Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2083 Thu, 23 May 2019 22:08:26 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Examines De Blasio's 'New York Works,' Said to Have Produced 3,000 Jobs of 100,000 Goal http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8368-city-council-examines-de-blasio-s-new-york-works-said-to-have-produced-3-000-jobs-of-100-000-goal http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8368-city-council-examines-de-blasio-s-new-york-works-said-to-have-produced-3-000-jobs-of-100-000-goal Patchett EDC hearing

EDC President James Patchett (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to create 100,000 “good-paying” jobs, with annual salaries of $50,000 or more, within 10 years, giving New Yorkers a pathway to the middle class. On Monday, City Council members held an oversight hearing on that plan, attempting to more fully gauge how the de Blasio administration is doing on its promise.

Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigation, co-led a tense Council hearing where the head of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), James Patchett, was grilled about how many jobs had been created as part of de Blasio’s jobs plan and who has been getting them.

“Anyone who heard the mayor’s [2017] State of the City would believe there are actual jobs,” said Torres, “but anyone who believes that is operating under a false assumption.”

Patchett responded to Torres’s rapid-fire questioning about unclear jobs numbers with a consistent message: answering a simple question like “how many jobs have been created” is not so easy.

De Blasio declared good-paying jobs to be those that pay $50,000 or more, and said those in his plan would be in economic sectors that will be around for years to come. When de Blasio, Patchett, and then-Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen laid out the plan a few months after de Blasio announced the goal during his 2017 State of the City speech, they said that they would only count jobs spurred by some kind of city action.

On Monday, Patchett said jobs are only counted towards the mayor’s 100,000 goal if they are created as a direct result of the five-point strategy laid out in the jobs plan, known as “New York Works.”

The plan focuses on investing in city-owned property, providing tax incentives to small and large businesses, making infrastructure investments, using zoning tools, and directly investing in companies that can bring 21st century jobs to New York City.

About $1.3 billion in capital funding has been allocated to New York Works, with about $300 million already spent, Patchett said, on projects like the Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the FutureWorks advanced manufacturing shop at Brooklyn Army Terminal.

But even with specific strategies and budget numbers, there still remains a fair amount of estimation in gauging the impact of the plan.

At one particularly tense point in Monday’s hearing, Patchett was asked about the 2018 New York Works progress report, where EDC reported the city had “laid the foundation for 19,000 good paying jobs.”

“Of the 19,000, how many are actually working today?” asked Torres.

“3,000,” replied Patchett.

“We make projections based on the best available data,” said Patchett, explaining that in some scenarios, when EDC completes a project under the New York Works plan, actual jobs are still yet to come.

The economic development agency tries its best to project how many jobs will be created based on the expertise of their in-house economists, detailed economic data, and, in some cases, specific contracts that have been signed.

A recent example can be found in the Staten Island Teleport Campus.

In 2018, EDC reported in the New York Works progress report that it had “closed a deal” to create office space on the Staten Island campus meant for medical tenants, a charter school, adult education programs, and a variety of social ventures. Though no businesses had formally moved in, the agency estimated 750 jobs would be created and counted that towards de Blasio’s goal.

In the same report, EDC also noted the city “opened 500,000 square feet of space” at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, creating 1,000 good-paying jobs towards the mayor’s 100,000 jobs goal. It is unclear whether these jobs have actually been created or are still a projection, according documents published by the Council.

Patchett also confirmed that if out-of-state residents were to get a good-paying job created under de Blasio’s jobs plan, it would count towards the mayor’s goal.

When de Blasio announced the New York Works jobs plan in June 2017, he said the good-paying jobs would be meant primarily for New Yorkers who wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have access to such opportunities.

“These are jobs that we intend to be open to New Yorkers of every background,” he said at the time, “we can’t address the affordability crisis if we don’t turn the city into a place where more and more good people get a good paying job.”

But for City Council members that represent the city’s lowest-income residents, there are persistent concerns whether these good-paying jobs end up accessible to people in their districts.

Brooklyn Democrat Inez Barron, who represents the 42nd Council District where more than 30% of residents are under the poverty line according to census data, wanted to know why most of the $1.3 billion allocated to New York Works is for building and development projects rather than programs that could help train residents to actually qualify for the good-paying jobs de Blasio’s plan sets out to create.

Patchett mentioned that workforce development strategy is outside the purview of EDC, but he reassured the Council member that the agency works closely with higher education institutions such as LaGuardia Community College and other CUNY schools, along with the New York City Department of Education to inform them of what they think the skills of the future are that educational institutions should be aware of when creating training programs.

Monday’s hearing was also co-led by Queens Council Member Paul Vallone, chair of the Council’s Committee on Economic Development. Vallone left the hearing unimpressed.

“We just had a hearing on the progress of a jobs plan that revealed that there is no conclusive data on the jobs created by that plan,” Vallone said in a statement. “How can we rely on projections and job pathways when there is no tracking to ensure that they actually materialize into real jobs for New Yorkers?”

Near the end of the hearing, tensions between Torres and Patchett simmered down a bit, with Patchett offering a solution to Torres’ contention around confusing jobs numbers.

“I will try to provide not just projections,” Patchett said, “but an estimate as to actual jobs created based on the best data available.”

Torres responded with the crux of his complaint: “If my constituents ask me how many jobs are created by that plan, I want to be able to answer that question.”

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by Pranshu Verma for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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City Council Examines De Blasio's 'New York Works,' Said to Have Produced 3,000 Jobs of 100,000 Goal Mon, 18 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york wikimedia call center

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Long gone are the days when a family could live comfortably with a minimum wage job. In 1968, a worker making the federal minimum wage could support a partner and a child above the poverty line. Today, you can’t even support yourself and a child on it. Even with the recent increase to the minimum wage, hitting $15 an hour in New York City, it’s impossible for families in many parts of the state to live on minimum wage.

Economic anxiety has unfortunately become the new norm. Traditionally, most families’ golden ticket out of poverty was a solidly middle-class job, like at a call center. Those jobs, however, are increasingly being lost to corporate greed.

Since 2006, over 40,000 call center jobs were lost in New York. Forty thousand.

That means 40,000 families have had to face the emotional and financial stress of losing a job. It’s not as though the need for call center jobs has decreased; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% growth rate for customer service representative jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Unfortunately, there has been an upward trend of massive corporations looking to ship these jobs elsewhere so they can pay workers less and often find better tax incentives. Outsourcing work to other parts of the country or abroad has become a common corporate tactic to reduce costs. Middle class jobs are replaced with cheaper labor (often with subpar working conditions).

With the Trump administration’s tax cuts last year, outsourcing has become even more attractive to corporations, accelerating the process. The law rewards corporations with tax cuts and incentives for profits made overseas, with corporations paying as little as half or less of the corporate tax rate on profits earned abroad as they would here at home.

This is why I support the New York State Call Center Jobs Act, a bill that would finally prevent companies from being rewarded for outsourcing these good jobs elsewhere.

In January, AT&T announced it was closing a call center in Syracuse, eliminating 150 jobs. The workers in the call center had just two weeks to decide whether to accept a severance package or relocate.

Call center jobs are critical lifelines to sustain a robust middle class and it’s important we recognize that moving these jobs out of state has devastated families and communities across New York. We can no longer allow corporations to line their own pockets at the expense of hard-working New Yorkers.

