What makes America great can be summed up in three words: freedom of choice.
There were many explorers who traveled to the New World. Many brave people explored the northeast but it was the Dutch who landed here and made their home here after the Indigenous Indians had been here for a thousand years. The Dutch came here and named “our Manhattan” Nieuw Amsterdam. They were here initially for business interests, to establish a fur trading haven choosing Governor’s Island as their home base. Eventually the Dutch spread out throughout lower Manhattan. As time went by, thousands of people of various descents came for independence, for freedom to practice their own religion or for their own business interests.
Fast forward more than 250 years and we begin a long trail of millions of people immigrating to America from other lands, seeking freedom, seeking riches, seeking safety. Many stayed in New York.
Another 140 years later and New York City is now more than 8,200,000 people. Manhattan alone has more than 1,600,000 people. The island of Manhattan is teeming with people of all different backgrounds, almost none of whom had ancestors here before the Dutch. Why did they come? Freedom? Rule of Law? Opportunity?
Families make decisions all the time about how to preserve and improve life. When people come to America, they see hope and the chance to improve their lot. You can see it in the faces of people every day by simply walking through Times Square on any given day. More than 52 Million visitors come through our city every year now. Look at the old black and white photos of people arriving at Ellis Island, their faces filled with awe and anticipation. This is what drives people to succeed. Nowhere else in the world do people come to a land with such promise; understanding that they have a chance to do better for themselves with hard work.
In 2013, New York continues to be a place that offers opportunity for those that work hard at their given choice of employment. New York continues to improve itself to the benefit of all. Now, as only New Yorkers can do, we have forged forward on the far West Side of Midtown with recent plans for office and residential buildings, schools, businesses, parks and transportation, much of which has already begun. We are also in the midst of a long planned technology campus, a partnership between NYC and Cornell University on Roosevelt Island that will come to fruition in 2017.
There are significant discussions now taking place about a rezoning of a large swath of Midtown East which would eventually create a more modern, healthy and attractive location for all who pass through. Downtown, with the Calatrava transportation hub on track now for a 2015 delivery, practically right around the corner, the area is an exciting place to consider.
Choice: it’s what makes America great. Opportunity is what makes New York tick. What would Manhattan look like now to someone who lived in Niuew Amsterdam in 1625? Pretty exciting!
As we approach July 4th, Independence Day, we thank the brave men and women in our armed forces for their service to our great Country and we thank those that came before them. This great city has a lot to be thankful for. Its people, from many different lands make it stronger every day.