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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul, Mayor Patterson-Howard, And County Executive Latimer Announce Historic Partnership to Address Longstanding Water Infrastructure Challenges in City of Mount Vernon


Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a historic $150 million investment and a precedent-setting three-way partnership with Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and Westchester County Executive George Latimer to immediately advance work to address longstanding water infrastructure and related public health challenges that have plagued the city of Mount Vernon for decades. At an event at Mount Vernon’s City Hall, the Governor also announced the immediate launch of the $7 million ‘Third Street Sewer Project,’ that, when complete, will ensure reliable wastewater service for 500 nearby households currently served by temporary pumps and a makeshift system staged in the street to ensure adequate wastewater collection.

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

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AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page

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

Thank you. This truly is a new day for Mount Vernon, long overdue and there are so many people that we have to thank. But at this moment before we talk about the good news, we have to recognize the pain that’s in the hearts of so many of our residents, the loss of a teenage girl who was simply celebrating a victorious season for the Mount Vernon boys high school basketball team, winning the state championships.

Our hearts are broken because of the loss of Kayla Green and too many young people that we’ve lost to the specter of gun violence and it must end my friends. It has to end with us. We have endured too much pain for far too long.

It was in November when we did a gun violence round table, something I wanted to bring to the screen and talk about this as a new Governor. And it was there we talked about what we could do and ban ghost guns, and a lot of other initiatives, which are banned. I signed the law to ban it. But they still are so ever present in our community. So our fight continues, but it was during that visit to Mount Vernon, that I had a very emotional conversation with our amazing Mayor here, Shawyn Petterson-Howard, who I’ve worked with for many years.

And she was pleading with me and we followed up with a phone call where she was saying, you have got to help our people because they’ve been through so much. Why does it have to continue like this? And so I want you to stand on your feet and thank her for her leadership. Our great Mayor, Shawyn Petterson-Howard.

As long as I’m talking about the great leadership of the city, let’s talk about the people who are really getting GSD. Getting, we’ll say stuff done here today and let’s hear a round of applause for our sewer crew. The guys in red stand up.

Those are our guys. God bless you.

Also true leadership at the county level, because what we’re going to talk about in a few moments is a beautiful public private partnership, but primarily state, federal, local, but the county has been so instrumental in leadership and that’s what you get from an individual. And that individual’s name is George Latimer. And I want to thank him for his leadership.

And we’re going to talk about a little bit of money that’s coming here today. Alright, alright. The money comes from a budget and I didn’t do this budget alone. Although I have a few scars, I feel like I just went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson maybe. But the person I was happy to be in that arena with, the woman in the arena, to quote a famous speech by Teddy Roosevelt, the woman in the arena with me was Westchester’s own, Majority Leader of the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She delivers, she delivers.

And on the Assembly side, you are so blessed to have an incredible leader who’s out there fighting for you every single day. That is our Assemblymember Gary Pretlow. Thank you, thank you, Gary. 

Now I get to brag on a little bit about my team too. So after I had this conversation with the Mayor, hearing the stories of her residents that were so heartbreaking, and talking about people like Linda, and what they’ve had to endure, literally for decades. And she was just begging us to do something. I turned to another strong woman, see a lot of connection here, just saying.

Let’s give a huge round of applause to Kathryn Garcia, the State Director of Operations, for taking the ball and running with it, because I put a lot on your plate and it was very early in our administration. We had just dealt with not one, but two hurricanes, we were trying to get billions of dollars out in rent relief, we had come here because of flooding. Everything was a mess, and we still had COVID to deal with, but I knew Kathryn would follow through, and we would reach this day. And it actually came sooner than I anticipated because she would not give up on this community either. So Kathryn Garcia, thank you.

But I needed an agency partner, someone who understood the power of government to help lift up communities. And we don’t have to keep finding people and bringing them down when something happens, no fault of their own. And it took leadership in Basil Seggos, the head of the DEC, to get the job done here today, let’s give him a round of applause.

And I’ll give you a little side story about my DEC experience. It was under a previous administration, back to the Pataki days. Okay, I won’t name which administration it was but it was the Pataki days. I’m trying to be diplomatic here, okay. I was a local official, local government official, and I was always saying, why is Albany beating up on us so much?  Shouldn’t they be helping us?” We had a flood in our community, and it was going to wipe out this little golf course we had, that was a public golf course. It was the only thing that people could afford in my community and it was going under water. And so our town stepped up trying to save the golf course and we put these boulders along the river to stop it. Oh boy. DEC slapped us with fines day after day after day. And Basil knew we’ve a different approach to our responsibilities here. We don’t have on your back. We can actually be on your side, okay? That’s what I wanted. My administration Basil Seggos is making that happen.

