Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2083 Sun, 17 Dec 2017 10:10:31 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council, Outside Experts Push De Blasio Administration on 'Career Pathways' http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7339:city-council-outside-experts-push-de-blasio-administration-on-career-pathways http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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/?id=7221:dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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/?id=7270:de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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, City government 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/?id=7208:experts-analyze-mayor-de-blasio-s-jobs-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Experts Analyze Mayor De Blasio's Jobs Plan Wed, 20 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
What’s The [DATA] Point? 100,000, with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7090:what-s-the-data-point-100-000-with-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7090:what-s-the-data-point-100-000-with-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen whats the data point


What's The Data Point? Episode 6 -- 100,000, with Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.  [You can download What's The Data Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

For this episode of What's The [Data] Point?, a podcast from Citizens Budget Commission and Gotham Gazette, we were joined by Alicia Glen, New York City Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, who discussed the rezoning of East Midtown, the de Blasio administration's new jobs plan, and the recent tweaks to the administration's housing plan. Glen explains the significance of the East Midtown deal, which just came together and passed through City Council committee, and discusses key aspects of the jobs plan, which seeks to create 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 annually over ten years.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis (@MariaDoulis) of CBC, and guest Alicia Glen (@DMAliciaGlen).

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What’s The [DATA] Point? 100,000, with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen Thu, 27 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
‘Interventionist’ De Blasio Unveils Ten-Year Jobs Plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7004:interventionist-de-blasio-unveils-ten-year-jobs-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7004:interventionist-de-blasio-unveils-ten-year-jobs-plan bdb jobs booklet presser works

The Mayor & his jobs plan (photo: Felipe De La Hoz)


Holding up a glossy, 114-page booklet emblazoned with “New York Works” in bold yellow lettering – the same words hanging from the wall behind him – Mayor Bill de Blasio promised on Thursday to make New York City the “capital of cyber security.”

Cyber security is one plank in the mayor’s ten-year job creation plan, which he announced from the sleek Garment District offices of SecurityScorecard, a firm specializing in cyber security monitoring and threat detection. Cyber security has been identified as a growth sector, one that will be home to more jobs if the city helps spur it along, the mayor explained.

The overall jobs plan, largely put together by Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, promises 100,000 jobs with “good wages” – defined as an annual salary of at least $50,000, which the mayor admitted was somewhat an arbitrary number – through 25 initiatives.

Ultimately, the proposal was framed as a way to create a “critical mass” of tech innovation, as the mayor put it, and ensure New Yorkers enter into fields allowing them to live in the city without being “rent-burdened” – spending more than 30 percent of one’s income on rent. The jobs plan is the other side of the coin to the mayor’s 200,000-unit affordable housing plan, which he and Glen unveiled in 2014; both of which attack the city’s affordability crisis and the inequality that the mayor promised to address as a candidate.

During the announcement and the press questioning that followed, de Blasio and Glen repeatedly stressed that the plan’s purpose was to create “jobs that would not be created otherwise” as opposed to riding the wave of growing industries and claiming credit. Glen, who said she had spent time studying other jobs plans at the municipal, state, and federal level, derided them as “usually about positioning yourself to take credit for a lot of different things that are going on in the economy already,” but insisted that this plan would supercede those by having a “quality screen” to the jobs.

She said that only jobs that could be directly traced to the administration’s efforts would be counted towards the stated job-creation goal, though the exact criteria that would be used was not made clear. The administration committed to providing yearly progress reports.

The mayor also couched the proposal as part of what he called a “high investment model of government,” and characterized the proposals -- a variety of city efforts including new uses of city land, workforce development, deal-brokering, and more -- as “investment,” with job gains the expected return.

“Private sector folks do key off of government signals, and government actions, and government investments,” he said, and alluded to conversations with tech leaders in which an obstacle had been “a certain amount of lack of cognition on how to get started in New York.” He argued that the investments would demonstrate to job-creators that New York City was serious about accepting their business.

