By Al Barbarino
Three leading state and city economic leaders convened this week to outline the region’s post-recession strategy – and to defend some of the city government’s initiatives.
Speaking at REBNY’s “New York’s Economic Development Leaders” luncheon at the Hilton New York on Thursday, Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation; Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation; and Patrick Foye, executive director of the New York and New Jersey port authorities, discussed New York’s economic future with moderator Charles Bagli of the New York Times.
“Please eat as much Greek-style yogurt as you possibly can,” said Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation.
Adams wasn’t suddenly concerned about the audience’s dietary needs. He used the line to drill home the point that the city and state rely on each other. Both Chobani and Fage, two leading Greek yogurt brands, have their main production plants in Upstate New York.
“We absolutely should be paying attention to all regions of the state,” Adams said. “These are industries that are competitive in a national and global way.”
Yogurt aside, Upstate New York is at the forefront of technological advancement, at the cutting edge of the medical device, high-tech manufacturing, defense and aviation subcontracting and transportation industries, the panelists said. Foye pointed specifically to Western New York, calling the biotech research occurring at the University of Buffalo “world-class.”
The overall health of the city similarly relies on the health of all the boroughs, the panelists said. Pinsky spoke of major projects taking place outside of Manhattan: an 800-unit apartment complex known as “Homeport” is being built on the Staten Island waterfront; once-forgotten portions of the Brooklyn waterfront are coming “back to life;” a vacant, 1.1 million-square-foot federal warehouse in Sunset Park is being converted into a state-of-the-art industrial facility; and major redevelopment is occurring in Hunt’s Point, Queens and Willets Point in the Bronx.
“We are not going to succeed as a city if we are only focused on Manhattan,” Pinsky said. “We think it’s critical to the future of the city that we make sure that jobs are available, new development is occurring and infrastructure is built in all five boroughs.”
Within that realm falls the controversial proposal to build a new convention center at the Aqueduct racino and replace the Javits Convention Center with a new facility in Manhattan; the Hudson Yards development plans in Manhattan and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn; and the move by City Planning to rezone the East Side “so we can knock down buildings,” as Bagli put it.
Pinsky said that New York City has very limited windows of opportunity during which development makes real sense. In the past, the city has missed those opportunities, he said.
“We’re not going to miss future cycles,” he said. “As the market comes back we are going to be ready for development so that it can begin the moment that it makes financial sense… any of the development projects that you’re saying, those were never two-year projects, four-year projects, six-year projects. These are projects being built for the next 20 years, 30 years, 40 years.”
The multifamily rental owner tax structure was among the more contentious issues discussed. It is taking a “huge chunk out of the bottom line” and could lead to a situation where “nobody is going to want to build anymore,” Bagli said.
There was agreement that the system needs to be changed, but also that it would be a tricky issue to solve. It’s “something the administration would like to get under control,” Pinsky said, though no specific plan to fixing the tax structure was outlined.
Adams spoke more bluntly.
“The tax is too damn high.”
*this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 print edition of Real Estate Weekly