Mayor Finch delivers annual speech to Bpt. Regional Biz Council

Here’s the full text of Mayor Bill Finch’s prepared address earlier Tuesday to the Bridgeport Regional Business Council:


“Bridgeport has a legacy of innovators, forward thinkers and inventors. Our City is forever indebted to those who came before us;

  • P.T. Barnum
  • Lewis Latimore
  • Harvey Hubbell
  • Nathaniel Wheeler
  • Igor Sikorsky
  • And Gustav Whitehead, who is now finally properly recognized as FIRST IN FLIGHT!

Their vision has shaped our City and played a significant role in Bridgeport’s progress.

One man whose vision has played the most significant role on the physical appearance of our city, and cities across our country is Frederick Law Olmsted.

  • Seaside Park
  • Beardsley Park
  • Mountain Grove Cemetery
  • Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course
  • And Seaside Village are just some of Bridgeport’s most beautiful attributes and we owe them to the vision of Olmsted and his firm.

The legacy of Olmsted cannot be ignored.

Olmsted’s vision continues to inform our vision in Bridgeport.

The core of Olmsted’s work was summarized as the “Genius of place.” Olmsted, whose very first park project was New York City’s Central Park, tapped into the “genius of place” by identifying the unique attributes of each location; then preserving and enhancing them.

In Bridgeport, we’re preserving every positive aspect of our City. We’re enhancing our beautiful natural environment and creating new opportunities for the success of our greatest resource – our residents.

BGreen 2020, created in partnership with the BRBC, advances our collective vision by tapping into the “genius of place” in Bridgeport.

Our “genius of place” includes:

  • Waterfront
  • Parks
  • Young people
  • And a community only one hour from Manhattan.

Bridgeport’s economy was born on the waterfront — a maritime community. People went to the waterfront to make a living. During the industrial era, however, our expansive coastline was blocked by factories and warehouses.

BGreen 2020 makes waterfront recapture our highest priority and our greatest opportunity. Thanks to a significant working relationship with the EPA and DEEP, we expect that there will be fewer bureaucratic obstacles to navigate, as we bring residents back to their waterfront.

The announcement of our first anchor tenant at Steelpointe demonstrates how we link all economic development to waterfront access. These fifty acres surrounded by water will be a new retail, employment, and residential center within walking distance of downtown, the East Side, and the East End.

The infrastructure work is underway, creating a system of new streets, sidewalks, streetscapes, bike lanes and the modernizing and undergrounding of utilities.

We expect this first anchor tenant, Bass Pro Shops, to break ground this year.

Bass Pro Shops, and the other new tenants who will join them, will expose millions of people to Bridgeport for the first time and show them a side of our city that they have never seen:

  • Wetlands teeming with birds
  • Waterways chock full of fish and shellfish
  • And an urban environment uniquely intertwined with nature.

Similar efforts to preserve this “genius of place” are taking shape in the East Side and the East End where we have opened up acres of our waterfront previously inaccessible.

Knowlton Park provides amenities to the East Side that will increase property values and improve the quality of life for generations. Phase 1 is complete with Phases 2 and 3 soon to begin.

Imagine you live on a peninsula, with water everywhere and no access for fishing, boating or just relaxing?

For far too long this is how residents of the East End have lived. Not anymore. Thanks to the recent opening of the often-crowded Pleasure Beach Fishing Pier.  This is the first of many opportunities planned for East End residents to enjoy their waterfront.

The crown jewel of our BGreen 2020 waterfront recapture initiative is Pleasure Beach.

For the first time in decades, people will be able to recreate and reconnect with nature on a barrier island just a short water taxi ride away.

This is what Olmsted had in mind when he said, “It is our political duty to keep great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people.” He went on to say “change of air and change of habits, is favorable to the health and vigor of mankind.”

  • Pleasure Beach
  • Steelpointe
  • The cleanup of the former GE factory
  • And simultaneous restoration of the Yellow Mill Creek clearly demonstrate waterfront recapture is economic development.