The initiatives are subdivided into five areas: tech – the largest, with 30,000 projected jobs; life sciences and healthcare (15,000 projected jobs); industrial and manufacturing (20,000 projected jobs); creative and cultural sectors (10,000 projected jobs); and, the especially and purposefully vague “space for jobs of the future” (25,000 projected jobs). The job targets are further broken down into particular projects, in what Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett called a “framework” that would be adjusted depending on changing industries and sectors. Patchett’s job includes shepherding the plan, adjusting its pieces, and meeting the targets.

Under the industrial plank, the Brooklyn Navy Yard expansion is estimated to create 4,800 “good-paying jobs,” but some points are less clear, such as “discretionary tax incentives” leading to 1,500 jobs. The programs will be funded by $1.1 billion in already allocated spending, plus $250 million that “the administration will apply in its November and January updates to the budget.”

The job-creation plan comes at a time when the city’s unemployment rate has hovered at around 4 percent, a modern record-low and fact that has been routinely emphasized by the mayor. But, de Blasio explained the need to create jobs with good wages and long-term career options, allowing the city to “shape our own destiny” and lift more New Yorkers out of poverty.

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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‘Interventionist’ De Blasio Unveils Ten-Year Jobs Plan Thu, 15 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio’s Jobs Plan Must Create Skilled Workers & High-Wage Careers for New Yorkers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6990:de-blasio-s-jobs-plan-must-create-skilled-workers-high-wage-careers-for-new-yorkers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6990:de-blasio-s-jobs-plan-must-create-skilled-workers-high-wage-careers-for-new-yorkers jesse laymon rally

Jesse Laymon, the author


Since Mayor de Blasio unveiled his new target of creating 100,000 new middle class jobs for New Yorkers -- jobs that pay “at least $50,000 a year” -- many have raised questions as to how the de Blasio administration plans to reach that goal. Is this promise just a repackaging of existing job creation or a genuine new effort to invest in growing New York’s middle class?

We in the city’s workforce development community have an answer that would allow Mayor de Blasio to hit this new goal while making real progress towards reducing inequality in New York: don’t count up corporate promises and ribbon cuttings, but focus on graduations and job placements.

That’s because there are two divergent visions for what it means for a local leader to “create jobs” – one that involves questionable accounting of the dubious effects of tax credits and new job sites, and one that involves direct investment in the local residents who can be prepared to fill skilled job openings across the city.

Too often when local governments talk about creating jobs, they’re really talking about moving them around: making a deal with a big employer to trim a tax bill in exchange for the announcement of a new or improved facility located within municipal borders. But when ordinary citizens talk about the need to create jobs, we aren’t talking about the need to count employees whose office moved from Jersey City to Queens or from Chelsea to Sunset Park. We’re talking about helping people who are currently unemployed or underemployed lift themselves up out of poverty with a good-paying job.

To shift the machinery of government from the former to the latter, Mayor de Blasio must first make a change within his administration. Currently, too much of the talk -- and the policy-making -- around “creating jobs” is centered on how to use city-owned property and subsidize new developments. That perpetuates the problem of counting job sites, even new job openings, instead of counting newly employed New Yorkers.

Instead, the mayor should focus on investments in the people themselves, by empowering his Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (WkDev), an entity whose entire mission is focused on the city’s workers.

If WkDev were given the responsibility for achieving the mayor’s 100,000 jobs promise, and used its authority to coordinate the alphabet soup of city agencies that help unemployed and low-income jobseekers get the training they need, he could achieve his goal in a way that truly reduced inequality. WkDev already has the blueprint to achieve these goals: the city’s 2014 “Career Pathways” plan for investing in job training is a good one, but it sits largely unfunded and lacks a mandate for implementation by those city agencies.

Second, the city needs to get on track towards meeting its most urgent Career Pathways budgetary promise – funding bridge programs. These are hybrid education/job skills courses that help people whose current educational or skills levels are too low to qualify them for immediate job placement or advanced skills courses. For example, a course for English-language learners that teaches English through a focus on healthcare, to prepare its graduates for open positions as home health aides. Or a high-school equivalency course with a focus on the math needed for technology jobs, set up to feed its graduates into an advanced tech skills program with a great track record for high-quality job placements. These bridge programs can launch people into a middle-class career track that they otherwise would be blocked from reaching.

