Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Harlem Children's Zone Press Conference

St. Nicholas Houses, Harlem
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thank you, Geoffrey -- for that very kind introduction. I'm so pleased to be back in Harlem, which has been an inspiration to communities across the country.
Let me also thank Mayor Bloomberg, as well as John Rhea with NYCHA, Gary Cohen with Goldman Sachs and HUD's great Regional Administrator Adolfo Carrión -- each of whom remind us that real success in our neighborhoods requires real partnership from the public and private sectors alike.

President Obama has said there is no greater economic policy than one that invests in our children's future and helps America out-educate the world. But that's not possible if we leave a whole generation of children behind in our poorest neighborhoods.

That's why what the Harlem Children's Zone has achieved is nothing short of remarkable. Because of this work, 600 kids are doing their part in helping America win the future:

They're going to college.

And 11,000 kids are getting the support they need from the cradle to their career to do the same.

What makes the Harlem Children's Zone unique isn't simply that it encourages children to have dreams -- but that it helps children see a path to achieving them.

And with the ground we break today, 1,300 more children will have the opportunity, as work begins to build the Promise Academy Charter School and a community center here in Harlem.

Not only that, but by providing access to public health and safety services and by connecting this neighborhood to the New York City street grid, we can begin to put an end to the era of the "superblock" -- homes disconnected from schools, jobs, transportation, and opportunity.

And we can usher in a new era in which the families of the St. Nicholas and Lincoln Houses can be a part of the remarkable Harlem social fabric.

Realizing this vision has been a team effort from the beginning. But none of it would have been possible without the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and John Rhea, who understand what it takes to create opportunity for the families of NYCHA housing -- as they continue to forge new partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors and deeper ties between our public housing and our schools.

The Obama Administration understands as well. That's why we green-lighted this project and provided a $60 million Charter Facilities Matching Grant through the Department of Education.

That is why the Obama Administration has been pursuing an interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative modeled on partnerships like these.

Many of you may already be familiar with the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which like the Harlem Children's Zone works to ensure there are good schools and quality learning opportunities at the center of poor neighborhoods.

HUD's Choice Neighborhoods initiative focuses on transforming the federally subsidized housing in those neighborhoods -- while also improving access to public transportation and job centers and attracting the retail businesses that communities need to thrive and create jobs.

Together, Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods ensure we are supporting local leaders as they work to provide distressed neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools every family needs.

For me, partnerships like these aren't just about revitalizing neighborhoods.

They're about ending intergenerational poverty.

They're about civil rights.

Over half a century ago, in 1954, the Warren Court's unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Well, a separate housing system that prevents low-income families from accessing good schools is also inherently unequal.

With this partnership, we take one more step to completing this unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement -- and ensuring that all our families can live in sustainable, vibrant communities of opportunity and choice.

As President Obama has said, "If poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community."

To out-educate the rest of the world and win the future, we believe we must -- and with partnerships like those forged here in Harlem, we will. Thank you.


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