NYC Issues 2001
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?
Masthead

 

"City in Transition: NYC Issues 2001" is a series of seminars developed by the New York University Center for Excellence in New York City Governance, Coro Eastern Center and Citizens Union Foundation (publisher of Gotham Gazette). They are being offered for free to candidates and their staff. For the seminars, experts, mostly academics from New York University, have been asked to explain the key issues facing New York City, and the options available to these candidates to solve the problems. We are posting these "options papers" on our site as they become available. In addition, the contributors of Gotham Gazette will offer our own overviews of the issues, geared more to the public.

Economic Development: An Overview

By Jonathan Bowles

It is easy to argue that New York City's economy is in much better shape than it was a decade ago. The city has 503,000 more jobs than it did at the end of the recession in 1992, and the average unemployment rate in 2000 -- 5.8 percent -- was at its lowest level since 1988. Yes, there has been a recent downturn in the stock market, but Wall Street had several years of record gains and the city quickly became one of the nation's pre-eminent centers of the digital economy. In addition, tourists from all over the world have been flocking to the five boroughs like never before.

While much of this phenomenal growth has been a function of the nation's booming economy, the dramatic crime reductions achieved by the Giuliani and Dinkins Administrations played a key role in convincing businesses to move to New York, or to stay here. A handful of targeted business tax cuts in recent years also helped to create a more favorable climate for businesses.

Yet, despite the phenomenal growth of the city's economy, the last several years will likely go down in history as a missed opportunity when it comes to economic development.

New York's economy today is more vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock market than ever. Though Wall Street accounted for only 4.9 percent of the city's job base in 2000, it made up a whopping 19 percent of total city wages, up from 13.3 percent in 1992. While the administration attempted to help the city's fast-growing new media industry with a variety of programs, including the effective Plug 'n' Go program in Lower Manhattan, it was extremely slow to realize the potential of the biotech industry and all but ignored the needs of the city's manufacturing industry. Until recently, it also failed to grasp one of the biggest problems plaguing both small businesses and large corporations, from software firms to printing companies: the lack of affordable space.

Perhaps most disappointing, the Giuliani Administration squandered a chance to develop a better business infrastructure outside of Manhattan's two main business districts, something that could have helped to expand prosperity to the other boroughs and, at the same time, alleviate some of the real estate pressures facing businesses in Manhattan. Though the administration is now beginning to do this in places like Long Island City, for too long its major economic investments outside of Manhattan generally involved sports stadiums, which create few jobs. And today, despite an overall strong economy, Brooklyn and the Bronx still have among the highest unemployment rates in all of New York State.

The city's next class of elected officials cannot take these issues lightly. With the city's population continuing to grow, it will be more important than ever to ensure that the city retains existing business, creates new jobs and diversifies the economy.

The following will be important economic development issues over the next few years:

RETAINING A SAFE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT

Reducing crime is usually considered more of a public safety issue than an economic development issue. However, businesses throughout the city cite the substantial reduction in the city's crime rate as one the best things that the Giuliani Administration has done to improve the city's business climate and keep companies from fleeing to the suburbs.

The declining crime rate has helped New York hold onto employees and entrepreneurs that used to prefer the quality of life in the suburbs. It also encouraged more business activity in Hunts Point, East New York, Harlem and other neighborhoods that long have had to deal with the stigma of high crime rates.

RELYING LESS ON TAX BREAKS

Over the past twelve years, successive administrations in City Hall have entered into more and more "retention deals" -- tax incentive packages designed to retain companies who threaten to move their jobs to New Jersey, Connecticut or other locations outside of New York. The city has committed to provide nearly $2 billion in tax breaks and other subsidies during this period to several dozen large commercial firms and financial exchanges, but there is little indication that the city's taxpayers have been getting their money's worth. In fact, an embarrassingly large percentage of the companies benefiting from these deals have later laid off employees, moved jobs out of the city or merged with other companies.

To its credit, the city has increasingly tied city incentives to the actual creation of new jobs and imposed penalties on those firms that don't fulfill job promises. Still, these deals continue to serve as the signature economic development program of a city in which 99 percent of all businesses have fewer than 500 employees and the overwhelming majority of those businesses do not receive any incentive packages.

