New York City, New York Remarks at a Bill Signing Ceremony for H.R. 12426.
Senator Javits, Senator Moynihan, Governor Carey, Mayor Koch, distinguished Members of the Congress, the New York City and New York State officials, friends of this wonderful center of our Nation:
I'm glad to be back. The last time I was here and landed at the Wall Street Hellport, I received an even better welcome, because Ed Koch came forward and pressed an envelope in my hand. And I missed that today. [Laughter]
[At this point, Mayor Koch gave the President a note.]
This one I can read. [Laughter] "August 8, 1978. Mr. President, New York loves you. Sincerely, Ed Koch." Thank you, Ed. [Laughter]
This is a good day for New York City. This is a good day for the United States of America.
In a few minutes, I'm going to walk over to that table, that desk owned and used by the first President of our country, George Washington, and sign a very important piece of legislation—the New York City Loan Guarantee Act of 1978.
This bill represents a crucial step in New York's long and difficult climb back towards solvency and independence, but its importance goes far beyond the limits of the five boroughs here. And I would like to talk for a few minutes about why I think this important moment is not only for New York City but for our entire country.
As President, I am proud of this greatest of cities. New York has been the Big Apple for more than two centuries. Back in 1790, when New York was already the Nation's largest city, Washington was just a swamp. New York is still the Nation's largest city, and Washington—politically, Washington is emerging from this swamp. It's a beautiful city, a little bit younger.
No longer, of course, the center of our Nation's Government, as it was in 1790, New York is still a cultural and artistic and financial and diplomatic capital—not just for the Nation but for the entire world. For artists and for business executives, for actresses and for lawyers, for editors and for scholars, and for just plain American tourists, New York is a magnet. In many aspects of life, New York is indeed the big leagues.
But there's another side of this city and to the people who live here. New York is not just a focus for ambition or financial achievement; it has long been a center of compassion as well. New Yorkers have traditionally reached out for those who needed help, not only just here but throughout the Nation and the world. New York has offered welcome and sustenance to generation after generation of newcomers who are looking for opportunity and for a better life—immigrants from abroad and people from the rural areas of our country.
When people in my part of the United States needed support for programs like rural electrification and economic development, New Yorkers gave us that support. That statue in the harbor which we flew over a few minutes ago holds up her lamp not for New Yorkers alone but for all of us.
People in other parts of the country have sometimes been jealous of the achievements of New York, and there were a few around our Nation who were willing to see the big city taken down a peg or two. I know how New Yorkers feel about that. One thing that Southerners and New Yorkers have in common is that at times we've both had to deal with regional prejudice.
But in the final analysis, this country of ours stands together. Those who thought that the United States was going to stand by while its greatest city went under were wrong.
The bill that I will sign today represents a mutual concern and a spirit of cooperation, the same spirit that our Nation must bring to bear as we seek to control other problems—problems such as inflation and energy and inefficiency in government.
Let there be no mistake about what this bill does. It is not a handout—New York has asked for no handouts and has received none—nor is it a Band-Aid or a temporary approach that simply postpones an inevitable problem. Instead, through long-term loan guarantees, the bill opens up enough breathing space for New Yorkers to complete the difficult task of restoring yourselves to financial and economic self-sufficiency.
This bill is in the national interest. It's designed to put behind us a danger that would create problems for all our cities and for the financial markets of the Nation and the world.
If New York keeps its commitments-and I'm sure it will—then this bill will not cost the American taxpayers 1 cent. It will give this great city the security and the time it needs to bring its budget into balance permanently. And under the leadership of Hugh Carey and Ed Koch, I have no doubt that that goal will be met.
One of the first actions that I took after I was elected President, before I was inaugurated, was to meet in Georgia with Mayor Beame and with Governor Carey and with other officials to commit my administration, then just being formed, to a long-term, serious, responsible, adequate, and cooperative effort to help New York help itself out of its chronic fiscal problems. This bill is the fruit of that commitment.
When we proposed this legislation 5 months ago, most people did not think it had much of a chance. That was before Secretary Blumenthal and I and many of you here convinced other Members of Congress how hard New York has worked in the past 3 years to solve your own problems-problems that were decades in the making and that were really partly the consequences of circumstances far beyond the city's control.
