Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Gatherings of Up to 25 People Will Be Allowed in Phase Three of Reopening
June 15, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Pleasure to be in Westchester today, thank the Thruway Authority for these very cool, special edition New York Tough masks. It is a beautiful day today. Let me recognize the people who are with me on the dais. To my right, we have Matt Driscoll, who runs the Thruway Authority, who done an extraordinary job, an extraordinary job with this new Mario Cuomo Bridge that we're here to celebrate again today. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, who's secretary to the governor. We also have with us Jamey Barbas and Rick Cotton. Jamey works with me, Rick Cotton runs a little organization called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But before Rick went to the Port Authority, and before Jamey came to the governor's office, they were the ones who were working very hard on making this bridge a reality, together with Larry Schwartz. But they really did an extraordinary job and it's a pleasure to be with them today as we open the pedestrian shared use path on the bridge that I think is going to be a big hit, a big success.
This bridge has energized the economy for the entire region. And I think the shared use path, you're going to see people coming to enjoy the bridge even more, so it's a pleasure to be with all of them today.
Let's talk about some of the facts before the sun melts us here today. Today is day 107 since the COVID crisis started in New York. It's day 22 since we've been dealing with the civil unrest after Mr. Floyd's murder. On the civil unrest, I said from day one, I stand with the protesters. The outrage was right, the outrage was justified. What we do in New York is we take the outrage and we seize the moment, right? Carpe momentum. It's about people wanting change. Well, New York will be the place that actually makes the change, and we've passed laws that have done just that. Today I'm going to sign additional laws, first that an officer must report a weapon discharged within six hours, second, police departments and courts must track all the arrest data so we have all the facts, race, ethnicity, third, a law that requires police officers to provide for mental and medical help to any person under arrest or any person in custody when they require it.
The major reform that we're going through in New York, that is going to be the first the nation, and I think really show people across this country how to change the system, how to hear the anger, hear the outrage, that vented with Mr. Floyd's death but which has been percolating for years and years and years. Mr. Floyd's death was the last in a long list, but it was a long list that goes back over 40 years. It goes back to Dr. Martin Luther King's murder. The question is, how do you make the change? How do you turn that energy into a positive source to actually make change?
And we're doing that in New York with the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative that says that every community has to now come to the table as a collaborative, local leadership, police, the community activists, and redesign their public safety function. How do we change the police? How do we take this moment and actually institutionalize it to have progress? And that's going to require local leaders to come to the table. We want a new design for public safety in their community. We want it by April 1. We want it to be legislated by April 1. So come up with a plan after putting everyone at the table and then pass it into law and get it done by April 1. That's 290 days and counting. So I encourage all local governments to start today. The mayor can do it. The city council president can do it. Someone else can do it. But in every city in every county in this state, come to the table and start designing the plan for the future.
In terms of our reopening here after COVID in New York, we've been following the facts, and the facts are that New York is on the right track. That is an objective fact. You look at the numbers which we watch every day now, watch those testing numbers every day. We're doing the reopening. Let's make sure there's not an increase there's not a spike. How do you do that? You follow the numbers on a daily basis by region, by county in the state, and you can see exactly what has been happening since the reopening. All of the numbers so far have been very good in New York. We're hitting a new high which is really a new low, but in this case low is good, the lowest number of hospitalizations since this has started - amen. The lowest number of deaths on the three-day average since this has started. Now, we'd love to see that number at zero but really you'll never get to zero because this is now, the number is so low, that it's coming down to what a doctor certifies as the cause of death. Many people who pass away because of COVID have other underlying illnesses. They're battling heart disease, they're battling cancer, they're battling another disease, and they contract COVID. But this is the lowest number since we have started. And that, my friends, is a cause to celebrate in and of itself.
We are now entering Phase Three for some regions across the state. We're going to modify Phase Three given this new data, and we're going to allow gatherings up to 25 people in Phase Three, which is up from ten people. Again, because the numbers are good in most parts of the state. Western New York will enter phase three tomorrow and that's exciting. The Capital Region will be entering phase three on Wednesday. That's exciting. The rules and regulations of phase three are very clear. They're all set out. People should follow the guidelines because the guidelines have been working. They have been working. We have months of data now that says the guidelines make sense, keep following them because they are working. And everyone has a role to play in all of this as we're reopening. Employers have a role, store owners have a role, employees have a role, individuals have a role, and local government has a real responsibility.
