Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/economic-development 2018-02-20T21:33:25+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com First Annual State Economic Development Report Falls Short, Watchdogs Say 2018-02-14T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7480:first-annual-state-economic-development-report-falls-short-watchdogs-say Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30900390955_2c459ccf1a_z.jpg" alt="Zemsky economic development" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Starting this year, the state’s central economic development agency is required to produce an annual comprehensive report of all of the state-funded programs it oversees. The requirement of Empire State Development (ESD) was part of the state budget agreement reached last April amid intensifying criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approach to economic development.</p> <p>With the report due on December 31 of each year, ESD must compile the past fiscal year's “aggregate totals” for each economic development program administered by the agency, examining “program progress, program participation rates, economic impact, regional distribution, industry trends, and any other information deemed necessary by the commissioner," according to the 2017-2018 enacted budget.</p> <p>The inaugural report was late.</p> <p>“It will be out this week -- and that’s my fault, truthfully,” ESD president and CEO Howard Zemsky told state legislators somewhat sheepishly during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXFM8uvQwD0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the joint legislative budget hearing</a> on economic development in Albany on January 29. He added, “I think you’ll find it to be very thorough, very forthcoming, and very extensive.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s economic development czar, who is appointed by Cuomo, was queried on the report’s status by Senate Finance Chair Cathy Young, an Upstate Republican, who cited <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an audit</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found ESD failed to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for tax credit and job creation programs that were due between April 2012 and September 2016.</p> <p>“Some of them have been successful, but many of these programs have run into substantial issues, such as far lower job creation than expected…In light of these issues, ESD is often unwilling to share information with the legislature and the public on these projects,” said Young.</p> <p><a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_2017_Annual_Report_0.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The annual report</a> was released last week, on February 5, but watchdogs and experts say it falls far short of a comprehensive analysis drawing clear connections between the state’s numerous investments and job growth, and only highlights the need for a comprehensive “database of deals.”</p> <p>Much of the 128-page document offers a photo-heavy, though thorough overview of the state’s “holistic” approach to transforming New York State, through business grants and tax incentives, as well as workforce development, Regional Economic Development Councils, downtown revitalization programs, and more. The latter third of the report provides a more data-centric breakdown of the economic impact of 1,153 projects overseen by ESD that received financial assistance in state fiscal year 2017 (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017).</p> <p>“This report highlights all of these strategies throughout and also includes a section of detailed statistical information. Extensive additional information on thousands of economic development projects throughout the state is available on our website,” writes Zemsky in his opening message. “Our strategy is not only providing positive economic results in the short term but also planting seeds for sustainable economic prosperity over the long term.”</p> <p>The investments are broken down into four categories: tax expenditure programs -- which includes the Excelsior jobs program, the entertainment tax credit and Start-Up NY -- loans and grants, marketing and advertising, and innovation. In total, $1.8 billion was provided by ESD in support of these projects, which are expected to leverage nearly $18.6 billion in business and partner investments. According to the report, 162 projects have direct job commitments that leverage $14 billion and require the creation and retention of over 65,000 jobs in New York, for an average cost of $13,205 per job.</p> <p>Among watchdogs who reviewed the ESD report, the primary criticisms are that it lacks recipient-level data, it at times only shows “net new job commitments” instead of actual jobs created, and has inconsistent definitions for what constitutes a job.</p> <p>Recipient-level data, which shows return on investment from individual projects, is crucial for determining any program’s true cost-per-job, according to David Friedfel, director of state studies for Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).</p> <p>“Taxpayers should know if individual projects are receiving benefits under multiple programs, the total amount of state and local spending, the number of jobs promised and created, and the amount of capital expense committed and expended by the company,” said Friedfel in an email, noting that such information could be made available with the creation of an online “database of deals,” a key recommendation repeatedly <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/blueprint-economic-development-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pushed by CBC</a> and other fiscal watchdogs and government reform groups.</p> <p>A spokesperson for ESD pointed out the statute specifically requires the agency to provide “aggregate totals” for the programs and noted that report provides links to quarterly reports offering more granular details.</p> <p>The Excelsior jobs program issued $25.3 million in tax credits to 62 businesses, according to the report. Those business pledged to create 10,072 jobs, retain 30,279 jobs, and invest more than $2.4 billion. The total tax credits committed to these 62 businesses is $174.2 million over the life of the projects. This amounts to $4,318 in tax credits committed per job created and retained.</p> <p>The report should also show actual jobs created, not just commitments under the Excelsior jobs program, something the database of deals would document in real time, according to Friedfel, since companies often commit to creating a certain number of jobs, and then the project either fails to come to fruition, or the actual number of jobs created falls short of expectations. At times, more jobs are created than originally expected.</p> <p>“The committed jobs are just the goals, the report should have actuals,” said Friedfel. “Also, the difference between commitments and actual job creation is the reason why economic development spending should be pay-for-performance, with companies being reimbursed after job creation goals are met.”</p> <p>While much of the report’s tax credit data does a better job of presenting actual job creation numbers, critics say the figures are still misleading because the term “job” is defined differently throughout.</p> <p>In part due to the broad scope of the report, jobs for different types of economic development programs are counted using different sets of criteria. In an attempt to preempt this criticism, the report classifies jobs associated with the entertainment industry tax credit as “hires” rather than “jobs” because these are typically short-term gigs that are counted regardless of how long the employees work. The cost-per-job for these roles is considerably lower than more permanent, full-time positions produced by other programs. The state’s controversial film and television tax credit has benefited 289 projects, resulting in $2.9 billion in private investment and a cost-per-hire of $2,841.</p> <p>Another anomaly is Start-Up NY, which, due to the particulars of its tax requirements, only counts employees that are full-time and permanent for at least six months -- a threshold that should probably be applied for all job counts, some critics say. &nbsp;In 2016, businesses in the Start-Up NY program reported business tax benefits of $949,868 and reported their employees received $3 million in personal income tax benefits, which brings the state investment to a $3.9 million total, according to the report. The businesses also report investing over $31 million and creating a total of 1,135 new jobs, of which 722 were "net new jobs," or jobs that lasted longer than six months.&nbsp;The ESD report omits a cost-per-job breakdown for Start-Up NY, perhaps because the 2017 data is unavailable yet, but it notes that 67 businesses were approved in 2017, projecting the creation of 1,000 jobs and $28 million in investment. Based on 2016 jobs numbers provided, the cost was $5,470 per net new job.</p> <p>The program has been the source of significant criticism of those who point to weak job creation, including, most recently, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called for an end to the program <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/start-up-ny-flanagan-1.16741920" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Tuesday</a>. (Ongoing questions about the effectiveness of Governor Cuomo’s job creation efforts also come as elements of his economic development programs are at play in twin corruption trials happening this year, where Cuomo associates and donors are accused of bid-rigging and bribery.)</p> <p>Critics argue that the same job-counting criteria should be applied across the board and question whether jobs created by companies benefiting from more than one public subsidy have been counted twice.</p> <p>"The charts and data in the report are in different formats and don't allow for apples to apples comparisons of different subsidy programs,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a leading advocate for the database of deals. “There is no baseline data showing existing jobs or growth rates for regions. What's striking about the report is how little actual data there is that sheds light on performance by region, program or recipient."</p> <p>The report also highlights 378 projects investing in infrastructure, marketing, and capacity building, leveraging $2.2 billion in private investment.</p> <p>Many long-time critics of the state’s economic development programs are not likely to be appeased by the numbers regardless of how they are presented. E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, calls himself “close to atheistic ” on the field of taxpayer-funded economic development.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is distinguishing between what incentive claims to have delivered and what would have happened anyway without the incentive,” said McMahon, who frequently rails against the state’s entertainment tax credit, which disproportionately benefits economically-thriving New York City.</p> <p>The credit grants tax reimbursements of up to 30 percent for production companies that film in New York City or its suburbs. Farther upstate, the entertainment incentive grows to 40 percent. The number of entertainment ventures filmed in the city has ballooned in recent years, but naysayers note that New York City has always been a coveted filming location for the movie and television industry.</p> <p>“The people who are fans of the film credit have consistently pretended for years that no one would have been making films in New York City without the tax credit. All it proves is if you pay someone to do something, they will do it,” said McMahon.</p> <p>Getting lost in the conversation is what economists call “opportunity costs,” which is “what we didn't do because we gave you the money," according McMahon. "The true cost of filming ‘Blue Bloods’ in Queens is not that we gave them $25 million, it’s what could the State of New York have spent that $25 million on? What kind of mental health services could you have provided to people on the street for $25 million? What’s the societal value of that over having Tom Selleck walking around Queens?”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller DiNapoli’s office declined to comment on the ESD report, stating that the agency currently has an audit of ESD underway. Senator Young was unavailable for comment due to all-day budget hearings Monday and Tuesday, a spokesperson said.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article miscalculated the cost per job for Start-Up NY. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30900390955_2c459ccf1a_z.jpg" alt="Zemsky economic development" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Starting this year, the state’s central economic development agency is required to produce an annual comprehensive report of all of the state-funded programs it oversees. The requirement of Empire State Development (ESD) was part of the state budget agreement reached last April amid intensifying criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approach to economic development.</p> <p>With the report due on December 31 of each year, ESD must compile the past fiscal year's “aggregate totals” for each economic development program administered by the agency, examining “program progress, program participation rates, economic impact, regional distribution, industry trends, and any other information deemed necessary by the commissioner," according to the 2017-2018 enacted budget.</p> <p>The inaugural report was late.</p> <p>“It will be out this week -- and that’s my fault, truthfully,” ESD president and CEO Howard Zemsky told state legislators somewhat sheepishly during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXFM8uvQwD0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the joint legislative budget hearing</a> on economic development in Albany on January 29. He added, “I think you’ll find it to be very thorough, very forthcoming, and very extensive.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s economic development czar, who is appointed by Cuomo, was queried on the report’s status by Senate Finance Chair Cathy Young, an Upstate Republican, who cited <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an audit</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found ESD failed to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for tax credit and job creation programs that were due between April 2012 and September 2016.</p> <p>“Some of them have been successful, but many of these programs have run into substantial issues, such as far lower job creation than expected…In light of these issues, ESD is often unwilling to share information with the legislature and the public on these projects,” said Young.</p> <p><a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_2017_Annual_Report_0.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The annual report</a> was released last week, on February 5, but watchdogs and experts say it falls far short of a comprehensive analysis drawing clear connections between the state’s numerous investments and job growth, and only highlights the need for a comprehensive “database of deals.”</p> <p>Much of the 128-page document offers a photo-heavy, though thorough overview of the state’s “holistic” approach to transforming New York State, through business grants and tax incentives, as well as workforce development, Regional Economic Development Councils, downtown revitalization programs, and more. The latter third of the report provides a more data-centric breakdown of the economic impact of 1,153 projects overseen by ESD that received financial assistance in state fiscal year 2017 (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017).</p> <p>“This report highlights all of these strategies throughout and also includes a section of detailed statistical information. Extensive additional information on thousands of economic development projects throughout the state is available on our website,” writes Zemsky in his opening message. “Our strategy is not only providing positive economic results in the short term but also planting seeds for sustainable economic prosperity over the long term.”</p> <p>The investments are broken down into four categories: tax expenditure programs -- which includes the Excelsior jobs program, the entertainment tax credit and Start-Up NY -- loans and grants, marketing and advertising, and innovation. In total, $1.8 billion was provided by ESD in support of these projects, which are expected to leverage nearly $18.6 billion in business and partner investments. According to the report, 162 projects have direct job commitments that leverage $14 billion and require the creation and retention of over 65,000 jobs in New York, for an average cost of $13,205 per job.</p> <p>Among watchdogs who reviewed the ESD report, the primary criticisms are that it lacks recipient-level data, it at times only shows “net new job commitments” instead of actual jobs created, and has inconsistent definitions for what constitutes a job.</p> <p>Recipient-level data, which shows return on investment from individual projects, is crucial for determining any program’s true cost-per-job, according to David Friedfel, director of state studies for Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).</p> <p>“Taxpayers should know if individual projects are receiving benefits under multiple programs, the total amount of state and local spending, the number of jobs promised and created, and the amount of capital expense committed and expended by the company,” said Friedfel in an email, noting that such information could be made available with the creation of an online “database of deals,” a key recommendation repeatedly <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/blueprint-economic-development-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pushed by CBC</a> and other fiscal watchdogs and government reform groups.</p> <p>A spokesperson for ESD pointed out the statute specifically requires the agency to provide “aggregate totals” for the programs and noted that report provides links to quarterly reports offering more granular details.</p> <p>The Excelsior jobs program issued $25.3 million in tax credits to 62 businesses, according to the report. Those business pledged to create 10,072 jobs, retain 30,279 jobs, and invest more than $2.4 billion. The total tax credits committed to these 62 businesses is $174.2 million over the life of the projects. This amounts to $4,318 in tax credits committed per job created and retained.</p> <p>The report should also show actual jobs created, not just commitments under the Excelsior jobs program, something the database of deals would document in real time, according to Friedfel, since companies often commit to creating a certain number of jobs, and then the project either fails to come to fruition, or the actual number of jobs created falls short of expectations. At times, more jobs are created than originally expected.</p> <p>“The committed jobs are just the goals, the report should have actuals,” said Friedfel. “Also, the difference between commitments and actual job creation is the reason why economic development spending should be pay-for-performance, with companies being reimbursed after job creation goals are met.”</p> <p>While much of the report’s tax credit data does a better job of presenting actual job creation numbers, critics say the figures are still misleading because the term “job” is defined differently throughout.</p> <p>In part due to the broad scope of the report, jobs for different types of economic development programs are counted using different sets of criteria. In an attempt to preempt this criticism, the report classifies jobs associated with the entertainment industry tax credit as “hires” rather than “jobs” because these are typically short-term gigs that are counted regardless of how long the employees work. The cost-per-job for these roles is considerably lower than more permanent, full-time positions produced by other programs. The state’s controversial film and television tax credit has benefited 289 projects, resulting in $2.9 billion in private investment and a cost-per-hire of $2,841.</p> <p>Another anomaly is Start-Up NY, which, due to the particulars of its tax requirements, only counts employees that are full-time and permanent for at least six months -- a threshold that should probably be applied for all job counts, some critics say. &nbsp;In 2016, businesses in the Start-Up NY program reported business tax benefits of $949,868 and reported their employees received $3 million in personal income tax benefits, which brings the state investment to a $3.9 million total, according to the report. The businesses also report investing over $31 million and creating a total of 1,135 new jobs, of which 722 were "net new jobs," or jobs that lasted longer than six months.&nbsp;The ESD report omits a cost-per-job breakdown for Start-Up NY, perhaps because the 2017 data is unavailable yet, but it notes that 67 businesses were approved in 2017, projecting the creation of 1,000 jobs and $28 million in investment. Based on 2016 jobs numbers provided, the cost was $5,470 per net new job.