Business leaders feel sidelined in COVID-19 recovery in NYC

What would happen if New York City dropped de Blasio?

New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the future of New York City.

New York City's business leaders have looked for ways to help the city during its looming financial crisis, as they have done previously in tough times, but some say they haven't found much of a partner in Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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The new coronavirus pandemic has devastated the city's economy and erased billions of dollars in tax revenue. Nearly 650,000 people were unemployed as of August and thousands of small businesses have closed since March.

Executives across major industries have offered their assistance, as they did in the 1970s and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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"I don't feel like we have a plan as it relates to the city emerging better and stronger," said Scott Rechler, chief executive of RXR Realty, a developer and property manager whose portfolio includes several midtown buildings.

Rechler was one of more than 160 business leaders who signed an open letter last month warning of deteriorating conditions in the city and growing anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality-of-life issues. They urged the mayor to restore some essential services like garbage pickups and graffiti removal that had been reduced or eliminated from the city's most recent budget.

Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the business group Partnership for New York City, which gathered signatures for the letter, said the de Blasio administration needed to lay out a plan to address these issues. De Blasio has brushed off the letter, asking these top business leaders to instead help the city in its efforts to obtain borrowing authority from the state, and financial help from the federal government. However, he later restored some trash-removal services.

Mitch Schwartz, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the mayor has held more than 30 meetings and calls with advisory councils and business leaders since the start of the pandemic.

"We're grateful for the input from businesses big and small as we continue to work together fighting Covid and bringing our economy back," Schwartz said.

Last week, de Blasio unveiled a plan to revive the city's economy, a "recovery agenda" focused on investing in a hub for public-health research, creating more high-paying jobs and providing additional funding to underserved communities. But the proposal, some business executives say, was short on details.

The mayor also recently attended the grand opening of One Vanderbilt, a new Midtown Manhattan office tower, lauding it as an example of good development, as its builders put $220 million toward fixing parts of nearby Grand Central Terminal.

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"It's really up to developers to come forward in that spirit of serving the surrounding community, if they want to get the support of the city government," de Blasio said at a recent press conference.

The relationship between the city's business leaders and de Blasio has never been warm. In his mayoral campaigns he has vowed to be a champion of the have-nots in an economically divided city. But with the city government facing a $9 billion deficit over the next two years, a slow return of workers to Manhattan offices and a surge in crime, the frustration in the business community over de Blasio's "tale of two cities" rhetoric is boiling over, Wylde said.

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