New York has reduced its work force by 60,000 and its real budget deficit by more than a billion dollars. Under the Federal Seasonal Loan program, New York has paid back every penny either on time or ahead of schedule, and as you well know, with interest. The people in Washington, D.C., the people in Georgia, thank you for that.
The credit for these achievements belongs to many different groups of individuals. New Yorkers have rallied to your city's colors. Groups that are usually thought of as natural enemies or competitors have worked together constructively toward a common goal. Labor and business, bankers and bureaucrats, Democrats and Republicans, politicians and ordinary citizens—all have joined together to take care of long-neglected problems. All have shown determination and courage in making the sacrifices that have been necessary and that will continue to be necessary. And this is a message that was heard by the Congress of the United States. The successful lobbying was done by your actions, not by anybody's words.
Throughout the process, New York's leadership team has been exemplary. The State of New York has had many great Governors over the last number of years, but I don't know of anyone who has ever done more for New York City than Hugh Carey.
In 1975, New York City faced a financial emergency that was unprecedented in its magnitude and complexity. In that dark hour, Hugh Carey's personal leadership was magnificent. Without his unflinching courage, New York might not have come through this crisis at all. He is what we Southern Baptists from Georgia call a real mensch. [Laughter]
And Ed Koch is a strong mayor. He's refused to sugar-coat the difficult truths about your fiscal problems. He's never tried to mislead anyone, and New Yorkers have responded to his frankness, his honesty, and his candor.
As mayor, he's led New York in imposing tough discipline on itself. He's made the commitment to get New York's budget into true balance in 4 years' time, so that New York can once again regain its fiscal independence.
I know that Ed Koch likes to go up to people on the street and ask, "How'm I doing?" Well, if you ask me, Ed, you're doing great.
Both Hugh Carey and Ed Koch are former Members of Congress, as you know, and they have earned the trust of their colleagues on Capitol Hill. Both have been effective spokesmen for New York City at the national level.
The New York congressional delegation, every one of them in the House and Senate, have been superb, and they are owed a debt of gratitude which I'm sure you'll repay.
Obviously, a broad range of other groups have been involved in bringing this effort to a successful conclusion. The State legislature, the municipal unions, and the financial institutions have all made significant contributions, as have those leaders in the private sector who served the city through the Municipal Assistance Corporation and the Control Board.
Those who work for the city of New York have rededicated themselves to its service. Their commitment is exemplified by the six brave firefighters who gave their lives last week in the line of duty.
The New York City Loan Guarantee Act of 1978 is a step forward toward the fulfillment of America's national urban policy. It's part of a much larger effort to strengthen the fiscal and the economic base of our communities. Here in New York, in less than 2 years, we've already increased Federal aid by more than 30 percent, and we've proposed major urban legislation which will bring even more significant benefits to this city.
When I announced the national urban policy back in March, I called for a New Partnership involving the private sector of our economy, labor, citizens groups, and all levels of government—local, State, and Federal. Here in New York that New Partnership is indeed a demonstrated reality. New York is proving that with determination and commitment, our people can take control of even the most difficult and serious of problems.
We can take control of our energy problems, and we will. We can take control of our inflation problems, and we will. We can take control of the problem of inefficiency and fat and waste and poor management in government, as New York has already begun to do, and I believe that our Nation as a whole can do it as well.
The road ahead will not be easy for any of us. There's still a long way to go. Like the Nation as a whole, New York faces tough decisions and more sacrifices down the road.
In conclusion, let me say that working together we can ensure that once again, in the words of E. B. White, "New York is to the nation what the church spire is to the small village—a visible symbol of aspiration and hope and faith."
What we do here today is not an end but a beginning—a beginning of a new life, a better life for us all.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 4:19 p.m. outside City Hall. Following the ceremony, the President attended a reception in the Governor's Room at City Hall, and then went to Gracie Mansion, where he and Mrs. Carter met with Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York.
The President and Mrs. Carter spent the night at Gracie Mansion and returned to the White House the following morning.
As enacted, H.R. 12426 is Public Law 95339, approved August 8.
Jimmy Carter, New York City, New York Remarks at a Bill Signing Ceremony for H.R. 12426. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248338