The 2014 plan pledged to devote $60 million annually by 2020 to these courses, but as of the FY 2018 budget the de Blasio administration had only invested about one-tenth that amount. Laying out a funding plan to reach that $60 million target by 2020 would go a long way towards helping currently under-skilled New Yorkers envision a future where they are filling one of the 100,000 good new jobs created by this administration.

Equipping local residents to fill high-quality new jobs won’t be easy; it requires real investment in the city’s own people. But if the administration uses the tools at its disposal, it will take an important step to reducing income inequality in New York.

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Jesse Laymon is the Director of Policy at the NYC Employment and Training Coalition. On Twitter @JesseLaymon & @NYCETC_org.

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

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De Blasio’s Jobs Plan Must Create Skilled Workers & High-Wage Careers for New Yorkers Mon, 12 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Where’s the Mayor’s Jobs Plan? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6962:where-s-the-mayor-s-jobs-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6962:where-s-the-mayor-s-jobs-plan de blasio jobs tour

Mayor de Blasio in the Bronx (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Kicking off his week in the Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said May 22 that his administration’s efforts to fight inequality are working and that while unemployment has dropped significantly in the borough, there is more work to be done. “The Bronx has borne the brunt of that inequality crisis in many ways,” the mayor said, but what his administration is doing is “disproportionately benefiting the Bronx.”

The mayor told those sitting with him -- senior administration officials and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. -- and any others paying attention that his administration is focused on “maximizing economic opportunity.” “[N]ot just any jobs,” the mayor said, “but in fact an increasing focus on good paying jobs, which is what I devoted the State of the City to.”

De Blasio was referring to his February 13 speech, during which he announced that the city would invest in creating 100,000 permanent private sector jobs that pay more than $50,000 a year. It would be a ten-year plan, the mayor said, and while de Blasio offered a few examples of the economic sectors that would see some of that job growth -- tech, life sciences, renewable energy, manufacturing -- his announcement included few details. Soon after his State of the City, de Blasio explained that his administration would be releasing a detailed policy book, as it had done in 2014 with his 200,000-unit ten-year affordable housing plan and a few other major initiatives, to show where the jobs would come from and how.

On and off for several weeks, the mayor defended setting the 100,000 goal without a roadmap to get there, saying that it was the target city experts could ambitiously but reasonably forecast and that the specifics would follow. He also found himself defending it as ambitious enough -- critics pointed out that the city has been adding jobs at a much more rapid pace over the last ten years, but the mayor explained that job growth was already slowing and that he is focused on the wage threshold.

De Blasio has been asked about the plan, and when the public would see the details, at press conferences and his top aides were asked about it at multiple City Council budget hearings. At a late April news conference, Gotham Gazette asked when the jobs plan could be expected, whether it was imminent. “Not imminent in the sense of the next few weeks,” de Blasio said. “But, at some point this year I'll give you a better read on when."

At a May 9 City Council budget hearing, the head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, James Patchett, told Council members that de Blasio administration officials are working diligently on the plan.

City Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the economic development committee, said, "We continue to have little clarity on the sources of jobs in the mayor's jobs plan.” Patchett said, “We can expect to have a plan very shortly,” but would not give an exact deadline, instead saying, “Certainly, I would love to have it come by the end of the summer. Hopefully sooner.”

As Garodnick pressed for details and whether the 100,000 goal is the right one, Patchett said, “I think you’re right to ask for the plan, I think when you see it you’ll be able to better judge that. Broadly speaking, the 100,000 jobs target is focused on the specific ways the city is encouraging job growth, as opposed to more broadly in the economy.” Almost 300,000 jobs were created over the last three years, he added, but what the de Blasio administration is focused on is jobs created through city intervention and at the “good paying” threshold of $50,000 per year.

According to City Hall, top de Blasio officials under Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who oversees housing and economic development, continue to meet weekly and a detailed jobs plan is indeed expected sometime this summer. Glen’s portfolio includes the Economic Development Corporation; Small Business Services, which runs workforce development programming; the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; and other agencies that will be integral to the jobs plan.