Some say that city officials have little choice but to keep entering into retention deals because the loss of a major employer would be a powerful blow to the city's economy, not to mention a devastating political blow to any mayor. Yet, over the past decade or so, the city has done little to develop a long term solution that would eventually allow it to compete with New Jersey and other states without having to enter into costly tax incentive deals.

ENCOURAGING NEW OFFICE DEVELOPMENT OUTSIDE OF MIDTOWN AND DOWNTOWN

These days, city businesses, both large and small, may not need tax cuts as much as they need affordable space. There simply have not been enough affordable facilities available in any of the city's most accessible business areas. And the city's high real estate prices have made Jersey City, where real estate prices are considerably lower, awfully attractive.

Until recently, the Giuliani Administration only attempted to offer tax incentives as a way to compete with New Jersey. But this kind of plan is only a stop-gap measure. Over the past year or two, the administration has finally begun to develop a game plan to spur new office construction outside of Manhattan, principally with a proposal to rezone a 37-block area of Long Island City.

Developing an attractive business district outside of Manhattan could help the city compete with New Jersey for new media companies, biotechnology firms and other service related businesses that want to remain on this side of the Hudson but cannot afford to pay the going real estate prices in Manhattan. Having a more affordable business district could also enable the city to retain businesses without having to offer exorbitant tax incentives.

The next mayoral administration, as well as the City Council, will have to figure out ways not only to spur new office construction in Long Island City, Downtown Brooklyn and other areas, but to develop an attractive infrastructure to support each new business district. After all, even if the price is right, most companies are not going to want to move out of Manhattan unless their new neighborhood has enough basic services -- like restaurants, copy stores and coffee shops, plus high speed telecommunication connections, sidewalks and adequate street lighting -- to support the needs of the companies and their employees. The trick may be to focus on a very small number of neighborhoods that have the greatest potential to achieve a critical mass of firms, particularly areas that have decent transportation links and a smattering of services, and which require minimal public infrastructure investments.

DEVELOPING A SECTOR-ORIENTED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Several other cities and states have successfully implemented a sector-oriented economic development policy, one that caters to many sectors of the city's economy, not just one or two of the largest sectors. In New York City, this would mean addressing the obstacles faced by most of the 200,000 businesses located within the five boroughs, not just the firms that are big enough and influential enough to blackmail city officials with threats to relocate.

The idea behind a sector strategy is to provide targeted support to promising industry sectors and the many companies within those sectors. This would include a range of activities to encourage sector growth, such as providing job training programs aimed at software companies, loans or grants to help local academic institutions defray the cost of building incubators for biotech start-ups, and zoning protection for growing food manufacturers outside of Manhattan. It means supporting more programs like the Plug 'n' Go program that helped dozens of high-tech companies locate in specially outfitted buildings in Lower Manhattan.

This kind of economic development strategy is not simply an alternative to providing tax incentives; it would help diversify the economy. In New York, sectors with growth potential include finance, media, new media, film production, software design, aviation, food manufacturing, design and biotechnology.

RETAINING MANUFACTURING JOBS

One of the biggest challenges of the next group of city officials will be to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with limited educational and language skills have ample opportunities to make a decent living and support their families. For the past several decades, countless immigrants and other New Yorkers who lack the skills to get jobs on Wall Street or in other parts of the city's economy have depended on the city's manufacturing sector for relatively well paying jobs. However, the Giuliani Administration has done little to help this important sector, despite the fact it still employs nearly 250,000 people within the five boroughs.

More than any other industry, the city's manufacturers -- including printers, garment manufacturers, woodworkers, bread making firms, metal fabricators -- have been hit hard by the city's real estate crunch. Unable to pay as much in rent as dot coms, law firms, artists or virtually any other office or residential tenant, in the past few years scores of manufacturers have been squeezed out of the few remaining industrial enclaves of Manhattan, such as the Midtown Garment Center, the Hudson/Varick printing district, Chinatown and the far west side of Chelsea, as well as many parts of North Brooklyn.