And to the local governments, I say do your job. Do your job. Local governments are supposed to be enforcing compliance. Compliance is hard. Why? Because people have been cooped up for a long time and they want to do what they want to do. I want to do what I want to do. I'll tell you the truth. I get it but we have to stay smart. And if the local governments don't enforce compliance, they're not doing anyone a favor, because if they don't enforce compliance, you will see the numbers start to go up. And if the numbers start to go up, you're going to have to see that area take a step back. So to local governments, I say do your job.
We know the alternative. You're seeing all across the nation the virus actually increasing. We have 22 states where the virus is increasing. It's a dramatic national turnaround. We are the exception here in New York. God bless us, but we are the exception. We don't want the same plight of these other states. Talk about great irony, one of our concerns now in New York is that people from the other states that have a high rate of increase of COVID virus may start traveling to New York. Remember when we started, other states were saying we don't want people from New York coming to our state because we're afraid they'll bring the virus? Well, now we're afraid people from the other states might come here and increase the viral spread. One of the great ironies in life, you look at what's happening in New York, you look at our curve, the curve we all live by, on our reopening, since our reopening, the virus spread has continued to go down. That, my friends, is an extraordinary exception when you look at all the other states around the country. Where they did the reopening, they didn't do it smartly and you saw the virus go up.
Here in New York, we reopened and the virus continued to go down. And that is exactly what we want to do, because we have been smart the way we've done this. We have been smart. It was hard but we stayed smart because the question was never to reopen or not reopen. That was a political question. That was all a political game that people played. "Well are you in favor of reopening or are you against reopening?" Nobody was against reopening. What an absurd frame. That's what politics does. It defeats intelligent conversation. Nobody was against reopening. The question was always how to reopen and reopen smartly. And what we said here in New York is if you don't reopen smartly, it's not going to work anyway. If the reopening doesn't control the virus, it's going to make the economy worse. That's what we said. And all the voices said, "NO, just reopen, reopen, reopen. Liberate. Free us." Yeah, free us, free us to hurt ourselves and decline. And you know what? That's exactly what you see happening right now. Reopening, reopening, reopening, wasn't done smartly, wasn't done on the facts, wasn't monitored, and now people are seeing the second wave. 22 states, numbers going up. "Oh my gosh, the coronavirus is here and it's growing." Yes, because you didn't reopen smartly. Let's stay smart in New York because we were right.
Moving forward, we have to do two things. One, monitor the virus, look at those numbers every day, and, two, let's get affirmative and aggressive and start building back even better. Let's jump-start the economy with essential projects and create those jobs. Let's re-energize this economy, let's re-energize society. We've all been closed down for three months. Okay. Everybody caught up on their sleep? Everybody rested? Everybody ready to go to work? Well then let's go to work and let's set the goal of not just reopening but we're going to build back a better New York.
Let's take those big projects that we have to do and let's energize them. Let's really get them moving and get them moving quickly. Let's re-energize the Belmont racetrack. The new arena for the Islanders- we're accelerating 2 billion dollars of work at the MTA. Now is the time to do construction because the ridership is down. We're going to capitalize on the moment. Let's get that Moynihan station open. We lost a few months because of the virus, let's make up that time let's get a new Moynihan station open right across from Penn Station. When those commuters come back let's say to them, 'you're going to have the best train station you've had in over 50 years, better than anywhere else.' Now is the time to do it. Let's take this moment and let's reimagine our upstate airports and let's rebuild them. Let's get Stewart airport and let's reinvigorate that. Stewart airport, I believe is going to energize the entire region and let's get it done and let's get it done this summer. Rick Cotton fast-tracking LaGuardia Airport: first new airport in 25 years. Come see New York, come visit New York. It's not the old LaGuardia that people laughed about. It is going to be the new LaGuardia that people envy across this nation. And I believe will bring people here.