“Senior leadership from across the administration has met weekly on the jobs plan for months now, and our work is in an advanced stage,” said Melissa Grace, a de Blasio spokesperson, in a statement. “This is a major undertaking that will improve the earning power and professional opportunities of thousands of New Yorkers. From Vision Zero to ThriveNYC to Housing New York, we’ve consistently delivered on these big multi-agency initiatives because we take the time to do them right.”

The de Blasio administration has already released pieces of the plan, including an investment in the life sciences sector; manufacturing, garment, and fashion jobs in Brooklyn through enhanced use of both the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal; and a new technology hub in Union Square. As those pieces and others have indicated, the plan will include both industry-specific initiatives and place-based efforts, leveraging city-owned land.

Another example was announced Tuesday, with the Economic Development Corporation releasing “the next phase of the Futureworks NYC advanced manufacturing initiative.” It will create more than 2,000 jobs over five years, the EDC announcement says, through “a series of partner networks and programs to increase access to advanced manufacturing technology, support startups, and help traditional manufacturing companies implement new technologies to help them remain competitive.”

De Blasio has repeatedly stressed that his government is investing and intervening in order to help New Yorkers find good-paying jobs, part of the mayor’s fight against inequality, attempt to make the city more affordable, and efforts to lift hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers out of poverty. While de Blasio has celebrated that unemployment in the city is hovering around an impressively low 4%, there are not necessarily enough middle-income private-sector jobs. The mayor argues that the city must take action to spur important types of job growth that will benefit New Yorkers.

But, as with many headline-grabbing announcements by de Blasio, the key will be planning, execution, return on city investment, and proper metrics for evaluating the program’s efficacy. It’s still not clear exactly how the 100,000 number was pegged.

When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor at a February news conference, he said, “The 100,000 plan emerged from looking at the strands that were already starting to move and asking how far we could take them, and what was a fair numerical stretch-goal to reach for. And that’s very consistent with how we did the affordable housing plan, how we did the pre-K plan – you name it. You know the question on the table is always what’s in motion, where can we take it, and then push it to its farthest extent. And I thought it was an important thing to focus on and really give people a sense of where we were going and what we could achieve.”

Pushed on whether the 100,000 number over 10 years is really a big goal, de Blasio said that critics are not really looking at the last 10 years fairly, noting that the economic crisis that began nearly 10 years ago made the subsequent job growth numbers unsustainable for many years.

“[W]e had huge job loss, and then we had impressive rebounding," de Blasio said. "We’ve gotten a little comfortable because we had such extraordinary success over the last couple of years. The first two years alone that I was in office was about 250,000 jobs. The difference now is the keep generating an intensive pace of job creation, but to focus more on the high-paying jobs. That’s going to take government stimulative effect, if you will. That’s going to take us doing smart, strategic things to keep growth high.”

EDC’s Patchett at the May 9 City Council budget hearing said the plan won’t “identify every sub-initiative of like 17 jobs here and 14 jobs there, because it’s over the next 10 years and...we need to be aware of the fact that the plan will change and the economy will change over time. But we are going to go sector by sector and talk about specific job targets and a series of specific initiatives that we can announce right away that will make up a significant portion of those jobs.”

“OK, we’ll look forward to seeing that,” Council Member Garodnick responded.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Where’s the Mayor’s Jobs Plan? Tue, 30 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Comptroller Examines Uneven Economic Growth in Gentrifying Neighborhoods http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6890:comptroller-examines-uneven-economic-growth-in-gentrifying-neighborhoods http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6890:comptroller-examines-uneven-economic-growth-in-gentrifying-neighborhoods stringer presser

Comptroller Stringer (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


The 15 neighborhoods that experienced the highest rates of gentrification in the city between 2000 and 2015 showed a monumental increase in new businesses and job growth but with an inequitable distribution of the accompanying benefits, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Stringer’s first-of-its-kind report, titled “The New Geography of Jobs: A Blueprint for Strengthening NYC Neighborhoods,” looked at economic activity in 15 gentrifying neighborhoods and examined trends in employment and entrepreneurial activity by industry, age, racial and ethnic groups. The neighborhoods were those identified by the NYU Furman Center in an analysis of 55 “sub-borough areas” in 2015. Of these, 22 were classified as lower income and 33 as higher income. The gentrifying neighborhoods were those that were lower income in 1990 and had experienced rent increases beyond the median neighborhood.

