Inaugural speech of Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. January 1, 2002
Five blocks from here, on the corner of Rosette and Button streets, is 150 Rosette Street. It's a four unit building, like a lot of other buildings in the neighborhood.
On the first floor is a grocery store that's being renovated- it's called the Quisqueya Deli. On the second floor live a married couple - Melissa Alfanador and Jorge Campos.
In just two months, on February twenty-fifth, this year, 500 students will be moving into this new school here on Kimberly Avenue.
This school, and all of us, are on the site of the old St. Peter's Roman Catholic Parish.
The main church was opened in 1930. It was closed and put up for sale by the archdiocese in 1996 and we tore it down in the year 2000 to make way for this school.
And, 56 years ago this month, my mother drove five blocks from 150 Rosette Street, from the second floor apartment over the old D'Ambrosio market where Melissa and Jorge now live, to St. Peter's, here, to marry my father.
Now, like Jorge, my grandfather was not born in this country. Like Jorge, English was not my grandfather's first language, and, like Jorge, my grandfather earned his living with the skill of his hands. All of which got me thinking about today, and this event, and this location, and our city.
People sometimes come up to me and they'll tell me that new haven has changed in some negative way from the good old days that they remember. And more often than not, they're wrong. Because it's not how new haven has changed - it's how they have changed. How they and their families, like my family, have moved on to something else - how they were able to do better for themselves and their families because of streets like Rosette Street. Because of neighborhoods like the hill - because of schools such as schools as this will be and churches such as St. Peter's has been.
Don't get me wrong. Things are different on Rosette Street.
It's Spanish, not Italian now. The house is older but it does have central heating - something it didn't have in 1945. And there are new problems, but there's new opportunity, too.
Rosette is - street is - different then when my grandfather and my mother lived there. But I don't think it really changed all that much from what it used to be.
And the lesson - the lesson - we need to learn, especially for the sake of the New Haven that is yet to be is to never forget that being different is not necessarily being changed. And to figuring out what to change - what we want to change - is often less important than knowing what we want to keep the same.
So let me share a few thoughts with you about changing, about staying the same, and about New Haven in the years ahead.
First, we are going to continue being a city- the city- the vital center of Southern Connecticut.
Now being a city doesn't mean just being bigger - by - by having more people than any other community around us. In other words, a city doesn't just mean that we've got fifteen times more people than Woodbridge.
But it does mean being different. Being different by having fifteen times as many kinds of people. Being different by having fifteen times as many income groups, and being different by having fifteen times as many dreams and hopes, ideas and visions for our future.
Being a city means aggressively encouraging business development and employment opportunities. Being a city means that we stay the same - by always changing and by embracing peoples with differences. And when new haven is at its best, it has always done that.
Being a city, being a growing city, being the best city that we can be, means that we've figured something out. That we've figured out that new haven's vibrancy comes from the skills and talents of as many people and as many businesses as we can find who are willing to live, work, and put down roots here.
Second, New Haven is, and will continue to be, a civil community. The people and families of Rosette Street - of all our streets - deserve and expect order, stability and predictability in their lives.
No one wants to live in a place where you never know what the next headline's going to be. No one wants to live in a place that you don't know where it's going. And no one wants to live in a place where people can't agree on anything and where they fight all the time.
A civil community is a fair community. It's a community in which we treat other people, the way we'd like to be treated. A civil community is one that will continue to grow.
It is one that is clean and that has great parks and terrific libraries.
A civil community is one that gets all its children into pre-kindergarten programs and makes sure that they're healthy. A civil community is one that has great schools so that kids, wherever they come from and whatever skills they have or haven't gotten at home, can learn. And a civil community is a city with a government that is smart, it is flexible, that's fair, and which conducts its business out in the open so that everyone can see what's going on.
Third, New Haven can only work - can be a city that works - if we know what works for us. Each and everyday we need to know where we can successfully compete.
We must be able to recognize our opportunities. And we must be prepared to take advantage of them to the maximum.
And what are we? We're a city that's made up of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are defined by geography and by character, by parks and rivers, by shorelines and housing stock, by schools and businesses, and, finally, by people - that all make the hill the hill and not city point. That makes Westville Westville, and not Dixwell or Newhallville. These neighborhood differences create choice, which creates ownership, which creates investment - all of which make a strong city.
What are we? We're a city that has a downtown that is alive and kicking. Residential, the university, restaurants, clubs and street level retail, all combine to make for Connecticut's only seven day a week, 24 hour a day, center city.
