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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city decided not to pursue the 2024 Olympics because New York City’s international brand is already in great shape, but there are a few things about the Big Apple that tourists need to know more about — namely Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.
“So recently, there’s been a little bit of a discussion here in New York City of whether we would pursue the Olympics,” de Blasio told attendees at the NYU hospitality conference in Manhattan during a luncheon address June 2. “And I certainly respect any and all individuals who believe in that notion, but I’ll tell you why we decided it was not the path for us: because New York City is already at such an extraordinary point.
“Because thanks to so many of you in this room, our tourism industry couldn’t be stronger. Our international reputation couldn’t be better, our brand couldn’t be more well respected all over the world. And so we thought, in a classic New York phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
The mayor noted that more than 54 million people visited NYC in 2013, and the hotel industry is doing well. In fact, he said room nights were up 6.9% year over year for the week ending May 25.
A central theme of his talk, though, is that tourism officials should invest in all of the five boroughs of New York City.
“The world has discovered Brooklyn and people all over the world yearn to experience the magic of Brooklyn, but more and more people are starting to experience Queens and the Bronx and Staten Island as well,” de Blasio said. “And it’s making the experience so much richer, because you come here and you can experience the whole world.”
In particular, de Blasio cited the Italian-American cuisine that visitors might sample in the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx, the Greek fare available in the Astoria section of Queens, and even some culinary delights in Staten Island.
“But already we have amazing communities like the Sri Lankan community,” de Blasio said. “Who knew that there’s a little Sri Lanka in Staten Island? But if you’ve been yearning for Sri Lankan cuisine – and I know you have – this is the place to go.”
Through scattered independent hotels and Airbnb, many visitors to NYC have discovered the so-called outer boroughs as relatively cost-effective places to stay.
Now, de Blasio wants tourism companies and international visitors to get to know the boroughs as destinations in their own right.
Following is the full text of Mayor de Blasio’s prepared remarks:
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well thank you everyone, I’m so thrilled to be with you. This is an exciting conference and you’re talking about one of the topics I love most, which is the future of this city, the growth of this city and its economy, and the crucial role you play in it, and obviously the growth of this industry all over the country, all over the world. Let me say about John Tisch, who has been a friend for a long time: I want to tell you, he mentioned what we in city government did to try and help make the Superbowl the great success it was. But I want to give him props for the leadership he played. I want you to know, the Superbowl has historically been held in warm weather climates in dome stadiums. And John Tisch and some other good people here in New York and New Jersey said, ‘Wait a minute. Football is a game that is supposed to be played in nature, and it could be all the more exciting that way, and it’s time that this part of the country benefitted from this extraordinary opportunity.’ Because of John’s leadership and so many other people gathered around the idea, and my predecessor Mayor Bloomberg did a great job with his team, that what we ended up bringing together was an extraordinary effort that I think not only made the day-of successful, but the days leading up to it were electric in New York City. Anyone who went down Superbowl Boulevard saw a really once in a lifetime experience. So John has been a leader and clearly a trailblazer in terms of the development of this city. Let’s give him a round of applause for all he has done.
And I want to note, that’s one victory. I also have to say, on behalf of my fellow New Yorkers, a thank you to John for his extraordinary charity and commitment to this city. He’s been involved – not just with NYC and Company, but with so many other worthy charitable enterprises that have played a key role in this city – so he is a true, devoted New Yorker. And that’s a big title in my book, renowned and a very deeply felt title. So John, thank you for all you have done.
The team today that put together this conference, I want to thank my alma mater NYU for this extraordinarily important conference. It’s played a big role in the development of this industry in this city. I want to thank my countrymen, Dennis Di Lorenzo, the Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at NYU, all of the people who have spoken today, all the people who made this conference possible. I want to congratulate Archie Bennett, Jr., for a well-deserved award for all he has done for this industry. And you gave a good round of applause to a man I’m proud is running NYC and Company, but I want you to applaud him again. Fred Dixon is doing and extraordinary job.
You know, I love New York City arguably more than anyone, given my title, until I sit with Fred Dixon. He’s even more enthusiastic than I manage to be; so he’s doing an amazing, amazing job.
Now, the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference – I love everything about that title. I love that I said that my alma mater sponsors it. I love that it’s about one of our most vibrant industries, and an industry that has grown in an extraordinary fashion in recent years, and one that can grow so much more in this city. And I love that the word investment is in the title. And I certainly want to encourage your investment in this city. We are doing everything we can to make this an ever-more appealing destination, and a better and better place to do business.
