Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the “New York-Israel Commission” with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat following a working lunch with Israeli business leaders. The commission will be responsible for creating a framework to strengthen economic and cultural ties between New York and Israel. Mort Zuckerman will serve as honorary chair of the 22-member commission and Malcolm Hoenlein, Linda Mirels and Allen Faigin will serve as co-chairs.
The Governor delivered remarks prior to the working lunch and at a press conference afterwards.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks following the economic development meeting is available here.
PHOTOS of the announcement and the Governor’s meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkart and international business leaders will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A transcript of Governor Cuomo’s and Commissioner Zemsky’s remarks after the meeting is below.
Governor Cuomo: New adventures between New York and Israel, we discussed the anti-Semitism that has been going on in the United States and around New York. We believe this is actually an opportune time to enhance the relationship because to the extent anyone believes that they can separate the New York people or the Jewish community or the New York people from Israel, they are sadly mistaken. Those attempts have actually fueled a closer relationship and a more energized relationship with a very important dimension, which are the economic and cultural ties.
I am going to put together a commission of people who will work on economic development between New York and Israel, cultural development between New York and Israel. A joint commission will have business people on it; it will have leaders in the Jewish community on it, so it really represents I think the cross section of cultural leaders, economic leaders, and religious leaders and people familiar with New York and people familiar with Israel.
There are 22 people on the commission, the co-chairs are Howard Zemsky, Allen Fagin and Linda Mirels and I want to thank them very much for their service and that will commence immediately. This trip is actually the first activity for that commission and it will be ongoing. I was surprised to see how many companies are really interested in New York as a possibility for their growth so I think that there is a lot of potential for those companies.
I’ll ask the co-chairs to speak but I also want to say before I turn to the co-chairs, Shimon Peres was an asset to the world. He was one of the more gifted leaders that this world has seen. I’ve sat with people from all across the world. I’ve sat with presidents, vice presidents, I’ve worked in the federal government, I worked in 22 countries. When you sat with Shimon Peres, you knew you were in the presence of greatness and I felt very badly I wasn’t able to attend his service after his passing. I said in the lunch that I was literally at the airport ready to leave and there was a train accident where some woman was actually killed. The accident was in New Jersey, but it’s a joint train station. I attended that literally moments before the plane departed. Mr. Peres was at the lunch today and I wanted him to know how important his father was to the United States and New York, and to me personally.
As Governor of the State of New York, I’m going to proclaim the first Sunday in June Shimon Peres Day. The first Sunday in June is also the day historically of the Israeli Parade in New York. That day will now be dedicated to Shimon Peres and I think the president would appreciate that. I know that many, many New Yorkers feel the way I feel and I think it’s only appropriate. I would like to hand the proclamation to Mr. Peres and thank him. Mr. Zemsky would you like to start off?
Howard Zemsky: I would like to say that we’ve had some great meetings this afternoon with business leaders. One of Israel’s most incredible entrepreneurs, Jon Medved, I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with him today. I know some of the portfolio companies were in the room as well for our lunch. The potential opportunity to work together to bring venture capital to upstate businesses and to help Israeli businesses grow in New York and across the state – we have an alignment with the industry expertise, and the university center and the regions whose industries align with some of these portfolio companies are fabulous. People often say that companies do business with one another, but really people do business with one another. Coming here has been really important to make some of those personal connections. We have a lot of follow up to do. We have a lot of good opportunity but when you think about the 21st century and when you think about the role that technology and life sciences is playing in the economy, it sets up beautifully for Israel. It sets up beautifully for New York. There has never, ever been a better time, a more fertile time for the partnership between New York State and the State of Israel. This is our time like no other time and these businesses are growing the connections between New York and Israel, not just the historical connections, not just the shared values, but the strength of our innovation economies, our mutual innovation economies will help each other. Israel is now the fifth leading source of foreign direct investment in New York State. Fifth leading source of foreign direct investment. New York represents $7 billion of exports from Israel. It’s a very robust trade relationship and it is only going to accelerate. So I want to thank the governor for strengthening and redoubling our connections to Israel. There is a really great opportunity for New York and for Israel.
