Keeping New York on top

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“At the height of the recession, our city experienced unemployment of 10.5 percent; our private sector shed some 170,000 jobs and our city’s tax collections plunged by more than $3 billion in one year alone,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

But according to Pinsky, who recently addressed business leaders from around the borough at the Queens College Business Forum, New York City pulled off a major accomplishment during “The Great Recession.”

“Entering the recession later than the rest of the country, being impacted by the recession less severely than the rest of the country and emerging from the recession more quickly and robustly than the rest of the country,” said Pinsky.

In a 25 minute speech at Queens Colleges’ Student Union, Pinsky – who was appointed NYCEDC president by Mayor Michael Bloomberg seven months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers – highlighted the positives, stating that statistics such as unemployment and a sharp drop in housing prices in the borough of Queens are less dire than national figures. He also noted that since 2007 the nation as a whole has lost almost six percent of private sector jobs, while the equivalent figure for New York City stands at less than one percent. Admitting that the administration is tempted to pat themselves on the back, Pinsky stated that this is hardly any time to rejoice.

“Our work is just beginning,” said Pinsky. “The world around us is changing and changing in a way that offers little opportunity for resting on our laurels.”

Though recovery has been steady in the five boroughs, emerging markets like India and China have threatened to take over as the world’s foremost financial marketplace. According to Pinsky, until 1983 the gross city product of New York was larger than the gross domestic product of the nation of China; the same for India until the mid-1990s. Today, China’s economy is nine times larger than New York; a trend that Pinsky described as “not moving in our favor.”

“In my opinion, the choice is fairly simple: We either fail to adapt and see our relative position slowly diminish. Or, we change and thrive,” said Pinsky.

To secure New York’s position as a financial beacon, over 100 initiatives have been launched over the past two years aimed at improving the city’s standing in three categories: those in which the city is traditionally strong like financial services, fashion, and media sectors; those in which the city has advantages but has traditionally lagged such as the film and television industry with investments in Kaufman Astoria Studios and Silvercup; and those industries that have yet to emerge through training programs and initiatives like Queens Economic Development Corporation’s (QEDC) Entrepreneur Space, a resource for small businesses.

Pinsky continued his remarks stating that the first phase of the massive development of Willets Point would result in up to 1.3 million square feet of new construction, generating as many as 4,600 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs but did not include a convention center; a reality that Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, to exception to.

“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” said Friedman during the Q & A session after Pinsky’s remarks. “Since day 1, the Chamber has worked tirelessly at the side of the NYCEDC and the mayor to make sure that the convention center comes to fruition. We don’t have one area to hold an exhibition, conference or trade show in the whole borough.”

“Willets Point is closer to a reality than it’s ever been,” responded Pinsky, who said that the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression intervened on previous plans. Currently, a convention center is a phase three project.

The Queens College Business Forum was made possible by the Office of Helen Marshall, Farrell Fritz, TD Bank, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Queens Chamber of Commerce, The Queens Courier/Schneps Communications and the QEDC.