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