lanes of Westchester-bound traffic to the new span will begin at approximately 8 o'clock tonight, weather permitting, with the first cars crossing early Saturday.
The Governor celebrated the opening on the new bridge with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hundreds of dignitaries and community members from the Hudson Valley and across the state, workers who built the new bridge, high school students from Irvington and Nyack, Nyack High School's Red Storm Marching Band, singer-songwriter and Rockland County native Grace VanderWaal, who performed "The Star-Spangled Banner." In addition to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque, the Governor also drove across the new bridge in a ceremonial first ride in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1932 Packard. More information is available here.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo and Former Secretary Clinton's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of Governor Cuomo and Former Secretary Clinton's remarks is below:
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Good morning. No, it's a great morning. What a great, great day. Thank you all very, very much. Let's give Joanie Mahoney and the whole team at the Thruway Authority a big round of applause. Secretary Hillary Clinton, thank you for being with us. Thank all of you for being with us today. Thank my mother for getting in the car. My mother is afraid of my driving. She always has been; she always will be. She didn't want to get in the car at the bottom of the bridge just now. I said, Mom there is no one else on the bridge, what could happen? It took a few minutes, but she took the ride. Once again, my mother Matilda Cuomo.
To all my family, my friends, my colleagues in government, thank you for being here. The ride we took was in FDR's 1932 Packard. He bought that car in his second term as Governor. When he became President he left it behind for his successors to use. It is a 12-cylinder for those of you that are automobile aficionados. I can see most of you are not, so I move right along. Joanie went through a list of thank you's. The list would be endless and it's always dangerous because there's always so many people to thank on a project like this, but a special thank you goes to President Barack Obama and Congresswoman Nita Lowey for the federal loan and we thank them.
To Larry Schwartz who was Secretary to the Governor when we birthed this project. To Rick Cotton who handled it and nurtured it in its early years, who is now head of the Port Authority. Let's give Rick Cotton a round of applause. To Melissa DeRosa, who took over during its adolescent years and to Jamey Barbas who handled it through maturity. She literally managed the entire project to get us to this point today where the bridge opens on time and it opens on budget. Jamey Barbas, thank you very much. And thank you to the 7,000 women and men of organized labor who worked on this bridge and showed once again why New York's organized labor is the best in the United States of America.
I believe the bridge speaks for itself. Of course I'm partial, but I believe it's beautiful. I believe the design needed to do justice to the magnificent surrounding—our majestic Hudson River at one of the widest points. If possible, the lines, the curves, the esthetics of the bridge actually enhance the natural beauty. The towers were the focal point to me. After we were presented with this design option, I asked one of the people in the room how they felt about the towers, and the person said without hesitation, the towers represent a big V—the sign for victory. I asked someone else what they thought about the towers and they said without hesitation, the towers represent two fingers giving the peace sign. So it's true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
To me, the towers symbolized people standing with their arms outstretched, pointing towards the heavens and looking for strength and guidance. And that's what they mean to me today. I hope whatever you see when you look at this bridge that you find it uplifting and inspiring. I hope that the millions of people who will go through this bridge see these towers and see this structure and I hope it puts a smile on their face and raises their spirits.
This bridge also says that we are still capable of great accomplishment and that is an important statement to make in today's world. People are angry. People are frustrated. More because they are afraid. They are afraid for their future and the government that they believed that was on their side is no longer present, capable, or willing. Government's response should not be empty promises or hollow platitudes designed to capitalize on or placate the emotion. Because long-term that only adds to the anger and the frustration. Government at its best should actually effectuate change, help people, solve problems, make a difference. Not in the abstract and theoretical, but in the real and in the practical. That's what people desperately need today. What this bridge says is, that government has capacity. Society has capacity. We can confront our problems. We can solve our problems when we do it honestly, constructively and collectively. We can resolve the issues we face today. This bridge restores confidence in ourselves.
As the largest infrastructure project in the nation, I think this project is of national significance. And at a time when the President is obsessed with his singular goal of building a wall, this bridge stands in defiant opposition. A wall is built to divide. A wall is built to separate. But separation and division can never forge alliances. Can never find consensus. Can never bring peace. Can never bring people together, and can never make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Mr. President, stop your quest to build a wall and start building bridges. Mr. President, turn around in your chair in the Oval Office and look at the flag with the seal of the United States that stands right behind you and read the words "E Pluribus Unum," out of many one. The founding premise of this country. The enduring promise of this country. Bringing different people together. Forging unity. Forging community and that can only be done by building bridges. Bridge between black and white and brown, between Christians and Muslims and Jewish people. Between rich and poor, between urban and rural, between north and south. Bridges across the political aisle. Bridges can be built Mr. President. Bridges can be built and you do this nation no justice by building walls. If you have any question as to what can be done, if you have any doubt as to the constructive path forward, then just look to New York Mr. President. You know where it is. And New York will show you the direction up.