“We need to create an economy based on fairness,” Stringer said, speaking at the Chinese-American Planning Council on the Lower East Side. Stringer cited CPC’s work in the Lower East Side Employment Network, a successful workforce development approach that he said should be the model for other neighborhoods. “We want to be able to lift up all groups of people and everyone in our communities. I believe this is about the need to support the idea of local wealth creation and we can only do that with innovative, collaborative and community-centric solutions,” the comptroller added.

As economic activity increases in previously under-developed and lower-income neighborhoods, Stringer believes, the resulting opportunity, profits, and benefits should be experienced more evenly by all groups of residents.

The number of businesses in the city grew from 203,698 to 237,198 in the 15-year period, the report found, with increased activity in the boroughs outside Manhattan. In Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, which have traditionally seen large concentrations of the city’s economic activity, the share of total businesses fell from 39 percent to 31 percent. But in the 15 gentrifying neighborhoods -- which include East and Central Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bushwick, Sunset Park, Brownsville and Ocean Hill -- there was a 45 percent increase in the number of businesses from 29,132 in 2000 to 42,261 in 2015.

Although lower income communities saw greater growth than higher income districts across myriad industries, that growth was unevenly distributed. The report notes that while people of color own 34 percent of the city’s businesses, an uptick from years past, their share in the city’s overall economy, 16 percent of revenue and 21 percent of employment, remains relatively low. Black New Yorkers remain massively underrepresented, accounting for 22 percent of the city’s population but only owning 3 percent of businesses.

The report also found that 17.2 percent of young adults, between 18 and 24 years old, were out of school and out of work (OSOW) in 2015, with racial and ethnic disparities in those numbers. Among OSOW youth in gentrifying neighborhoods, black and Hispanic youth represented 21 percent each, while white youth made up 12 percent.

Stringer makes a number of recommendations in the report, aimed at connecting economic growth in a neighborhood to its residents. These include creating local network coordinators at workforce development providers to connect businesses with local job seekers; creating uniform assessments to evaluate and prepare job-seekers for the labor market; and assisting entrepreneurs and startups in scaling up their operations and setting up brick-and-mortar establishments; among other proposals.

“My message today is this: skylines change, creation is a good thing,” Stringer said. “But we have to do a better job of harnessing this economic power in a way that serves everyone. We need to focus not on prices and not just on rent, but we also need to work on wealth creation, on linking long-term residents with new emerging jobs.”

The comptroller noted, in response to a reporter, that housing affordability is still a crucial component of gentrification but emphasized the need to recognize changing demographics and economic challenges in those same neighborhoods. “What we need is a much more forceful workforce development plan because our data shows that there’s real possibility,” Stringer said, “but right now, for many communities, for many people, there’s a real disconnect between some of the benefits of changing neighborhoods, and it’s not filtering down to long-term residents.”

Stringer said this more robust city response to workforce development issues should be part of proposed rezonings that are being studied across the city. The de Blasio administration and local communities are in the process of developing plans to add development, population density, housing -- including affordable units, and neighborhood-specific changes like additional school seats and new parks, for example, to a variety of areas throughout the city. One plan, for East New York, was passed a year ago and is in the process of implementation. Others have moved slowly or stalled, though several, including for East Harlem, may be moving ahead more quickly soon.

Stakeholders in the East New York rezoning, including local Council Member Rafael Espinal, pushed strongly for workforce development initiatives to be included in the final plan, particularly the establishment of a city-run Workforce1 career center that opened in December. Similar efforts are also underway in other neighborhoods facing proposed rezonings, with community advocates insisting that jobs created by development should go to local residents.

Asked by Gotham Gazette about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recently announced plan to create 100,000 “good paying jobs” in the next ten years, Stringer had some cutting advice. “Anytime you want to say, ‘I can create 100,000 jobs,’ sure that’s OK, that’s a good thing,” he said, “but now we have to look at our emerging economies in the boroughs and what kinds of jobs are being created and are we matching good jobs with the citizens in those communities. And if we’re not, and we’re clearly not with communities of color in some of these neighborhoods, well what will you do about it? Can’t just say we’re gonna create jobs for people who can’t access those jobs? That’s not right.”