People love water and Bridgeport has plenty of what people love.

All of these areas are part of the East Bridgeport Development Corridor, which will once again play a pivotal role in our state’s economy.

Currently, we are cleaning and making land available for a much needed second train station. The fight for a second train station will not be easy. It will take everything we have to convince the State that we need this. Bridgeport Hospital and their neighbors are working hard for this station, which will:

  • Improve transit
  • Increase property values
  • And add good jobs.

Speaking of good jobs, our kids won’t be able to access these good jobs without better education and training. The linkage between job readiness and education is demonstrated right in the heart of the East Bridgeport Development Corridor. Thanks to GE’s donation of land, we will construct a LEED certified school to replace Harding High School where we will educate our children for these good jobs.

BGreen 2020 is working.

  • Our recycling rates are up.
  • We exceeded our tree planting goals.
  • And BGreen 2020 conservation efforts have contributed more than $4 million in savings to City taxpayers.

BGreen 2020 is creating jobs, saving the taxpayer money and fighting climate change.

Those results: more jobs, more savings, and the leadership on climate change that mayors have provided through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are all embodied in the Eco-Industrial Park.

The Eco-Industrial Park is growing job opportunities and enhancing adjoining neighborhoods. Green businesses, now there, and those that will join them, help our City and our country redefine waste as a resource, and reduce energy consumption.

Let me tell you about the new businesses who are here because of the Eco-Industrial Park:

  • Park City Green is recycling old mattresses into raw materials.
  • Enviro Express is fueling trucks with liquefied and compressed natural gas.
  • Bridgeport Biodiesel is converting cooking grease to diesel fuel powering vehicles and heating homes.
  • Flexipave recycles tires into permeable pavement reducing urban runoff and filling potholes.
  • American Oil Solutions will be turning tires into oil.
  • Green Depot will be selling green building supplies.

And in the Eco-Industrial Park, Bridgeport is building the world’s largest fuel cell power plant. This partnership between Fuel Cell Energy and Dominion Resources represents the largest investment to date in the Eco-Industrial Park. I think, when the history of the new hydrogen economy in North America is written years from now, they may just say it began in earnest in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Just look out the windows of this hotel and you will see a growing Downtown.

333 State Street, vacant for over a decade, has been successfully renovated into 65 apartments. The Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council has relocated its headquarters to the first floor of this building, just a short walk away from the City’s own, very successful, Small and Minority Business Resource Office.

Thanks to the collective efforts of my administration, the City Council and Phil Kuchma, the next phase of Bijou Square has been launched in the Golden Hill section of Downtown.

Construction of:

  • The first of two new apartment buildings
  • A new senior center
  • A new restaurant and gym
  • And the preservation of our award-winning Downtown Cabaret Theatre was accomplished by a very creative collaboration.

I’m happy to have recently awarded a new lease to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre that guarantees its presence in Downtown for many years to come.

Fletcher-Thompson and Forstone Capital are breathing new life into the Mechanics and Farmers Bank building.

In Downtown North, seven developers with proven track records are all on board:

  • Spinnaker Real Estate
  • Navarino Capital
  • Schipper & Co.
  • POKO Partners
  • Urban Green
  • Forestone Capital
  • And the Trefz Corporation

These new projects have received an additional $12 million in support from the State. They will bring hundreds of new apartments along with many new businesses to our local economy.

Our economic development strategies are working. These projects are growing our grand list, which has just increased by $53 million.

Our population growth and our grand list growth, validates our BGreen 2020 vision.

The White House has also validated our efforts, highlighting Steelpointe and our second train station in their Sustainable Communities Initiative progress report.

A year ago, I stood here and said “Education and Jobs = Bridgeport Success.” As I said then and I say now, reforming our schools is critical to Bridgeport’s success.

I have invested significant political capital in school reform. As a result, there are positive changes in our classrooms and around our schools.