This bridge is named for my father. He would love the bridge, but he would reject the vanity of the name. I'm sure that for him the towers would bring to mind one of his favorite quotes. E.B. White said, 'New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village - the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up.'
My father was my best friend and we had a deep connection. My father was not overly expressive emotionally, nor am I. He spoke of love more in an intellectual context than in personal relationships. One day, near the end, I was with Sandy and Cara, Mariah and Michaela, and we were visiting my father and as usual we discussed the affairs of the world, and as usual he delighted in telling me how wrong I was in so many ways. But for some reason, I asked him a question I had never asked him before and I looked in his and I said, 'Dad, do you love me?' And he looked at me and he stopped, a little taken aback, he exhaled and he said, 'I love you so, so, so much.' I will never forget it. It is a moment that moves me to this day.
Sometimes the things left unsaid are the most regrettable. I'm sorry I never got a chance to really say thank you to my father. To say thank you for your example, for your inspiration, for always believing in good. Thank you for your optimism, your defiance, your strength, your courage, your character. Thank you for bearing the pain of the political slings and arrows just because you were trying to do the right thing. Thank you for your grace in defeat. Thank you for instilling in me the value of public service. Thank you for giving me the strength to stand against the storm. Thank you for being there for me in the dark days. Thank you for leaving a legacy that makes all of us who knew you proud to be have known you and better for having known you. Thank you for being the foundation of these towers. Thank you for being my father. I love you so, so, so much. Ladies and gentleman, thank you for sharing this special day. Thank you for being a part of history. Thank you for making today possible.
And now, it is my honor and my pleasure to bring you a great friend to me and my family. A great friend to the state of New York. One of the truly extraordinary public servants in our lifetime. The person who I believe who should be sitting in the oval office, Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Former Secretary Clinton: Thank you so much. I am so delighted to be here with all of you for this occasion. Thank you Governor Cuomo. Thank you for your leadership and your friendship, and your vision. It really is special to be here to be on this bridge before it opens for business, thinking about the 7,000 people who spent over 11.5 million hours constructing this new bridge. The 220 million pounds of American steel. The more than 300,000-cubic-yards of concrete. The contributions of 847 New York State businesses who were awarded contracts on this project. All of the urban planners, the architects, the community stakeholders, students and thanks to Joanie Mahoney for taking on what seemed to be an impossible task and making it a reality for New York. I couldn't help but think about that classic New York song, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."
Well if you can build it here, you can build it anywhere, and it is time for the United States of America to take another look at what is getting done here in New York and follow this example. You know, we used to be the greatest builders in the modern world. We built the Transcontinental Railroad during the Civil War. We built the interstate highway system, great structures like the Hoover Dam. So many, so many built structures here in New York through good times and bad. The Great Depression did not stop New Yorkers from building. It is in our DNA as Americans and as New Yorkers. And so this is not only a great accomplishment to connect, as Reverend Dr. Richardson said, not only Westchester and Rockland, but New York to the world. This is an example. You know, as Joanie said, for 20 years, people talked about building a new bridge. And it took real leadership to get it done. As a member of the Obama administration, I was thrilled to follow the progress that the Governor's office and Nita Lowey and other elected officials made in streamlining the approvals through the administration to get this going. And being able to deliver this huge project on-time and slightly under budget is an extraordinary accomplishment, so thank you, Governor Cuomo.
You know, the governor talked a lot about building bridges and we need them. not only literal bridges like this one, because we have a lot of really shaky, scary bridges in America right now, but the kind of metaphorical bridge that he was talking to us about. The kind of bridge that does recognize our differences, but tries to bridge them, tries to bring us together. And that's why it is especially fitting that this bridge is named after Mario Cuomo. Governor Cuomo was not only a great leader here in New York, but recognized as one across America. And it means so much, Matilda, to have you here. And I understand it was a little bit shaky getting in the car with your son. Because, you know he doesn't drive himself anymore. And I think that deserves a big round of applause that you were willing to take that risk with him.
You know, Mario Cuomo used to talk about our nation as a family. The family of America. It was one of his trademark phrases. We are all bound to one another, he would say. And everyone needs a seat at the table. Well I always thought that was a pretty good definition of democracy. Everybody deserves a seat at the table. We may come from different places, we may look different from one another, we may believe differently. But everyone deserves respect, and to have his or her dignity acknowledged.
Well today, probably more than ever, or at least for a very long time, we could use Mario's voice, and his moral clarity, calling us to be at our best. He did it in poetry and in prose. And now every time hundreds of thousands of people every week cross this bridge, they will be reminded of that.
I want to congratulate all the elected officials, everyone who worked on this project, acknowledge our Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and to really underscore the importance of what you've done. It was a job, I know, it was a project that needed to be done, but I hope everybody who had anything to do with it will stand a little taller, and feel prouder because of what you helped to make happen. New York has a proud tradition of serving as a beacon, not only for the rest of our country, but the rest of the world. And today, once again, New York is leading the way, proving that if you build it, they will come, and showing we know how to get it done.
Thank you very much.