And I’ll tell you the first thing we focus on every day is a safe city. A city where everyone feels comfortable, and I think you know the extraordinary story over the last two decades of constant progress on safety in this city. We’re continuing that progress as we speak. We have, in my humble opinion, the greatest police leader in the country in Bill Bratton as our commissioner, and he’s doing an extraordinary job for this city. Really extraordinary, and we are getting safer. And we want to encourage investment because we believe in growth in this city. We believe in making this industry even stronger. The city government is deeply devoted to that effort. NYC and Company is doing a fantastic job. The tools are there and we’re applying them every day, because we can see how much appeal – how much there is all over the world – an appeal when it comes to New York City, more than ever before. And with your fantastic efforts, we’re going to build upon that.
And so many people in this room deserve a thank you at the outset. There’s times when I get to use my rank to offer a thank you – not just on behalf of myself or the city government – but on behalf of the people of New York City. So I want to say to all of you, on behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, thank you and God bless you for what you’ve done to build this industry, because it is not one of the bulwarks of this economy. And that means jobs and prosperity for so many New Yorkers, give yourselves a round of applause for what you have helped us to achieve.
Now, to be topical, some of you may have seen some of the discussion in recent days about the Olympics. And it’s a very interesting discussion because I think it gets at some of what’s happening in New York City, that’s really extraordinary. It’s understandable, in certain parts of the country, in certain parts of the world, there is a deep desire to bring in the Olympics and other types of events, but particularly the Olympics – the international stage. Because for many places they have to establish themselves, they have to brand themselves, they have to become pertinent to tourists, to companies that might invest, and they don’t have enough of a profile – or maybe, in some cases, there’s something that’s been imperfect that they’re trying to rebrand with the presence of the Olympics. So recently, there’s been a little bit of a discussion here in New York City of whether we would pursue the Olympics. And I certainly respect any and all individuals who believe in that notion, but I’ll tell you why we decided it was not the path for us: because New York City is already at such an extraordinary point. Because thanks to so many of you in this room, our tourism industry couldn’t be stronger. Our international reputation couldn’t be better, our brand couldn’t be more well respected all over the world. And so we thought, in a classic New York phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ We are on the right track. Although the Olympics certainly brings virtues, it brings immense challenges and expenditures as well. And we thought, we like where we are. We like the trajectory we’re on. We like the progress we’re making.
And we like the fact that people all over the world feel so much for New York. Last year, more than 54 million visitors to this city. That is an amazing statistic, and again, one that so many people in this room can be proud of helping to foster. What did that do for New York City? It generated nearly $39 billion in direct spending. And the industry as a whole now accounts for – between the direct and indirect impact – over 350,000 jobs. Those are incredible statistics. It took years and years and years – decades in fact – to build to that point. Some people in this room have been a part of that noble effort, even in the times it didn’t look so promising.
But today we’re on the right track, and there’s momentum, and there’s farther to go, and we’re devoted to making sure we do even better. Let me give you a very current statistic that will continue to give heart to all those who see there’s even more growth ahead. For the week ending May 25, hotel room nights – at this point compared to a year ago – up 6.9 percent. This last week – last year – compared to this year. Up 6.9 percent. Broadway theaters reported the highest grosses for a Memorial Day week in their recorded history. Something very good is happening. And for those of you who like to have that Guinness Book of World Records attitude, you might want to get to a Broadway theater to continue to add to our record-setting capacity. We would certainly welcome that.
So we’re doing so well, and again, so many of you have contributed to it. And we think we will do even better if we take our vision of bringing the whole world, bringing the whole country to New York, and we expand it even further by thinking of it even more in a five borough context. This is something Fred and I have talked about. I know he feels this cause passionately. Fred recently hired a young, up-and-coming Vice President named Marty Markowitz, some of you may know. Our former Brooklyn Borough President, one of the greatest boosters for Brooklyn and the outer boroughs ever, to help in the efforts to spread our tourism industry deeply into the five boroughs. There are such extraordinary things to find, and of course the world has discovered Brooklyn, I say this humbly as a Brooklynite. The world has discovered Brooklyn and people all over the world yearn to experience the magic of Brooklyn, but more and more people are starting to experience Queens and the Bronx and Staten Island as well. And it’s making the experience so much richer, because you come here and you can experience the whole world. That’s the bottom line. You come to this place and any part of our global culture is available to you in some form or fashion. And that’s why people from all over the country, all over the world are so excited to be here. The five boroughs bring that into focus.