There are:

  • More children in afterschool programs
  • More children in early childhood education
  • And more students than ever starting their college careers for free.

All Bridgeport graduates must be career or college ready.

School reform is the ultimate and singular goal of Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas and me.

  • That’s why I recruited him to come to Bridgeport
  • That is why I fully support the Superintendent.
  • That’s why I am proud of the work that we have done together

One government working together to create better schools.

We no longer have two police departments. The school security department has been merged into the police department.

Educators, police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security together have created the “Safe Corridors Initiative.” All of our students have safe routes to and from school and all of our schools are more safe and secured.

This new collective spirit of one government has created four (4) new high schools opening fall of 2013. The new Fairchild Wheeler complex in Bridgeport will house three science, technology, engineering and math academies.

Urban and suburban students integrated at these three schools, will have an unmatched curriculum to compete for the jobs of the future.

The Bridgeport Military Academy will also be opening in the fall of 2013 and will be focused on first responders’ vocations.

Two new K-8 schools will be under construction this year. Longfellow and Roosevelt Schools are slated for much needed, new, LEED certified buildings. The new state-of-the-art Longfellow School will join the Aquaculture School and Cal Ripken Field, creating an education and recreation campus for students of the West End.

In 2014, construction to replace Harding High School will begin.

Nearly $100 million will be spent reconstructing Central High School and Black Rock School, which will be expanding to K-8. Additionally, Classical Studies Academy will also be expanded to K-8, stabilizing those two school communities.

This unprecedented school construction program represents a quarter of a billion dollars invested in our local economy.

These schools will be built by local and minority contractors, which will build our local purchasing power. We know that keeping money in Bridgeport works. Our Small, Minority Business Resource Office has kept millions of dollars in our community by helping local businesses secure contracts with the City. Think local, act local, buy local. In conjunction with our success, the Chamber of Commerce is building a comprehensive buy local effort, committed to helping our local businesses grow and prosper. “Bridgeport means business!”

Bob Trefry, David Norton, the Fairfield County Community Foundation and the City have started a foundation for public school students. I am proud to say that the Good Schools Bridgeport Fund, where I chair the Advisory Board, has raised almost $1 million to support our kids.

These funds are committed to:

  • Expanding high quality school choices
  • Strengthening school leadership
  • And upgrading classroom technology.

I am in this for our kids. I am putting students first. I will support whatever works.

What works?

Collaborative efforts between the City, educators, parents, and the business community working together for school reform;

  • More time on task
  • More school choice
  • More accountability from all.

Everyone must be engaged. – That’s what works!

We cannot wait. My sons who are public school students only get one chance at first grade and one chance at third grade. All of our children only get one chance. We cannot wait.

Collaborative community-based efforts improve our schools, green our City, improve government services, and prevent violence. People coming together for a common goal works.

Many of you here helped fund the largest gun buyback program in our history, taking almost 800 guns off of our streets. Thank you! Please be sure to thank all of our donors, their names are listed on the poster outside.

Every day, Bridgeport government is informed by every day citizens. BConnected, our citizen service request program serves as the City’s eyes and ears. Anyone can tell us where there’s a traffic light out, litter, pothole, or unkempt property. With just a few clicks on your computer or smartphone — You report it. We fix it. We’ve done it 135,000 times already. If you don’t have the app, please download it now.

Olmsted’s vision embodied here in Bridgeport, through BGreen 2020, creates jobs, saves money and improves the quality of life. Look no further than to our parks system, the Eco-Industrial Park, our waterfront recapture and our improved schools.

Bridgeport is preserving, enhancing and building.

This was Olmsted’s vision long ago and it informs our vision today.

Even in the most challenging of times, you stick to your vision and you stick to your plan. You continue to build and you continue to grow.

Our population has grown.

Our grand list has grown.

Our number of schools has grown.

Our number of parks has grown.

And we will continue to build and we will continue to grow.

Thank you!”

Brian Lockhart