Groundbreaking Ceremony
Center Court Revitalization
Niagara Falls Housing Authority


Thank you, Chairman (Cynthia) Bianco. This is a great day...the beginning of a new chapter for Center Court and the Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

On behalf of President Bush, Secretary Jackson, and the American people, congratulations.

I am pleased that HUD is a partner in this revitalization effort. In 2006, HUD awarded a competitive grant for $20 million for the revitalization of Center Court. We knew this was a good investment of tax dollars.

So did you. The invitation I received for today has this line: "Creation of a beloved community." I believe this is true...a community of which we can be proud, a real community of people who care for each other. And I know what today means to (Residents Association President) Owen Steed and the Residents Committee...a beloved community in which people can grow together, raise families, watch their children play and learn, and even grow old together

The changes here will be dramatic. After this groundbreaking, the construction teams move in. There will be 282 housing units that will include more public housing units than were originally at Center Court, as well as other affordable rental housing. And there will be significant changes in the surrounding environment and the in the quality of life. Here we will see the birth of a new neighborhood, a mixed- income community, with new market rate and affordable single-family homes that former public housing residents can buy. Center Court will be a neighborhood of teachers, firefighters, nurses, service employees, transportation workers, and other people who make this city a great place to live. And with this new neighborhood, there will be new businesses, new opportunities, and more possibilities for upward mobility.

Many people worked long, long hours for this moment. I know we have to thank Executive Director Stephanie Cowart for her vision and her leadership. Stephanie, I can imagine how much you put into this effort...and how rewarding today's groundbreaking must be for you. Thank you for your commitment to public housing and your strong guidance during the application process.

And thanks to Cynthia, the members of the board, the staff, and all of the residents...and everyone involved in the application process.

I know what it took: a bold idea, weeks of fact gathering, months of planning, solid cooperation with the Residents Association, hundreds of phone calls, endless writing and rewriting, multiple applications and forms and questions and more forms, initial disappointment when the first applications were not successful, and then, finally, the phone calls from HUD and Senator (Charles) Schumer with the good news.

I'm told that you could have heard a pin drop when that first call from Senator Schumer came.

The Senator's phone calls often have that effect in Washington, too!

He first told you about the grant. I heard that there was anxious silence followed by big smiles and a burst of cheers and congratulations, and then, inevitably, the back-to-work questions about moving forward.

I want to thank Senator Schumer for his advocacy and support for this project. I know that he deserves a lot of credit for his steadfast commitment.

In addition, there was support on every level of government. I know that Mayor (Vincenzo) Anello is here...saluté Mr. Mayor. Well done. The City of Niagara Falls deserves recognition for its role in this revitalization effort. I am certain that the City's support will continue with the new mayor-elect.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we see a glimpse of the future...or at least a possible future for many cities. Public housing must become and remain a vibrant part of the city, an essential part of the personality and character of the city. It must be safe, secure, accessible, connected to city services, and a good environment to live and raise our families. It must inspire excellence and encourage achievement. It must bring out the best in each of us.

And I note the slogan of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority: "Pressing Towards the Mark of Excellence." Yes, that is what public housing should do...must be successful.

Again, my congratulations to everyone on this memorable day. Thank you for including me.


Content Archived: December 27, 2011