This bill would help New York protect call center jobs at employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees. Employers would be required to notify the Public Service Commission if they intend to relocate at least 30% of call volume in a year. Those companies would lose all grants, loans, tax benefits, and state contracts, since our government should not be giving tax dollars to companies that are leaving the state. It would also ensure that all call center work related to state business is performed by New York companies.

This legislation passed last year in the Assembly and had considerable support in the Senate. Now that the Senate leadership has changed, we can and should get this done this year. I urge my fellow legislators to do what is right and protect New York’s middle class.

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Senator Jessica Ramos represents State District 13, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and parts of Astoria and Woodside. On Twitter @JessicaRamos.

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One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York Mon, 11 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
The Upstate Economy and The Election for Governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7777-the-upstate-economy-and-the-election-for-governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7777-the-upstate-economy-and-the-election-for-governor Cuomo upstate jobs

Gov. Cuomo touting Upstate jobs (photo: The Governor's Office)


The health of the Upstate New York economy is a major issue in this year’s election for Governor. Two candidates in the general election, Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive, and Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse, a Democrat planning to run on an independent line, hail from Upstate, and are already in part centering their campaigns on criticisms of state government’s efforts to help the Upstate economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s rival in the Democratic primary, Cynthia Nixon, is also making it a point of attack.

Ironically, a federal corruption trial is underway against former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who had been given a mission and vast resources by Cuomo to stimulate growth in the Upstate economy.

The Upstate region is very politically significant in statewide elections. Although the region is 36% of the state population, it has been between 46 and 49% of the statewide vote in the last three gubernatorial elections, 2006, 2010, and 2014. By contrast, New York City has been 27-29% of the vote in these elections despite being 43% of the population. Upstate New York is considered to encompass all of New York except New York City, Long Island, and the City’s northern suburbs, including Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties.

The region is also economically significant. Upstate New York’s population is 7 million, larger than 33 states, and is one-third of total employment in the state. My two previous columns on the Upstate New York economy focused on growth during the first six years of Governor Cuomo’s tenure, through 2016, and then a longer view.

The first review last fall showed that Upstate New York employment only grew 3.3% in total overall jobs between 2010 and 2016, compared to 10% growth for New York State as a whole. The comparable numbers for private sector employment growth were 5.8% for Upstate, compared to 13% growth for New York as a whole. The disparity between private sector and total growth relates to cutbacks in state spending when Governor Cuomo first took office in 2011 (the state had a $10 billion budget deficit that year), which resulted in job reductions in both state and local governments. Government reductions stabilized around 2013, but had been substantial by that time.

The New York City economy dominates employment growth in the state, with more than 70% of the total growth in employment statewide, at a pace of 16% overall and 19% private sector employment growth between 2010 and 2016.

The second column assessed the context and accuracy of a statement from Governor Cuomo addressing the difficulties posed by helping the Upstate Economy, when he described the Upstate economy as having a “bad 50 years.” My analysis showed that in fact Upstate employment growth outpaced Downstate in the 1980s, despite large manufacturing job losses that captured the public eye. The Upstate region also continued moderate growth in the 1990s after the recession early in that decade. It was really the two national recessions in the 21st century that battered the Upstate New York economy with new rounds of job losses and limited the capacity of the region to recover compared to those earlier decades. Upstate New York actually lost jobs between 2000 and 2010, compared to the recoveries that took place after recessions in the 1980s and 1990s.

As Governor Cuomo’s second term concludes, the Upstate economy is showing moderate improvement in several of its major metropolitan regions, which comprise a majority of the employment base. However, a number of metro regions that encompass the smaller cities continue to struggle. Below are tables breaking down growth in the 12 Upstate metropolitan areas, which comprise five-sixths of the employment base. Non-metro areas make up the rest.

The first table shows six moderately growing metro areas (data from the New York State Labor Department):

upstate new york growth moderate

Upstate’s three largest metropolitan regions, the Buffalo-Niagara area, the Rochester area, and the Albany metro area, achieved 9-13% private sector employment growth in the eight years from May 2010 to May 2018. Dutchess-Putnam and Kingston had similar 9% private sector growth over the period, and Ithaca is the fastest-growing metro area Upstate. The six metro areas are nearly 60% of the 3 million job employment base and in these areas private sector jobs have been growing at more than 1% a year -- not as good as Downstate New York or the nation, but sustained improvement.

The next two tables show data for two slow-growth regions, four static/no-growth metro areas, and the third sums up the data for the 12 Upstate metro areas.

upstate new york growth regions 3 tables

The Syracuse and Glens Falls metro areas were placed in a slow-growth category -- they achieved 4-5% private sector growth over eight years (even slower once the public sector jobs are included). There are four Upstate metro areas -- Binghamton, Elmira, Utica-Rome, and Watertown-Fort Drum -- where no private sector growth is occurring. These four areas are about 10% of the employment base of Upstate New York.

The number of jobs in non-metro areas of Upstate New York is about 500,000, about 16% of the employment base. Consistent data over the eight-year period for non-metro areas is difficult to elicit. Labor Department press releases that include non-metro growth don’t go back past 2015, so the best numbers from that source, from December 2013 to December 2017, showed growth of 4,000 jobs. My best estimation is that non-metro areas are in the slow growth category.

This portrait does not attempt to correlate direct state government investments, frequently in partnership with private companies, to create or preserve jobs, or the general allocation of state government resources, with these trends. The employment numbers are just the general trends -- and Upstate New York’s problems include population loss in some areas, like Central New York and the Southern Tier, where five of the six metro areas with slow or static growth are located. State government can also be making investments in jobs that are worthwhile individually in areas of population loss, but which do not show up in the aggregate data. Over the past seven years state government also embarked upon a broad general policy of making the state economy more competitive by cutting personal income, corporate income, and property taxes.

Empire State Development, state government’s economic development arm, finally produced a comprehensive report on its activities this year (mandated by law), and it does contain much information. Watchdogs criticized it for lacking metrics, meaning measurements of the effectiveness of the state’s investments against some set of standards. The accountability and effectiveness of the state’s resource-allocation remain the subject of another future column.

Governor Cuomo was right to say that helping an economy battered repeatedly by job losses before his tenure began is a major challenge, even if it wasn’t accurate to suggest that there was a 50-year downward path. Efforts to grow the Upstate economy seem to be modestly, but not highly, successful, although state government alone cannot determine economic destiny. How to frame this modest success in an election won’t be easy.

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Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

 

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The Upstate Economy and The Election for Governor Sun, 01 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
New York City Tourism Industry Deserves Credit for Major Job Growth http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7661-new-york-city-tourism-industry-deserves-credit-for-major-job-growth http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7661-new-york-city-tourism-industry-deserves-credit-for-major-job-growth mayorsoffice ferry

(photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


Over the past two decades, tourism to New York City has swelled from 33 million to nearly 63 million annual visitors, with powerful ripples throughout the city’s economy. Once just one sector among many, tourism has risen to become one of the top four employment drivers in the city, according to a new report published by the Center for an Urban Future, the Association for a Better New York, and the Times Square Alliance

This spike in tourists has sparked hundreds of thousands of new jobs in hotels, restaurants, retail shops, museums, airports, tour bus companies, and even travel-tech startups. More than 291,000 New Yorkers count on tourism for their jobs—putting it on par with the tech ecosystem, the creative economy, and the finance industry. Better yet, the tourism industry provides real, middle-class jobs with an average annual income of $62,000, outpacing comparable sectors like manufacturing.

