Apr 22, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 22
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 22, 2021 in Long Island to provide updates on COVID-19. He announced that hospitalization rates are the lowest they have been since November 29. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
Thank you all very much for coming out. A little chilly today, but warm hearts. Let me introduce some of my colleagues who are with us today. First, Adrienne Esposito is the Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. We have Senator Todd Kaminsky, and we have Assemblywoman Griffin, Judy Griffin. You’ll hear from them in a moment. I also want to thank the Brothers and Sisters of Labor who are here and Matty Aracich, who is the President of the Building and Construction Trades, and they’re actually going to be doing the work, so let’s give them a round of applause and thank them very much. And the sun is out.
Governor Cuomo: (00:45)
First, let’s start with some just really good news on the day of all good news. Let me tell you quickly the COVID update in New York State. COVID yesterday, numbers in New York State, was a positivity rate of 2.06. That’s the lowest one-day since November 5, okay? So that’s great news. Lowest hospitalization rate in the State of New York since November 29. 3,500. That’s great news. Statewide seven-day average positivity, 2.5. Lowest since November 10, and here on Long Island, the seven-day average, 2.76, the lowest since November 10. So that’s great news. On Long Island, 540 COVID patients hospitalized, the lowest number since November 30. So that takes us back to Thanksgiving. So that’s all great news. Just as a note of reality, 45 New Yorkers passed away from COVID yesterday. So yes, we’re making progress. Yes, the vaccinations are going to win the war, but we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet. People are still dying from COVID, so we still have to stay diligent.
Governor Cuomo: (02:19)
Happy Earth Day to all. This is the 51st Earth Day. So to get ready for today, I went back and I started to look at the past Earth Day speeches. 51 years, 1970, first Earth Day. You look at the past speeches, you could almost take a speech from 30 years ago and use it today, and it would be almost exactly the same message. “We understand the problem. We recognize the problem. We must do something about the problem.” That was 51 years ago. 1962, New York had the Storm King Mountain demonstration that actually started the environmental movement. 1962. 1970, New York State formed the DEC, Department of Environmental Conservation, because we understood the problem. 1972, the nation passed the Clean Water Act because they understood that we needed clean water. 1972.
Governor Cuomo: (03:24)
Why, then, are we here today, 51 years later, with the same message, the same note of urgency, but making so little progress that we still have the same basic issues before us? It’s an issue, my friends, of commitment, of urgency, and of the confidence in our ability to actually do something about it. We set a lot of goals, and the federal government set a new goal today, and goals are great. Goals to me are like New Year’s resolutions. I set a goal of X. I set a New Year’s resolution I’m going to lose 10 pounds. I said it just before New Year’s. Haven’t lost any weight. It’s one thing to set a goal. It’s another thing to then set a plan of action and commitment to actually make that goal a reality. And that’s what we have to do. We have to say, “Okay, enough of setting goals. Enough of plans. Enough of aspirations. Let’s get down to action.”
Governor Cuomo: (04:37)
We’re at Bay Park today. I still call it the Bay Park Plant. That’s the old name. I remember when Superstorm Sandy hit, and we really focused on Bay Park Plant, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Discharged all sorts of water. And we actually sat down and looked at the plant and we said, “This concept, where the plant discharges water, treated water, effluent, into the Western Bays, makes no sense.” The plant was built in 1949. When they were discharging effluent from this plant, the 1949 Reynolds Channel, you may as well have been talking about the mid-Atlantic at that time, right? Why are you still discharging into Reynolds Channel, into the Western Bays? Why would you do that?
Governor Cuomo: (05:39)
And we had a big meeting, and everybody was there, and we put this whole scenario up on a white board that said, “Well, if you didn’t want to do that, you’d actually have to … The only alternative, you’d have to pump north from Bay Park, two miles. Get to Sunrise Highway. You’d have to go down Sunrise Highway eight miles, another two miles. You’d have to get to the Cedar Creek outflow, and then you’d have to build another three miles all the way out into the ocean to actually do the discharge there.”
Governor Cuomo: (06:14)
And I said, “Well, how about that?” And they said, “Oh, you can’t get there from here.” I said, “Why not?” “Well, it’s 15 miles of pipe that you’d have to run, and you’d have to get up to Sunrise Highway, and it’s complicated and it’s expensive.” I said, “Yeah, but if you really want to make a difference, that’s what you would do, right?” “Well, it’s $500 million. You’d need to get the federal government. You’d need to get the county government. You’d need to get the state government.” But if you wanted to make a real difference, and not just give another Earth Day speech, and not just talk about the problem, but not actually deliver a solution, that’s what you would do.
