Eight Ideas to Boost New York’s Economic Recovery Now
Ribbon cutting and more to come (Photo: Ed Reed / Mayoral Photography Office)
It would be foolish to bet against New York, but a full and robust return from the COVID-19 crisis is not guaranteed without bold action. It is increasingly clear that the city’s recovery is not like the others. Businesses are delaying return-to-work plans, the 10.2% unemployment rate is among the highest of any major city in the country, and unemployment rates among New Yorkers of color and young adults are particularly high. alarming.
Meanwhile, no other city faces so many structural economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. The rise of remote working and the slow recovery in tourism, the continued disruption of retail and the severe blow to the arts are disproportionately threatening vital parts of New York’s economy.
Putting New York on the path to a sustainable and equitable recovery will require not only bold actions, but also new, innovative and creative solutions. Fortunately, the massive turnaround in municipal government that took place in less than four months, along with the new leadership in Albany, offers an incredible opportunity to take critical steps towards recovery. We have already seen many primary election winners come up with great new ideas for building a stronger and fairer city.
The Center for an Urban Future recently released a Plan for a Fair Recovery that presents concrete policy ideas from a diverse mix of 175 committed New Yorkers. Some of the nearly 250 ideas we received would help create jobs now or support New Yorkers hardest hit by the pandemic, while others would lay the groundwork for a stronger, more inclusive economy in long term.
While each idea is worth considering, we believe the following eight warrant swift action from current and future city leaders.
1. Match tech savvy CUNY students with small businesses that need help adopting technology (S. David Wu, President, Baruch College)
Many small businesses are still hanging by a thread and need urgent help to modernize their operations with e-commerce, digital marketing and better financial planning. The city can help them become more competitive in the long run by creating a matchmaking service that pairs businesses with talented and digitally savvy CUNY students who are rooted in communities facing today’s greatest needs.
2. Make NYC a Public Health Capital of the World (Seth Pinsky, CEO, 92nd Street Y)
In the wake of the pandemic, millions of dollars in new public and private investment are about to flow into the public health sector, creating thousands of new, well-paying jobs. It means investing in hospitals and the healthcare system and finally delivering on New York’s promise to become a leading hub in commercial biosciences. And unlike many other sectors of the city’s economy, most of these jobs cannot be easily done remotely.
3. Stimulate the return to the office by supporting public programming that invigorates business districts (Larisa Ortiz, General Manager, Streetsense)
To attract office workers, the city should support new amenities and public programs in these neighborhoods, including new options not found in most residential neighborhoods. For example, New York should take a page from Vancouver, which turned the alleys into brightly painted spaces with basketball courts and foosball tables, and Montreal, which created interactive musical swings.
4. Stimulate economic development in underserved communities by making long-awaited improvements to the public domain (Purnima Kapur, Head of University Planning and Design, Harvard University)
Those responsible for economic development can spur economic investments, the growth of small businesses and the creation of jobs in low-income communities in the five boroughs by making investments in the public domain, such as improving sidewalks, creating new pocket parks and improved lighting. Streetscape improvements like these often serve as catalysts for economic development, but too many hard-hit areas of the city have historically been overlooked by these local place-creation projects.
5. Break the deadlock around housing development in New York with a big deal around housing and employment (Rafael Cestero, President, Community Preservation Corp)
The pandemic has only amplified the need for more affordable housing. It’s time to make a big deal by creating a city-wide structure that eliminates the power of individual groups or local representatives to scuttle projects due to micro-issues, reallocates housing vouchers to create housing very affordable on a large scale in communities that need it most, and requires local hiring on all large projects involving land or city capital.
6. Providing New Income Supports for New York’s Fast-Growing (But Low-Paid) Direct Care Workforce (Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, PHI)
The industry already employs more than 320,000 New Yorkers, and the city’s aging population makes it almost certain that the number of jobs will increase dramatically over the next decade. But the sector also pays some of the lowest wages of any industry. The city should create an innovation fund for home care jobs, providing workers with transportation funds, scholarship programs and retention bonuses, while making new investments in vocational training for direct care workers. in order to improve the quality of their jobs and their economic prospects.
7. Create a NYC Climate Corps (Tonya Gayle, Executive Director, Green City Force)
The city’s teens and young adults were much more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic than other New Yorkers. The city can help thousands of these young adults get on the right track by mobilizing federal infrastructure funds to create a NYC Climate Corps, which would also crucially help the city prepare for the impacts of climate change.
8. Invest in quality child care for New Yorkers in workforce training programs (Plinio Ayala, President and CEO, Per Scholas)
With 400,000 unemployed New Yorkers and many industries facing a slow recovery, the city should help unemployed New Yorkers learn new skills so they can transition to growing industries. But that will require tackling a barrier that has long prevented many low-income New Yorkers from enrolling in workforce training programs: the lack of affordable child care.
The next mayor and the new leaders of the city administration will need a lot of good ideas over the coming year to ensure that the city’s nascent recovery takes hold and gathers momentum. To build a stronger, more equitable economy for the long term, city leaders must tap into the ingenuity and experience of our fellow New Yorkers who know how to best support the city’s diverse communities and economy. .