</p> <p>The program has been the source of significant criticism of those who point to weak job creation, including, most recently, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called for an end to the program <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/start-up-ny-flanagan-1.16741920" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Tuesday</a>. (Ongoing questions about the effectiveness of Governor Cuomo’s job creation efforts also come as elements of his economic development programs are at play in twin corruption trials happening this year, where Cuomo associates and donors are accused of bid-rigging and bribery.)</p> <p>Critics argue that the same job-counting criteria should be applied across the board and question whether jobs created by companies benefiting from more than one public subsidy have been counted twice.</p> <p>"The charts and data in the report are in different formats and don't allow for apples to apples comparisons of different subsidy programs,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a leading advocate for the database of deals. “There is no baseline data showing existing jobs or growth rates for regions. What's striking about the report is how little actual data there is that sheds light on performance by region, program or recipient."</p> <p>The report also highlights 378 projects investing in infrastructure, marketing, and capacity building, leveraging $2.2 billion in private investment.</p> <p>Many long-time critics of the state’s economic development programs are not likely to be appeased by the numbers regardless of how they are presented. E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, calls himself “close to atheistic ” on the field of taxpayer-funded economic development.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is distinguishing between what incentive claims to have delivered and what would have happened anyway without the incentive,” said McMahon, who frequently rails against the state’s entertainment tax credit, which disproportionately benefits economically-thriving New York City.</p> <p>The credit grants tax reimbursements of up to 30 percent for production companies that film in New York City or its suburbs. Farther upstate, the entertainment incentive grows to 40 percent. The number of entertainment ventures filmed in the city has ballooned in recent years, but naysayers note that New York City has always been a coveted filming location for the movie and television industry.</p> <p>“The people who are fans of the film credit have consistently pretended for years that no one would have been making films in New York City without the tax credit. All it proves is if you pay someone to do something, they will do it,” said McMahon.</p> <p>Getting lost in the conversation is what economists call “opportunity costs,” which is “what we didn't do because we gave you the money," according McMahon. "The true cost of filming ‘Blue Bloods’ in Queens is not that we gave them $25 million, it’s what could the State of New York have spent that $25 million on? What kind of mental health services could you have provided to people on the street for $25 million? What’s the societal value of that over having Tom Selleck walking around Queens?”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller DiNapoli’s office declined to comment on the ESD report, stating that the agency currently has an audit of ESD underway. Senator Young was unavailable for comment due to all-day budget hearings Monday and Tuesday, a spokesperson said.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article miscalculated the cost per job for Start-Up NY. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.</em></p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The real value of New York Islanders’ Belmont deal? Cuomo administration won’t say 2018-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7465:the-real-value-of-new-york-islanders-belmont-deal-cuomo-administration-won-t-say Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39940073732_c019770f62_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Long Island Islanders" width="600" height="360" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A more transparent administration would reveal rival bid, economic estimates.</em></p> <p>When Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a triumphant press conference on Dec. 20 to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2018-state-state-bringing-new-york-islanders-home-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announce</a>&nbsp;that the New York Islanders would return home to Long Island, building a new arena and ancillary retail, office, hotel space at Belmont Park, his economic development chief, Howard Zemsky, called the new project an "engine for economic growth."</p> <p>Yes, as backers stress, underutilized parking lots would become sites for major activity, the Islanders would return home from an awkward stint in Brooklyn, and the $1 billion project would be "privately funded" (as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-islanders-are-leaving-for-belmont.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bannered</a>&nbsp;on its cover).</p> <p>But unanswered economic questions loom.</p> <p>Consider: the Islanders' expected 49-year lease (with renewal options), is valued at $40 million upfront. For a 43-acre site and $1 billion in investment, that price seems remarkably cheap. (For example, a half-acre commercial&nbsp;<a href="http://www.masseyknakal.com/listings/detail.aspx?lst=25250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">site</a>&nbsp;in Garden City South is on sale for&nbsp;$2.5 million.)</p> <p>To assess the bid by New York Arena Partners, the Islanders' consortium, we might compare it to that of the only rival, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), which sought to build a soccer stadium within a mixed-use development.</p> <p>So I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State economic development authority that oversaw the bids, to see them. My request was denied; the information “if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards,” I was told.</p> <p>Wait a second. What's wrong with transparency? Why wouldn't it&nbsp;enhance&nbsp;legitimacy in this public process?</p> <p>Even if the soccer team bid more, well, the ESD's Selection Committee&nbsp;<a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/rfp/Selection%20Committee%20Recommendation%20.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scored</a>&nbsp;base rent at just 20% of the overall evaluation. The hockey project could still be more deserving.</p> <p>More importantly, what about&nbsp;the state’s overall estimate of economic benefits? My FOIL request met the same roadblock.</p> <p>Such economic benefits -- along with the extent to which the proposed project “strengthens Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality" -- made up only 30% of the overall score. The Isles' bid might again be a defensible choice, even if it scored lower on this metric.</p> <p>But I doubt it scored lower. After all, over the regular season, the hockey team plays 41 home games, while the soccer team plays just 17.</p> <p>Then again, what if the state's economic analysis ignored two elephants in the room, beyond the base rent and expected new jobs and taxes. "[T]he Long Island Railroad," Cuomo's press release stated vaguely, "is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park Station for events year-round."</p> <p>That commitment could be costly. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Joe Lhota recently expressed concern, as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-belmont-lirr-1.16348814" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted</a>, about the LIRR's capacity to add weeknight rush-hour trains.</p> <p>He had no price tag for the service upgrade needed to accommodate westbound trains, something the Village Voice <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/30/getting-lirr-to-isles-arena-could-require-bending-space-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggests</a> would be extremely difficult. Shouldn't that overall cost, and the expected public share, have been part of the initial bid evaluation?</p> <p>Moreover, Empire State Development has&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2018/01/belmont-arena-wont-open-until-at-least.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a>&nbsp;that it conducted no market study to assess the Belmont arena's prospects. The new venue, especially if enhanced by LIRR service, likely would be successful -- but at the cost of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/islanders-belmont-nassau-coliseum-1.15523698" target="_blank" rel="noopener">luring events</a>&nbsp;otherwise destined for the revamped, downsized Nassau Coliseum.</p> <p>However, by <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcing</a> on Jan. 29 a part-time, short-term move by the Islanders to Nassau, Cuomo distracts from a decision his administration made that threatens the county-owned Coliseum. This twist comes&nbsp;with a $6 million&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state subsidy</a>&nbsp;to upgrade Coliseum broadcast facilities and ice-making capacity,&nbsp;which also should be factored into the Belmont deal.</p> <p>Cuomo seems to be rewarding not just Island hockey fans but also Brooklyn Sports &amp; Entertainment (BS&amp;E), which operates both Barclays and the Coliseum and seeks to shift Islanders' games from a money-losing environment in Brooklyn to an arena that could host more big events. (BS&amp;E's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-guest-list-1.16426621" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not paying anything</a>.&nbsp;Why shouldn't the arena operator and team shoulder the Coliseum costs,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/editorial/nassau-coliseum-isles-games-new-york-state-1.16465891" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as Newsday suggested</a>, or even ticket buyers and the NHL?)</p> <p>These announcements may get Cuomo on TV. But successor elected officials likely will have to reckon with the ultimate public costs and untoward impacts of a new arena.</p> <p>***<br />Brooklyn journalist Norman Oder writes the daily blog <a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a> and is working on a book about the project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39940073732_c019770f62_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Long Island Islanders" width="600" height="360" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A more transparent administration would reveal rival bid, economic estimates.</em></p> <p>When Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a triumphant press conference on Dec. 20 to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2018-state-state-bringing-new-york-islanders-home-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announce</a>&nbsp;that the New York Islanders would return home to Long Island, building a new arena and ancillary retail, office, hotel space at Belmont Park, his economic development chief, Howard Zemsky, called the new project an "engine for economic growth."</p> <p>Yes, as backers stress, underutilized parking lots would become sites for major activity, the Islanders would return home from an awkward stint in Brooklyn, and the $1 billion project would be "privately funded" (as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-islanders-are-leaving-for-belmont.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bannered</a>&nbsp;on its cover).</p> <p>But unanswered economic questions loom.</p> <p>Consider: the Islanders' expected 49-year lease (with renewal options), is valued at $40 million upfront. For a 43-acre site and $1 billion in investment, that price seems remarkably cheap. (For example, a half-acre commercial&nbsp;<a href="http://www.masseyknakal.com/listings/detail.aspx?lst=25250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">site</a>&nbsp;in Garden City South is on sale for&nbsp;$2.5 million.)</p> <p>To assess the bid by New York Arena Partners, the Islanders' consortium, we might compare it to that of the only rival, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), which sought to build a soccer stadium within a mixed-use development.</p> <p>So I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State economic development authority that oversaw the bids, to see them. My request was denied; the information “if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards,” I was told.</p> <p>Wait a second. What's wrong with transparency? Why wouldn't it&nbsp;enhance&nbsp;legitimacy in this public process?</p> <p>Even if the soccer team bid more, well, the ESD's Selection Committee&nbsp;<a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/rfp/Selection%20Committee%20Recommendation%20.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scored</a>&nbsp;base rent at just 20% of the overall evaluation. The hockey project could still be more deserving.</p> <p>More importantly, what about&nbsp;the state’s overall estimate of economic benefits? My FOIL request met the same roadblock.</p> <p>Such economic benefits -- along with the extent to which the proposed project “strengthens Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality" -- made up only 30% of the overall score. The Isles' bid might again be a defensible choice, even if it scored lower on this metric.</p> <p>But I doubt it scored lower. After all, over the regular season, the hockey team plays 41 home games, while the soccer team plays just 17.</p> <p>Then again, what if the state's economic analysis ignored two elephants in the room, beyond the base rent and expected new jobs and taxes. "[T]he Long Island Railroad," Cuomo's press release stated vaguely, "is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park Station for events year-round."</p> <p>That commitment could be costly. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Joe Lhota recently expressed concern, as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-belmont-lirr-1.16348814" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted</a>, about the LIRR's capacity to add weeknight rush-hour trains.</p> <p>He had no price tag for the service upgrade needed to accommodate westbound trains, something the Village Voice <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/30/getting-lirr-to-isles-arena-could-require-bending-space-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggests</a> would be extremely difficult. Shouldn't that overall cost, and the expected public share, have been part of the initial bid evaluation?</p> <p>Moreover, Empire State Development has&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2018/01/belmont-arena-wont-open-until-at-least.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a>&nbsp;that it conducted no market study to assess the Belmont arena's prospects. The new venue, especially if enhanced by LIRR service, likely would be successful -- but at the cost of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/islanders-belmont-nassau-coliseum-1.15523698" target="_blank" rel="noopener">luring events</a>&nbsp;otherwise destined for the revamped, downsized Nassau Coliseum.</p> <p>However, by <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcing</a> on Jan. 29 a part-time, short-term move by the Islanders to Nassau, Cuomo distracts from a decision his administration made that threatens the county-owned Coliseum. This twist comes&nbsp;with a $6 million&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state subsidy</a>&nbsp;to upgrade Coliseum broadcast facilities and ice-making capacity,&nbsp;which also should be factored into the Belmont deal.</p> <p>Cuomo seems to be rewarding not just Island hockey fans but also Brooklyn Sports &amp; Entertainment (BS&amp;E), which operates both Barclays and the Coliseum and seeks to shift Islanders' games from a money-losing environment in Brooklyn to an arena that could host more big events. (BS&amp;E's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-guest-list-1.16426621" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not paying anything</a>.&nbsp;Why shouldn't the arena operator and team shoulder the Coliseum costs,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/editorial/nassau-coliseum-isles-games-new-york-state-1.16465891" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as Newsday suggested</a>, or even ticket buyers and the NHL?)</p> <p>These announcements may get Cuomo on TV. But successor elected officials likely will have to reckon with the ultimate public costs and untoward impacts of a new arena.</p> <p>***<br />Brooklyn journalist Norman Oder writes the daily blog <a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a> and is working on a book about the project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

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What’s The [Data] Point? $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett 2018-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7417:what-s-the-data-point-3-2-billion-with-james-patchett Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 26</strong><strong>&nbsp;-- $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/patchett-and-ben.jpg" alt="patchett and ben" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>James Patchett is the President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the city's nonprofit arm dedicated to spurring job and industry growth, managing special projects, and implementing certain infrastructure projects. Patchett joined the podcast to discuss the City's development strategy, tax breaks, NYC Ferry, and the BQX streetcar project, and to respond to a new Citizens Budget Commission report evaluating the City's approach to economic development.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>), and guest James Patchett (<a href="https://twitter.com/jbpatchett" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@jbpatchett</a>) of the Economic Development Corporation (<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCEDC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCEDC</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/382663361&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 26</strong><strong>&nbsp;-- $3.2 Billion, with James Patchett [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/patchett-and-ben.jpg" alt="patchett and ben" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>James Patchett is the President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the city's nonprofit arm dedicated to spurring job and industry growth, managing special projects, and implementing certain infrastructure projects. Patchett joined the podcast to discuss the City's development strategy, tax breaks, NYC Ferry, and the BQX streetcar project, and to respond to a new Citizens Budget Commission report evaluating the City's approach to economic development.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>), and guest James Patchett (<a href="https://twitter.com/jbpatchett" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@jbpatchett</a>) of the Economic Development Corporation (<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCEDC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCEDC</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/382663361&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Contrary to Cuomo Claim, Upstate Economy Faltered This Century, Not Last 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-02T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7397:contrary-to-cuomo-claim-upstate-economy-faltered-this-century-not-last Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/22012934432_00998fd0e6_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo upstate jobs" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo upstate (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo described the Upstate New York economy as suffering from a “bad 50 years “ as he tried to explain why it was hard to stimulate rapid growth in the region’s economy, which has grown far more slowly than the rest of the state and nation (see my prior column: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7334-upstate-new-york-is-home-to-heavy-voter-turnout-major-state-investment-and-minimal-job-growth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Upstate New York is Home to Heavy Voter Turnout, Major State Investment, and Minimal Job Growth</a>).</p> <p>Cuomo also said that his administration had changed the trajectory upward. Residents of the state should be concerned about how successful these efforts are: Upstate York has more than a third of the state’s residents and is nearly 50 percent of the vote in gubernatorial elections; the state has enacted intensive programming to uplift that region’s economy, and the state must make major decisions about the allocations of its resources and assets every year and set policy directions.</p> <p>When I wrote the earlier column, I assumed the governor’s description of Upstate’s economic decline was generally true. But in the course of verifying the accuracy of the 50-year decline claim in order to elaborate on the issue, I learned that it was not true.