Last week, the United Nations gathered in our city for the annual General Assembly, the first in-person Assembly in two years. I was honored to meet with leaders from all over the globe to discuss the many issues we are facing, from migration to economic recovery to climate change. These are issues that have no borders, and I want New Yorkers to know that our city and many others around the world are working together to make a difference.
It was also Climate Week in New York City, a time to highlight everything our city is doing to reduce emissions and build a greener, more resilient city. As we witnessed the devastation Hurricane Fiona brought to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other places in the Caribbean, we are reminded that no place on earth is safe from stronger storms and heavier rainfall.
We consider Puerto Rico to be our sixth New York City borough, and our Dominican population is the largest outside of Santo Domingo. What happens in these places affects us all.
This past weekend, I traveled to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to join our team of New York City emergency responders who are on the ground there. I saw firsthand the destruction Fiona caused. Hundreds of thousands still don’t have power or water. And so many have lost everything they own. Our team is working with FEMA and local responders to get the power back on and to make sure people have access to safe water and shelter. New York City is here to help with the recovery, and we will work to make the islands whole again.
We’re also improving services for people right here in New York City — including expanding wireless internet in our NYCHA developments. Internet isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity just like electricity and gas. And for far too long, NYCHA residents have been disconnected while the rest of the city has been connected. We saw the effect of that missing internet service during COVID — we saw young people who were not able to participate in remote learning, and elders who could not take advantage of telemedicine visits.
That’s why last week’s rollout of the Big Apple Connect program was such a big moment. This is the largest municipal sponsored broadband program for public housing residents. We’re making free high-speed internet and basic cable TV available to 300,000 New Yorkers in more than 200 public housing developments by the end of 2023. Currently available in eight pilot sites across the five boroughs, Big Apple Connect is being expanded to more than 100 NYCHA developments. We’re delivering broadband across the five boroughs and getting more New Yorkers online than ever before.
One of the other highlights of my week was rolling up my sleeve and getting the new bivalent COVID booster. This new booster is an important tool in our fight against COVID, providing better protection against new variants and lowering the chance of serious illness.
As we celebrate this breakthrough, we are also giving businesses additional flexibility by lifting the private-sector vaccine mandate as of Nov. 1. We strongly recommend that businesses continue to mandate vaccines for their employees. The city is leading by example – our vaccinated workforce has allowed New Yorkers to receive essential services, no matter the circumstances. Vaccines have protected our frontline workers and keep our city safe.
You can join me by getting your free booster shot at your local doctor’s office, pharmacy, or community health clinic. The pandemic is not over, but with more ways to protect ourselves and our families than ever before, we can have a happy and healthy winter if enough of us get boosted. And while you’re at it – get your seasonal flu shot! You’ve got two arms. Use them!
As we come to the end of September, there are many wonderful seasons celebration here in our city, beginning with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
New York City is the city of immigrants, a place built on generations of newcomers who brought their families, their cultures and their dreams to start over.
We have all been reminded of our immigrant roots as we see the unprecedented number of new arrivals enter our city seeking asylum and a better life for themselves and their families. Over 11,000 people have been bussed in from the southern border, after making the journey from Central and South America, and as New Yorkers, we will not turn them away.
This is not a homelessness crisis, but a new humanitarian crisis that will take a different kind of approach. That’s why last week, I announced the opening of our new Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers. They will help newly arriving individuals and families access the shelter, food, and support they need to make a successful start in our city.
This is a major task, even for New York City, and we are seeking additional resources from federal, state, city lawmakers to ensure our immigrant brothers and sisters are taken care of. I was able to personally convey the urgency of the situation to White House. They are working with us to make sure we can keep our doors open and our communities strong. I ask every New Yorker to join with me in making our newest arrivals feel welcome and helping them find their path to the American dream of freedom and safety.