Governor Cuomo: And Mr. Zemsky’s working on a couple of partnerships that we’re very excited about, that we’ve been talking about but I think we’re actually close to fruition. Technion, which is a great university institute, has been working with Cornell. We’ve been looking to expand that relationship with the Genome Center, which most of it is working in upstate New York, and we’re making progress on that. mPrest is working with NYPA, New York Power Authority, we’re looking to take that relationship to a new level. We’re looking to start a joint tourism package between New York and Israel where we would link and co-advertise tourism in New York and tourism in Israel, so we’re working on all of that and I have no doubt that Howard will complete those transactions forthwith.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks before the meeting is available below.
Thank you very much for the hospitality. Thank you for the friendship. Last time we came, we tend to do a visit in the middle of some crisis. Last time we came, in 2014, was in the middle of Hamas bombing and we wanted to show solidarity. So, we came on short notice and the mayor was very, very kind in facilitating with this community. To the entire delegation, thank you very much. Those are tremendous, respectable mayors. The government that is closest to the people is held most accountable. A mayor can’t really get away from liability for government operations. So, he’s doing a fantastic job here in Jerusalem. You met members of the delegation – Linda and Alan and Howard Zemsky, who is the head of economic development. And we have a full commission that we’re going to get together to facilitate this relationship, especially on the economic development side.
The timing of the visit is related to the number of anti-Semitic attacks that have been happening in the United States. And it is worse than anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. There have been over 100 attacks. Even in New York – which has the largest Jewish population of any place outside of Israel. There have been attacks all across the state. This, basically started, it was during the last presidential campaign, which was a very heated campaign. The heat comes from the anger that is in the U.S. and it is based on economic unhappiness. It is based on the threat to the security of the people of the country. And there is an anger and the anger often comes as a fear and fear can generate ugliness.
It’s not just anti-Semitic activity. It’s anti-Muslim, anti-African-American activity. Anger at people who are different. Different colors, different religion. It’s a social cancer for America. You have to remember America’s premise was, we can bring people from all across the globe and forge one community. No common religion, no common race. We can form one community. So when you start to demonize differences, you’re going right at the fabric of what makes America, America. You’re going right at the fabric of what makes New York, New York. So, this is a troubling situation certainly. There have been more anti-Semitic incidents than anything else, especially in New York. We have taken a very, very aggressive posture. It’s not just wrong, it’s also illegal. In the state of New York, we’ve put together a special unit of investigators of the State Police. They’re working with the FBI, they’re working with local police. One of the first times we’ve done a reward for information for prosecution. So, we are very aggressive about it.
The state budget this year – first time ever – I included $25 million for funding for security of religious schools. The incidents basically go towards Jewish community centers. Jewish community centers are daycare centers, etcetera. So it really is the most repressible, cowardly act. These are blind phone calls, threatening centers that are taking care of children.
There’s also been, besides phone calls, there’s been a rash of ugly statements, swastikas, etcetera. Again, not just the Jewish community, but more, it’s this undermined anger that the country is going through right now. So, we’ve been very aggressive about it in New York.
What I want to do ideally is take that negative energy and boomerang it and make it a positive energy and send it back. I want to say you’re trying to divide New York – we are actually going to be fortifying and working harder on our relationship because of these attacks. I want to use this to further our economic development activity, further our cultural activities, and send the message that you cant separate New York from Israel. We share decades of mutuality, mutual support, and mutual respect. Decades of love and you cant pull our communities apart. If you try, you are actually going to wind up fortifying the relationship because we will work harder than ever before.
Now, we have already been working on the economics of the relationship. That is why Howard Zemsky makes big bucks through Global NY and we make a lot of progress in that area. People think they know New York, but I like to say think again because it’s a different New York over the past few years, especially when it comes to business. New York was not the most friendly place when it came to companies starting their business. It was a high tax state, in many ways, it was an anti-business state. The attitude in New York for many years was, “We are New York, we are the best city in the world, outside of Jerusalem, and where else would people go. Everyone will stay here because New York is New York.” That was the arrogant attitude. But we found out that people could actually move . If you look at a map of the United States, you will see to the west and south of New York, there are other shapes Those are called other states. They are not as attractive as New York, but if you push people hard enough, they will go to those other states. So we reformed our ways and we took the spending level of New York State government way down. We are at the lowest levels of spending increases in the history of the state of New York. That allows us to cut taxes. Lower state taxes, income taxes. All taxes are lower in the state of New York.
