The September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has affected every community of our City in all five boroughs. We have suffered the loss of our loved ones, neighbors, and more than 400 heroes who gave their lives to save others. Even as we continue to mourn, we must move beyond the pain and deal realistically with the job that lies ahead. My “Plan for Today – and Blueprint for Tomorrow” is designed to build for the future, create jobs and improve our quality of life. The entire plan can be seen on www.mikeformayor.org.
In rebuilding lower Manhattan, we must leverage all possible federal resources. We need to justify and monitor every expense, and to be in control of our own destiny. We do not need another bureaucratic agency, nor can we afford the State's administrative fees, which could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. In partnership with private developers, we should hold a design competition of the best and brightest architects and city planners. We cannot just try to replicate what there was before, but look forward to support new industries. Why not a biotech complex, information technology center, fashion industry metroplex?
Addressing the loss of public transportation in Lower Manhattan is critical, and the expanded use of ferries and bus service is our best, least expensive short-term option. Citywide, the redevelopment of Penn Station, the Hub in the Bronx, and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the extension of the #7 line, and the Second Avenue subway, are projects that must move forward as quickly as funding is identified. Additionally, the State must pass legislation to allow expanded use of technology, including cameras to improve pedestrian and vehicle flow.
To facilitate private-sector job creation, we must, first and foremost, balance our budget. The most immediate challenge is funding the projected shortfall, avoiding bond covenant violations, and preventing a takeover by the Financial Control Board. Midterm objectives include finding alternative revenue sources and reducing expenditures. Long term, we need to grow revenue and improve the productivity of municipal government.
Raising taxes is not an option. Higher taxes deter businesses from moving into the City and drive away those already here. The net effect of almost any tax increase would be less revenue. Since half of all City expenses are labor, and the other half are fixed, we have no choice but to reduce personnel costs, focusing on a temporary hiring freeze, attrition and voluntary retirements. A cost-reduction “partnership” with municipal unions, using the right gain-sharing structure, will allow us to do much more with less. Additionally, we must seek legislative relief to allow refinancing of debt and we should investigate innovative bonding opportunities.
Job Creation is the next Mayor's top priority. He must persuade companies to commit to having a greater percentage of employees in the City two years from now than they do today, as Bloomberg L.P. has done, and look to our Boroughs and businesses unharmed by the disaster to provide office space, while we rebuild. We must spur private sector growth through public/private partnership, amending zoning regulations and upgrading the building codes to facilitate mixed-use development. Government must be an innovator, not a regulator. We can relocate government offices throughout the five boroughs to make room for private sector employers in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, and at the new locations, we can open Government Help Centers to improve services in every community.
The lifeblood of this City's economy is small business. Many of whom operate on our commercial strips like Eliot Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Grand Avenue and Woodhaven Blvd. Half of the employed population works at companies of 10 people or less. Low-cost Small Business Association loans and small cash grants from foundations are desperately needed by businesses devastated by the recent disaster. A grace period on rent payments offered by landlords and encouraged by tax incentives would also help. Additionally, existing tax incentives should be amended to support small business, not just large, property-owning concerns.
The final piece is of course continuing to improve our quality of life. The single most important economic development asset we have is New Yorkers. Companies come here and stay here because of the superiority of our workforce. We must ensure that the best and brightest continue to want to live in New York City. That means focusing on public safety, education, housing, health care and seniors.
While remaining cognizant of the need to rebuild, we must also remember to focus on local community needs and concerns. The Juniper Park Civic Association has been a leading organization to help focus on quality of life issues. The 104th Police precinct has unique problems that must be addressed. The Police response time must be lowered. Mayor Giuliani has been an accessible and an accountable Mayor. My vision of Government is accessibility and accountability. I will work with Juniper Park Civic Association and all civic associations to help improve our quality of life.
By building for the future, creating jobs and improving our quality life, we can make New York even stronger than it was before September 11th and create a brighter future for all New Yorkers in every borough.