Many people mistakenly believe that industrial businesses that can no longer afford rents in Manhattan will simply move to the other boroughs. However, from Hunts Point to Sunset Park, vacancy rates are at or near all-time lows and real estate prices are sky-high. According to Greiner Maltz, a Queens-based real estate company, the overall vacancy rate for industrial facilities in Queens was 6.93 percent last summer, down from 13.47 percent in 1995. The overall vacancy rate for industrial buildings in Brooklyn was 8.26 percent last summer, down from 15 percent in 1996.

More than a dozen manufacturers have already been forced to relocate out of the city, not because of taxes or energy costs, but because they simply cannot find affordable facilities in the city. Among other things, manufacturing advocates call for stronger zoning protections to prevent speculative warehousing of industrial buildings and significant rent increases. In addition, many companies would like to see the city restore BRAC, a city-funded relocation grant program whose funding was cancelled in 1997.

INFRASTRUCTURE

While the city's relatively high tax rates are one of the problems business executives cite as a reason to relocate their firms out of New York, many also consider the quality of city schools and the condition of the city's transportation and telecommunications infrastructure. Without a doubt, company executives require good schools for their employees' families as well as to provide their firms with a skilled work force in the future. In addition, they do not want their employees spending hours getting to and from work on crowded subways or congested highways. And they want high-speed telecommunications connections that do not break down regularly.

Unfortunately, New York City has a long way to go in all of these areas. Upgrading the city's aging infrastructure has never been a top priority of the Giuliani Administration.

Among the projects that deserve the attention of the city's elected officials are constructing the Second Avenue subway, providing better public transportation access in Brooklyn and modernizing the city's public schools. In addition, there is an urgent need to address chronic highway congestion on the Van Wyck Expressway, a problem that is threatening the future strength of the city's air cargo industry at JFK Airport. Delays on the Van Wyck have already caused some air cargo companies to shift business, and jobs, to other airports.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Housing is not usually thought of as an economic development issue. But it has become one as apartment prices have skyrocketed in recent years and threatened the city's ability to continue to attract hordes of skilled, creative people from diverse backgrounds -- the human capital that has become the most important ingredient of the New Economy.

Apartment prices in New York do not have to be on par with the suburbs, but they have to be reasonable if the city expects to hold onto its vital base of artists, scientists, woodworkers, designers, software writers, chefs, doctors and other creative workers and professionals. Yet New York has only begun to address this crisis.

WORKFORCE TRAINING AND HIGHER EDUCATION

In the Information Age, it is skilled talent, just as much as computer hardware, which is powering growth. Yet, New York City has one of the least equipped workforces in the nation. Local businesses have been having a hard time finding qualified staff in the city. They have begun contracting work out abroad and recruiting workers from elsewhere to move into the city. So far, the city has done little to respond to this skills crisis.

Increasingly, states and cities across the nation are understanding that higher education and business development strategies should be connected. North Carolina, for instance, designated its community colleges as the official training arm for the entire state. Any company creating 12 jobs or more is guaranteed customized business training at the nearest college. But while most states are using public colleges as their economic engine of growth, in New York City, our public colleges are more often attacked.

NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT

Not every neighborhood in the five boroughs has the potential to be the next central business district or high-tech center, but many areas could achieve significant growth over the next few years with the proper attention and support from government, industry and community organizations. Planning officials should identify opportunities for growth and City Hall should engage community boards, local Council Members and community leaders to devise strategies for sustainable growth.

SMART PLANNING

A city as densely populated as New York would seem to scream out for smart planning, but other cities and regions have done a much better job than New York of developing strategic plans for future development. Individual projects in the city are generally done on a piecemeal basis, often causing more problems than benefits. And because the city rarely involves communities in planning specific projects, developments often run into vociferous community protests and lawsuits.

The next administration will have its hands full with major crises: a housing shortage, a lack of commercial and industrial real estate, and a failure to develop an effective, long-term solid waste management plan. All of these problems call for smart, citywide planning initiatives that involve the participation of local officials and community organizations.

Jonathan Bowles is the research director of the Center for an Urban Future

 

Economic Development: An Option Paper by D. Kenneth Patton

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.


What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.


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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
DemocracyNet
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.


Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)


2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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