</p> <p>The Upstate New York economy only slowed to a crawl in the years after 2000, largely due to the two recessions that occurred between 2000 and 2010. This major slowdown did, of course, occur before Andrew Cuomo became governor in January 2011. &nbsp;But a detailed look at the history of the state’s economy and employment growth shows that Upstate New York’s employment growth actually outpaced the rest of the state in the 1980s, and continued a moderate climb forward in the 1990s, although both regions grew more slowly than the rest of the nation. Employment grew 20% in each of the two decades across the United States.</p> <p>New York State Labor Department figures show Upstate employment growing at 17% in the ‘80s, versus 12% Downstate (1). Downstate consists of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties (2). Upstate is the remainder of the state.</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="151" /> <col width="72" /> <col width="72" /> <col width="92" /> <col width="15" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="5"> <p>NYS EMPLOYMENT GROWTH, 1980-90, NY AND REGIONS (000)</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1980</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth %</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>7113</p> </td> <td> <p>8098</p> </td> <td> <p>13.8%</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>4645</p> </td> <td> <p>5206</p> </td> <td> <p>12.1%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>2468</p> </td> <td> <p>2892</p> </td> <td> <p>17.2%</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Governor Cuomo seemingly was expressing a public perception that manufacturing job loss broke the back of the Upstate economy decades ago. Manufacturing job loss has in fact been relentless, in Upstate New York and Downstate New York, and the nation as a whole. In 1979 the United States reached its peak manufacturing employment with 19.5 million jobs. New York’s manufacturing employment history since then, divided between the regions:</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="167" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="6"> <p>NYS MANUFACTURING EMPLOYMENT, 1979-90(1),1990-2010(1)</p> <p>(there are two figures for 1990, see footnote (1) below)</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1979</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>2010</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate(000)</p> </td> <td> <p>707</p> </td> <td> <p>574</p> </td> <td> <p>513</p> </td> <td> <p>421</p> </td> <td> <p>276</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate(000)</p> </td> <td> <p>787</p> </td> <td> <p>557</p> </td> <td> <p>468</p> </td> <td> <p>328</p> </td> <td> <p>181</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>In 1979-80, manufacturing jobs were 29% of Upstate New York employment, and 17% Downstate. Manufacturing job losses were seriously affecting employment in New York, but in the 50-year lookback to the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it was New York City’s economy that was in freefall in the early ‘70s. New York City lost 600,000 jobs, including 300,000 manufacturing jobs, from 1969 to 1976 (according to the Federal Reserve Board of New York, quarterly review, summer 1977). But the city economy recovered in 1977 and beyond.</p> <p>Two recessions, in 1980 and ‘81-’82, hit the steel and auto industries in Western New York hard. The huge Bethlehem Steel plant in Erie County closed in 1982. Erie and Niagara Counties lost 41,000 manufacturing jobs from 1979-85. IBM and Kodak began their manufacturing job declines in the mid-to-late ‘80s and continued through the ‘90s. Despite these cutbacks, the Upstate economy as a whole still continued to expand once the recessions were over and grew by more than 400,000 jobs in the ‘80s.</p> <p>In the 1990s, both regions saw their employment grow at a pace of about 5% for the decade, including the severe recession of the early ‘90s. In 1990, manufacturing was still 18% of Upstate employment but had fallen to 9% Downstate, meaning Downstate’s transformation to a service-based economy had effectively been completed. After the recession was over, the Downstate area did grow more rapidly, but Upstate employment growth still gained over 200,000 jobs and had 7.4% growth over a seven-year period.</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="92" /> <col width="56" /> <col width="69" /> <col width="69" /> <col width="96" /> <col width="99" /> <col width="87" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td colspan="6"> <p>NYS EMPLOYMENT GROWTH, 1990-93-2000, NY AND REGIONS</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>1993</p> </td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>1990-2000</p> </td> <td> <p>1993-2000</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>8203</p> </td> <td> <p>7750</p> </td> <td> <p>8624</p> </td> <td> <p>5.10%</p> </td> <td> <p>11.30%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>5319</p> </td> <td> <p>4941</p> </td> <td> <p>5606</p> </td> <td> <p>5.40%</p> </td> <td> <p>13.50%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>2884</p> </td> <td> <p>2809</p> </td> <td> <p>3018</p> </td> <td> <p>4.60%</p> </td> <td> <p>7.40%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Foreign immigration, especially into New York City, began to make a major difference in population growth in the two regions in the 1990s. According to New York City Planning reports, the city gained 800,000 foreign immigrants in the ‘90s .This gain in the City, where two-thirds of the Downstate population lives, roughly mirrored the 800,000 person growth in population in that decade for the Downstate region. Between 2000 and 2015 the city gained another 340,000 foreign immigrants and Downstate gained another 425,000 persons. Between 1990 and 2016 Downstate gained more than 1.6 million people and more than 14% increase in population. Upstate New York gained only 2% in population. With population growth comes new demand for goods and services and employment gains.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pop-growth.jpg" alt="pop growth" width="600" height="361" style="margin: 0px auto; display: block;" /></p> <p>By 2000 manufacturing employment was 14% of employment in Upstate New York and only 6% Downstate. The United States entered another recession in 2001 and employment actually declined for two years, including a loss of 2 million manufacturing jobs. The terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers and killed thousands also had significant effects on employment in New York beyond the impact of the recession.</p> <p>After the recession ended employment in the Downstate region grew rapidly until 2008. But the growth rates of the two regions differed sharply, with Upstate growing only 1.7% in the five years versus 6.1% in the Downstate region, when the Great Recession hit New York and the nation. New York City’s economy took off after the Recession, but Upstate New York had lost another 145,000 manufacturing jobs in the decade, more than a third of its remaining factory jobs from 2000. By 2010, Upstate New York had fewer jobs than it did in 2000.</p> <p>The Upstate economy had a very bad ten years, from 2000 to 2010, and the manufacturing and other job losses during this period truly shook the base of the Upstate economy.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">Employment</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="93" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="89" /> <col width="48" /> <col width="120" /> <col width="15" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>2003</p> </td> <td> <p>2008</p> </td> <td> <p>2010</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth 2003-2008</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth 2000-2010</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>8624</p> </td> <td> <p>8395</p> </td> <td> <p>8777</p> </td> <td> <p>8544</p> </td> <td> <p>4.6%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>-0.9%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>5606</p> </td> <td> <p>5434</p> </td> <td> <p>5765</p> </td> <td> <p>5622</p> </td> <td> <p>6.1%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>0.3%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>3018</p> </td> <td> <p>2961</p> </td> <td> <p>3012</p> </td> <td> <p>2922</p> </td> <td> <p>1.7%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>-3.2%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The past column reported that Upstate private sector economic growth from 2010 to 2016 was 5.8%, with slightly faster growth in the bigger metro areas like Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester, but weak-to-no growth in other areas. How and where the state government is allocating its resources and assets will be the subject of the next column, along with a continued look at its economic development policies and overall strategic efforts to leverage meaningful improvement in the Upstate economy.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7334-upstate-new-york-is-home-to-heavy-voter-turnout-major-state-investment-and-minimal-job-growth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Upstate is Home to Heavy Voter Turnout, Major State Investment and Minimal Job Growth</a>]</p> <p>(1) Older historical employment data contained different employment classification systems, that mixed proprietors and payroll together, among other differences, so the series used for 1980-1990, and for manufacturing from 1979 to 1990, is not comparable to a later 1990 base that uses only payroll employment coming forward from that time.<br /><br />(2) The New York State Labor Department metro area employment data places Orange County in a Westchester-Rockland-Orange region, so Orange County is counted in Downstate employment.</p> <p>***<br /> Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/22012934432_00998fd0e6_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo upstate jobs" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo upstate (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo described the Upstate New York economy as suffering from a “bad 50 years “ as he tried to explain why it was hard to stimulate rapid growth in the region’s economy, which has grown far more slowly than the rest of the state and nation (see my prior column: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7334-upstate-new-york-is-home-to-heavy-voter-turnout-major-state-investment-and-minimal-job-growth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Upstate New York is Home to Heavy Voter Turnout, Major State Investment, and Minimal Job Growth</a>).</p> <p>Cuomo also said that his administration had changed the trajectory upward. Residents of the state should be concerned about how successful these efforts are: Upstate York has more than a third of the state’s residents and is nearly 50 percent of the vote in gubernatorial elections; the state has enacted intensive programming to uplift that region’s economy, and the state must make major decisions about the allocations of its resources and assets every year and set policy directions.</p> <p>When I wrote the earlier column, I assumed the governor’s description of Upstate’s economic decline was generally true. But in the course of verifying the accuracy of the 50-year decline claim in order to elaborate on the issue, I learned that it was not true.</p> <p>The Upstate New York economy only slowed to a crawl in the years after 2000, largely due to the two recessions that occurred between 2000 and 2010. This major slowdown did, of course, occur before Andrew Cuomo became governor in January 2011. &nbsp;But a detailed look at the history of the state’s economy and employment growth shows that Upstate New York’s employment growth actually outpaced the rest of the state in the 1980s, and continued a moderate climb forward in the 1990s, although both regions grew more slowly than the rest of the nation. Employment grew 20% in each of the two decades across the United States.</p> <p>New York State Labor Department figures show Upstate employment growing at 17% in the ‘80s, versus 12% Downstate (1). Downstate consists of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties (2). Upstate is the remainder of the state.</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="151" /> <col width="72" /> <col width="72" /> <col width="92" /> <col width="15" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="5"> <p>NYS EMPLOYMENT GROWTH, 1980-90, NY AND REGIONS (000)</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1980</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth %</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>7113</p> </td> <td> <p>8098</p> </td> <td> <p>13.8%</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>4645</p> </td> <td> <p>5206</p> </td> <td> <p>12.1%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>2468</p> </td> <td> <p>2892</p> </td> <td> <p>17.2%</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Governor Cuomo seemingly was expressing a public perception that manufacturing job loss broke the back of the Upstate economy decades ago. Manufacturing job loss has in fact been relentless, in Upstate New York and Downstate New York, and the nation as a whole. In 1979 the United States reached its peak manufacturing employment with 19.5 million jobs. New York’s manufacturing employment history since then, divided between the regions:</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="167" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> <col width="54" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="6"> <p>NYS MANUFACTURING EMPLOYMENT, 1979-90(1),1990-2010(1)</p> <p>(there are two figures for 1990, see footnote (1) below)</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1979</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>2010</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate(000)</p> </td> <td> <p>707</p> </td> <td> <p>574</p> </td> <td> <p>513</p> </td> <td> <p>421</p> </td> <td> <p>276</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate(000)</p> </td> <td> <p>787</p> </td> <td> <p>557</p> </td> <td> <p>468</p> </td> <td> <p>328</p> </td> <td> <p>181</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>In 1979-80, manufacturing jobs were 29% of Upstate New York employment, and 17% Downstate. Manufacturing job losses were seriously affecting employment in New York, but in the 50-year lookback to the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it was New York City’s economy that was in freefall in the early ‘70s. New York City lost 600,000 jobs, including 300,000 manufacturing jobs, from 1969 to 1976 (according to the Federal Reserve Board of New York, quarterly review, summer 1977). But the city economy recovered in 1977 and beyond.</p> <p>Two recessions, in 1980 and ‘81-’82, hit the steel and auto industries in Western New York hard. The huge Bethlehem Steel plant in Erie County closed in 1982. Erie and Niagara Counties lost 41,000 manufacturing jobs from 1979-85. IBM and Kodak began their manufacturing job declines in the mid-to-late ‘80s and continued through the ‘90s. Despite these cutbacks, the Upstate economy as a whole still continued to expand once the recessions were over and grew by more than 400,000 jobs in the ‘80s.</p> <p>In the 1990s, both regions saw their employment grow at a pace of about 5% for the decade, including the severe recession of the early ‘90s. In 1990, manufacturing was still 18% of Upstate employment but had fallen to 9% Downstate, meaning Downstate’s transformation to a service-based economy had effectively been completed. After the recession was over, the Downstate area did grow more rapidly, but Upstate employment growth still gained over 200,000 jobs and had 7.4% growth over a seven-year period.</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="92" /> <col width="56" /> <col width="69" /> <col width="69" /> <col width="96" /> <col width="99" /> <col width="87" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td colspan="6"> <p>NYS EMPLOYMENT GROWTH, 1990-93-2000, NY AND REGIONS</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>1990</p> </td> <td> <p>1993</p> </td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>1990-2000</p> </td> <td> <p>1993-2000</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>8203</p> </td> <td> <p>7750</p> </td> <td> <p>8624</p> </td> <td> <p>5.10%</p> </td> <td> <p>11.30%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>5319</p> </td> <td> <p>4941</p> </td> <td> <p>5606</p> </td> <td> <p>5.40%</p> </td> <td> <p>13.50%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>2884</p> </td> <td> <p>2809</p> </td> <td> <p>3018</p> </td> <td> <p>4.60%</p> </td> <td> <p>7.40%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Foreign immigration, especially into New York City, began to make a major difference in population growth in the two regions in the 1990s. According to New York City Planning reports, the city gained 800,000 foreign immigrants in the ‘90s .This gain in the City, where two-thirds of the Downstate population lives, roughly mirrored the 800,000 person growth in population in that decade for the Downstate region. Between 2000 and 2015 the city gained another 340,000 foreign immigrants and Downstate gained another 425,000 persons. Between 1990 and 2016 Downstate gained more than 1.6 million people and more than 14% increase in population. Upstate New York gained only 2% in population. With population growth comes new demand for goods and services and employment gains.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pop-growth.jpg" alt="pop growth" width="600" height="361" style="margin: 0px auto; display: block;" /></p> <p>By 2000 manufacturing employment was 14% of employment in Upstate New York and only 6% Downstate. The United States entered another recession in 2001 and employment actually declined for two years, including a loss of 2 million manufacturing jobs. The terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers and killed thousands also had significant effects on employment in New York beyond the impact of the recession.</p> <p>After the recession ended employment in the Downstate region grew rapidly until 2008. But the growth rates of the two regions differed sharply, with Upstate growing only 1.7% in the five years versus 6.1% in the Downstate region, when the Great Recession hit New York and the nation. New York City’s economy took off after the Recession, but Upstate New York had lost another 145,000 manufacturing jobs in the decade, more than a third of its remaining factory jobs from 2000. By 2010, Upstate New York had fewer jobs than it did in 2000.</p> <p>The Upstate economy had a very bad ten years, from 2000 to 2010, and the manufacturing and other job losses during this period truly shook the base of the Upstate economy.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">Employment</p> <table style="margin: 0 auto;"><colgroup> <col width="93" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="64" /> <col width="89" /> <col width="48" /> <col width="120" /> <col width="15" /> </colgroup> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>2000</p> </td> <td> <p>2003</p> </td> <td> <p>2008</p> </td> <td> <p>2010</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth 2003-2008</p> </td> <td colspan="2"> <p>Growth 2000-2010</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>NYS</p> </td> <td> <p>8624</p> </td> <td> <p>8395</p> </td> <td> <p>8777</p> </td> <td> <p>8544</p> </td> <td> <p>4.6%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>-0.9%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Downstate</p> </td> <td> <p>5606</p> </td> <td> <p>5434</p> </td> <td> <p>5765</p> </td> <td> <p>5622</p> </td> <td> <p>6.1%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>0.3%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p>Upstate</p> </td> <td> <p>3018</p> </td> <td> <p>2961</p> </td> <td> <p>3012</p> </td> <td> <p>2922</p> </td> <td> <p>1.7%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td> <p>-3.2%</p> </td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The past column reported that Upstate private sector economic growth from 2010 to 2016 was 5.8%, with slightly faster growth in the bigger metro areas like Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester, but weak-to-no growth in other areas. How and where the state government is allocating its resources and assets will be the subject of the next column, along with a continued look at its economic development policies and overall strategic efforts to leverage meaningful improvement in the Upstate economy.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7334-upstate-new-york-is-home-to-heavy-voter-turnout-major-state-investment-and-minimal-job-growth" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Upstate is Home to Heavy Voter Turnout, Major State Investment and Minimal Job Growth</a>]</p> <p>(1) Older historical employment data contained different employment classification systems, that mixed proprietors and payroll together, among other differences, so the series used for 1980-1990, and for manufacturing from 1979 to 1990, is not comparable to a later 1990 base that uses only payroll employment coming forward from that time.