Giuliani bids New York farewell
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Four days before he is to leave office, Rudy Giuliani took credit Thursday for improving the New York during his eight years as mayor and credited New Yorkers with giving him the strength to do so.
Giuliani, who has been riding a wave of popularity for his leadership in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, spoke before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Saint Paul's Church in Lower Manhattan -- the 1766 church that survived the collapse of the twin towers.
Giuliani said the city's biggest change during his tenure has been in its spirit.
"That city that used to be the rotting apple ... that city is now a very strong and it's a confident city," he said. "It's a city that has withstood the worst attack of any city in America ... and people are standing up as tall and as strong and as straight as this church."
Giuliani ticked off a list of changes that came under his watch: a sharp decrease in crime, welfare rolls reduced by more than half, more parks and courthouses. He credited his pro-development stance toward business and his focus on quality-of-life issues when he took the job in 1993, beating out David Dinkins.
"I felt that my job as the mayor was to turn around the city because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that we had one last chance to do that," the former federal prosecutor said.
"We were too busy to pay attention to street-level prostitution, panhandling, graffiti, street-level drug dealing," he said. "You can't be too busy to pay attention to those things, because those are the things that underlie the problems with crime you have in your society."
He said the keys to the changes were his "two major pillars": not allowing the homeless to remain on the streets and encouraging New Yorkers to leave welfare.
Allowing the homeless to remain on the streets is cruel, Giuliani said. A kinder alternative is to "try to help them, put them in facilities where they can get help."
Regarding welfare, he said, "The reality is you're not helping anybody by putting them in a state of dependency. We substituted for that the idea that people should work and take care of themselves, and that we should do everything we could to encourage people to work."
That philosophy, he said, was key to reducing the city's welfare rolls by 695,000 in eight years. "We'll end the administration with less than 500,000 people on welfare," he predicted.
Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg will take over a budget "in much better shape," Giuliani said. Instead of the $2.3 billion deficit Giuliani was handed in 1993, Bloomberg will inherit a surplus of more than $1 billion, he said.
The self-described "contrarian" attributed his success to his independence -- not allowing newspaper editorial boards to guide his actions. "They don't really understand the inner workings of government," he said.
Giuliani made a plea for the site of the World Trade Center to be turned into a memorial to remind future generations of the worst attack on U.S. soil in history.
"This place has to be sanctified," he said, not used simply as a site for economic development. "We should think about a soaring, monumental, beautiful memorial that just draws millions of people here that just want to see it."
If done properly, "then the economic development will just happen. Then, millions of people will come here and we'll have all the economic development we want," he said.
Regarding the fight against terrorism, Giuliani sounded a hopeful note. "I hope you realize, we've already won it. We've already won the war. It's just a matter now of finishing it."
Still, he acknowledged, more attacks could take place.
About his designation as Person of the Year this week by Time Magazine, Giuliani reiterated his comments made over the weekend, sharing the glory with his city.
"There is no question the only reason I was selected the Person of the Year is because the people of New York are the People of the Year."
Despite the attacks, Giuliani -- whose grandparents emigrated from Italy -- urged that the city remain open to immigrants. "Diversity is our greatest strength," he said.
"What ties us together? Our belief in political democracy, our belief in religious freedom, our belief in capitalism ... because we respect human life, because we respect the rule of law. Those are the ideas that make us Americans."
Giuliani named Time's Person of Year
December 26, 2001
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