And to have Maureen Coleman, the president and CEO of EFC here to help us with the resources we need. I want to thank Maureen. I want to thank Catherine Coleman Flowers. We have representation from the White House here as well, because our president is very concerned. Catherine Coleman Flowers, the Vice Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. That is a big deal, White House showing up here in Mount Vernon. Let’s give a round of applause, everyone part of the Biden administration.

Also Lisa Garcia, the EPA Regional Administrator. Lisa, thank you for representing Washington so well, Lisa. Also, I can never come here without giving a shout out to the former Senator, always a Senator, Ruth Hassell-Thompson.

And I saved the best for last. That is a real person without a fancy title, but just living every day here in Mount Vernon, trying to just get by, and the adversity that was heaped on her and flowed up in her house. Brought national attention and a spotlight on the plight of people in this community. Let’s stand on our feet and give a round of applause to Linda McNeil and all the other homeowners who have endured so much.

So, now I’ll tell you why I’m here. Today, we are now sensing the largest environmental justice victory in the United States of America this year. It is happening right here. We are talking about not just what environmental justice could mean in theory, because what does it really mean? We’re actually going to put money behind making it become a reality. Because this is a case where justice has been denied for far too long, but it’s not just environmental justice, which sounds like it’s a protecting the environment.

This is also about racial justice because this community has been hit down so hard and its people are resilient and they fight back, but sometimes things just get out of their control.

So we’re righting the wrongs where over a hundred years ago, a train came through and divided this community. And then the sewers were better on one side of the tracks than the other side of the tracks. I wonder what that was all about. And businesses trying to struggle on Main Street, but had to deal with stuff coming up all the time. As well as the homeowners who suffered such indignities and persevered. As well as anyone could have.

We’re dealing with racial injustice here. But when you actually look at the pictures and see the videos and the films and the documentaries and the experience that people like Linda went through, this is also a moment of victory for human justice. Because no human should be subjected to the disgusting experiences they had them endure for decades. It ends today.

This is the beginning of the end. It’s long overdue. And I’m going to talk to you about exactly what that means, because it’s got a lot of zeros behind it. We are committing now. Sorry, I forgot to mention somebody. How’d I miss, did I mention Commissioner Bush? How did I not mention Commissioner Bush? Commissioner Bush, you stand on your feet.

Mr. Bush, you are the man who did it. You stuck through it. And imagine the frustration of being Commissioner Bush. Someone buy that man a drink when he leaves here today. Truly, what he has had to endure. And we have some reverends here and I want to ask Reverend Franklyn and Reverend Troy Decohen to pray for all of us here, because we’ve been through so much. We’ve been through so much but particularly this gentleman and his crew, because they went forth and did their job day after day.

Without an end in sight. Wondering if for the next 20 years they’re going to continue getting up there and just cleaning up the mess and talking to people and saying, well, someday somebody might pay attention. Someday it might happen. Somebody might care enough. You fought long and hard my friend, and you endured. And as a result of that, this community also endured, because of your strength. And I commend you for being a true public servant in every sense of the word, Commissioner Bush. ‘

But now Commissioner Bush, the sewer guys, the city of Mount Vernon, you don’t have to go it alone anymore. We are your partner, we are your ally, and we are at your side.

And what we’re announcing today is $150 million to repair and strengthened your water system.

You are welcome. You have been through enough. No more band aids. We’re not into band aids. No, band aids don’t save the body.

We are going to address the sanitarian sewer system once and for all. So generations from now, they won’t even know what we are complaining about because they’ll say, “What do you mean it wasn’t always great like this?”

You can tell the stories that your grandchildren who called your home, “the poop house.” They’ll tell their grandkids, “Grandma’s house smelled really sweet, finally. We wanted to visit Grandma.”

So, let’s get started. Okay. Let’s start with $7 million to immediately launch, immediately as in now, launch our engineering, design, and construction of the Third Street sewer line. Let’s start with that.

Third Street, help is on the way, Third Street. As well as $3 million from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery Pilot Program to repair the homes and make them resilient and rehabilitate damaged pipes.

So, let’s get that done as well!

So, I got a little bit of business to do. In order to make all this happen, we are announcing a City-County-State partnership agreement, and MOU to work together to get this done as quickly as possible. After I introduce after the County Executive, we’re actually going to sign some official paper here because I’m not waiting any longer.

I’m not even waiting until I get back to Albany. I’m going to do it right here. I don’t know, I might get into, you know, a car accident or something. I want to get this done. Okay.

Nothing the better happening to me right now though. I am really fired up, and I will tell you I’ve been Governor since the end of August. This is the most joyful day I’ve had because what we’re doing here today is so simple. It’s overlooked. We’re taking care of our people and I’m so proud to be your Governor and I’m going to keep taking care of you because you deserve a government that listens to you.

Thank you. Let me bring up our County Executive, George Latimer.

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