[Related: Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York]

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Comptroller Examines Uneven Economic Growth in Gentrifying Neighborhoods Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Council Member Williams Forecasts End of Pledge Protest http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6606:council-member-williams-forecasts-end-of-pledge-protest http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6606:council-member-williams-forecasts-end-of-pledge-protest williams seated peace

Council Member Williams (photo: William Alatriste)


City Council Member Jumaane Williams, whose sit-down protest during the pledge of allegiance at the Council’s stated meetings has created waves and elicited both support and criticism, said on Wednesday that he plans to again stand once Mayor de Blasio commits to an agenda for jobs for city youth.

On the sidelines of a rally by police reform advocates outside City Hall, Williams said he intends to continue sitting out the pledge of allegiance at the biweekly meetings of the full Council. “I do intend to continue,” he told Gotham Gazette, thanking his colleagues for the support they have shown him. At last week’s stated meeting on Thursday, most of the City Council, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, continued to stand after the pledge and then sang a verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black National Anthem. The song was meant as a display of unity, organized by the co-chairs of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Council Members Ritchie Torres and Robert Cornegy.

Williams sat through the pledge and then rose to sing with his colleagues.

Williams’ demonstration began in September as a show of solidarity with professional football player Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, who knelt through the pre-game pledge of allegiance to protest racial injustice in policing. But the Council member’s message goes beyond that, he said, to larger issues that affect communities of color, including gun violence, education, and employment.

“When I initially did it, it was just out of frustration and I think the conversation is moving,” he said. “I think that’s what you want with these types of symbolic gestures,” Williams said. “I think that’s happened but I do want to make sure it is not just about policing. It’s about the disparate impact on all levels of life and resources that are lacking in these communities.”

Williams now wants to connect his protest to an issue he has been advocating for as a solution to injustice and inequity in communities of color: youth employment. In that vein, he wants to increase awareness about the city’s Youth Employment Task Force, a collaborative initiative between the City Council and the Mayor’s Office that was announced at the end of September. 

The creation of the task force, chaired by Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who chairs the Council finance committee, followed a successful campaign earlier this year by Council members to push for increased funding for the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

As a result of Council pressure, the administration agreed to fund 60,000 summer jobs for city youth. “Many of us have been pushing for universal youth jobs as a way to push back on the violence that’s going on that’s too heavily relied on the police to fix,” said Williams, “and I want to make sure that people know that task force is meeting.”

The entire task force has already met twice, with the most recent meeting on Tuesday, and is set to meet at least twice more. They have also had several smaller working group meetings, according to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, as well as focus group discussions to develop recommendations on expanding the SYEP program as well as the Work, Learn, Grow program, which provides career training and paid employment to youth during the school year. The spokesperson said the task force’s preliminary recommendations would be presented to the mayor and City Council by the end of the year.

Williams said he expected that the task force will release its report sometime in January or February, before the mayor’s preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. After that he will look to end his protest. “I definitely plan on standing when that report comes out and the mayor fulfils his commitment,” he said.

At an unrelated September 28 news conference, when Mayor de Blasio was asked to weigh in on Williams’ protest and if he would consider participating in such a demonstration, he said he respected the motivations behind it but takes “a different view with absolute respect for others who disagree.”

“I absolutely respect everyone's First Amendment rights. And I very much respect what's motivating this protest because this issue has to be addressed,” de Blasio said. “There's a fundamental inequality in this country – it has to be addressed...I take the view that the Pledge of Allegiance and saluting the flag during the national anthem are about an affirmation of our democracy that is still evolving that needs to get better, that needs to be truer to who we are and what we're supposed to be. And, I think that is a message unto itself that we believe we can fix things. But I also respect others who have a different choice and that is an American value that people get to make that choice.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Council Member Williams Forecasts End of Pledge Protest Wed, 02 Nov 2016 04:00:00 +0000