Given this new data, the city should make concrete efforts that recognize tourism’s role in the region’s economy. Investments in infrastructure, marketing and promotion, and other commonsense initiatives that make this region more convenient to visit will fuel growth across many job sectors.

The city will need to upgrade its tourism infrastructure. New York has never adequately planned for 60 million tourists a year, and it has not made enough of the infrastructure investments that are needed to sustain this many annual visitors. The city needs to create new solutions for tour bus parking and elected officials should push to modernize the air traffic control system. The city should also create its first long-term tourism plan, with involvement from economic development, planning, and transportation agencies.

Despite the stunning influx of tourists, New York’s tourism sector faces several new and evolving challenges, from the strong dollar to a tourism promotion budget that has not stayed competitive with that of marketing agencies in other global destinations. New York boasts one of the best tourism promotion agencies in the world, NYC & Company, but the city should increase its budget to support its important mission and bolster the tourism industry citywide.

With tourists accounting for roughly 70 percent of passengers at JFK Airport and 50 percent at LaGuardia, the Port Authority should continue its work to improve the airport experience. The agency has made important investments in recent years, but should consider new initiatives like free WiFi in all airports, and more multilingual staff and wayfinding signage in terminals to support and encourage tourism.

New investments in infrastructure and a more welcoming environment for tourists would have resounding effects across the economy. Tourists are responsible for 24 percent of all Visa credit card transactions at the city’s restaurants and bars, and make nearly one-fifth of all purchases at the city’s retail stores, a crucial boost as many retailers face increasing pressure from online competition.

Out-of-towners are also fueling the growth in attendance at cultural institutions—and the job gains that have come with it. Tourists now comprise 73 percent of visitors to the Museum of Modern Art, 70 percent of visitors to the Whitney Museum of American Art, and 60 percent of the Metropolitan Museum’s visitors. The city’s museums and historical sites have added 4,500 jobs in the past 15 years—an 86 percent increase.

With a billion people poised to join the ascendant global middle class, opportunity lies ahead for New York City’s tourism economy—along with thousands of new jobs. But channeling sustainable growth in the future will require increased planning and a new way of thinking about the 60-plus million annual tourists that the city has today.

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Jonathan Bowles is executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. Angela Pinsky is executive director of the Association for a Better New York. Tim Tompkins is president of the Times Square Alliance.

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New York City Tourism Industry Deserves Credit for Major Job Growth Tue, 08 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Jobs & Internships with Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/career/6548-jobs-with-gotham-gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/career/6548-jobs-with-gotham-gazette Currently there are no job openings with Gotham Gazette. Internships are available - see below for details

Intern with Gotham Gazette:
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The intern will help plan and produce Max & Murphy programs, including booking guests, suggesting topics, doing prep research, and suggesting questions. The intern will write news articles for Gotham Gazette and City Limits based off the interviews on the show, and potentially conduct reporting to be presented on the program.

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Jobs & Internships with Gotham Gazette Wed, 28 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Governor Cuomo’s Workforce Investment Plan is a Promising Start http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7412-governor-cuomo-s-workforce-investment-is-a-promising-start http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7412-governor-cuomo-s-workforce-investment-is-a-promising-start Cuomo New York families

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


In a time when more and more training and credentialing is necessary to enter the labor market, Governor Cuomo’s workforce development proposal included as part of his 2018 State of the State symbolizes an important recognition that our economy depends on having a skilled and qualified workforce to meet the demands of tomorrow.

The sense of urgency can be found in the realities that today’s young adults are facing in entering the labor market. Seventeen percent of, or 136,000, 18-to-24 year olds in New York City are out of school and out of work. As the economy continues to redefine itself, young adults are increasingly turning to part-time, gig-like employment opportunities to string together income. Many young adults were pushed to earn a college degree—as part of the American rite of passage—only to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt and entering a labor market with historically low-wages. Consequently, today’s young adults have significantly less income and wealth accumulation than what their parents were making when they were young adults.

The challenges young adults face today are, in part, reflective of the dire need to reimagine how we are preparing young adults to launch their lives with a family-sustaining career. This means ensuring they have equitable access to postsecondary training and credentialing while meeting labor market demand. It’s time for New York State to better leverage its strong and growing economy by building a 21st century workforce development system necessary to adequately prepare rising generations to participate in a constantly changing and increasingly competitive global context.

To be clear, this is not to be confused with the phenomenon of pushing every young person to go straight from high school into a four-year bachelor’s-degree program—although everyone should have access to pursue a college degree if they desire. In fact, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 42 percent, or 1.7 million, New York State residents without bachelor’s degrees have good, blue-collar jobs earning an average of $59,000 a year. This directly challenges the mainstream narrative that every young person needs a four-year degree and makes clear the need to invest in a 21st century workforce development system that can help meet the needs of employers in growing industry sectors, without needing a four-year degree.   

Governor Cuomo’s proposal to add $175 million to support workforce development efforts, establish a statewide workforce development office, design a data system, and establish a one-stop shop for job seekers and employers is a victory in and of-itself. However, we must remain diligent to ensure his vision becomes the reality New Yorkers need it to be.

The proposed $175 million of funding through the Regional Economic Development Councils is a much needed and timely investment—especially given the rapidly changing nature of the economy. Critical to the success of Governor Cuomo’s bold proposed investment is to ensure that these resources are structurally permanent dollars the workforce, education, and economic development systems can depend on year-to-year in order to adequately train New Yorkers to meet labor market demand.

Because actual funding for the workforce system has declined significantly over the last decade—despite the increasing need for more industry-specific training and credentials—some of the initial resources should be used to build up and modernize the existing workforce development infrastructure. This will allow the workforce development system the opportunity to partner with employers and industry sectors, going beyond their current capacity to create cutting edge, innovative training and skill-development strategies for tomorrow’s workforce.

While Governor Cuomo’s proposal to establish a new State Office of Workforce Development is an important step in the right direction, to be effective, this office must have the authority and capacity to truly facilitate interagency coordination and systems building, and must be adequately resourced as a structural part of the Executive Chamber answerable to the Governor. This office must also be accountable to the New York State Legislature through public oversight hearings and annual reporting to maximize transparency and effectiveness.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal to create a one-stop shop online portal for workers and businesses is a 21st century idea that JobsFirstNYC called for in Unleashing the Economic Power of the 35 Percent, recognizing the fractured and siloed nature of education, training, and employment. If effective, this portal will be a transformative tool that will include job and career information, education and training resources, geographical information on how to find social services related to work, and more.

Finally, Governor Cuomo’s plan to create a statewide data analytics system modeled after Monroe Community College’s framework is a welcomed idea. At first glance, the proposal seems to only focus on the demand side data that is critical to informing where more training and workers are needed to fill skills gaps. However, to be truly comprehensive, this new system must include a universal way to understand and measure programmatic performance that is easy to engage with and will help employers find creative solutions to meet their employment needs. This will ensure that state resources are being used efficiently and help the workforce development adjust its practice accordingly.