What are we? We're an economy that is increasingly intelligence-based. We are a city that recognizes that partnership with Yale University is essential to our competitiveness and to our attractiveness. Virtually all the new commercial and job growth in the central business district is bio-medical, telecommunication or university related.
What are we? We are extraordinarily, unbelievably, rich in the arts. Display, performing and community-based arts organizations, institutions and festivals all add to the volume and the excitement and the energy that make new haven the best east coast destination.
And what else are we? We're a city of collaborators, of organizers, of people who understand the power, the worth, and necessity of collective action to realize individual accomplishment.
New Haven, as a place of neighborhoods, of an exciting 24-hour downtown, as a triumph of the arts, of an intelligence-based economy, and as a place of collaboration, is like no other place on the Atlantic coast.
We know - we know where we need to go as a city. We know what works for us, New Haven.
Therefore, a word about attitude. I want to say something about attitude. Something that has changed in New Haven, and that needed to change, is our attitude about ourselves.
The city has every reason to feel good about where it's come from and where it's going. Don't mistake me, we have our problems, we have our issues. But New Haven will always have problems.
And why? Because we choose to be a city. We choose to include everyone in our grasp. We are on the edge of everything that is new and different in America and in our culture. We are not, therefore, a risk-free zone.
And i don't care what you call it: whether you call it a model city, a slumless city, a Jane Jacobs city or a new urbanist city - a city that works - a city that works is one that can figure out how to solve it's problems and that can take advantage of opportunities day after day, after day.
And by any measure - by any measure, by crime, the school district, our finances, public housing, public health - by any measure or by any comparison, this city has accomplished extraordinary results.
And the best part - the best part is, we only have ourselves to thanks for it. Not someone or something else did it. We did it.
New Haven is the Connecticut's city that works.(applause) we have - and we will continue to do - whatever needs to be done. And we will do it the only way it can be done successfully - together.
I've been in this job for eight years now. I've seen the extraordinary things that New Haveners have done, even sometimes under difficult circumstances. We are a city of problem solvers, of fighters, of organizers and of compassion and of accomplishment.
We have shown that we don't have to be victims of our circumstances. That we are, by choice, all that is good and possible, all that has been, and is yet to be in America.
We are a great city. And never, ever, ever, forget that. And never hesitate to show pride in this city and our accomplishments.
And we are one other thing (applause), we are a team.
Ron - congratulations. Every best thing. You're going to do a great job. You should be proud.
To the Board of Aldermen; I'm excited by all the new faces, and there are a lot of them. But your energy and ideas will add to the sum of everything that we can do in this city. And I look forward to the counsel, the experience and the commitment of you veterans, you know who you are, all of you led by Jorge Perez, who do the people's business.
To Sally Brown, Julio Gonzales, Patti Lawlor, Paul Guidone, uh, Peter Villano, thanks for helping making today such a success. (applause) you guys did a great job.
To my family; to my sisters, to Larry and Tom, to my beautiful nieces; you guys were there all this past year. From Cape Cod to the tunnel at Bella Vista, you're always there for each other and for me. Thank you.
And to - and to - Phil and mom I love you both and IÕm blessed to have both of you here - here - today. Thank you mom. (applause)
The first time I did this, um, Danny was in 4th grade and Jimmy was in 2nd grade at West Hills, just across the way. This June, Danny's going to graduate Wilbur Cross and, by year-end, Jimmy will be driving. (laughter) I know what the real accomplishment of the last eight years has been. You're both good sons and I hope you're half as proud of me as I am of the two of you boys.
To Kathy; it's, uh, it's absolutely true about this better half thing. She is truly the better half. (applause) and no one who knows her as a person - her sons, her friends, her crazy kindergartners in West Haven know that there's not a better person than Kathy DeStefano. Kath - I love you. You're terrific. (applause)
Finally, I want to thank one other person - a group of people. I want to thank the people of New Haven. I want to thank them for this opportunity to serve once again. I want to thank them for the breath and strength and support in the primary and the general election, and really throughout the years.
The people of this city are amazing. They're absolutely amazing. They've always been there for me in ways that have given me just reason to hope and feel powerfully strong about this city. And to them, IÕll tell them that I take this oath and I accept this responsibility today with gratitude, but also with conviction - with the conviction - that this city - this all America City, on Long Island Sound - has within its grasp the wisdom to set its own course and the strength to accomplish everything that it sets out to do.
Thank you. Happy new year. God bless you and God bless the City of New Haven. Thank you. (applause)
Added March 7, 2002