We coupled that with a very impressive infrastructure construction program, building a new JFK Airport, a new LaGuardia Airport, redoing the railroad, redoing the subway system, so very aggressive infrastructure and a very aggressive economic development outreach program with economic development incentives that make New York as competitive as any state in the United States. We have programs for zero taxes for ten years. We can do bond financing. We can do equity financing. You can get cash infusions. You can get your building. You can get your equipment. We are very, very solicitous at developing economic partnerships and it’s a big thrust of what we’re doing. We’ve done a lot of work with companies that are in Israel already. Both of the NYPA partnerships, we’re excited about that. Technion, I think we’re on the verge of doing some exciting work with Technion. We’re working on joint tourism approaches with the government where you could have companion packages, Israel tourism package and United States tourism package. So we have a lot going on but we would like to do more and we want to use this time of the anti-Semitic incidents and actually take that home and turn it from a moment of anger to a moment of love. They can turn it from a moment of division to a moment of unity and I think that is a powerful, powerful symbol, and probably the best way we can handle this situation.
So in closing, we’re going to work with you from a law enforcement point of view. I am telling you, on behalf of the people of the state of New York, this is repugnant to every principle and tenet of being New York. New York is founded on diversity. New Yorkers only work because they understand we accept people from different places with different religions and we form one from them. Founding Fathers of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. That was the idea. New York in many ways was the laboratory for that idea, laboratory for the American experiment in Democracy because we were one of the first places the ships landed. You stepped off the ship, you stepped into New York. So we have perfected that combination of dealing with people from different countries, races, religions, sexual orientations. That’s what New York is all about. So to try to divide, especially to try to divide the Jewish community from New York, is just intolerable. You can’t grow up in New York without feeling the cultural closeness to the Jewish community. My family from day one, I remember my grandfather telling stories about his friends in the Jewish community. My father, God rest his soul, used to tell a story about how he was a Shabbos boy and how New Yorkers. I have three sisters. Two of the three sisters married Jewish men. One of the great sadnesses here, and I’ve felt this with my nieces, you have a whole generation of quote unquote young people who never felt the sting of anti-Semitism. They read about it in the history books, but they believed they were a different generation. They were in college, they were enlightened, race didn’t matter, religion didn’t matter. That was a thing of the past. And this has been a painful, eye-opening time. It’s happening on college campuses, where they now have to deal with the fact that there’s this ugliness on the college campus that they grew up as the enlightened next generation.
That is a practical and personal tragedy in many ways that they have to feel this pain and this fear, which they had been spared from for all these years. They now have to deal with the reality that racism lives and anti-Semitism lives and it lives in their generation too. It’s a harsh reality that I think came home now. That’s why I think these efforts are more important. I want them to know that there will be zero tolerance and we will find out who’s doing it and we will enforce the law to the fullest extent. But also love wins at the end of the day and community wins, and friendship and respect wins. That’s what this table represents – that’s the essence of our relationship with the Jewish community and the people of Israel and I wanted to say that to you directly.
Last point to Mr. Peres – I spent my life with people saying to me, “Oh your father, your father, your father.” It gets old after a while – so I really religiously tried to avoid doing that to another son, but I have to tell you, your father. I’m very sorry I missed the service. I was literally at the airport going to get on the plane and there was a train accident in New Jersey technically, but we live in New York, it’s a joint system. I went from the airport to the train accident. Your father was a dear fried of my father, former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo. They were dear friends. He was always very kind to me. He said something to me 20 years ago that I quote all the time. He said to me – we were talking about terrorism – he said, “We are now dealing with it because of our geographical proximity, but don’t you think that you are immune, because one day the ocean will not protect you, and terrorism will find its way across the ocean and it will be your enemy the way it’s Israel’s enemy because the enemy is democracy – that’s really the enemy. Us only because we are more proximate.” 20 years ago, the internet bridges that ocean and now we are dealing with the anger and the hatred and the terrorism just the way that Israel has dealt with it so many years. The beauty, the wisdom – he was a gift to all of us, and I know you know that, but I just wanted you to know that we know that too. Thank you.