The Mario Cuomo bridge- nearly two years ago we celebrated the opening. The largest infrastructure project in the United States in the past 10 years. Think about that. Nowhere else in the nation did they even attempt a project this big, why? Because it's intimidating. It's intimidating. You're going to build a new bridge across the Hudson River? Government? Government can't put two bricks together; you think you're going to build a bridge? Yes. Yes, we can do it. We can do it. That's what we said with this bridge today. We're going to open the 3.6-mile-long path for cyclists and pedestrians. You can come across the Hudson River which is spectacular in and of itself. From this bridge you look South you can see New York City; you look North you- one of the most beautiful river valleys on the globe. 3.6 miles and you're over one of the most beautiful bridges in the United States of America. You can say that I'm not objective about that because I'm not, but I believe it is a fact anyway. Sometimes you can be not-objective, subjective, but still tell the truth and I believe this is the most beautiful bridge in the United States, so we invite everyone to come enjoy it with us and the bridge says something else. The bridge speaks to a sense of possibility, a sense of capacity– when people are wondering, "can we do this? Can we rise to the challenge? Are we capable of it? Can we do these big things?"
The bridge says, "yes, we can." And the bridge said, "yes we can," after 20 years of people questioning and doubting and being afraid. The bridge took on the challenge and defeated the challenge. It showed what we were capable of. And over the past 106 days, we confronted another challenge that we had never faced before. No one had faced a challenge like this coronavirus– no one. It was the greatest challenge that government and society faced in a generation. And there were days where everyone said, "can we do this? Can we handle this? Can we close down? Can we come back?"
It challenged us to the core. When we were talking about a curve– I never saw a curve. I saw a mountain. That's what I saw. I saw a mountain that we had to scale and we didn't know where the top was. The top was up in the clouds somewhere when we started scaling this mountain. But we had to get to the top. We had to then get over the crest and come down the other side. And that's what we did for the past 106 days. It had never been done before. Nobody knew where it was; nobody knew how high the mountain was. But we did it. And our accomplishment over these past 106 days will go down in the history books. Just remember what we did here: when we started on the base-side of the mountain– we had the worst infection rate in the United States of America. Today we have the best infection rate in the United States of America.
You want to talk about a turnaround? You want to talk about an accomplishment? You want to talk about people doing something they never did before? Yes. They built that bridge, the largest infrastructure project in the country. And New York scaled the highest mountain and went from the worst situation with this COVID virus to the best situation with this COVID virus. New Yorkers did it because we did it together. That's what was so different, so challenging, but so exciting. The only way for each of us to be healthy was if all of us were healthy. The only way to protect my health was if you were willing to protect my health. And we did it together.
Challenge for all of us, but a challenge for each of us. Each of us had to battle our own fears and our own demons to be ready for moment. And this Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge– we're here today to say, "happy birthday." I'm here today to say, "happy birthday." It's my father's birthday today. And he would be very proud today. I miss him very much. I miss him every day. But in a lot of ways, he's still with me. There were many nights that I went to sleep during this past 106 days, and I laid there in the bed and I said, "what would my father tell me to do today?" And I could hear his voice, and he gave me great advice and great comfort in some of the longest nights. And I knew exactly what he would say. He said, take responsibility, own it, don't point fingers, don't get into a blame game. You're governor of the State of New York. Take responsibility. Take responsibility for all of it, and be accountable for it. My father would have quoted Winston Churchill. He loved Churchill saying never give up, never give up, never give up. My father said to me, rise above the politics. They're going to play politics, they always do. Don't sink to their level. Don't listen to the naysayers. Speak to people's better angels. And he would say, trust the people of the state. Tell them the truth, and they will do the right thing. And that's exactly what I did for 106 days. I told the people the truth, I told them the facts, I didn't sugar coat it, I told them what we had to do, and they did the right thing, and they wrote a beautiful chapter in the history of this great state and in the history of this nation.
My father always spoke about the fundamental philosophy of operating as a family. As a family, we take it for granted. I'll help you, you'll help me, we're family. We're all family. We're all family, the state is one family. When they murdered Mr. Floyd, they murdered a member of our family. That's what the protests are saying. When one of us gets sick, we're all suffering in this state. So we're all supporting one another. I think my father would have loved where we came out of this because his dream, his moral leadership, was just that simple. Came down to love, care about one another, and act like you care about one another and you love one another. And that's what we did. Tonight we're going to illuminate the bridge in blue because blue is my father's favorite color. And when he's looking down, I want to make sure tonight he sees his bridge lit up blue, and I think it'll put a smile on his face.
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