So we know and love the fact that millions and millions of people go to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. But we want them also to go out into neighborhoods all over the five boroughs, experience the most wonderful cuisine from all over the world, experience folklore and culture from all over the world, experience wonders like Coney Island that are irreplaceable. You can’t find any place else in the world – the magic that is Coney Island. And I’m proud to say my son Dante and my daughter Chiara will be King Neptune and the Mermaid Queen at the upcoming Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.
You know, I think that’s pretty impressive. I’m very honored to be mayor, but already my children have surpassed me being named King and Queen at this point early in their lives. So we’re doing very well as this five borough sensibility deepens. But there’s so much more out there and I just want to give you a little evidence that people around the world are already picking up on it, already feeling it. Now I have to say, again, there’s a special love for Brooklyn. Many of you who have been to Italy or are Italian know about Brooklyn Chewing Gum, one of the great Italian brands. That’s been around for a long time. There’s a Brooklyn pizzeria in Manila, in the Philippines. There’s a café in Amsterdam called Bedford-Stuyvesant, so I think we can all say the Brooklyn panache is already well-established and being felt.
But get folks from all around the world to experience the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo, one of the greatest zoos on Earth. Arthur Avenue, one of the great Italian-American sites anywhere in this country. And what you’re seeing more and more from a number of tourists, from Europe and Latin America and Japan and China, they want to experience the birth of hip-hop, this global phenomenon. And where did it occur? In the Bronx. And now more and more tourism is focusing on that history and that culture.
Tourists are finding their way to Queens. You go to a place like Astoria, if you can’t afford a ticket to Greece, the next best thing is going to Astoria for the best Greek cuisine anywhere else. And so many other wonderful cultures. We’ve got Citi Field out in Queens, one of the great ballparks in the country. There’s a little ballpark in the Bronx called Yankee Stadium. We’ve got extraordinary things for people to experience in sports in the outer boroughs. You go to Staten Island, soon we’re going to have one of the greatest Ferris Wheels on Earth in Staten Island. But already we have amazing communities like the Sri Lankan community – who knew that there’s a little Sri Lanka in Staten Island? But if you’ve been yearning for Sri Lankan cuisine – and I know you have – this is the place to go. So you find it all over the five boroughs, and in parts of Manhattan that haven’t gotten enough attention in the past. Everyone understands the extraordinary second renaissance of Harlem. For example, the Aloft Harlem Hotel opened a few years ago, the first new hotel to open in Harlem since 1967. That’s an indicator of the incredible feeling that people feel all over the country, all over the world for that extraordinary neighborhood.
There’s so much going on, and I think it simply means there’s growth, there’s so much more growth ahead. And we in the city of New York, we at NYC and Company are devoted to helping all of you to invest further in tourism in this city, to invest in all five boroughs, to tap into some new opportunities and new markets, and new constituencies and new sights that will really excite people. And we know that just means more and more people will want to come here, and more and more people will want to come here again.
It’s very important to me to work with you in any way I can and my administration can to help build the industry because we need the jobs. We will do everything in our power to create the right environment, but we desperately need those jobs for our people. And we’re looking for opportunities to give people advancement in this industry. The entry-level job is one thing, but we want to see more and more New Yorkers have a chance to climb up the ladder in this extraordinary industry. We want more and more people who haven’t had a chance to be a part of this industry to get that opportunity. And with you, we can make this industry even more crucial to the future of the city.
And I know so many people who care about the future of New York City are joining with us, to afford the maximum opportunity for people from all neighborhoods, and to work with the city on workforce development. We feel it’s our responsibility to help you find the talent you need. In many cases, we can help in that training process. We can get the right talent ready for the jobs that you have. Our Economic Development Corporation and our Small Business Services department are devoted to that mission, and particularly to finding opportunities for folks to advance in this industry.
So, amazing things are happening now. The statistics show it over and over again and again. If you talk about this five borough phenomenon, some of the statistics are amazing. Since 2008, 48 percent of hotel development in the city of New York has occurred outside of Manhattan. That is an amazing vote of confidence in the city and in the outer boroughs. And all over the world, the interest in the whole city is growing. Recent article in BuzzFeed had a simple title, ’14 Outer Borough Museums to Definitely Visit This Summer’. I want to thank BuzzFeed for their focus and enthusiasm, because we want people to definitely visit this summer.
So thank you again for all you do for New York City. You’ll find a very open door in the city government of New York and at NYC and Company, for whatever we can do to help in your efforts. We’re going to keep making this city stronger all along, and we’re going to make it an even more exciting place for people to visit. And with your help, with your investment, with your faith, New York City will become the greatest destination in the world for years to come. Thank you so much.