It’s being called the most memorable address of his near decade long tenure at the helm of the country’s largest city.
Even though Bloomberg’s speech on Governor’s Island yesterday had been in the works for weeks, it was hastily scheduled. An email was sent out to City Hall reporters at 7:30 a.m., telling them to be at the ferry at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan by 11:00. The mayor had something to say about the Cordoba House, or the Ground Zero Mosque as it has come to be known, now that it had cleared a final hurdle. According to an administration source, the short notice was necessary because they did not want to be seen as stepping on the toes of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which thirty minutes prior had voted down a plan by the mosque’s opponents to attempt to landmark the building where the mosque was to be built.
Governor’s Island is not open on weekdays, so only those with valid press credentials would be permitted on board. Administration officials say they chose the site because it’s where the Dutch, who founded “New Amsterdam–the earliest religiously-tolerant colonial settlement in America–first lived” and for the backdrops of the Statue of Liberty. But the location led some to wonder if the site was picked to keep away protesters.
The original germ of the idea, administration officials say, came from a series of remarks the mayor had made about the Cordoba House since the issue first bubbled up back in May. But it was not until Monday that the Mayor’s inner circle knew that Bloomberg would be delivering a speech on the topic in less than 24 hours.
Howard Wolfson was tasked with piecing together the Mayor’s remarks on the matter, and he then sent a draft to Bloomberg’s head speech writer, Frank Barry. Barry sent a draft back to Wolfson at 5:30 Monday night. Wolfson, who was in DisneyWorld with his family, responded, and Barry stayed at City Hall putting the final touches on until 10 p.m. Monday night. No outside speechwriters were involved, sources say.
The historical parts–the bits about a city rooted in Dutch tolerance, where a small Jewish community built a synagogue in the mid 1650′s, and the residents of Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, which permitted then-outlawed Quaker meetings–mostly came from Barry. The final line: “There is no neighborhood in the city that is off limits to God’s love and mercy,” came from Wolfson.
At the last moment, the mayor added his own final touches, which ended up being the speech’s most soaring bits:
On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’
“The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.
Full speech below: