Remarks on Presenting a Check for the Westway Highway Project to Mayor Edward I. Koch in New York, New York
Topics: Raymond A. Peck, Jr., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
President Ronald Reagan
September 7, 1981
Mayor Koch, I want to thank you for a very warm and gracious introduction. I have known the hospitality of the mayor before, here at Gracie Mansion, and I'm highly honored to be here today.
Lieutenant Governor Cuomo, our two Senators from New York, Moynihan and D'Amato, the Members of the House of Representatives representing this great State, the State and city officials and representatives of organized labor who are here, and members of my Cabinet, Secretaries Donovan and Pierce and Lewis—Secretary of Interior Jim Watt would have been here, but he's working on a lease for strip mining of the Rose Garden— [laughter] —you, ladies and gentlemen:
You know, it's always a pleasure to be here in the company of another chief executive. I think the mayor and I have both learned there's a difficult thing about cutting expenses—the expenses can vote. [Laughter] But, we also have learned, I know, as I've watched him and the magnificent job he's done in restoring fiscal stability here to this city, that if you always do what you believe in your heart is right, you'll please some of the people and astound the rest.
There have been moments in the past months when I, looking at the mayor's battle, I thought that he was a little bit like the Quaker who was milking his cow, and the cow kept kicking the bucket over. And he finally stood up and faced the cow and he said, "Thou knowest I cannot beat thee. Thou knowest I cannot even curse thee. But dost thou know I can sell thee to someone who will?" [Laughter]
I used to find, when I was Governor myself, sometimes, that I'd go home and make very eloquent speeches in the shower. But then there were days like this Labor Day, here in New York City, when there's nothing like it in all the world. On a day like today, we prove that the American people control their government. We have silenced bureaucrats, cut through the red tape, and kept our promises, as the mayor so graciously said.
The Westway project begins today. Now, people tell me that the name Westway has become a code word for a bureaucracy strangling in its own regulations. From this day forward, let Westway symbolize opportunity and enterprise, and let it remind each of us, as we watch Westway become a reality, that our government works for us, not the other way around.
Now, some of us here have come from another Labor Day celebration; some have not. But next year we should all come back and march together, knowing that because of what was done here today, tens of thousands of working people who are out of jobs will be working again.
Yes, it was 10 years ago that this project was first proposed, and for 10 years nothing happened while hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers needed work. This city's unemployment rate is more than 20 percent higher than the national average. Eleven months ago, as the mayor said, when I campaigned in New York City, I pledged my support. And today, because of the leadership of Mayor Koch and Members of the Congress, because of the close cooperation between New York City and New York State, and because of the persistent efforts of people like Frank Handley and Tom McGuire and Bill Finneran and so many of the rest of you who have worked so hard, Westway is going to be a reality. The project will, as the mayor said, create parkland and new areas for commerce and industry. It'll save millions by easing the flow of people and goods. But most important, it will create jobs.
And today, as we begin a new season of work, we begin what I hope will be a new age for the American workers. The key to everything we're trying to accomplish is jobs, and as I said yesterday: jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Promises and programs, subsidies and studies, welfare and make-work have all been tried by well-meaning individuals. But any worker knows a job is the best social program there is.
I see the creation of 3 million more jobs in this country by 1986, in addition to the 10 million that are already normally expected in our growth. I see an era in which wage earners will be taking home more money in real dollars, and an era in which fewer of us will be looking for work. Our policy has been and will continue to be: What is good for the American worker is good for America.
There's a new spirit sweeping this country, a spirit born from the values, energies, and dreams of our working people. It is the dynamic result of millions of individuals coming together, committed to preserving a society where we can each seek our own goals, assured of freedom to climb as high and as far as our own drive and ambition and talent can take us. For too many years now we've placed trust in regulations and government dictates. Well, I think it's about time we placed trust in ourselves and in each other.
But we have to give ourselves a chance. We have to have jobs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, when he spoke to a nation that was gripped by the economic woes of the Great Depression, "For more than three centuries we've been building on this continent a free society, a society in which the promise of the human spirit may find fulfillment. Comingled here," he said, "are the blood and genius of all the people of the world who have sought this promise."
We have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished and to have confidence in what lies ahead. There's no crisis our people can't rise above, no problem we can't solve, and no challenge too great.
Mayor Koch and the people of New York have turned this city around, proving that she can live within her means. The Westway project is another step in the revitalization of this great American city.
So, as I present this cheek for $85 million for the purchase of the right-of-way, the first installment of a $1.3 billion Federal commitment, let us all take heart in this country from New York's example and from this victory over the inertia of bureaucracy. And on this Labor Day of 1981, let each of us commit ourselves again to the renewal of America.
Note: The President spoke at 2:12 p.m. on the East Lawn of Gracie Mansion in New York City.
In his remarks, the President referred to Frank Handley, executive vice president, International Union of Operating Engineers; Tom McGuire, business manager of the Operating Engineers of New York, N.Y.; and Bill Finneran, executive director, General Contractors Association of New York.
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