As Governor Cuomo and state legislators work to pass the state budget in the coming months, they must ensure that any workforce development strategy empowers local communities to leverage resources that meet the unique need of their economies. Additionally, the state’s workforce development investment must be given the flexibility and infrastructure to create innovative workforce development strategies that are responsive to current demand and can anticipate tomorrow’s evolving needs.  

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Kevin Stump is vice president of Policy, Communications, and In-School Practice for , JobsFirstNYC and Co-Chair of the #InvestinSkillsNY Campaign. On Twitter @KevinStump & @JobsFirstNYC.

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Governor Cuomo’s Workforce Investment Plan is a Promising Start Tue, 09 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Council, Outside Experts Push De Blasio Administration on 'Career Pathways' http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7339-city-council-outside-experts-push-de-blasio-administration-on-career-pathways http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7339-city-council-outside-experts-push-de-blasio-administration-on-career-pathways daneek miller via john mccarten

Council Member Daneek Miller (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to create 100,000 new jobs in New York City over ten years by investing in high-wage industries where there is potential to grow with a boost from city government. The jobs will all pay at least $50,000 per year, he promised.

The jobs plan, first outlined as the signature proposal of de Blasio’s 2017 State of the City speech, builds on other jobs programs, such Career Pathways, a workforce development initiative announced in 2014 intended to fill gaps in areas like training that were keeping people from attaining positions or entering higher wage roles. But when the jobs program was announced, advocates and service providers quickly pointed out that Career Pathways has not been funded at recommended levels.

According to the administration, the desired result of Career Pathways was for agencies overseeing workforce development to “reorient their services toward career progression instead of stopping at job placement.”

The Career Pathways Task Force, which came up with recommendations for filling the gaps, recommended large investments in new workforce development, including $60 million annually by 2020 in “bridge programs that prepare low-skill jobseekers for entry-level work and middle-skill job training,” and $100 million annually by 2020 in “career-track, middle-skill occupations, including greater support for incumbent workers who are not getting ahead.”

But with 2017 nearing an end, the city appears to be significantly behind schedule on the program. And on Monday, the City Council’s Committees on Small Business and Civil Service & Labor held a joint oversight hearing on Career Pathways and its progress.

A glaring question for Career Pathways is funding. Of the projected $100 million annually by 2020 in career training for middle-skill jobs, about half of the proposed amount has been allocated in the city budget, now about halfway between the 2014 introduction and 2020.

Significantly, of the $60 million projected annual investment in bridge programs for low-skill workers, only $6.4 million has been allocated, according to the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank focused on the city’s economy.

Barbara Chang, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, testified Monday on behalf of the administration. When Council Member Daneek Miller, chair of the labor committee, questioned Chang on the funding deficiency in bridge programs, which combine industry-specific training with more basic educational training, she offered a slightly more optimistic number: $7.5 million out of the $60 million. Citing the success of Seattle’s bridge program, Chang noted that New York presents numerous challenges not present in other cities, making efficient use of funds more difficult to ascertain.

“What we’re doing is we’re beginning to pilot bridge programs in the setting of New York City,” Chang said, “where we have a much more diverse population [than Seattle]. And we’re looking to see what works in New York City as it relates to bridge programming, and so as those pilots come out with data, then I think we’ll be in a better position to make strategic investments.”

For some advocates, the administration’s process is not nearly fast enough. Kevin Stump, vice president of policy at JobsFirstNYC, called for an immediate new investment of $20 million in bridge programming in the city’s next budget, and for another $33.6 million the year after to bring the total annual investment to target levels.

“We appreciate the City’s careful approach to systems-building and recognize this can take time and applaud the City for taking steps in the right direction,” Stump said. “However, after nearly three years of building, the time to make a significant investment in the system is now.”

Previous workforce development initiatives had been criticized for attempting to simply shoehorn people into jobs without care for fit; the de Blasio administration’s aim for its program was to prepare workers for and place them in high demand sectors that, combined with the education and training programs contained within Career Pathways, would topple barriers to employment and focus on the human capital aspect of economic development.

The task force identified six high demand sectors: healthcare, technology, industrial/ manufacturing, and construction, retail, and food service. The first four are the focus of investment in training, while the latter two are the focus of investment in improving the quality of low-wage sectors.

The intention is to advance career progress for workers rather than simply place them into a job. But an unintended consequence of this focus has been neglect of small businesses.

“Despite the laudable goal of career-track skills building articulated in the Career Pathways plan, workforce development providers are evaluated and reimbursed largely based on how many people they can place into jobs,” said Christian Gonzalez-Rivera, a senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future. “This economic reality means providers have an overwhelming incentive to work almost exclusively with large businesses that can hire big batches of workers at once, rather than with small businesses that might add only one or two employees at a time.”

Gonzalez-Rivera’s testimony further noted that small business job growth has, since 2001, outpaced corporate (500 employees or more) job growth nearly 3-to-1; but small businesses often “report that they are encountering challenges in recruiting and retaining workers,” which can be a death knell for a business aiming to stay in New York.

CUF also notes that the program is not sufficiently helping immigrants, a group that comprises nearly half of the city’s workforce but have disproportionately low education levels.

“This makes immigrants the prime clients for the city’s workforce development system, yet our research found that publicly funded workforce programs are just not producing results for them,” said Gonzalez-Rivera. “As a result, many turn to predatory for-profit employment agencies that charge high fees to place them into jobs or take a cut of their wages.”

The city, on the other hand, said that the bridge program has been designed with immigrants in mind.

“These programs allow job-seekers with limited educational attainment and low English proficiency to make progress toward occupational goals as they build their basic skills,” Chang said.

The Career Pathways program is included in the mayor’s jobs plan, New York Works. While it is not touted as part of the administration’s newer initiatives to provoke job creation, Career Pathways is named as a program already expanding employment on the way to de Blasio’s 100,000 marker.

Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the small business committee and a candidate to be the next Council speaker, was scheduled to be at the hearing, but couldn’t attend due to a family medical emergency. In a statement, Cornegy emphasized the need for the program to focus on small business growth rather than just job placement.

“The Career Pathways report released in 2014 identified key areas we as a City need to improve in order to ensure we are developing our human capital in the most efficient and effective way possible,” Cornegy told Gotham Gazette. “Today’s hearing was meant to measure our progress against the strategy outlined in the report and renew our commitment to ensuring the City’s commitment to workforce development strategy functions accordingly. As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Small Business, it is clear there is more we can do to ensure our workforce is capable of helping the City’s small businesses build capacity. Toward that end, I introduced and the Council recently passed two bills (Int. 1510 & 1511) that will survey small business owners’ workforce needs, and develop and implement a comprehensive workforce development plan that addresses them. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues and the administration moving forward to further fund and scale workforce development initiatives, like bridge programs, and find ways to better serve our small businesses, the true drivers of this City’s economy.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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City Council, Outside Experts Push De Blasio Administration on 'Career Pathways' Mon, 27 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection Mayor de Blasio Chirlane McCray City Hall Reelection Parade

Mayor Bill de Blasio & First Lady Chirlane McCray (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


As Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first-term Democrat, seeks reelection this fall, a close examination of his record is essential. De Blasio came into power promising to address inequlality in a variety of forms, including income, educational, policing, racial, and opportunity inequities he identified during his 2013 campaign. In this year's election de Blasio is running in part on his record, which is headlined by the implementation of his campaign promise to provide universal pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds. But, there is much more to the mayor's record than UPK, which has clearly been his biggest success.