<br /><br />(2) The New York State Labor Department metro area employment data places Orange County in a Westchester-Rockland-Orange region, so Orange County is counted in Downstate employment.</p> <p>***<br /> Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Brooklyn Armory Deal, and Larger De Blasio Development Debate, Move Toward Term Two 2017-12-10T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7360:brooklyn-armory-deal-and-larger-de-blasio-development-debate-move-toward-term-two Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bedford-union-armory-rendering-via-bfc.jpg" alt="bedford union armory rendering via bfc" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>(Armory rendering via BFC) (photos within piece by Rachel Holliday Smith)</p> <hr /> <p>Following years of ferocious debate, negotiation, protests and anguish, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo was finally ready to vote “yes” on the redevelopment of the publicly-owned, vacant Bedford-Union Armory.</p> <p>At very nearly the last minute, she and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio worked out a deal for the Crown Heights building with the city’s chosen developer, BFC Partners, the night before a crucial City Council land use committee vote on the controversial redevelopment. A week later, Cumbo stood amid the full Council, ready to approve the project.</p> <p>But before that could happen, chanting interrupted the meeting.</p> <p>“The city is not for sale! Kill the deal!”</p> <p>In the balcony of the Council chambers, a small crowd of activists, housing advocates, and Crown Heights residents shouted as security escorted them out.</p> <p>“Laurie lies!”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img0126.jpg" alt="City Council Bedford Armory protest vote" width="400" height="263" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />Among the protesters were the fiercest and most frequent critics of the armory project: members of New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the Crown Heights Tenant Union and their allies, who have pushed the city to scrap the plan for nearly two years, leading dozens of protests and supporting anti-armory plan challengers to Cumbo during her successful yet contentious reelection campaign this summer and fall.</p> <p>From the beginning, the coalition of activists saw the vacant armory and the publicly-owned land beneath it as an incredibly valuable resource that should be used to improve a rapidly gentrifying community, with deeply affordable housing to help stem the tide of displacement.</p> <p>By all accounts, the pressure moved the needle significantly. When it was announced in late 2015, the redevelopment included plans for 330 market-rate and affordable rentals, two dozen luxury condominiums, and a 45,000-square-foot recreation center. Following months of protests by NYCC, CHTU and others against any and all market-rate housing on the site, with particular ire directed at the condominiums, a new deal took shape.</p> <p>In the last-minute agreement, BFC cut out the condos as the city promised $50 million to subsidize more affordable — and more deeply affordable — rental housing on the site. In addition, the planned state-of-the-art recreation center would remain, with its own affordability requirements, supported financially by 150 market-rate apartments, officials said.</p> <p>To the casual observer, the armory agreement may appear to be a major feat for all sides. But as the project cleared the last hurdle in its public approval process, its detractors see it as a failure, emblematic of problems with the de Blasio administration’s approach to affordable housing citywide: doing too little for those who need it most, failing to slow gentrification, and relying too heavily on for-profit development. In particular, critics found fault with income restrictions at the project, which originally set aside a majority of affordable apartments at the site for households making above the area median income.</p> <p>To the mayor and his team, the armory is a solid compromise and exactly what the administration is aiming for with much of its ambitious housing plan — leveraging public resources to spur the construction of mixed-income housing by private developers.</p> <p>As Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer put it to Gotham Gazette, the city worked hard to meet the needs of the community while “ensuring we have a financially feasible project.”</p> <p>“That’s always a complicated balancing act,” she said.</p> <p>The project passed the Council on November 30 with 43 in favor, two against, and one abstention. As she cast her vote, Cumbo said the concerns of the project’s critics “have been taken into account” while underscoring all the good the project will bring: affordable housing, recreation space, jobs.</p> <p>“This is progress. This is an opportunity. This is getting something done in our term,” she said.</p> <p>The mayor echoed that sentiment when speaking about the project this summer, saying that “ultimately, it’s something that could do a lot of good for the community.”</p> <p>“Right now that armory is doing no good for the community,” he said at an unrelated press conference.</p> <p>But “getting something done” isn’t good enough for some in the neighborhood, including Crown Heights resident Esteban Giron, a local tenant organizer and member of the neighborhood community board’s land use committee, who was one of those escorted out of City Hall when the Council approved the deal.</p> <p>A day after the vote, Giron said he’d rather see the armory remain vacant than be rebuilt under the new terms.</p> <p>“What did we do, from the very beginning, except say we want 100 percent affordable housing?” he asked.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>For critics of the project, the sticking point on the redevelopment has always been this: the sprawling former military complex on Bedford Avenue sits on an extremely precious commodity — public land — and that limited resource, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods like Crown Heights, must be used to most effectively combat the city’s housing affordability crisis.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img207.jpg" alt="Bedford Union Armory December 2017" width="400" height="266" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />&nbsp;The 1904 building was used by the state as a training facility (complete with horse stables, a drill hall and rifle range) until its decommissioning in 2011, when then-Borough President Marty Markowitz, upon the urging of Crown Heights locals, began an effort to study what could be done with the hulking, 122,000-square-foot structure and its large lot.</p> <p>Markowitz’s chief of staff at the time, Carlo Scissura, now the president of the New York Building Congress, said the idea “was going to be similar to the Park Slope Armory,” the large YMCA-run recreational facility on 15th Street.</p> <p>“The plan here was recreation space, community space, maybe education, maybe seniors,” he said of the Bedford-Union Armory. “But housing was never part of it.”</p> <p>In 2013, at the end of the Bloomberg administration, the city’s Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the site. Housing officially became part of the armory plan when, in late 2015, the EDC under de Blasio chose BFC and Slate Properties to redevelop the vacant building.</p> <p>When the city announced the chosen plan for the site, officials from EDC and HPD as well as the developer stressed the proposal was a jumping-off point, subject to negotiation and local input. <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151217/crown-heights/city-unveils-design-for-bedford-union-armory-redevelopment-crown-heights" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At the announcement</a>, BFC Partners principal Don Capoccia promised to “continue to engage the community” to ensure that “at the end of the day, this project is responsive to the needs of this community.”</p> <p>Within months, protests began, led by nearby tenants and residents with a big assist by NYCC, a group with a long history of activism — and ties to de Blasio. Formerly, NYCC was known as Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, before a national controversy surrounding the group in 2009 prompted a rebranding. The group has backed progressive causes for decades and, in 2013, put their weight <a href="http://observer.com/2014/03/reincarnated-acorn-calling-the-shots-in-bill-de-blasios-new-york/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">behind a longshot progressive candidate for mayor</a>: Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>But that close relationship with the then-candidate has cooled through his years at City Hall, largely based on de Blasio’s approach to development and housing, and NYCC pulled no punches as it revved up to fight the armory plan.</p> <p>The group went after Slate Property for their dealings<a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160714/lower-east-side/city-agency-knew-of-possible-condo-conversion-before-rivington-sale-report" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> in the controversial 2015 sale </a>of a Lower East Side home for seniors. They <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/activists-call-foul-carmelo-backed-brooklyn-development-article-1.2744655" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called out then-Knicks player Carmelo Anthony</a> — whose foundation had signed on to help with the recreation center — for getting involved with a project that would “further exacerbate the gentrification of Crown Heights,” according to a published letter written to the basketball star by activist Bertha Lewis, former leader of NYCC when it was known as ACORN.</p> <p>Soon afterward, both Slate and Anthony dropped out of the project.</p> <p>In rallies, open letters and editorials, the groups fought against the armory plan with a consistent message: Scrap the deal completely, start from scratch, and build only affordable housing on the site, with no market-rate units. They called for the property to be moved to a community land trust.</p> <p>As the months dragged on, the project became a central issue in Cumbo’s re-election campaign, with two challengers — Democrat Ede Fox and Green Party candidate Jabari Brisport — promising to start from square one on the armory if elected. In May, facing Fox’s primary challenge, Cumbo <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/05/19/crown_heights_armory_cumbo.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">backed away from the armory plan</a>, announcing she would not support it if it included luxury condominiums.</p> <p>As Fox, Brisport, and other critics of the project continued to hammer her, Cumbo’s campaign touted her opposition to the plan, at times using misleading language. An independent expenditure by the hotel workers’ union paid for pro-Cumbo flyers and robo-calls indicating she would support the armory plan only if it included 100 percent affordable housing, a claim Cumbo said she never made, was aware of, or approved.</p> <p>“It wouldn’t even make logical sense for me to do that because I know going into [negotiations] that you’re not going to get 100 percent,” she told Gotham Gazette. “So it wouldn’t be beneficial for me to promise something that I can’t deliver.” Cumbo did not, however, disavow the independent expenditure or ask the hotel workers’ union to stop its mailers.</p> <p>Cumbo beat Fox by more than 16 percentage points in the September primary and won reelection with 67 percent of the vote in the general election (Brisport did exceptionally well for a Green Party candidate, seemingly buouyed by armory resentment). In an interview, Cumbo said after the election she stuck to her line in the sand about the condominiums until the end, even when “the administration continued to negotiate other aspects of the project without dealing with the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”</p> <p>“I, the community, the local stakeholders, the elected officials, said that they did not want any sale of the armory to happen,” Cumbo said. “I knew I wasn’t going to support a project that had luxury condominiums.”</p> <p>Even with a win on that aspect, the Council member acknowledges that, as with any great compromise, no party leaves the table with everything they want, herself included.</p> <p>“I’m not walking away completely happy, but I am walking away satisfied,” she said. “I’m walking away with a project that I know is going to benefit this community for generations to come.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>To the de Blasio administration, the plan is a “win, win, win,” according to housing Commissioner Torres-Springer, who formerly led EDC.</p> <p>“We’re generating the types of opportunities that really address many sides of the complex affordability question in this city — certainly affordable housing, but also access to services, recreation, community, and jobs,” she said.</p> <p>The city is making that happen in partnership with BFC, a for-profit developer, which will pay $2 million per year in ground rent for the armory site, both in cash and in at least $1.25 million in “community benefits,” calculated as discounts on classes, memberships, space for nonprofits, and rentals to community groups within the newly built armory.</p> <p>For the city’s part, the $50 million in public funds will pay for 250 units of subsidized housing, set aside for households making between about $25,000 and $51,000 per year for a family of three, HPD said. In the deal, BFC will use income from the 150 market-rate rentals on the site to operate and maintain the recreation center. The company is projected to make an annual profit. A spokesperson did not return multiple requests for that projected amount.</p> <p>To Torres-Springer, the city’s job in a deal such as the armory is “making sure that we are stretching every public dollar as much as we can.”</p> <p>The philosophy — of partnering with and relying on private, for-profit developers to build affordable housing — is foundational to the de Blasio administration’s overall housing goal of building and preserving 300,000 affordable units by 2026.</p> <p>In an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/nyregion/de-blasio-affordable-housing-new-york-city.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with The New York Times</a> in October, Alicia Glen, de Blasio’s powerful deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said “there’s no such thing” as housing built by the city alone.</p> <p>“It’s all about, to what extent can you use the resources of the private sector, and the resources the public sector has, to put together the best deals you can possibly do,” she said.</p> <p>To advocates who fought the armory plan, some of whom fight de Blasio administration plans around the city, that idea is anathema to the goal of solving the housing crisis, particularly for low-income and homeless New Yorkers. To NYCC Executive Director Jonathan Westin, it’s a “failure of imagination” by the administration.</p> <p>“They’ve shown that they very clearly do not prioritize public housing,” or housing built and operated by the city, he said. “They do not actually believe in it. And it’s hugely problematic.”</p> <p>Particularly at the armory site, where 150 market-rate apartments will be built on the publicly-held property, the administration’s plan is “completely egregious,” according to Katie Goldstein, executive director of the statewide housing group Tenants and Neighbors, which has played an active role with NYCC to fight the armory plan.</p> <p>“When the city owns the land, to give that away to a for-profit developer? It’s such punch in the face to the community who was organizing around this,” she said.</p> <p>Lewis of the Black Institute said “not one iota” of the deal is satisfactory, and trying to deal with the de Blasio administration was worse than “all of the other fights that we’ve had,” including in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations.</p> <p>“You meet the new mayor, he’s the same as the other old mayors,” she said. “It’s really disgraceful that they should even utter the word ‘progressive.’”</p> <p>“To privatize something means that it has to make a profit,” said Giron, the Crown Heights resident and tenant advocate. “To me, that’s never going to be an appropriate approach for people of color, for low-income people, for New York, period.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">***********</p> <p>The mayor and his team don’t necessarily disagree much with their critics, at least in terms of describing the city’s approach to housing and development. To de Blasio, Glen, Torres-Springer, and others, the number one thing the city needs is more housing, at various levels of affordability. The mayor stressed that goal when speaking about the armory project in July.</p> <p>“We need both – we need market and we need affordable housing. That’s our mission. Every time we do it, we’re looking to maximize the amount of affordability and to make the affordable housing as consistent with the community as possible,” he said, speaking to a caller on WNYC radio's The Brian Lehrer Show.</p> <p>And de Blasio regularly argues that it is essential to create more affordable housing for middle-income families, while, after pushback, he has also repeatedly adjusted his larger housing plan and more localized projects, like the armory redevelopment, to create deeper affordability.</p> <p>Pending a final approval from Brooklyn’s Borough Board — a last step in rezoning that will almost certainly pass, given the City Council’s overwhelming support — the armory deal is headed for a closing, a spokesperson for HPD said, and the city expects construction to begin in 2018.</p> <p>At the same time, housing advocates are still planning to fight the project any way they can.</p> <p>The day before the full City Council vote on the redevelopment, the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s measurement of the project’s potential effect on displacement of rent-stabilized tenants. In arguing that the city is not taking into account displacement outside a 400-foot area surrounding the site, the plaintiffs hope to convince a judge to compel the city to adjust the project or, if nothing else, set a new standard for similar projects in the future.</p> <p>Last week, a judge denied the group’s request for a temporary restraining order on the armory project. The next hearing date in the suit is set for February 8, according to an EDC representative.</p> <p>For Giron, who lives two blocks from the armory, finding any way to stop the project — even “the hard way,” with a lawsuit, he said — is the only option. In the space of three or four years, he estimates about “half the people have been emptied out” of rent-regulated buildings between his home on Franklin Avenue and the armory on Bedford Avenue, he said, victims of an already super-heated housing market in Crown Heights.</p> <p>“I walk over there and I feel that void,” he said.</p> <p>For him, the armory was an opportunity to reverse, or at least slow, the displacement brought by gentrification, not accelerate it; the fact that any market-rate apartments will be built there, and without union labor, are unacceptable to him. So, he and the rest of the coalition will continue to fight, into the next four years&nbsp;— or longer, if necessary.</p> <p>“I can see a path…where there’s not even a shovel put in the ground before Laurie’s out of office,” he said, referring to Council Member Cumbo, whose second and last term ends in 2021.</p> <p>“We’re going to fight until we can’t anymore, until we’re gone or they’re gone,” he promised. “But we’re not going to stop.”</p> <p>***<br />by Rachel Holliday Smith for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/rachelholliday" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@rachelholliday<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bedford-union-armory-rendering-via-bfc.jpg" alt="bedford union armory rendering via bfc" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>(Armory rendering via BFC) (photos within piece by Rachel Holliday Smith)</p> <hr /> <p>Following years of ferocious debate, negotiation, protests and anguish, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo was finally ready to vote “yes” on the redevelopment of the publicly-owned, vacant Bedford-Union Armory.</p> <p>At very nearly the last minute, she and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio worked out a deal for the Crown Heights building with the city’s chosen developer, BFC Partners, the night before a crucial City Council land use committee vote on the controversial redevelopment. A week later, Cumbo stood amid the full Council, ready to approve the project.</p> <p>But before that could happen, chanting interrupted the meeting.</p> <p>“The city is not for sale! Kill the deal!”</p> <p>In the balcony of the Council chambers, a small crowd of activists, housing advocates, and Crown Heights residents shouted as security escorted them out.</p> <p>“Laurie lies!”