Governor Cuomo: (07:00)
Today, that’s what we are doing. A project. A project that will make a difference for generations. Not an incremental step, not a goal, not a hope, not an aspiration, not a baby step when the journey is of miles. This is going to change fundamentally the entire south shore in this area. It makes total sense. Ambitious, yes. Expensive, yes. A lot of work, yes, but essential, and that’s what we’re doing. And we’re doing it efficiently. We’re doing it effectively. It will be done in a couple of years, and it’s something that we can all be proud of. And it’s a lesson to all of us. You want to make a difference? You want to say, “51st Earth Day, but I don’t want to see your 60th Earth Day, because we don’t have the time”? Then actually let’s show the commitment and the urgency to do it.
Governor Cuomo: (08:11)
We’re doing it here today. We’re doing it in the State of New York. We are transforming New York to a green economy and a green energy system. You know how you do that? By revamping the entire system. There are no incremental steps. What we need? Renewable power. Yes. We’re building hundreds and hundreds of renewable power stations. Hundreds upstate. Wind power. But you know what else you need? You need a new transportation grid to get that renewable power to the places that need it. So we’re putting in an entire new green grid across the State of New York, hundreds of miles of cables in the Long Island Sound and in the ocean. A cable from Canada down to New York City, connecting all of upstate where you actually have the ability to site renewable projects. And then we’re training workers who know how to build and install the turbine so we’re not calling companies from overseas. And we’re setting up an education system to do that. And we’re bringing the companies here.
Governor Cuomo: (09:20)
Largest investment in the green economy, $30 billion. But it’s the only way to do it if we’re going to stop talking and start acting. And that’s what New York has always done better than anyone else. We are not a state of talkers. We’re a state of doers. We dream big, and then we do it. That’s who we are. And that’s what we’re doing today. And it’s an honor to break ground with you on this, what is an inspirational project.
Governor Cuomo: (10:00)
I want to applaud all our partners. I want to applaud the federal government for their help. I want to applaud the county for its vision in undertaking this project, and I want to applaud my colleagues in the state. No state has made this commitment to green energy. No state has made this type of commitment to this ambitious a project. And it doesn’t happen if Senator Todd Kaminsky doesn’t make it happen in the State Senate, if Assemblywoman Judy Griffin doesn’t make it happen in the New York State Assembly. We just passed the budget, which was probably the hardest budget we’ve ever passed, but it’s going to do the most good for this state of any budget we’ve ever passed. And to Adrienne Esposito, who has been inspiring us and advocating and setting the bar where it should be for years, it’s a pleasure to be with her. 51st Earth Day. Let’s make sure we get to a point where we actually celebrate what we’ve done rather than still talk about what we need to do.
Governor Cuomo: (11:13)
Adrienne Esposito. Thank you very much.
Adrienne Esposito: (11:15)
Thank you, Governor. Well, Happy Earth Day, everyone. Let me just start out by thanking and acknowledging some of the other advocates here. Kyle Strober, Executive Director of Association for a Better Long Island, Mark Herbst, Executive Director of the Long Island Contractors Association. And of course, Rob Weltner, President of Operation Splash. Carl Lobue, the New York Oceans Program Director of the Nature Conservancy, and Maureen Dolan Murphy, also working with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Adrienne Esposito: (11:55)
Well, I have to tell you, on Earth Day there’s nowhere else I would rather be than at the groundbreaking of the Ocean Outfall Pipe for the Bay Park Treatment Plant. That might sound crazy to you, but it’s hard to put into words how much this project means to the people of Long Island. For 15 years, we were young when we started, we worked and we have fought to save the Western Bays. And now as construction begins, we really are filled with hope and joy.
Adrienne Esposito: (12:32)
I remember, Governor Cuomo, five years ago, when you came to Long Island and made the promise. It was at a press event, and you made the promise that you would get this done, and you kept that promise. And I want to give you a heartfelt thank you of the thousands and thousands of people who are going to benefit from that promise. Thank you.
Adrienne Esposito: (13:01)
Why is that important? I’ll tell you why. Because as Long Islanders, our best memories are connected to living by the water. We remember when we would wade into the water up to our waist, and we would look down and see our toes through the crystal clear water, but no more. We remember digging our toes into the mud and pulling out clams, and filling a bucket in 20 minutes, but no more. We remember casting our line out and pulling in big fluke and flounder. My father used to call the big ones doormats. “You caught a doormat,” but no more. But what’s great about this project, it’s not too late. It is not too late to save the Western Bays. And that’s exactly what this will do. This project is about bringing back the health and the productivity and the beauty of our bays. It’s intended to give us in the future what we lost from our past, and that, that kind of dream turning into a reality can only happen with leadership, dedication, and commitment.