In this series, Gotham Gazette, with election coverage partners City Limits and WNYC radio, examines de Blasio's record on a variety of important issues. While this is not completely exhaustive, it should be helpful to voters and others seeking to evaluate de Blasio this fall. With our partners, Gotham Gazette will release articles and audio pieces on the following aspects of de Blasio's record -- those already published are linked below.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.

More to read/view/hear:

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection Wed, 01 Nov 2017 23:26:00 +0000
De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy bdb scissors

De Blasio at a business ribbon-cutting (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

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In the four years since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office with the mantra of fighting the unequal “tale of two cities,” New Yorkers have seen wages rise and unemployment fall. De Blasio is currently presiding over a continuation of the longest economic expansion in the city’s history, and has used the strength of that growth to implement policies aimed at reducing inequality, largely by increasing the size and scope of city government.

But, for many, affordable housing and other aspects of a good quality of life remain beyond the reach of their means, homelessness is hovering near record highs, and the haves and have-nots remain nearly as far apart as they were under the previous administration, at least in terms of income. As the Democratic mayor seeks another term, with a recently-unveiled middle-class jobs plans, he is touting his record on the economy and promising to use city policy to spur over ten years the creation of 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 annually.

There are questions, however, about the degree to which the progressive mayor deserves credit for the city’s continued overall economic boom and to what extent de Blasio has really shrunk economic inequality beyond simply income. And, to some, de Blasio is seen as a mayor who has been more focused on new mandates on businesses than he has been on helping businesses grow, though most experts agree that de Blasio has not stifled business growth or repelled businesses.

Meanwhile, unlike his predecessor, billionaire business executive Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio has not had to confront a major economic crisis (Bloomberg shepherded the city through two economic catastrophes, post-September 11, 2001 and the Great Recession that began in 2008). The de Blasio administration has been fortunate to avoid economic stressors that would truncate its ability to spend lavishly on its progressive priorities and force the mayor who likes big government to slash from the budget and workforce, though that could change in a potential second term as a widely-expected slowdown begins to take effect and federal policies threaten to wreak havoc on the local economy.

As of now, though, de Blasio appears to be taking a few more cautious steps, instituting a partial hiring freeze for city agencies, for example. He’s also been able to build reserves while quickly increasing city spending, and he’s now more focused on spurring private-sector job growth using the levers of city government.  

At his January 1, 2014 inauguration, de Blasio took “dead aim at the tale of two cities” and announced a slew of policy priorities that would help create “one city,” including the expansion of paid sick leave, curtailing stop-and-frisk policing, creating more affordable housing, and taxing the rich to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

Just over three years later, at his fourth State of the City address, on February 13, 2017, the mayor’s aim was more pointed, and his rhetoric more humble. Acknowledging that the city’s prosperity was not felt by all its residents, he said, “Everything we've been doing so far is necessary. I believe it's right. But it's not sufficient.” Having touted his administration’s affordable housing efforts, he said, “We have to now focus on the other half of the equation. We have to drive up incomes.” And he announced a goal of creating the 100,000 new “good-paying” jobs in rapidly growing sectors of the economy by using the levers of city government.

But there’s only so much control de Blasio employs over macro economic factors. He’s said so candidly in addressing the issues that he can control, which he nonetheless believes can have a powerful impact. At a February 18 event hosted by the CUNY Graduate Center, de Blasio discussed his administration’s progress on tackling inequality with Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Responding to the moderator, CUNY Professor Janet Gornick, who asked why the mayor had made such a commitment with a “limited set of policy levers” at his disposal, de Blasio said, “Now I contest, respectfully, that the limits on our tools - not to say that we can do what a state or a federal government can do, but to say that we have powerful tools. In fact, every government has powerful tools.”

De Blasio boasted of the savings that universal pre-kindergarten and free after-school programs provide to families and his affordable housing plan. “I mean all of these are ways of addressing inequality and lightening the burden...These are the things we can do. But it does not for a moment replace what the federal government could and should do.”

The mayor has also recognized that a key component in ensuring the city’s continued economic strength is consistent reductions in crime. “Obviously, everything we do has to be undergirded by keeping the city safe and making it safer,” he said at the annual State Financial Control Board meeting in August. “We can't have an effective economy, we can't have good schools, we can't do any of the things we seek to do if we don't have a safe city. And we're investing to make sure that America's safest big city is, in fact, safer than ever going forward.”

Indeed, part of the large public-sector job growth under de Blasio has been the addition of 1,300 NYPD officers, which serve the dual purpose of creating more middle-class jobs and, more significantly, helping to implement a neighborhood policing program and other measures that de Blasio and NYPD officials credit with further reductions in most major crime categories.

The city’s economic health has also allowed de Blasio to successfully defend his approach to governance and his progressive policies. The doom-and-gloom forecasts of his detractors have not come to pass, and he has continued to argue triumphantly that building a more equitable city does not come at a cost to its wealthier residents. While de Blasio continues to call for higher taxes on the biggest earners, he does not control those policies, and though they may not care for his rhetoric, CEOs and top earners on Wall Street, in law firms, and elsewhere, appear fairly at ease given how safe the city is, the record tourism the city has seen, and the continued diversification of the economy.

On most major economic indicators, the city is performing well, and better than national averages. As of September 27, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 4.4 million jobs in the city as of August, the highest number ever and up from 4.05 million in December 2013, just before de Blasio took office. In September, the unemployment rate in the city was about 5.1 percent and has hovered close to that for months.

The number of private sector jobs has grown about 9 percent in the last four years. The median family income rose about 5.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, to a high of $65,440 -- an overall increase of 9.5 percent from 2013 -- according to calculations of census data by James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. Poverty also fell to 18.9 percent in 2016, from 20 percent the previous year, per Parrott’s analysis (That is one metric where the city was far worse than the national average, which was 14 percent in 2016).

With the economy thriving, economic experts, on the right and left, and independent fiscal watchdogs are in broad agreement that de Blasio’s policies have encouraged, or at least not hampered, the conditions for growth, both in directly measurable actions and through overarching policies with indirect, less quantifiable effects. But, there is also consensus that the administration must meticulously guide the next phase of the city’s economic development and keep a vigilant eye on variables that could threaten the city’s economic health.

The next tests for de Blasio will come as he moves his jobs plan ahead, how the city’s investments in certain places, like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, pan out, and whatever larger economic forces and policies out of Washington, D.C. may portend.

Where credit is due
It’s hard to attribute the sustained growth of the city’s economy to local factors. Macroeconomic cycles and variables, including federal policy, and national and global developments, play a broad role, and New York City has benefited from a variety of factors, while remaining a top city for the financial services sector, arts and culture, and tourism. The city has outperformed the state and the country in most aspects of economic development, showing a resiliency that other places have not.

“The underlying organic growth is not any more a function of current policies or past policies of administrations,” Parrott said in a phone interview. “It’s what goes on in the economy generally...Whatever economic dynamics work in the broader economy, any mayor can only affect those on the margin.”

Maria Doulis, vice president of the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission, echoed that view. “Economic growth at the local level is a tricky thing, because much of it has to do with national and state forces and its really on the margins that local governments can have impact. Nevertheless, the mayor, whoever the mayor is, gets credit when things go well, and gets the blame when things don’t. That’s the way things work.”

Steadily growing tax revenues allowed the de Blasio administration to focus right from the start on economic inequality, rather having to worry about broader economic development or recovery, although the mayor insists that fighting inequality and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. Giving New Yorkers more resources, whether through higher wages or greater savings or more paid sick days, for instance, are better for productivity, he has often said.

“While I certainly wouldn’t claim that the continued economic growth we’ve seen in the city is solely the product of policy decisions made by this administration, I think there are a lot of things that we have done over the last four years and that we have in the works that I think have promoted not just a continued strong economy but more inclusive growth,” said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in a phone interview.

The mayor has had such strong revenue at his disposal that he has been able to build the city’s reserves while rapidly growing the budget to implement policies to drive up wages and increase fairness and opportunity, especially for low-income families.

The city’s annual expense budget has grown about 18 percent during de Blasio’s term, to $85 billion this fiscal year. He pushed for funding for universal pre-kindergarten, which the state largely provided in lieu of the mayor’s proposed tax on wealthy New Yorkers. The policy has saved families about $1.4 billion, according to city estimates. De Blasio also signed into law in 2014 an expansion of paid sick leave to 500,000 workers across the private and nonprofit sectors. Last year, de Blasio announced a $15 minimum wage by the end of 2018 for all city employees and workers at human services nonprofits contracted by the city. His efforts helped push the state toward increasing the minimum wage for virtually all employees in all sectors, to $15 in New York City by 2019.

Parrott said the mayor has effectively controlled “policy levers” such as managing the city budget to invest in human services, infrastructure, and affordable housing, while also reducing crime to historic levels, all of which have been conducive to economic growth. “I think that overall responsible fiscal management approach has helped communicate confidence to the business sector in New York City,” he said, adding particular praise for how the mayor has built up the city’s reserves.

One of the mayor’s most significant early achievements, for which Parrott believes he deserves most credit, was settling the labor contracts for virtually the entire city’s municipal workforce, which had been expired for years under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “If you think back four years ago, people were saying this was the biggest challenge the new mayor is going to face…A lot of people concluded that it was going to be impossible to do that in a fiscally responsible way,” Parrott said. “[De Blasio] basically took that on and resolved that in his first six months in office.”

The move reaffirmed the importance of collective bargaining, Parrott said, and provided thousands of city workers with wage increases while creating significant healthcare savings for the first time. While some say it did not do enough to reform health care obligations or anything to reduce pension obligations, the settling of labor contracts eliminated a major point of uncertainty for the city and the workers involved, and the salary boosts help to lift or maintain middle-class lifestyles for many civil servants.

“I think overall he’s done a very good job,” Parrott said.

Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank, pointed out that de Blasio inherited a robust economy that has only gotten stronger. “This economic resurgence started before the mayor took over,” he said, with a reference to the city’s recovery from the collapse of 2008-2009. “I don’t think economic development has been one of the mayor’s priority areas in his first term but clearly it probably didn’t need to be. It’s important that he didn’t do anything to extinguish the economic progress that we had.”

Leaders of the city’s corporate business community have said that while they don’t necessarily appreciate the ways in which de Blasio talks about the wealthy not paying their fair share and his calls for higher taxes -- some see him as vilifying success and fostering class warfare -- he has not done much to get in the way of their priorities and he has even accomplished a few things they like, including parts of his education agenda and his choices in police commissioners.

Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, also said that the city’s achievements in bringing crime to historic lows have fostered a positive business environment. “Although he’s not fully in control of that, but crime has certainly continued to go down on his watch,” said Gelinas. “So businesses still feel safe in coming to the city, students still feel safe coming here for school, and that creates jobs.”

Generating good-paying jobs in the middle
After the global recession that began in 2008, New York City saw a far quicker overall recovery than most of the country. The economy also increasingly diversified, with expanded growth outside of the financial sector, in retail, tourism, and tech, for instance. But job growth was mostly either in high-income jobs or low-income ones, with the lower end accounting for a majority. Middle-income jobs failed to materialize at the same rate.

De Blasio took stock of this as his term wore on, and announced earlier this year “New York Works,” his plan to create over ten years 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 a year. The goal has been panned as lacking in ambition -- the city’s economy has been creating on average 90,000 jobs each year (of any wage level) and extends well beyond a potential second term for de Blasio -- but it aims to leverage the city’s investments and regulatory authority to directly benefit sectors that are expected to grow or have good potential for growth with a boost from targeted city help. De Blasio and his team stress that the number indicates only jobs that will result from direct city action, not that would have been generated anyway, though it may not always be easy to differentiate.

The mayor has already inaugurated initiatives and announced investments that dovetail with the jobs plan, including $442 million in infrastructure spending for city-owned industrial spaces such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and Hunts Point; a $5-million grant to BioLabs@NYULangone to create a life sciences incubator by the end of 2017; an $81-million Computer Science For All public-private initiative that is meant to build tech talent through public schools; and a $20 million program, announced on Monday, to double by 2022 the number of CUNY students graduating each year with a tech-related bachelor’s degree.

“I think certainly early on in the administration the focus with respect to economic growth was not so much creating jobs and spurring the economy but rather focusing on economic inequality and doing more to support low-income earners,” said CBC’s Doulis. “I think in time that has shifted now with the development of their jobs plan.”

At a recent discussion hosted at The New School by the Center for an Urban Future, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen emphasized the all-encompassing nature of the jobs plan and the creation of an ecosystem that will support new job creation. “It’s really important to remember there’s a short game here and a long game and we have to play both of them,” she said.

Glen touted the administration’s focus on affordability, the use of commercial neighborhood rezonings to encourage job growth, and spoke of the “incentive structures” necessary for specific industries to meet their potential. “This is a ten-year plan,” she said. “I can’t say in year eight or nine where every single job is going to be. That would be an unrealistic expectation. So we have to be nimble, we have to be thoughtful. We have to adapt in real-time to changes in technology, to changes in capital markets, to changes in political and regional realities.”

There was near unanimous agreement by an expert panel that followed Glen’s speech that the mayor’s plan to incentivize jobs would be incomplete unless accompanied by workforce development programs and with the requisite educational achievement that will qualify New York City residents for those jobs. The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette concurred.

“If Amazon doesn’t come here, that’s gonna be a big reason,” said Bowles, warning of the dearth of necessary skills and education for those jobs in New York as well as the dangers that increasing automation will bring to the same industries the city is targeting in its plan. “I don’t think we can go another four years without also doing some very specific things to curate the city’s economic growth,” he said, mentioning the need to help small businesses.

Bowles praised the mayor’s focus on middle class jobs, as well as the city’s increased focus on promoting minority- and women-owned businesses.

In 2014, the mayor convened the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force to create a blueprint for workforce development and fill the skills gap that kept many New Yorkers from getting adequate paying jobs. But, in the three years since that blueprint, called NYC Career Pathways, was created, there has been little progress, said Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an umbrella group of more than 150 workforce providers in the city. “There has been some organizational shifting in terms of new offices created and new people appointed,” Laymon said, “but there really has not been a lot of actual policy or funding change.”

Laymon pointed out that a key budgetary recommendation of Career Pathways was to fund $60 million in annual “bridge programs” by 2020 to help people with limited educational attainment to receive additional skills training. Three years into the plan, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a little over $6 million for those programs. “There has been some starting but it’s not moving fast enough to make some real substantial differences in the lives of New Yorkers,” Laymon said.

“New York is a great place to live right now if you have a college degree or in-demand skills in a particular field or trade,” he added. But the struggle, he said, is for people who lack those skills and are dealing with an economy that is expensive and does not provide opportunities much better than four years ago, or before that.

Angelina Garneva, communications director at NYCETC, added, “What we’ve been arguing for is that whenever there are conversations about economic development, workforce development should inherently be part of that conversation rather than an addendum or an afterthought or a wholly separate conversation.” She said the city needs to create an ecosystem for growth beyond only direct financial incentives, which administration officials have readily acknowledged. For instance, creating a system of collaboration between different workforce development programs and organizations.

“Putting in some oil between the mechanics of how things function so you can get bigger outcomes,” Garneva said. “It doesn’t have to be just direct programming...there’s also certain offices that can be empowered to make decisions to increase these kinds of impacts.”

EDC’s Hogrebe said the 100,000 jobs plan accounts for workforce development. “Built into that I think is a very strong recognition of the need to create a pipeline to the jobs that we are looking to build and a strong commitment to doing so and looking at innovative models of apprenticeships and other types of programming that can actually create that pipeline,” he said.

As evidenced by the jobs plan, the de Blasio-Glen approach is interventionist, both on housing and jobs, to harness and encourage market forces to benefit more New Yorkers. On both fronts, though, there are questions about whether the administration is reaching those struggling the most -- the lowest-income tenants looking for an affordable apartment, the unskilled young adult seeking a good-paying job.

Risk Factors
There are, of course, factors out of the mayor’s control that can limit growth and pose dire challenges for the city’s path ahead, which may include a second term for de Blasio.

There’s broad consensus that federal policies -- on immigration, health care, taxes,  and more -- can have devastating effects for the city’s economy through numerous direct and indirect ways. More locally, the city’s infrastructure issues and continued unaffordability for many can also serve to dampen people’s willingness to move, live, or open a business here, experts say. All that combined with an expected slowdown of the economy, after an unprecedented period of growth, could mean a perfect storm of economic uncertainty.

“The economy goes in cycles and there’s no question it’s not going to keep clicking on all cylinders, without some careful attention and support from City Hall,” said Bowles of Center for an Urban Future. “I think in the next four years, we’re going to need to see more focus on economic development. I think that there’s a good chance the economy will slow down.” He pointed to decreasing retail jobs from the last few years as one warning sign.

But the bigger issues, he said, are the ones that affect people’s quality of life and therefore the city’s ability to attract talent. Mounting subway delays and the increasingly high cost of living, he said, could have an impact. And President Trump’s immigration policies could hurt the city further.

“We’ve probably only begun to see the dampening effect from President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, on refugees,” Bowles said. ”If fewer immigrants come to the city, that’s gonna have a major impact. Immigrants are starting like half the businesses in the city and they make up about 47 percent of the workforce, and they are also a huge source of tech talent.”

Recent studies have shown that international tourism to the United States has already declined, although not definitively linked to the Trump administration. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the first three months of 2017, there were about 700,000 fewer international arrivals compared to 2016. Tourism has been a particular boon for the city’s economy, accounting for billions in spending. A record 60.5 million tourists visited the city in 2016, a statistic de Blasio frequently cites. About 12.7 million of those were international visitors.

“It’s really about the confluence of what happens with the economy and with federal policy and then what is the city’s ability to manage that within the budget,” said CBC’s Doulis. She warned of the direct effects that federal cuts to Medicaid would have on the city, something the state and city governments are already feuding over. She pointed to President Trump’s tax plan, including the proposed elimination of the state and local tax deduction, on which high-tax states like New York rely.

Although Doulis acknowledged that the city has built up strong reserves to deal with a slowdown, or even a downturn, she said there hasn’t been sufficient “belt-tightening” at city agencies. The mayor’s response in such a situation is also hard to predict, she said. Would he propose more taxes or take a more balanced approach? “That’s an open question, and it’s likely to be one the mayor’s gonna face in the second term,” she said.

Gelinas, from the Manhattan Institute, wasn’t very concerned about Trump’s proposals, mostly since she doesn’t expect them to be enacted. She noted, for instance, the numerous failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I think one of the challenges in a slowdown would be, can the city maintain its quality of life if it loses a few billion dollars in tax revenue in any one year,” Gelinas said. “If people see that public services are slipping, they may not want to commit to being in New York.” She did, however, say that a market adjustment would be good for the city if it meant a decline in office and residential rents and property prices, allowing businesses and people to move here who couldn’t afford it otherwise. “Being too successful all the time is not that good either. We may be pushing out people to cheaper places that want to be in the arts or creative industries and that’s not good for the city in the long term,” Gelinas said.

Parrott of The New School was perhaps the only expert who doesn’t necessarily see an economic slowdown on the horizon. Cumulatively, the city’s absolute growth in terms of gross city product has yet to surpass earlier phases of expansion, he said. “If you gauge maximum level by accumulated GDP growth, this expansion could have another six to eight to nine years to go,” he said. “It depends on what sort of economic policy management we get out of Washington and the Federal Reserve. And what’s happening around the world.”

And Parrott praised the mayor’s management of the budget and reserves, which he believes will sustain the city through a period of weakened tax revenues. “There’s nothing in Bill de Blasio’s management of the budget to suggest that he’d be any less capable in approaching that,” he said, expressing an opinion not especially common among analysts of de Blasio’s leadership. There are also fiscal crises happening simultaneously at the city's public housing authority, NYCHA, and its public hospitals system, Health + Hospitals, where turnaround plans are in place, but need is dire and federal help vanishing.

Parrott also echoed concerns about the MTA and the city’s subway crisis, placing blame on both the city and state for failing commuters. “The city arguably needs to be doing more on the MTA, the MTA is really critical to the economic prosperity of the city and it’s not in good shape right now,” he said. “Partly the city is not doing what it needs to do. But on the other hand, there’s no partner at the state level to really work with on that either. So you can’t fault the mayor entirely on that. But I think that’s an area where he’s gotta do better.”

Laymon was more blunt about the city’s prospects, insisting that the biggest challenge may be continued inequality and lopsided growth. “The question is whether or not we leave behind a growing underclass of people that we have not helped lift out of poverty,” he said. “I think that is, as much as it was when he first ran, the number one risk factor for New York going forward, which is still increasing income inequality.”

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This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy Mon, 23 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Experts Analyze Mayor De Blasio's Jobs Plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7208-experts-analyze-mayor-de-blasio-s-jobs-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7208-experts-analyze-mayor-de-blasio-s-jobs-plan 32122764952 40cb06af67 z

Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


An expert panel convened at The New School on Wednesday by the Center for An Urban Future delved into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 100,000 “good-paying” jobs in the next ten years, discussing the challenges of growing the city’s economy while ensuring that New Yorkers are its beneficiaries.

The mayor’s “New York Works” plan, unveiled in June, envisions targeted city investments in booming or burgeoning industries such as cybersecurity, life sciences, virtual reality, tech, culture, freight, and manufacturing to create 10,000 jobs each year that pay at least $50,000 a year, promoting the middle class and reducing income inequality in the city. Some have questioned the less-than-ambitious goal -- the city has created on average about 90,000 jobs each year in the last decade -- while others have raised concerns that the new jobs may not be sufficiently well-paying in a city that is increasingly unaffordable for many. The panel of experts explored those issues, and the related economic factors that they agreed were necessary to facilitate and maximize the impact of the job creation plan.

