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Presentation of HOPE VI Grant to
The City of Atlanta by Secretary Andrew Cuomo

Atlanta, Georgia
August 21, 1998

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you. Good morning, Atlanta. It is a good morning, isn't it? If this isn't a good morning, nothing's going to be, I can tell you that.

First, to Andrea Jordan for the very kind introduction, and it was a kind introduction. But more than that for all the ork that she's done and all the residents have done to make today a reality. Today is about the residents of public housing. This is where they are going to live their lives, their futures, and they really made it happen. Congratulations to you.

Beautiful invocation by Dr. Kimbrow, who spoke to our Maker and didn't even need a microphone, I can tell you that. Renee Glover, truly one of the nation's best when it comes to running public housing. Congratulations.

Larry Wallace, he worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He wanted an easier job, so he came to the City of Atlanta. I promised him that I would come to visit. I did not know at that time how expensive it was going to be. But it has been expensive. But it has been an investment.

Congressman John Lewis, this grant would not be made today without the advocacy and work of Congressman John Lewis, period. On a personal note, you know what the Congressman does for your city and for his district, but as someone who is in ashington, D.C., let me tell you what the Congressman does for the nation as a model of courage and conviction, especially in this Congress where no one, no one, makes their case the way Congressman Lewis does.

I just wanted to let you know that he is a personal inspiration and hero of mine and it makes it easier for all of us to continue to fight the good fight. Thank you Congressman.

Davey Gibson here, who is our representative from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Davey has been with the Department going on four years now. He's done an outstanding job and I would like to thank him.

And we will hear from Martin Luther King III to give us some closing thoughts, and we've done some great work already. e're excited about his installation in the SCLC. We were together a few weeks ago in ashington, D.C., and we are going to be doing great, great things and I want to thank him very much for being with us today, also.

You heard in the introduction we've been working with public housing complexes all across the nation. The past few weeks just this summer I have been to Alaska, where people live in such terrible conditions in public housing that is beyond belief. You ould not believe that we allow people to live that way.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is in deplorable conditions. Public housing in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, but you can go anywhere you want in this nation for public housing and it's basically the same story.

Atlanta says it better and clearer and tighter, but it is the story of public housing. It started with all good intent. FDR right here spoke to what public housing as going to be, truly the most profound and highest aspirations.

We came together as a nation and we said every American should have a safe, clean, decent place to live. That's what FDR as saying, that's what this nation was saying when it embarked on the journey to create public housing: Safe, clean, decent housing for every American.

Simple statement but a profound statement, an ambitious statement. In truth, I don't know that today this Congress or this nation would make the same statement and set the bar that high, but we did it that time. Safe, clean, decent housing for everyone.

And that's only where it began, not where it ended. Public housing was never just four walls and a roof. It was going to be a condition, a place where you came and we would work with you to make this dream of America a dream for everyone.

And public housing was going to be hat we would now say a transitional phase. Come in to public housing and we will give you the place to live and we'll work with you. You'll get an education, you'll find out how this country works, you'll go up the economic ladder, and public housing will be your opportunity to take that first step on the ladder and go up.

That's what public housing was, a beautiful dream of this nation and of community. Somewhere along the way we lost that vision, and public housing became not a starting point but an ending point, not a place of inspiration but a place of desperation, not a place where you went to be invigorated and energized but a place where you went and stagnated.

They were supposed to be integrating and incorporating into society, and many public housing projects became items of isolation unto themselves, places of segregation and abandonment, and you could be in the middle of the entire city, but you could be hundreds of miles away. And you could be between Coca-Cola and Georgia Tech, but you could be miles away, isolated within public housing.

President Clinton said we have to get back to the original vision, you have to get back to the original dream: Safe, clean, decent housing and bringing people up and out. That's what it was supposed to be. That's what this HOPE VI program is about.

That's what President Clinton is about when he says empowerment. Get out of the old public housing, literally knock it down. Knock it down because that is not the physical statement we want to make. We don't want to build public housing institutions. We want to build neighborhoods and communities, not all poor people, mixed income. Home ownership, home ownership, home ownership, why? Because that's what this country is really about, when you own your own home.

Change is the entire dynamic of a family in a neighborhood. Own your own home, invest in your own home. That's the American dream. You never heard anyone say, "The American Dream, to rent your own home."

No, the American Dream is to own your home. Make that part of the public housing experience. And most of all remember that public housing was just a physical structure, but the real gift was the gift of advancement.

Get the education, get the training, and get the services into public housing so people can improve themselves and their families. Because that was the dream.

I've been all across this nation. Never once has anyone come up to me and said, "Mr. Cuomo, do me a favor. Get me a welfare check."

Mr. Cuomo, do me a favor. Help me get a job. Help me get a job. Help me get an education. Help me get day care so someone can watch my child so I can go out and find a job. Help me get some skills. Help me get some transportation to get out to the job. That's what it was always about and that's what we have to get back to.

Now is the time to do this. We know the condition. We know what we have to do. Now is the time to do it. Because we have the models, this is possible. It is not a dream. Look at Centennial Place, just look at this neighborhood. If you ever had a doubt, look at what Atlanta has accomplished ith Centennial Place.

If you want to say that's not possible, you can't do that for public housing, you can't do that with those people, come look at Centennial Place and tell me it's not possible. Go knock on any of these doors, go walk any of these streets, and say we can't make public housing a real community, a real part of this nation once and for all.

And we have no excuses not to do it. We can do it. So says Centennial Place. We must do it. Now is the time. Invest. Everybody talks about the strong economy. The economy is stronger than ever, best economy in history, and it is.

They're talking about a surplus in ashington, D.C. Well, then, let's have the intelligence as a nation to take that surplus and invest it in the places that are not now sharing that economic dream and bring them along with us. Let's invest in the areas that have been beyond the economic reach all these many years. That's what today is all about.

President Clinton's dream is to truly transform public housing, get it back to the original vision and reality. Now, how do we do that? His first rule is we don't do that in Washington, D.C. You do that in the City of Atlanta and in the local community with the residents.

You come up with your own plan for your own dream, your own vision for the rebirth of your own community. And then the federal government will help by partnering with the best plans in the nation.

Now we have $500 million to transform public housing this year, $500 million. We received $1.6 billion in applications, $1.6 billion for $500 million. hy? Because that's how great the need is out there. And we could have funded all $1.6 billion and still had more to do -- 101 cities applied.

Now, the $500 million only allowed us to fund 22 of the 101 cities. Of those 22, some cities couldn't get full funding because we didn't have enough to go around, so to be one of the 22 cities is an extraordinary accomplishment.

To be one of the cities that would receive full funding for the plan as they proposed, congratulations, Atlanta. You asked for $34.7 million to transform Carver Homes and you won $34.7 million to transform Carver Homes.

Now it's up to you. All we ask in return is you do what you did with Centennial Place. Perform the miracle that you did. Show the rest of this nation what public housing can truly be and how people can come together and how we can live one with another the way it was supposed to be in the first place.

Do it the way you did it and it ill be not only a grant from the federal government but an investment in this nation. I know you will.

Now to tell you how good your local officials are, I spoke with the Congressman before we came in, and I said, "You know, Congressman, I'm all excited about this. It's been really a tremendous, tremendous feat, and I think we're going to have another national model in Carver Homes the way we had with Centennial and the President's excited and the Vice President's excited and I talked to them about this and they send their regards," and I was all excited. The Congressman was looking at me and looking and was letting me go on.

And I finally spoke myself out and he said, "One question, Mr. Secretary. Did you bring the check?" Congressman, we brought the check. Congratulations.

(Whereupon, the PROCEEDINGS were adjourned.)

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