Adrienne Esposito: (14:20)
So I want to, again, say thank you so much to the Governor and for his team for keeping the promise he made five years ago, and making this legacy and transformative project become from a dream to a reality, and it really will be. And what we’re betting on and what we know will happen is, it will be, after we flip the switch, you have the constructions done, which I know will take two and a half, three years, but will see cleaner waters. We will see a healthier ecosystem, and we will see the return of what it is we love about Long Island, and that’s healthy bays.
Adrienne Esposito: (15:03)
So thank you again to everybody. Thank you again for everyone who stuck with this for 15 years, and we look forward to a better tomorrow. Thank you. Happy Earth Day.
Senator Todd Kaminsky: (15:20)
Thank you so much, Adrienne. Really proud to be part of a state that has taken the most aggressive environmental agenda in the country, including having the most aggressive and really forward-thinking climate law. But on Earth Day, I really like putting the phrase forward, “Think globally and acting locally.” And for me, while this project is the most transformative environmental project in the history of Nassau County, it is also local.
Senator Todd Kaminsky: (15:45)
When I drop my son off at Lindell Elementary School at the door of the school, just turn my head to the right, there is a big block of cement that sits in the bay. And out of that block every day pours the effluent from this sewage treatment plant. And since the 1950s, that effluent has poisoned the Western Bays. It’s caused the degradation of the marsh that’s supposed to protect us from storms. It has poisoned the water to the extent that there used to be clamming, a whole local bay economy that is dried up. And of course, when I talk to the elders in Long Beach, who I guess aren’t so eld, who talked to me about what it was like to swim in the bay growing up, that’s something I never got to experience.
Senator Todd Kaminsky: (16:28)
But though my son is in kindergarten, because of this project. By the time he graduates from Lindell Elementary School, it will be a transformed Reynolds Channel and a transformed Western Bays, because it is not too late. And we saw what happened with Zachs Bay. Two years after this kicks in, we will have a completely different environment. And that means so much for storm resiliency, for our local economy, for the ecological system down here on Long Island. It’s really a game-changing project. It took leadership, dedication, partnership to make it happen, and we are doing it. It’s so amazing and impressive to be part of a vision that comes to reality. And that’s what today is, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.
Senator Todd Kaminsky: (17:11)
Rob Weltner from Operation Splash talked to me during my assembly campaign about what this means and walked me through this project. I didn’t know if he was crazy, but I was happy to be having lunch at the time. So just being in the diner was nice instead of being on the campaign trail. But this is real, and it’s real because of all the leadership from everyone on down it took to get this done. And on Earth Day, that’s what it’s about. Everybody watching now can make a difference in your own community, from picking up trash, to advocating to your local government, to teaching your children what it means to take care of our planet. And today we’re really doing it. Thank you so much.
Assemblywoman Judy Griffin: (17:54)
Good morning, everyone. It is great to be here today. It’s a great way to celebrate Earth Day. I can’t think of a better way than to be breaking ground on this impressive project. This [inaudible 00:18:08] project has been a long time in the making, and I really want to thank all the advocacy, or all of my colleagues in government, and of course, Governor Cuomo for his leadership and his team, because this is so important. This will substantially improve the quality of our water. It will protect our coastline, and it will also create a nicer habitat, a healthier habitat for all of our Marine life.
Assemblywoman Judy Griffin: (18:31)
And I remember as a little girl, we would see tons of starfish when we went to the beach, and it’s a rare day that you ever see that. So I am so excited to be here to break ground, and I really want to thank everyone who’s here today. I really appreciate that our local labor is here, and that they will be at the helm in creating and moving this project forward. And once again, I thank Governor Cuomo and his team for their leadership. Thanks for everything, and I’m happy to break ground today.
Governor Cuomo: (19:05)
Let’s give another round of applause to Adrienne Esposito, Senator Todd Kaminsky, Assembly Member Judy Griffin. Let’s give another round of applause to the women and men of organized labor who are going to get this done, and do it right, and do it on time, and do it safely. Thank you very much. And it has all been said. 50 years ago, 51 years ago, first Earth Day. 1949, this plant started dumping effluent right into the Western Bays, and it’s been doing it ever since. And it’s going to stop, and it’s going to stop now, and it will change dramatically the entire South Shore environment. And Adrienne is right. Long Island is about the water. It is about the quality of life. That’s what makes it special and one of the most beautiful places on the globe, certainly in the country. And we’re going to make that happen again. Government is in the doing. Let’s break ground and do it. Thank you.