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img0126.jpg" alt="City Council Bedford Armory protest vote" width="400" height="263" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />Among the protesters were the fiercest and most frequent critics of the armory project: members of New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the Crown Heights Tenant Union and their allies, who have pushed the city to scrap the plan for nearly two years, leading dozens of protests and supporting anti-armory plan challengers to Cumbo during her successful yet contentious reelection campaign this summer and fall.</p> <p>From the beginning, the coalition of activists saw the vacant armory and the publicly-owned land beneath it as an incredibly valuable resource that should be used to improve a rapidly gentrifying community, with deeply affordable housing to help stem the tide of displacement.</p> <p>By all accounts, the pressure moved the needle significantly. When it was announced in late 2015, the redevelopment included plans for 330 market-rate and affordable rentals, two dozen luxury condominiums, and a 45,000-square-foot recreation center. Following months of protests by NYCC, CHTU and others against any and all market-rate housing on the site, with particular ire directed at the condominiums, a new deal took shape.</p> <p>In the last-minute agreement, BFC cut out the condos as the city promised $50 million to subsidize more affordable — and more deeply affordable — rental housing on the site. In addition, the planned state-of-the-art recreation center would remain, with its own affordability requirements, supported financially by 150 market-rate apartments, officials said.</p> <p>To the casual observer, the armory agreement may appear to be a major feat for all sides. But as the project cleared the last hurdle in its public approval process, its detractors see it as a failure, emblematic of problems with the de Blasio administration’s approach to affordable housing citywide: doing too little for those who need it most, failing to slow gentrification, and relying too heavily on for-profit development. In particular, critics found fault with income restrictions at the project, which originally set aside a majority of affordable apartments at the site for households making above the area median income.</p> <p>To the mayor and his team, the armory is a solid compromise and exactly what the administration is aiming for with much of its ambitious housing plan — leveraging public resources to spur the construction of mixed-income housing by private developers.</p> <p>As Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer put it to Gotham Gazette, the city worked hard to meet the needs of the community while “ensuring we have a financially feasible project.”</p> <p>“That’s always a complicated balancing act,” she said.</p> <p>The project passed the Council on November 30 with 43 in favor, two against, and one abstention. As she cast her vote, Cumbo said the concerns of the project’s critics “have been taken into account” while underscoring all the good the project will bring: affordable housing, recreation space, jobs.</p> <p>“This is progress. This is an opportunity. This is getting something done in our term,” she said.</p> <p>The mayor echoed that sentiment when speaking about the project this summer, saying that “ultimately, it’s something that could do a lot of good for the community.”</p> <p>“Right now that armory is doing no good for the community,” he said at an unrelated press conference.</p> <p>But “getting something done” isn’t good enough for some in the neighborhood, including Crown Heights resident Esteban Giron, a local tenant organizer and member of the neighborhood community board’s land use committee, who was one of those escorted out of City Hall when the Council approved the deal.</p> <p>A day after the vote, Giron said he’d rather see the armory remain vacant than be rebuilt under the new terms.</p> <p>“What did we do, from the very beginning, except say we want 100 percent affordable housing?” he asked.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>For critics of the project, the sticking point on the redevelopment has always been this: the sprawling former military complex on Bedford Avenue sits on an extremely precious commodity — public land — and that limited resource, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods like Crown Heights, must be used to most effectively combat the city’s housing affordability crisis.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img207.jpg" alt="Bedford Union Armory December 2017" width="400" height="266" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />&nbsp;The 1904 building was used by the state as a training facility (complete with horse stables, a drill hall and rifle range) until its decommissioning in 2011, when then-Borough President Marty Markowitz, upon the urging of Crown Heights locals, began an effort to study what could be done with the hulking, 122,000-square-foot structure and its large lot.</p> <p>Markowitz’s chief of staff at the time, Carlo Scissura, now the president of the New York Building Congress, said the idea “was going to be similar to the Park Slope Armory,” the large YMCA-run recreational facility on 15th Street.</p> <p>“The plan here was recreation space, community space, maybe education, maybe seniors,” he said of the Bedford-Union Armory. “But housing was never part of it.”</p> <p>In 2013, at the end of the Bloomberg administration, the city’s Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the site. Housing officially became part of the armory plan when, in late 2015, the EDC under de Blasio chose BFC and Slate Properties to redevelop the vacant building.</p> <p>When the city announced the chosen plan for the site, officials from EDC and HPD as well as the developer stressed the proposal was a jumping-off point, subject to negotiation and local input. <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151217/crown-heights/city-unveils-design-for-bedford-union-armory-redevelopment-crown-heights" target="_blank" rel="noopener">At the announcement</a>, BFC Partners principal Don Capoccia promised to “continue to engage the community” to ensure that “at the end of the day, this project is responsive to the needs of this community.”</p> <p>Within months, protests began, led by nearby tenants and residents with a big assist by NYCC, a group with a long history of activism — and ties to de Blasio. Formerly, NYCC was known as Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, before a national controversy surrounding the group in 2009 prompted a rebranding. The group has backed progressive causes for decades and, in 2013, put their weight <a href="http://observer.com/2014/03/reincarnated-acorn-calling-the-shots-in-bill-de-blasios-new-york/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">behind a longshot progressive candidate for mayor</a>: Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>But that close relationship with the then-candidate has cooled through his years at City Hall, largely based on de Blasio’s approach to development and housing, and NYCC pulled no punches as it revved up to fight the armory plan.</p> <p>The group went after Slate Property for their dealings<a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160714/lower-east-side/city-agency-knew-of-possible-condo-conversion-before-rivington-sale-report" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> in the controversial 2015 sale </a>of a Lower East Side home for seniors. They <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/activists-call-foul-carmelo-backed-brooklyn-development-article-1.2744655" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called out then-Knicks player Carmelo Anthony</a> — whose foundation had signed on to help with the recreation center — for getting involved with a project that would “further exacerbate the gentrification of Crown Heights,” according to a published letter written to the basketball star by activist Bertha Lewis, former leader of NYCC when it was known as ACORN.</p> <p>Soon afterward, both Slate and Anthony dropped out of the project.</p> <p>In rallies, open letters and editorials, the groups fought against the armory plan with a consistent message: Scrap the deal completely, start from scratch, and build only affordable housing on the site, with no market-rate units. They called for the property to be moved to a community land trust.</p> <p>As the months dragged on, the project became a central issue in Cumbo’s re-election campaign, with two challengers — Democrat Ede Fox and Green Party candidate Jabari Brisport — promising to start from square one on the armory if elected. In May, facing Fox’s primary challenge, Cumbo <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/05/19/crown_heights_armory_cumbo.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">backed away from the armory plan</a>, announcing she would not support it if it included luxury condominiums.</p> <p>As Fox, Brisport, and other critics of the project continued to hammer her, Cumbo’s campaign touted her opposition to the plan, at times using misleading language. An independent expenditure by the hotel workers’ union paid for pro-Cumbo flyers and robo-calls indicating she would support the armory plan only if it included 100 percent affordable housing, a claim Cumbo said she never made, was aware of, or approved.</p> <p>“It wouldn’t even make logical sense for me to do that because I know going into [negotiations] that you’re not going to get 100 percent,” she told Gotham Gazette. “So it wouldn’t be beneficial for me to promise something that I can’t deliver.” Cumbo did not, however, disavow the independent expenditure or ask the hotel workers’ union to stop its mailers.</p> <p>Cumbo beat Fox by more than 16 percentage points in the September primary and won reelection with 67 percent of the vote in the general election (Brisport did exceptionally well for a Green Party candidate, seemingly buouyed by armory resentment). In an interview, Cumbo said after the election she stuck to her line in the sand about the condominiums until the end, even when “the administration continued to negotiate other aspects of the project without dealing with the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”</p> <p>“I, the community, the local stakeholders, the elected officials, said that they did not want any sale of the armory to happen,” Cumbo said. “I knew I wasn’t going to support a project that had luxury condominiums.”</p> <p>Even with a win on that aspect, the Council member acknowledges that, as with any great compromise, no party leaves the table with everything they want, herself included.</p> <p>“I’m not walking away completely happy, but I am walking away satisfied,” she said. “I’m walking away with a project that I know is going to benefit this community for generations to come.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>To the de Blasio administration, the plan is a “win, win, win,” according to housing Commissioner Torres-Springer, who formerly led EDC.</p> <p>“We’re generating the types of opportunities that really address many sides of the complex affordability question in this city — certainly affordable housing, but also access to services, recreation, community, and jobs,” she said.</p> <p>The city is making that happen in partnership with BFC, a for-profit developer, which will pay $2 million per year in ground rent for the armory site, both in cash and in at least $1.25 million in “community benefits,” calculated as discounts on classes, memberships, space for nonprofits, and rentals to community groups within the newly built armory.</p> <p>For the city’s part, the $50 million in public funds will pay for 250 units of subsidized housing, set aside for households making between about $25,000 and $51,000 per year for a family of three, HPD said. In the deal, BFC will use income from the 150 market-rate rentals on the site to operate and maintain the recreation center. The company is projected to make an annual profit. A spokesperson did not return multiple requests for that projected amount.</p> <p>To Torres-Springer, the city’s job in a deal such as the armory is “making sure that we are stretching every public dollar as much as we can.”</p> <p>The philosophy — of partnering with and relying on private, for-profit developers to build affordable housing — is foundational to the de Blasio administration’s overall housing goal of building and preserving 300,000 affordable units by 2026.</p> <p>In an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/nyregion/de-blasio-affordable-housing-new-york-city.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with The New York Times</a> in October, Alicia Glen, de Blasio’s powerful deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said “there’s no such thing” as housing built by the city alone.</p> <p>“It’s all about, to what extent can you use the resources of the private sector, and the resources the public sector has, to put together the best deals you can possibly do,” she said.</p> <p>To advocates who fought the armory plan, some of whom fight de Blasio administration plans around the city, that idea is anathema to the goal of solving the housing crisis, particularly for low-income and homeless New Yorkers. To NYCC Executive Director Jonathan Westin, it’s a “failure of imagination” by the administration.</p> <p>“They’ve shown that they very clearly do not prioritize public housing,” or housing built and operated by the city, he said. “They do not actually believe in it. And it’s hugely problematic.”</p> <p>Particularly at the armory site, where 150 market-rate apartments will be built on the publicly-held property, the administration’s plan is “completely egregious,” according to Katie Goldstein, executive director of the statewide housing group Tenants and Neighbors, which has played an active role with NYCC to fight the armory plan.</p> <p>“When the city owns the land, to give that away to a for-profit developer? It’s such punch in the face to the community who was organizing around this,” she said.</p> <p>Lewis of the Black Institute said “not one iota” of the deal is satisfactory, and trying to deal with the de Blasio administration was worse than “all of the other fights that we’ve had,” including in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations.</p> <p>“You meet the new mayor, he’s the same as the other old mayors,” she said. “It’s really disgraceful that they should even utter the word ‘progressive.’”</p> <p>“To privatize something means that it has to make a profit,” said Giron, the Crown Heights resident and tenant advocate. “To me, that’s never going to be an appropriate approach for people of color, for low-income people, for New York, period.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">***********</p> <p>The mayor and his team don’t necessarily disagree much with their critics, at least in terms of describing the city’s approach to housing and development. To de Blasio, Glen, Torres-Springer, and others, the number one thing the city needs is more housing, at various levels of affordability. The mayor stressed that goal when speaking about the armory project in July.</p> <p>“We need both – we need market and we need affordable housing. That’s our mission. Every time we do it, we’re looking to maximize the amount of affordability and to make the affordable housing as consistent with the community as possible,” he said, speaking to a caller on WNYC radio's The Brian Lehrer Show.</p> <p>And de Blasio regularly argues that it is essential to create more affordable housing for middle-income families, while, after pushback, he has also repeatedly adjusted his larger housing plan and more localized projects, like the armory redevelopment, to create deeper affordability.</p> <p>Pending a final approval from Brooklyn’s Borough Board — a last step in rezoning that will almost certainly pass, given the City Council’s overwhelming support — the armory deal is headed for a closing, a spokesperson for HPD said, and the city expects construction to begin in 2018.</p> <p>At the same time, housing advocates are still planning to fight the project any way they can.</p> <p>The day before the full City Council vote on the redevelopment, the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s measurement of the project’s potential effect on displacement of rent-stabilized tenants. In arguing that the city is not taking into account displacement outside a 400-foot area surrounding the site, the plaintiffs hope to convince a judge to compel the city to adjust the project or, if nothing else, set a new standard for similar projects in the future.</p> <p>Last week, a judge denied the group’s request for a temporary restraining order on the armory project. The next hearing date in the suit is set for February 8, according to an EDC representative.</p> <p>For Giron, who lives two blocks from the armory, finding any way to stop the project — even “the hard way,” with a lawsuit, he said — is the only option. In the space of three or four years, he estimates about “half the people have been emptied out” of rent-regulated buildings between his home on Franklin Avenue and the armory on Bedford Avenue, he said, victims of an already super-heated housing market in Crown Heights.</p> <p>“I walk over there and I feel that void,” he said.</p> <p>For him, the armory was an opportunity to reverse, or at least slow, the displacement brought by gentrification, not accelerate it; the fact that any market-rate apartments will be built there, and without union labor, are unacceptable to him. So, he and the rest of the coalition will continue to fight, into the next four years&nbsp;— or longer, if necessary.</p> <p>“I can see a path…where there’s not even a shovel put in the ground before Laurie’s out of office,” he said, referring to Council Member Cumbo, whose second and last term ends in 2021.</p> <p>“We’re going to fight until we can’t anymore, until we’re gone or they’re gone,” he promised. “But we’re not going to stop.”</p> <p>***<br />by Rachel Holliday Smith for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/rachelholliday" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@rachelholliday<br /></a><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a></p> Upstate New York is Home to Heavy Voter Turnout, Major State Investment and Minimal Job Growth 2017-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7334:upstate-new-york-is-home-to-heavy-voter-turnout-major-state-investment-and-minimal-job-growth Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/5979207030_a0dfa2787d_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Buffalo Western New York" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Responding to criticism that his administration’s efforts to help the economy in upstate New York have been ineffective, Governor Cuomo <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/278218/cuomo-defends-upstate-economic-plans/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently stated</a> at a luncheon in Glens Falls, a small upstate city, “It’s been a bad 50 years.” He added, “You’re not going to turn it around in a couple of years. But have we changed the overall trajectory? Yes.”</p> <p>A great deal has been written not just about weak economic growth in upstate New York, but also about the lack of accountability and transparency of the state’s economic development agency, Empire State Development. It is essential to examine these concerns in the larger context of the health of upstate and how the region fits into the larger New York economy, the allocation of state government resources, and state politics.</p> <p>A major political fact about upstate New York stands out in the context of any discussion about its destiny. Upstate New York provides a huge share of the vote in the state’s gubernatorial elections, which occur every four years in the even years not home to presidential elections.</p> <p>Census 2016 estimates of the population of upstate New York, defined as all the counties north of New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland, were that the region was about 36% of the state’s total population. But in 2014 upstate New York was home to almost 49% of the gubernatorial vote, when Cuomo won re-election. New York City was home to only 26.5% of the statewide vote, although its share of the state population is 43%. That was equivalent to 1.01 million of the 3.81 million total gubernatorial votes.</p> <p>These proportions were not just a fluke of one fairly uninteresting election. In 2010, when Andrew Cuomo was first elected governor, the upstate vote was 46.5% of 4.6 million votes on the governor line, while New York City was 29%. In 2006, when Eliot Spitzer easily won the governorship, upstate was 48% of the vote, while New York City was 28% of the 4.4 million votes. The city did do better in last year’s presidential election: in 2016, 2.7 million votes were recorded in New York City of the 7.7 million votes statewide, or 35%.