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen kicked off the event with the administration’s pitch for its ten-year plan. She pointed to the city’s record-high employment rates and job growth -- employment is at 4.4 million jobs, unemployment is at 4 percent this year and the private sector has grown overall by 9 percent under this administration -- and laid out the strategies for creating quality jobs through city actions. Notably, the 100,000 target only accounts for jobs created directly through city intervention, and doesn't include employment that may be created as a secondary result.

“It’s really important to remember there’s a short game here and a long game and we have to play both of them,” she said, touting the administration’s first-term achievements as contributors to a stronger economy including universal pre-kindergarten, improvements in educational achievement, record-low crimes and the building of affordable housing, among other factors.

But she recognized that industry trends such as automation and globalisation are increasingly impacting the middle class and that the city would have to actively intervene to stem job losses and promote growth in specific sectors “where specific government intervention in either space or talent or certain kinds of incentive structures, we believe, are actually necessary for them to reach their true potential. So this is on top of any organic growth that would happen without our interventions.”

She also noted that the administration has leveraged its land use and regulatory powers to encourage economic development. Referring to comprehensive land use changes passed in East Midtown, Far Rockaway and East New York, she said, “All of these neighborhood rezoning plans are not just about housing, it’s also about creating opportunity for smart job growth and many of those will have very interesting overlaps with this plan.”

After Glen spoke, she quickly departed and a five-member panel comprising real estate insiders and urban policy experts, and one City Council member, took the stage.

Panel moderator Winston Fisher, a partner at real estate firm Fisher Brothers and co-chair of the NYC Regional Economic Development Council, posed the central question. “If the economy is doing so well...do we need a strategy for good jobs?” he asked. “Why do we need this and how do we even measure this?”

“Absolutely we need it,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. “This is the big economic development question today.” Bowles noted that projections show seven out of the ten occupations that will create the most jobs in the next ten years will be in low-wage sectors, and the other three in high-wage fields. “It’s not just that we need more jobs, we need more good-paying jobs that are accessible for a broad range of New Yorkers because so few of the new jobs are in that middle range that are accessible to people without a college degree.”

There was general praise for the administration's jobs plan but certain concerns among the members of the panel about whether it targets the right population, whether job growth will directly benefit the city’s residents, and whether it adequately accounts for the overarching factors that affect the economy and income inequality at large.

City Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the economic development committee, questioned whether the administration was being sufficiently ambitious in aiming for 100,000 jobs. “I do think we need to be asking the question, is that the right number? Is it aspirational enough?”

But panellist Seth Pinsky, executive vice president at RXR, a real estate firm, and former president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, said the problem was not the number of jobs. His “quibble” about the plan was that it does not explicitly address the need to bring jobs to those who require them most, particularly New Yorkers without an advanced education.

“The problem is not creating jobs, it’s who’s getting the jobs,” Pinsky said, noting that the unemployment rate for those without a high school degree is three times that of those with a master’s degree or higher. That was, for him, the biggest challenge for the city, noting that the administration would need to figure out how to “creatively” educate those without a formal education and also establish a robust safety net for those who are likely to never catch up in education and job skills in increasingly automated industries. “This is a problem that’s bigger than New York City, it’s a problem that cities and countries all over the world are dealing with,” he said.

Kevin Ryan, an entrepreneur and founder of companies including MongoDB, Zola, Workframe and NoMad Health, echoed that uncertainty. Although the high school graduation rate in the city hit an all-time high of 79.4 percent last year, Ryan was pessimistic about the job prospects of the more than 20 percent who don’t receive diplomas. He also pointed to the city’s lack of affordable housing and abysmal transit infrastructure as factors that negatively impact the economy.

Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, stressed that jobs created should meet the needs of residents of communities and also the needs of current and prospective employers. Chiefly, she said, it was necessary to ensure that “our students, our New York City residents get the first bite of this New York City apple…Economic development and jobs start at the cradle, we need a healthy child, we need a great excellent education system, we need affordable education...to ensure our kids get the first crack at the apple.”

One of the more pressing issues, repeated often by different panellists, was the need to enhance affordability to complement increased wages among lower- and middle-wage job holders.

Pinsky emphasized the role real estate could play, by increasing housing density to create more affordability. And, if the city were to invest heavily in transit infrastructure and connectivity across the boroughs, he said, it would relieve stress on the housing market and automatically lead to more affordable housing units farther from the city center. He also pointed out that, since the economy is not organically creating middle-wage jobs, the city should take an aggressive approach to incentivise companies to create those jobs through subsidies, similar to the way the de Blasio administration has approached affordable housing.

Cintron repeatedly emphasized the need for affordable education, which she suggested could be implemented through the CUNY and SUNY systems by New York State, building on the recent Excelsior program that provides tuition-free college for families making $100,000 a year or less. Ryan added that creating a more affordable city, through infrastructure and housing, would also discourage companies from outsourcing jobs and would draw more qualified workers to the city.

Pinsky, Bowles and Garodnick also touched on the broader economic conditions that are necessary to promote job creation. Noting Pinsky’s argument about workforce development, Bowles said the mayor’s plan would need to incorporate jobs training and skill building to create a “talent pipeline” across diverse sectors. And he said that it was impossible to tell which job sector would grow the fastest. “We do know that New York has this amazing opportunity to scale up our small businesses,” he said, emphasizing that that could create more middle-wage jobs with benefits.

Pinsky agreed that certain sectors were ripe for growth, but he said it was a mistake for the city to focus too heavily on them. “People in government often think that they’re chasing the next big thing when, in fact, what they’re chasing is the last big thing,” he said. “We’re much better off trying to create the conditions for all sectors to thrive and then to let the marketplace sort through which are the ones that actually should be here and which are the ones that have a less logical connection to a specific place like New York.”

Reiterating that point, Garodnick said, “The plan makes only passing reference to those general conditions which are necessary for businesses to be successful in New York.” He said the city needed to account for the “fundamentals” that affect economic activity, be it the ongoing subway crisis or traffic congestion. “Until we’re adequately dealing with those, we’re gonna have challenges,” he said. He did praise the administration for including land use policy in the jobs plan, but was disappointed with inadequate steps taken to relieve burdens on small businesses. In particular, he called for reforming the commercial rent tax that is levied on businesses below 96th Street in Manhattan. “We can’t ignore some of these other issues that the city can actually act on right now,” he said.

Bowles agreed that the city should foster an “ecosystem” to strengthen small businesses and put resources into modernizing infrastructure, which would naturally create jobs as well.

The de Blasio administration is well aware that achieving its goals will require an organic approach that meets the needs of the economy as it develops and changes. Deputy Mayor Glen noted as much on Wednesday. “This is a ten-year plan,” she said. “I can’t say in year eight or nine where every single job is going to be. That would be an unrealistic expectation. So we have to be nimble, we have to be thoughtful. We have to adapt in real-time to changes in technology, to changes in capital markets, to changes in political and regional realities.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Experts Analyze Mayor De Blasio's Jobs Plan Wed, 20 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000