Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Convocation keynote address

  • Thank you for inviting me to take part in the sesquicentennial convocation of Polytechnic University.
  • I very much appreciate your bestowing an honorary Doctorate of Laws on me.
  • And my mother also thanks you. She's 96 years old — and she always wanted a doctor in the family.
  • The truth is, a degree from this institution means so much to me because I graduated college with an engineering degree. I was also head of the slide rule club! (Someone will have to explain what that means to the students here today.)
  • And it's particularly a sweet honor to receive this degree during your 150 th Anniversary year.
  • 1854 — the year you were founded — was clearly a big year for science and technology:
  • An incandescent electric lamp was constructed …
  • A major breakthrough was made in Boolean (BOO-lee-in) Algebra…
  • The first polychromatic printing press began operation…
  • And the accordion was invented!!
  • Also that year — McSorley's Ale House opened in Lower Manhattan.

Why do I mention that? Because my research tells me that one of Brooklyn Poly's most popular grads was the inventor of light beer!

  • No, it wasn't Frank Padavan! I say we raise an imaginary glass to Joe Owades (o-WAY-deez), Class of 1950… and to 150 years of Polytechnic University!


  • You are the dominant engineering school in New York City, there's no doubt — and your graduates and faculty play an important role in our economy.
  • You've also been a strong partner of the city, helping our police and fire departments improve their preparedness in the post-9/11 world…
  • …while also closely advising the MTA as it revamps the security of our transit system.
  • Today, you welcome a new leader — and I join you in saluting the University's tenth president, Jerry Hultin.
  • Jerry's following in the footsteps of the terrific David Chang, who helped bring this institution into the 21 st Century.
  • As a member of our City's Educational Policy Panel, Dr. Chang also helped us launch our historic reform of the public school system.
  • I've no doubts that Jerry is more than qualified to confront the challenges ahead. As former Under Secretary of the Navy, he has a lot of experience managing huge technology projects.
  • And managing science and technology is an area no one appreciates more than I.
  • I can trace a lot of my success back in the business world to the power of technology.
  • It was something we used to make financial information accessible to millions…and helped us form one of the biggest media companies in the world.
  • As mayor, I've harnessed that same power of technology to make City government more accessible… more transparent and accountable… and more effective in deploying resources.
  • That's what 311 — our Citizen Service Hotline — is all about.
  • It's one number that's available to everyone…at any time of the day… regardless of what language he or she speaks.

(In fact, we answer questions in over 170 languages.)

  • And it's even more effective than calling my home number in the middle of the night!
  • It's an incredible management tool, too.
  • It permits us to identify which quality of life problems rank among New Yorkers' biggest concerns… where they are most prevalent… and how well city agencies are responding to them.
  • Since its launch some 2½ years ago, New Yorkers have responded to 311 enthusiastically. To date, 25 million calls, queries, and complaints have been logged. That's included a few curveballs, too.
  • Questions like…what is Oprah Winfrey's phone number?
  • Or...How many minutes do I have left on my cell phone?
  • And… Is Ray Charles Stevie Wonder's uncle?

(We have no record of what answer was given.)

  • All in all, 311 has worked superbly, in large part because we're managing information in innovative ways to solve some of our city's most difficult problems. And we've extended that same strategy to other parts of government.
  • Take public health and epidemiology.
  • The Health Department's “Syndromic Surveillance System” lets us monitor 60,000 pieces of health information each day — including ambulance runs, emergency room visits, pharmacy sales, and other sources — for early signs of disease outbreaks in the city.
  • This system picks up everything from the earliest onset of the flu and allergy seasons…to food-related illnesses and — if one were to occur — a biological attack.
  • Technology also is helping us reduce crime to record lows, and make the safest big city in the nation even safer.
  • Much of the NYPD's success in fighting crime has depended on a tool called CompStat — a weekly precinct-by-precinct analysis of crime trends and hot spots across the city that's allowed the department to deploy its resources accordingly.
  • This year, we took this concept one step further with the opening of the $11 million Real Time Crime Center.
  • It's created a new nerve center for the NYPD — staffed with officers who can quickly access information about crime scenes, potential suspects, related incidents, even a database of nicknames and tattoos… and immediately send that information by fax, email, or telephone to detectives as they are responding to an incident.


  • Four years ago, New York suffered the worst disaster in its history and then experienced a serious financial crisis. Technology has played a key part in the city's recovery.
  • It has dramatically increased productivity and permitted New Yorkers to take fuller advantage of the services that make our lives better.
  • The result is a comeback that is playing out in every community of every borough…
  • Nowhere more so than Polytechnic University's own neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn.
  • During the 1970s, Bruce Ratner and University President George Bugliarello conceived the idea of a MetroTech campus — turning what had once been a disturbing example of urban decay into a rich mosaic of corporate headquarters, government agencies, and university facilities.
  • Inspired by this success, we've spent the past four years laying the groundwork for an even greater revival in this borough — one that will transform this whole area into a dynamic 24-hour downtown.
  • That's why we've rezoned Downtown Brooklyn for major new commercial development…
  • It's why we're expanding and opening up even more of our waterfront — like the Brooklyn Bridge Park, with its magnificent views of the harbor…
  • It's why we're supporting the BAM Cultural District and making the Brooklyn Academy of Music an even more important center for the performing arts…
  • And why we're remaking the Atlantic Yards into a stunning new commercial, retail and residential community and the home of the first major league sports team to play in Brooklyn since the Dodgers.
  • When the renaissance of Downtown Brooklyn is finally complete, New Yorkers will always remember that its foundation was Metrotech… and that the foundation of Metrotech was, and always will be, Polytechnic University.


  • Before I close, let me just leave the students gathered here this afternoon — and who will soon be contemplating their next career move — with one piece of advice:
  • Place your bet on New York.
  • Place your bet on…a city that's emerging as a capital of biotechnology and will be further buoyed by our development of a $700 million commercial bioscience park along the East River in Manhattan.
  • Place your bet on…a city with more than 20 world-class technology research centers and more than 13,000 technology- and engineering-related companies.
  • Place your bet on…a city that has been — or still is — home to 128 of the nation's Nobel Laureates.
  • Place your bet on…a city whose crime rate is falling…whose economy is growing…whose quality of life is getting better every day.
  • Yes, you can bet on New York — because of its fiercely passionate and remarkably talented people, and its vital institutions like Brooklyn Poly.


  • Finally, let me wish you the very best over the coming school year…
  • …and here's to another century and a half of excellence and innovation at Polytechnic University.
  • I thank you again for my tremendous honor. But the day really belongs to President Hultin, and to all of you.
  • In fact… as soon as Convocation is over… I think you should all celebrate the day — perhaps knocking back a few of Joe Owades (o-WAY-deez) popular invention! Have a great day!