</p> <p>Upstate New York’s share of the vote in gubernatorial elections -- nearly half -- means that the area is politically important to whomever the governor might be and explains the focus on attempts to meet the needs of the people who live there. This, in combination with other factors, can help explain Governor Cuomo’s intense focus on Buffalo and other upstate areas, and the many economic development programs the state has launched to reinvigorate the upstate economy.</p> <p>Downstate residents -- especially people from New York City -- ought to take upstate’s staggering disproportion of the vote as a wake-up call on the issue of how voter turnout may impact the allocation of resources. Not for the purpose of taking resources away from an area with a stagnant economy, but to make sure there are rational, articulated reasons and shared goals as to why state policies put resources in one place or another.</p> <p>Let’s look at job growth over the past six years, measured as annual average employment in 2010 versus the annual average in 2016, and how upstate New York compared to the rest of New York and the nation.</p> <p>Upstate New York gained 132,000 private sector jobs, growth of 5.8%, but lost 37,000 government jobs, making total job growth a meager 95,000 jobs, a gain of 3.3% from 2010 to 2016. Total state employment grew 851,000 jobs, with private sector growth of 916,000 jobs.</p> <p>New York City gained 610,000 jobs overall, with 616,000 private sector jobs. The city gained 72% of the total number of jobs across the state. The city had a gain of 16% of jobs there compared to 2010, and a strong 19% in private sector job growth from 2010 to 2016.</p> <p>Long Island and the northern suburbs (Orange, Rockland, Westchester is the metro area unit) gained over 7% in total jobs compared to 2010, and over 10% growth in the private sector.</p> <p>New York State as a whole grew 10%, with 13% in the private sector, very similar to the national growth rates, which were 10.7% total growth and private sector growth about 13%. The figures, all 2016 compared to 2010, certainly show that upstate New York was growing far more slowly than the rest of New York and the nation as the United States emerged from the Great Recession that hit in 2008-2009.</p> <p>Upstate New York has nearly 7 million people, meaning it has a larger population than at least 33 states, and has 3 million jobs. It is a substantial economic region itself, and, like many parts of the United States, its job base has been battered by recessions and loss of manufacturing jobs.</p> <p>Upstate New York has 12 metropolitan areas, and its three largest fared better than a number of the metro areas with smaller core cities. The Buffalo-Niagara region and the Rochester metro region both gained about 30,000 private sector jobs, almost 7% growth from 2010 to 2016. The Albany area gained 34,000 private sector jobs, about 9%. The Syracuse area, upstate’s fourth largest metro area, grew more slowly, gaining only 3% in private jobs.</p> <p>The Binghamton and Elmira areas, in the Southern Tier, and the Utica-Rome area in central New York, lost 10,000 jobs between 2010 and 2016, although 7,000 of the jobs were in government. Utica-Rome did not lose private sector jobs but had almost no growth in them either. The remaining regions varied in their growth patterns but in general had slow growth. Loss of government jobs in upstate New York stabilized by 2013 after several years of cutbacks as the economy and the state budget improved.</p> <p>Job growth overall in New York has continued in 2017, but a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that growth in the upstate New York economy has slowed in 2016 and 2017.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo said that upstate New York has had a bad 50 years but the state had changed the trajectory. It is important to acknowledge the economic damage that occurred in upstate New York before Cuomo was elected in 2010 as one looks at economic development efforts his administration has undertaken to change the trajectory.</p> <p>New York’s efforts include not just the activities of Empire State Development, but substantial budget allocations and other development tools. Given the range of initiatives, from the Buffalo Billion to Start-Up New York, new casinos, the nano-technology centers, the Regional Economic Development Councils, and other efforts, it would be unfair to say the New York State government is not trying to help upstate New York. It is trying.</p> <p>The next columns in this series on the state’s economy and economic development efforts will look at these concerns together: the severity of upstate New York’s manufacturing and other job losses; the extent of the effort by the state government to put resources into upstate; whether resources are being used effectively or being squandered; and to what extent the outcomes of these initiatives are transparent and being reported in meaningful ways.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Brennan&nbsp;was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/5979207030_a0dfa2787d_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Buffalo Western New York" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Responding to criticism that his administration’s efforts to help the economy in upstate New York have been ineffective, Governor Cuomo <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/278218/cuomo-defends-upstate-economic-plans/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently stated</a> at a luncheon in Glens Falls, a small upstate city, “It’s been a bad 50 years.” He added, “You’re not going to turn it around in a couple of years. But have we changed the overall trajectory? Yes.”</p> <p>A great deal has been written not just about weak economic growth in upstate New York, but also about the lack of accountability and transparency of the state’s economic development agency, Empire State Development. It is essential to examine these concerns in the larger context of the health of upstate and how the region fits into the larger New York economy, the allocation of state government resources, and state politics.</p> <p>A major political fact about upstate New York stands out in the context of any discussion about its destiny. Upstate New York provides a huge share of the vote in the state’s gubernatorial elections, which occur every four years in the even years not home to presidential elections.</p> <p>Census 2016 estimates of the population of upstate New York, defined as all the counties north of New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland, were that the region was about 36% of the state’s total population. But in 2014 upstate New York was home to almost 49% of the gubernatorial vote, when Cuomo won re-election. New York City was home to only 26.5% of the statewide vote, although its share of the state population is 43%. That was equivalent to 1.01 million of the 3.81 million total gubernatorial votes.</p> <p>These proportions were not just a fluke of one fairly uninteresting election. In 2010, when Andrew Cuomo was first elected governor, the upstate vote was 46.5% of 4.6 million votes on the governor line, while New York City was 29%. In 2006, when Eliot Spitzer easily won the governorship, upstate was 48% of the vote, while New York City was 28% of the 4.4 million votes. The city did do better in last year’s presidential election: in 2016, 2.7 million votes were recorded in New York City of the 7.7 million votes statewide, or 35%.</p> <p>Upstate New York’s share of the vote in gubernatorial elections -- nearly half -- means that the area is politically important to whomever the governor might be and explains the focus on attempts to meet the needs of the people who live there. This, in combination with other factors, can help explain Governor Cuomo’s intense focus on Buffalo and other upstate areas, and the many economic development programs the state has launched to reinvigorate the upstate economy.</p> <p>Downstate residents -- especially people from New York City -- ought to take upstate’s staggering disproportion of the vote as a wake-up call on the issue of how voter turnout may impact the allocation of resources. Not for the purpose of taking resources away from an area with a stagnant economy, but to make sure there are rational, articulated reasons and shared goals as to why state policies put resources in one place or another.</p> <p>Let’s look at job growth over the past six years, measured as annual average employment in 2010 versus the annual average in 2016, and how upstate New York compared to the rest of New York and the nation.</p> <p>Upstate New York gained 132,000 private sector jobs, growth of 5.8%, but lost 37,000 government jobs, making total job growth a meager 95,000 jobs, a gain of 3.3% from 2010 to 2016. Total state employment grew 851,000 jobs, with private sector growth of 916,000 jobs.</p> <p>New York City gained 610,000 jobs overall, with 616,000 private sector jobs. The city gained 72% of the total number of jobs across the state. The city had a gain of 16% of jobs there compared to 2010, and a strong 19% in private sector job growth from 2010 to 2016.</p> <p>Long Island and the northern suburbs (Orange, Rockland, Westchester is the metro area unit) gained over 7% in total jobs compared to 2010, and over 10% growth in the private sector.</p> <p>New York State as a whole grew 10%, with 13% in the private sector, very similar to the national growth rates, which were 10.7% total growth and private sector growth about 13%. The figures, all 2016 compared to 2010, certainly show that upstate New York was growing far more slowly than the rest of New York and the nation as the United States emerged from the Great Recession that hit in 2008-2009.</p> <p>Upstate New York has nearly 7 million people, meaning it has a larger population than at least 33 states, and has 3 million jobs. It is a substantial economic region itself, and, like many parts of the United States, its job base has been battered by recessions and loss of manufacturing jobs.</p> <p>Upstate New York has 12 metropolitan areas, and its three largest fared better than a number of the metro areas with smaller core cities. The Buffalo-Niagara region and the Rochester metro region both gained about 30,000 private sector jobs, almost 7% growth from 2010 to 2016. The Albany area gained 34,000 private sector jobs, about 9%. The Syracuse area, upstate’s fourth largest metro area, grew more slowly, gaining only 3% in private jobs.</p> <p>The Binghamton and Elmira areas, in the Southern Tier, and the Utica-Rome area in central New York, lost 10,000 jobs between 2010 and 2016, although 7,000 of the jobs were in government. Utica-Rome did not lose private sector jobs but had almost no growth in them either. The remaining regions varied in their growth patterns but in general had slow growth. Loss of government jobs in upstate New York stabilized by 2013 after several years of cutbacks as the economy and the state budget improved.</p> <p>Job growth overall in New York has continued in 2017, but a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that growth in the upstate New York economy has slowed in 2016 and 2017.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo said that upstate New York has had a bad 50 years but the state had changed the trajectory. It is important to acknowledge the economic damage that occurred in upstate New York before Cuomo was elected in 2010 as one looks at economic development efforts his administration has undertaken to change the trajectory.</p> <p>New York’s efforts include not just the activities of Empire State Development, but substantial budget allocations and other development tools. Given the range of initiatives, from the Buffalo Billion to Start-Up New York, new casinos, the nano-technology centers, the Regional Economic Development Councils, and other efforts, it would be unfair to say the New York State government is not trying to help upstate New York. It is trying.</p> <p>The next columns in this series on the state’s economy and economic development efforts will look at these concerns together: the severity of upstate New York’s manufacturing and other job losses; the extent of the effort by the state government to put resources into upstate; whether resources are being used effectively or being squandered; and to what extent the outcomes of these initiatives are transparent and being reported in meaningful ways.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Brennan&nbsp;was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
Assembly Takes Stock of State Economic Development Programs Ahead of Next Negotiations 2017-11-14T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7321:assembly-takes-stock-of-state-economic-development-programs-ahead-of-next-negotiations Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/34868772685_4a41dee04d_z.jpg" alt="34868772685 4a41dee04d z" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky in Buffalo (via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Ahead of the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly’s Economic Development Committee held a hearing Monday in Albany to evaluate the progress of the state’s multitude of economic development programs and hear testimony from companies and organizations that have benefited from state grants.</p> <p>Taking center stage was Howard Zemsky, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development czar as president and CEO of Empire State Development, who defended the state’s jobs programs and was grilled for nearly an hour by members of the committee. Committee members, led by chair Robin Schimminger, a Democrat from Erie County, raised concerns about the effectiveness of Buffalo’s annual 43North competition and Regional Economic Development Council grants; lower-than-expected job production; and increased regulatory burdens on small businesses.</p> <p>Cuomo has staked much of his legacy and devoted billions of state dollars to revitalizing the upstate economy. The state has infused $8 billion a year into economic projects since he took office in 2011, according to <a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/06/07/new-york-job-programs-investigation/102323140/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a Gannett Albany review</a>. But as Cuomo’s economic development programs have multiplied each year, the Legislature has failed to pass any meaningful oversight measures to ensure transparency, that beneficiaries are meeting job creation goals, or that grants and incentives are going to well-vetted recipients. While some efforts, such as those aimed at farms and breweries, have been successful, others, like Cuomo’s Start-Up New York program, have fallen short of job creation goals.</p> <p>At Monday’s hearing, Zemsky noted that upstate cities have seen a boom in tech sector jobs, which on average pay more than non-tech sector jobs, and touted a dramatic increase in venture capital investment throughout the state. The Empire State Development head said that ESD takes a “holistic” approach, pointing to the success of its downtown and waterfront revitalization efforts, which aim to attract a younger, more vibrant talent base, and investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.</p> <p>He briefly defended the Regional Economic Development Councils, which have been accused of favoritism and conflicts of interests, and touted Buffalo as a success story -- a city that has been a major focus for Gov. Cuomo and transformed from a financially depressed post-industrial town to a vibrant hub of entrepreneurship.</p> <p>“A lot of what we have done in Buffalo we have used as a template in many other parts of the state and I’m proud that we took some risks and took some chance,” said Zemsky. “Every year we improve and make adjustments.”</p> <p>Schimminger cited an article noting that three-quarters of companies that are attracted to Buffalo by the 43North program have since left the city and inquired about whether the residency requirements, currently a year, could be extended.</p> <p>“We’re only a few years into the program, but after every year the 43North board reassesses and reevaluates what went right, what didn’t go right, just like we do in government. Is it possible that we might change the regulations, that we might change the time frame? That’s under active discussion,” said Zemsky, noting that many companies retain active connections to Buffalo even after they leave.</p> <p>Zemsky’s presentation rang hollow for at least one committee member, Assemblymember Raymond Walter, a Republican from Amherst, who told Zemsky to provide hard data about the returns delivered by the state’s Buffalo investments rather than “offering platitudes.”</p> <p>“Our job here is to draw a direct connection between what we are doing with taxpayer dollars to that renaissance and I’m not convinced you can do that,” said Walter. “If we could focus on that, rather than the platitudes, that would be great.”</p> <p>Zemsky pointed Walter to ESD’s progress report, insisting the number of new firms has grown and jobs have dramatically accelerated in Buffalo, by “almost any metric,” particularly when compared to other struggling cities.</p> <p>The conversation quickly turned personal, with Zemsky, who is a Buffalo businessman, accusing the Assembly member of opposing the state’s efforts to spur Buffalo’s economy, and demanding, “Do you go to any of the REDC meetings, do you know anything that is actually going on?”</p> <p>At one point during the heated exchange about interpreting Buffalo’s jobs data, which Walter said mostly highlights low-skill jobs growth, Zemsky snapped, “You don’t know anything about the innovation economy.”</p> <p>The biggest indicator of Buffalo’s growth, Zemsky pointed to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/upshot/where-young-college-graduates-are-choosing-to-live.html?mtrref=gothamist.com&amp;gwh=8F08A0901526DF9D7B923B841CCE335E&amp;gwt=pay" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rise</a> of the area’s millennial population over the last decade. “Turning the corner on that is the most important thing we can do,” he said.</p> <p>After Zemsky, the Assembly panel was addressed by various industry leaders and experts, who described how programs like the Start-Up New York jobs program and the Southern Tier Startup Alliance (NYSTAR) have created or retained thousands of jobs and spurred both investment and innovation.</p> <p>A representative of watchdog group ReInvent Albany then presented the positions of good government organizations, calling for the passage of a number of bills introduced in the Legislature last year, which would increase oversight of and transparency in the state’s economic development programs.</p> <p>Among the legislative fixes proposed by Reinvent Albany and others is the creation of a “database of deals,” which would digitally list every entity receiving funds from the state along with where each dollar is going; a bill to restore the powers of the state Comptroller to review procurement contracts for SUNY, CUNY, and Office of General Services; and campaign finance restrictions to curb the appearance or reality of pay-to-play politics.</p> <p>At least two bills, including the database of deals and one requiring nonprofit organizations affiliated with government entities to be subject to the freedom of information law and the open meetings law, are sponsored by Schimminger, but did not make it to the Assembly floor. Legislation related to procurement reform appeared to gain steam early this year in light of a major bid-rigging scandal that will see close associates of and donors to Cuomo on trial for corruption in 2018, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6875-ramped-up-economic-development-funding-less-transparency-in-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nothing was passed</a> as the Legislature acquiesced to the governor’s objections.</p> <p>“The only thing the Legislature did do is write a check for $1.8 billion in the extender budget passed in April, a blank check granted by the Legislature to Governor Cuomo for economic development projects with no additional oversight,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany.</p> <p>Schimminger welcomed Camarda’s comments, saying that &nbsp;good government groups are “preaching to the choir” when they call for increased accountability and oversight.</p> <p>“Not a single one of those bills that you mentioned have been blocked by the committee, in fact, many of them -- the database of deals, the Start-Up fix -- have come out of the committee but are delayed elsewhere,” said the Assembly member, referring to the fact that the legislation had been held up in other legislative committees.</p> <p>The wisdom behind Start-Up New York, which creates tax-free zones for new businesses, local development corporations and other economic development programs is the finding that startups create significantly more jobs than companies that have matured 10 to 30 years and drive economic development. But critics say these programs <a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/06/07/new-york-job-programs-investigation/102323140/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continue to fall short</a> of the job creation goals and many beneficiaries of these state incentives have failed to report on sufficient or any progress made through their grants.