NEW YORK CITY-“Never give up on this city,” keynote speaker William Rudin told attendees at the “New York’s Next Urban Agenda” discussion Wednesday morning. “Never second-guess it on its ability to move itself forward.”
Vice chairman and CEO of Rudin Management Co. as well as chairman of the Association for A Better New York, Rudin charted a series of cataclysmic events from which the city rebounded and reinvented itself, starting with a December 1835 fire that wiped out the built environment of Lower Manhattan. The turning point that New York City faces at present is less calamitous but no less momentous: the end of Michael Bloomberg‘s 12-year tenure as one of the most activist mayors in the city’s history and the election of his successor.
“Whether or not you agreed with Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives, there is no doubt that they were far-reaching,” said Jack Nyman, executive director of Baruch College’s Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, which hosted the event in association with Zetlin & De Chiara LLP and Kasirer Consulting, in opening remarks. Among them were the rezoning of more than one-third of the city and the establishment of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. Bloomberg’s successor, said Rudin as well as the experts convened to map out “A New Agenda for the Next Administration,” must build on those initiatives while preserving the gains that have been made in the city’s livability and competitiveness in an increasingly global market.
The panelists charted several areas in which the new mayor, be he Bill de Blasio or Joseph Lhota, will have to step up to the plate. Among them is advocating for public-private partnerships, a mechanism on which “Canada is way ahead of us” and for which the only major states that have failed to enact enabling legislation are New Jersey and New York, said William Marino, CEO of Star America.
New York City’s infrastructure, only partly controlled by the city itself, is another key area. Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, called for the establishment of a new administrative post: a deputy mayor for infrastructure, who would oversee matters in this area. To that end, Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, pointed to the Cuomo administration’s accelerated permitting for the rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge—a fast-track process that likely shaved the project’s cost by $1 billion—as a “template” that the city could follow.
Anderson and Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, both cited education as a major concern. From the 70% of high school graduates who need remediation before college to the dearth of qualified candidates to fill high-tech jobs, the new mayor will have his work cut out for him.
Well aware that there will be many individual voices telling the new mayor what his top priority should be, the panelists called on business and civic groups to band together on helping Bloomberg’s successor shape an agenda and advising him on carrying it out. “It’s important that he have a strong bulwark of people behind him,” said Lance Jay Brown, incoming president of AIA New York.