</p> <p>Despite the fact that several members of Cuomo’s circle are set to appear in court next year for their roles in the bid-rigging scandal involving the state’s Buffalo Billion program, a second round of cash investment to the project was approved in this year’s budget, with no new accountability measures.</p> <p>While Schimminger acknowledged these problems in his opening remarks, the hearing was primarily an information-gathering session, and those outstanding issues will be addressed during the next legislative session, he told Camarda. The governor will unveil his next executive budget in January, leading to months of negotiations and hearings.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/34868772685_4a41dee04d_z.jpg" alt="34868772685 4a41dee04d z" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky in Buffalo (via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Ahead of the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly’s Economic Development Committee held a hearing Monday in Albany to evaluate the progress of the state’s multitude of economic development programs and hear testimony from companies and organizations that have benefited from state grants.</p> <p>Taking center stage was Howard Zemsky, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development czar as president and CEO of Empire State Development, who defended the state’s jobs programs and was grilled for nearly an hour by members of the committee. Committee members, led by chair Robin Schimminger, a Democrat from Erie County, raised concerns about the effectiveness of Buffalo’s annual 43North competition and Regional Economic Development Council grants; lower-than-expected job production; and increased regulatory burdens on small businesses.</p> <p>Cuomo has staked much of his legacy and devoted billions of state dollars to revitalizing the upstate economy. The state has infused $8 billion a year into economic projects since he took office in 2011, according to <a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/06/07/new-york-job-programs-investigation/102323140/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a Gannett Albany review</a>. But as Cuomo’s economic development programs have multiplied each year, the Legislature has failed to pass any meaningful oversight measures to ensure transparency, that beneficiaries are meeting job creation goals, or that grants and incentives are going to well-vetted recipients. While some efforts, such as those aimed at farms and breweries, have been successful, others, like Cuomo’s Start-Up New York program, have fallen short of job creation goals.</p> <p>At Monday’s hearing, Zemsky noted that upstate cities have seen a boom in tech sector jobs, which on average pay more than non-tech sector jobs, and touted a dramatic increase in venture capital investment throughout the state. The Empire State Development head said that ESD takes a “holistic” approach, pointing to the success of its downtown and waterfront revitalization efforts, which aim to attract a younger, more vibrant talent base, and investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.</p> <p>He briefly defended the Regional Economic Development Councils, which have been accused of favoritism and conflicts of interests, and touted Buffalo as a success story -- a city that has been a major focus for Gov. Cuomo and transformed from a financially depressed post-industrial town to a vibrant hub of entrepreneurship.</p> <p>“A lot of what we have done in Buffalo we have used as a template in many other parts of the state and I’m proud that we took some risks and took some chance,” said Zemsky. “Every year we improve and make adjustments.”</p> <p>Schimminger cited an article noting that three-quarters of companies that are attracted to Buffalo by the 43North program have since left the city and inquired about whether the residency requirements, currently a year, could be extended.</p> <p>“We’re only a few years into the program, but after every year the 43North board reassesses and reevaluates what went right, what didn’t go right, just like we do in government. Is it possible that we might change the regulations, that we might change the time frame? That’s under active discussion,” said Zemsky, noting that many companies retain active connections to Buffalo even after they leave.</p> <p>Zemsky’s presentation rang hollow for at least one committee member, Assemblymember Raymond Walter, a Republican from Amherst, who told Zemsky to provide hard data about the returns delivered by the state’s Buffalo investments rather than “offering platitudes.”</p> <p>“Our job here is to draw a direct connection between what we are doing with taxpayer dollars to that renaissance and I’m not convinced you can do that,” said Walter. “If we could focus on that, rather than the platitudes, that would be great.”</p> <p>Zemsky pointed Walter to ESD’s progress report, insisting the number of new firms has grown and jobs have dramatically accelerated in Buffalo, by “almost any metric,” particularly when compared to other struggling cities.</p> <p>The conversation quickly turned personal, with Zemsky, who is a Buffalo businessman, accusing the Assembly member of opposing the state’s efforts to spur Buffalo’s economy, and demanding, “Do you go to any of the REDC meetings, do you know anything that is actually going on?”</p> <p>At one point during the heated exchange about interpreting Buffalo’s jobs data, which Walter said mostly highlights low-skill jobs growth, Zemsky snapped, “You don’t know anything about the innovation economy.”</p> <p>The biggest indicator of Buffalo’s growth, Zemsky pointed to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/upshot/where-young-college-graduates-are-choosing-to-live.html?mtrref=gothamist.com&amp;gwh=8F08A0901526DF9D7B923B841CCE335E&amp;gwt=pay" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rise</a> of the area’s millennial population over the last decade. “Turning the corner on that is the most important thing we can do,” he said.</p> <p>After Zemsky, the Assembly panel was addressed by various industry leaders and experts, who described how programs like the Start-Up New York jobs program and the Southern Tier Startup Alliance (NYSTAR) have created or retained thousands of jobs and spurred both investment and innovation.</p> <p>A representative of watchdog group ReInvent Albany then presented the positions of good government organizations, calling for the passage of a number of bills introduced in the Legislature last year, which would increase oversight of and transparency in the state’s economic development programs.</p> <p>Among the legislative fixes proposed by Reinvent Albany and others is the creation of a “database of deals,” which would digitally list every entity receiving funds from the state along with where each dollar is going; a bill to restore the powers of the state Comptroller to review procurement contracts for SUNY, CUNY, and Office of General Services; and campaign finance restrictions to curb the appearance or reality of pay-to-play politics.</p> <p>At least two bills, including the database of deals and one requiring nonprofit organizations affiliated with government entities to be subject to the freedom of information law and the open meetings law, are sponsored by Schimminger, but did not make it to the Assembly floor. Legislation related to procurement reform appeared to gain steam early this year in light of a major bid-rigging scandal that will see close associates of and donors to Cuomo on trial for corruption in 2018, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6875-ramped-up-economic-development-funding-less-transparency-in-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nothing was passed</a> as the Legislature acquiesced to the governor’s objections.</p> <p>“The only thing the Legislature did do is write a check for $1.8 billion in the extender budget passed in April, a blank check granted by the Legislature to Governor Cuomo for economic development projects with no additional oversight,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany.</p> <p>Schimminger welcomed Camarda’s comments, saying that &nbsp;good government groups are “preaching to the choir” when they call for increased accountability and oversight.</p> <p>“Not a single one of those bills that you mentioned have been blocked by the committee, in fact, many of them -- the database of deals, the Start-Up fix -- have come out of the committee but are delayed elsewhere,” said the Assembly member, referring to the fact that the legislation had been held up in other legislative committees.</p> <p>The wisdom behind Start-Up New York, which creates tax-free zones for new businesses, local development corporations and other economic development programs is the finding that startups create significantly more jobs than companies that have matured 10 to 30 years and drive economic development. But critics say these programs <a href="http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2017/06/07/new-york-job-programs-investigation/102323140/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continue to fall short</a> of the job creation goals and many beneficiaries of these state incentives have failed to report on sufficient or any progress made through their grants.</p> <p>Despite the fact that several members of Cuomo’s circle are set to appear in court next year for their roles in the bid-rigging scandal involving the state’s Buffalo Billion program, a second round of cash investment to the project was approved in this year’s budget, with no new accountability measures.</p> <p>While Schimminger acknowledged these problems in his opening remarks, the hearing was primarily an information-gathering session, and those outstanding issues will be addressed during the next legislative session, he told Camarda. The governor will unveil his next executive budget in January, leading to months of negotiations and hearings.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What's The [DATA] Point? 348 and 74 2017-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7293:what-s-the-data-point-348-and-74 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 18</strong><strong> -- 348 and 74 [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/348-74-277.jpg" alt="348 74 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>This week's data points are 348 and 74 as we bring you a two-part show, each featuring the author of a new CBC report out this week.</p> <p>348 is the number of Local Development Corporations and Industrial Development Agencies in New York State. These corporations, created by local governments throughout the state, are intended to help spur economic development. But, are they effective? Riley Edwards, the principal author of "Opaque and Duplicative - Local Economic Development in New York State" discusses.</p> <p>Then: 74 is the number of Business Improvement Districts in New York City. Are BIDs effective? Are they transparent? Tim Sullivan, author of CBC report "BIDS - Oversight, Organization and Transparency" discusses.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Carol Kellerman of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>), and guests Riley Edwards and Tim Sullivan of CBC. Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/350284822&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 18</strong><strong> -- 348 and 74 [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/348-74-277.jpg" alt="348 74 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>This week's data points are 348 and 74 as we bring you a two-part show, each featuring the author of a new CBC report out this week.</p> <p>348 is the number of Local Development Corporations and Industrial Development Agencies in New York State. These corporations, created by local governments throughout the state, are intended to help spur economic development. But, are they effective? Riley Edwards, the principal author of "Opaque and Duplicative - Local Economic Development in New York State" discusses.</p> <p>Then: 74 is the number of Business Improvement Districts in New York City. Are BIDs effective? Are they transparent? Tim Sullivan, author of CBC report "BIDS - Oversight, Organization and Transparency" discusses.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Carol Kellerman of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>), and guests Riley Edwards and Tim Sullivan of CBC. Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/350284822&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Passes Bills Expanding Oversight of Economic Development Spending 2017-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-30T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7284:city-council-to-pass-bills-expanding-oversight-of-economic-development-spending Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/dmw7vyeuqaayxfq.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="dmw7vyeuqaayxfq.jpg large" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>CM Garodnick speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony (photo via @DanGarodnick)</p> <hr /> <p><em>[editor's note: the bills discussed in this story have passed the Council since its publish; the headline has been tweaked to indicate that fact, but the story remains unchanged from its publish]</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is set to pass a package of three bills that will expand its oversight of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a city-affiliated non-profit that is instrumental in the city’s efforts to stimulate business and create jobs.</p> <p>The EDC handles a wide array of projects and initiatives from infrastructure and real estate development to cultural projects and parks and public spaces. The organization’s work is at the center of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 100,000 jobs over ten years that pay $50,000 annually, and it recently led the process for the city’s bid to host the second headquarters of retail giant Amazon. Hundreds of projects receive financial assistance each year from the city through EDC in the form of tax benefits, loans, grants, and even energy benefits</p> <p>But as of now, EDC is required to report little publicly about its operations and the benefits of its work to the city and New Yorkers. The City Council bills being passed this week, which are expected to be signed into law by the mayor, seek to increase those reporting requirements to add a layer of accountability and transparency to EDC’s work.</p> <p>“We spend an extraordinary sum every year on economic development and the goals are laudable: creation of jobs, the expansion of affordable housing or even the refurbishing of important cultural or historical sites,” said City Council Member Daniel Garodnick, chair of the economic development committee and prime sponsor of one of the three bills in the package, in a phone interview. “But, unfortunately it’s not always clear whether these dollars achieve their intended objectives.”</p> <p>Garodnick’s <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867851&amp;GUID=FBAD71D2-798D-4D08-9650-B9786389121A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a> would require the EDC to provide fiscal impact statements for projects it sponsors, including estimates of the number of jobs being created. Another <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867854&amp;GUID=9F91E653-ED3B-40EF-B20B-9FE099116853&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a>, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require EDC to report on its efforts to recover funds from any third party that received financial assistance but failed to live up to an economic development agreement. The <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867876&amp;GUID=94241FF8-9F73-42A7-97B5-65380D2E7E6E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">third bill</a>, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would give the City Council an opportunity to comment on proposed economic development agreements by mandating that EDC provide project descriptions and budgets to the Council at least 30 days before the agreement is finalized. &nbsp;</p> <p>The three bills build on Garodnick’s efforts that he began in 2014 to improve oversight of EDC and how it utilizes taxpayer money. Last year, Garodnick and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the Council’s finance chair, led a task force to examine the city’s economic development tax expenditures. The task force issued 10 <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000157-4f76-dc77-a5ff-cfffa4040001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommendations</a> including instituting regular reviews of tax expenditures and improved oversight. The three bills being passed on Wednesday were an outcome of those recommendations.</p> <p>“Through these bills, EDC will provide comprehensive fiscal impact statements and enhanced compliance reports for projects that receive our financial assistance,” said Shavone Williams, an EDC spokesperson, in a statement. “We look forward to this collaboration with the City Council as part of our larger efforts to remain as transparent as possible to the communities we serve.”</p> <p>Support from EDC indicates the mayor will sign into laws the bills, which have passed through Garodnick’s committee and will be voted on by the full City Council on Tuesday.</p> <p>Garodnick did acknowledge that EDC has improved its processes and that it already provides some information annually on its projects as required under city and state law. EDC puts out an Annual Investments Projects Report, in three volumes, on projects that receive financial assistance and details of the sales and leases of city-land. The <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/CityCharter_2016_Vol_I.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last report</a>, issued January 30, notes that EDC provided some form of financial assistance to 554 projects in fiscal year 2016. The report included information on 46 sales of city-land that brought in $536.1 million and 89 leases of city-owned land with rents worth $126.1 million.</p> <p>The 554 projects accounted for 5.9 percent of the total private employment in the city; about $36.1 billion in private investment; they cost the city about $138 million in fiscal year 2016 (totalling $1.8 billion over the life of the projects) and brought in $5.2 billion in tax revenue (estimated to grow to $50.3 billion over the life of the projects).</p> <p>“I felt that more could be done to ensure that the public has a handle on how we are spending our money here and we want to give the public better access to this information,” said Garodnick, who is leaving the Council at the end of the year due to term limits. “We want to go further and be able to measure the upfront goals with the outcomes.”</p> <p>Indeed, in the context of numerous neighborhood rezonings proposed by the de Blasio administration across the city, advocacy groups have consistently called for more rigorous scrutiny of promises made by the city and keeping developers accountable if they receive any benefits from the administration. This also applies to singular projects, including the prominent example of the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment, a process that was spearheaded by EDC. The project is on city land but proposes a long-term lease to a private developer, raising concerns among community advocates.</p> <p>“There is a natural tension here between the need to activate economic development measures and local community perspectives,” Garodnick said, when Gotham Gazette ventured whether increased oversight was necessary in the aftermath of the Bloomberg years, when development went largely unchecked. “And part of this is ensuring that local needs are considered and that’s really what the Rosenthal bill is about. This is a very important agency that spends an extraordinary amount of money which does a lot of good work. We want to add these oversight measures to ensure the greatest transparency of taxpayer dollars.”</p> <p>Garodnick also agreed that there’s a need to ensure that the mayor’s plan to invest in burgeoning economic sectors to directly create 100,000 jobs receives the appropriate scrutiny. “This would always be important but with the commitment that is being made to find ways to create economic opportunities, this is even more important,” he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/dmw7vyeuqaayxfq.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="dmw7vyeuqaayxfq.jpg large" width="600" height="354" /></p> <p>CM Garodnick speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony (photo via @DanGarodnick)</p> <hr /> <p><em>[editor's note: the bills discussed in this story have passed the Council since its publish; the headline has been tweaked to indicate that fact, but the story remains unchanged from its publish]</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is set to pass a package of three bills that will expand its oversight of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a city-affiliated non-profit that is instrumental in the city’s efforts to stimulate business and create jobs.</p> <p>The EDC handles a wide array of projects and initiatives from infrastructure and real estate development to cultural projects and parks and public spaces. The organization’s work is at the center of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 100,000 jobs over ten years that pay $50,000 annually, and it recently led the process for the city’s bid to host the second headquarters of retail giant Amazon. Hundreds of projects receive financial assistance each year from the city through EDC in the form of tax benefits, loans, grants, and even energy benefits</p> <p>But as of now, EDC is required to report little publicly about its operations and the benefits of its work to the city and New Yorkers. The City Council bills being passed this week, which are expected to be signed into law by the mayor, seek to increase those reporting requirements to add a layer of accountability and transparency to EDC’s work.</p> <p>“We spend an extraordinary sum every year on economic development and the goals are laudable: creation of jobs, the expansion of affordable housing or even the refurbishing of important cultural or historical sites,” said City Council Member Daniel Garodnick, chair of the economic development committee and prime sponsor of one of the three bills in the package, in a phone interview. “But, unfortunately it’s not always clear whether these dollars achieve their intended objectives.”</p> <p>Garodnick’s <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867851&amp;GUID=FBAD71D2-798D-4D08-9650-B9786389121A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a> would require the EDC to provide fiscal impact statements for projects it sponsors, including estimates of the number of jobs being created. Another <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867854&amp;GUID=9F91E653-ED3B-40EF-B20B-9FE099116853&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a>, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require EDC to report on its efforts to recover funds from any third party that received financial assistance but failed to live up to an economic development agreement. The <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2867876&amp;GUID=94241FF8-9F73-42A7-97B5-65380D2E7E6E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">third bill</a>, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would give the City Council an opportunity to comment on proposed economic development agreements by mandating that EDC provide project descriptions and budgets to the Council at least 30 days before the agreement is finalized. &nbsp;</p> <p>The three bills build on Garodnick’s efforts that he began in 2014 to improve oversight of EDC and how it utilizes taxpayer money. Last year, Garodnick and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the Council’s finance chair, led a task force to examine the city’s economic development tax expenditures. The task force issued 10 <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000157-4f76-dc77-a5ff-cfffa4040001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommendations</a> including instituting regular reviews of tax expenditures and improved oversight. The three bills being passed on Wednesday were an outcome of those recommendations.</p> <p>“Through these bills, EDC will provide comprehensive fiscal impact statements and enhanced compliance reports for projects that receive our financial assistance,” said Shavone Williams, an EDC spokesperson, in a statement. “We look forward to this collaboration with the City Council as part of our larger efforts to remain as transparent as possible to the communities we serve.”</p> <p>Support from EDC indicates the mayor will sign into laws the bills, which have passed through Garodnick’s committee and will be voted on by the full City Council on Tuesday.</p> <p>Garodnick did acknowledge that EDC has improved its processes and that it already provides some information annually on its projects as required under city and state law. EDC puts out an Annual Investments Projects Report, in three volumes, on projects that receive financial assistance and details of the sales and leases of city-land. The <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/CityCharter_2016_Vol_I.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last report</a>, issued January 30, notes that EDC provided some form of financial assistance to 554 projects in fiscal year 2016. The report included information on 46 sales of city-land that brought in $536.1 million and 89 leases of city-owned land with rents worth $126.1 million.</p> <p>The 554 projects accounted for 5.9 percent of the total private employment in the city; about $36.1 billion in private investment; they cost the city about $138 million in fiscal year 2016 (totalling $1.8 billion over the life of the projects) and brought in $5.2 billion in tax revenue (estimated to grow to $50.3 billion over the life of the projects).</p> <p>“I felt that more could be done to ensure that the public has a handle on how we are spending our money here and we want to give the public better access to this information,” said Garodnick, who is leaving the Council at the end of the year due to term limits. “We want to go further and be able to measure the upfront goals with the outcomes.”</p> <p>Indeed, in the context of numerous neighborhood rezonings proposed by the de Blasio administration across the city, advocacy groups have consistently called for more rigorous scrutiny of promises made by the city and keeping developers accountable if they receive any benefits from the administration. This also applies to singular projects, including the prominent example of the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment, a process that was spearheaded by EDC. The project is on city land but proposes a long-term lease to a private developer, raising concerns among community advocates.</p> <p>“There is a natural tension here between the need to activate economic development measures and local community perspectives,” Garodnick said, when Gotham Gazette ventured whether increased oversight was necessary in the aftermath of the Bloomberg years, when development went largely unchecked. “And part of this is ensuring that local needs are considered and that’s really what the Rosenthal bill is about. This is a very important agency that spends an extraordinary amount of money which does a lot of good work. We want to add these oversight measures to ensure the greatest transparency of taxpayer dollars.”</p> <p>Garodnick also agreed that there’s a need to ensure that the mayor’s plan to invest in burgeoning economic sectors to directly create 100,000 jobs receives the appropriate scrutiny. “This would always be important but with the commitment that is being made to find ways to create economic opportunities, this is even more important,” he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Top City Electeds Skip Letter Wooing Amazon 2017-10-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7266:top-city-electeds-skip-letter-wooing-amazon Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/wtc-orange-amazon-via-edc.jpg" alt="wtc orange amazon via edc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One World Trade Center lit up orange for Amazon (photo via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is laying out the red carpet to entice online retail giant Amazon to locate its new corporate headquarters in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a slew of incentives to support four official proposals from different regions that were submitted to the company on Wednesday, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lit up the city in orange at night as a fawning branding appeal.</p> <p>New York City’s own <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/omgt5ywmgzundkv/Amazon%20Deck%20for%20Press%20-%2010.18.2017.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bid</a> -- which included four possible business districts -- was backed by about 70 elected officials that represent the city, including members of Congress, state Senators and Assembly members, City Council members, borough presidents, and Public Advocate Letitia James. But at least four notable elected officials were conspicuously absent from the letter of support sent by the mayor’s office to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and City Council Members Corey Johnson and Donovan Richards, both contenders to become the next Speaker of the City Council, did not sign on to the letter.</p> <p>“No city embodies the American traditions of innovation and creativity quite like New York City,” <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the letter</a> reads. “It has transformed from a Dutch settlement, to the nation’s first capital, to a booming industrial center. It became a port of hope for millions of immigrants looking for a better life, and a model for urban revitalization. From Broadway, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Bridge, to Citi Field and the shores of Staten Island, New York City is a place where history is made every day. Our tradition of reinvention matches yours, and we invite you to join us in writing our next chapters together.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Stringer declined to comment. Multiple messages and emails sent to spokespeople for Heastie were not returned.</p> <p>“We’re excited about the prospect of new businesses coming to New York City,” said Jordan Gibbons, a spokesperson for Council Member Richards, “but before we support the plan, we need more information about job standards and impact on local businesses.”</p> <p>Council Member Johnson wrote in a text that he “didn’t sign on to [the] letter because I have concerns about Amazon’s labor record but also recognize 50K jobs would be good for the city.” &nbsp;</p> <p>As Johnson noted, Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to create 50,000 jobs and bring in roughly $5 billion in investment. One of the proposed areas for Amazon’s headquarters, Midtown West, falls in Johnson’s Manhattan district. City Council members representing other proposed sites for the headquarters signed on to the letter.</p> <p>Amazon’s announcement and request for proposals triggered a mad dash by dozens of cities across the country to lure the multi-billion-dollar company. To bolster their bids, some cities and states have promised enormous tax breaks while others have pledged infrastructure investments around a potential Amazon campus. Most have hedged their bets on being able to provide the optimum balance of tech talent, affordable and ample real estate, and an appealing quality of life. One municipality in Georgia even went so far as to <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/10/03/city-aims-name-new-town-company-amazon-georgia/727765001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">propose</a> creating an entirely new city named for the online retailer.</p> <p>Short of naming a new business district after Amazon, New York City’s pitch includes all those aspects. Culled from more than two dozen proposals from across the five boroughs, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Empire State Development Corporation, decided on four city areas that met Amazon’s criteria -- Midtown West, Long Island City, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The city is banking on many factors, including its pool of 2.3 million residents who hold a bachelor’s degree and above -- a number higher than the combined comparable workforce of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.</p> <p>The city has 296,000 workers in the tech industry and is growing rapidly in sectors of the economy where Amazon is diversifying, including media, advertising, fashion, and manufacturing.</p> <p>And the city is already an attractive destination for Amazon, which has a distribution and fulfillment center, corporate offices and retail space in the city with plans to expand in Manhattan. Amazon’s website says it has 1,000 employees in New York, plus seasonal additions around the winter holidays.</p> <p>An EDC spokesperson said the city cast a wide net seeking support for the proposal. “Considering how hard it is to get New Yorkers to agree on anything, the fact that we got so many signatures in such a short time was pretty impressive and overwhelming,” the spokesperson said, expressing optimism that New York would outmatch other cities with its bid.</p> <p>Asked at an unrelated Thursday news conference about his pursuit of Amazon when he has been opposed to Walmart opening in the city, de Blasio called it “apples and oranges.” “Amazon, there are some issues that need to be addressed with labor, there’s no two ways about it. But, at the same time, this is a company talking about potentially fundamentally changing the economy in New York City. Adding 50,000 jobs is a game-changer. And it’s something we need and we need more high-quality jobs for the people of New York City. So we can work on those labor issues and I’m happy to work on those labor issues, but no, I’m convinced that Amazon will be a net gain for New York City, unquestionably.”</p> <p>Responding to Johnson’s concerns, the EDC spokesperson said that Amazon’s presence in New York would afford the city an opportunity to engage directly with the firm and “work with them to advance our shared values.” Pointing out that it was premature to evaluate a deal that hasn’t yet been approved, the spokesperson said the city would be able to negotiate down the line to add guarantees to ensure the number of jobs created, salary levels and that jobs go to New Yorkers. “It’s pretty clear to us that they want to build the headquarters with the community, not in the community,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>“It’s puzzling, I don’t know why you’d want to turn down a shot at 50,000 good-paying jobs,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, when asked why leaders like Stringer, Heastie, and Johnson would not sign on. He conceded that concerns about corporate subsidies are valid, but that the Amazon opportunity is too good to pass up. “It’s a big win for New York City if we can get it.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/wtc-orange-amazon-via-edc.jpg" alt="wtc orange amazon via edc" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One World Trade Center lit up orange for Amazon (photo via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is laying out the red carpet to entice online retail giant Amazon to locate its new corporate headquarters in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a slew of incentives to support four official proposals from different regions that were submitted to the company on Wednesday, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lit up the city in orange at night as a fawning branding appeal.</p> <p>New York City’s own <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/omgt5ywmgzundkv/Amazon%20Deck%20for%20Press%20-%2010.18.2017.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bid</a> -- which included four possible business districts -- was backed by about 70 elected officials that represent the city, including members of Congress, state Senators and Assembly members, City Council members, borough presidents, and Public Advocate Letitia James. But at least four notable elected officials were conspicuously absent from the letter of support sent by the mayor’s office to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and City Council Members Corey Johnson and Donovan Richards, both contenders to become the next Speaker of the City Council, did not sign on to the letter.</p> <p>“No city embodies the American traditions of innovation and creativity quite like New York City,” <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the letter</a> reads. “It has transformed from a Dutch settlement, to the nation’s first capital, to a booming industrial center. It became a port of hope for millions of immigrants looking for a better life, and a model for urban revitalization. From Broadway, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Bridge, to Citi Field and the shores of Staten Island, New York City is a place where history is made every day. Our tradition of reinvention matches yours, and we invite you to join us in writing our next chapters together.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Stringer declined to comment. Multiple messages and emails sent to spokespeople for Heastie were not returned.</p> <p>“We’re excited about the prospect of new businesses coming to New York City,” said Jordan Gibbons, a spokesperson for Council Member Richards, “but before we support the plan, we need more information about job standards and impact on local businesses.”</p> <p>Council Member Johnson wrote in a text that he “didn’t sign on to [the] letter because I have concerns about Amazon’s labor record but also recognize 50K jobs would be good for the city.” &nbsp;</p> <p>As Johnson noted, Amazon’s second headquarters is expected to create 50,000 jobs and bring in roughly $5 billion in investment. One of the proposed areas for Amazon’s headquarters, Midtown West, falls in Johnson’s Manhattan district. City Council members representing other proposed sites for the headquarters signed on to the letter.</p> <p>Amazon’s announcement and request for proposals triggered a mad dash by dozens of cities across the country to lure the multi-billion-dollar company. To bolster their bids, some cities and states have promised enormous tax breaks while others have pledged infrastructure investments around a potential Amazon campus. Most have hedged their bets on being able to provide the optimum balance of tech talent, affordable and ample real estate, and an appealing quality of life. One municipality in Georgia even went so far as to <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/10/03/city-aims-name-new-town-company-amazon-georgia/727765001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">propose</a> creating an entirely new city named for the online retailer.</p> <p>Short of naming a new business district after Amazon, New York City’s pitch includes all those aspects. Culled from more than two dozen proposals from across the five boroughs, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Empire State Development Corporation, decided on four city areas that met Amazon’s criteria -- Midtown West, Long Island City, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The city is banking on many factors, including its pool of 2.3 million residents who hold a bachelor’s degree and above -- a number higher than the combined comparable workforce of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.</p> <p>The city has 296,000 workers in the tech industry and is growing rapidly in sectors of the economy where Amazon is diversifying, including media, advertising, fashion, and manufacturing.</p> <p>And the city is already an attractive destination for Amazon, which has a distribution and fulfillment center, corporate offices and retail space in the city with plans to expand in Manhattan. Amazon’s website says it has 1,000 employees in New York, plus seasonal additions around the winter holidays.</p> <p>An EDC spokesperson said the city cast a wide net seeking support for the proposal. “Considering how hard it is to get New Yorkers to agree on anything, the fact that we got so many signatures in such a short time was pretty impressive and overwhelming,” the spokesperson said, expressing optimism that New York would outmatch other cities with its bid.</p> <p>Asked at an unrelated Thursday news conference about his pursuit of Amazon when he has been opposed to Walmart opening in the city, de Blasio called it “apples and oranges.” “Amazon, there are some issues that need to be addressed with labor, there’s no two ways about it. But, at the same time, this is a company talking about potentially fundamentally changing the economy in New York City. Adding 50,000 jobs is a game-changer. And it’s something we need and we need more high-quality jobs for the people of New York City. So we can work on those labor issues and I’m happy to work on those labor issues, but no, I’m convinced that Amazon will be a net gain for New York City, unquestionably.”</p> <p>Responding to Johnson’s concerns, the EDC spokesperson said that Amazon’s presence in New York would afford the city an opportunity to engage directly with the firm and “work with them to advance our shared values.” Pointing out that it was premature to evaluate a deal that hasn’t yet been approved, the spokesperson said the city would be able to negotiate down the line to add guarantees to ensure the number of jobs created, salary levels and that jobs go to New Yorkers. “It’s pretty clear to us that they want to build the headquarters with the community, not in the community,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>“It’s puzzling, I don’t know why you’d want to turn down a shot at 50,000 good-paying jobs,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, when asked why leaders like Stringer, Heastie, and Johnson would not sign on. He conceded that concerns about corporate subsidies are valid, but that the Amazon opportunity is too good to pass up. “It’s a big win for New York City if we can get it.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>