The Observer sat down in early November with Robert Lieber, the new Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Mayor Bloomberg announced Mr. Lieber’s appointment yesterday; he will succeed Daniel Doctoroff as City Hall’s chief development czar.
In the early November interview, Mr. Lieber discussed his strategy for economic development in the city. We will have other excerpts from the interview throughout the day.
What’s your economic development strategy?
The theme for us is really threefold. One is to make the city a more livable place, to be business-friendly, and to look to ways to diversify the economy by industry as well as by borough. While everyone else in the world thinks Manhattan is New York City, the growth we are going to see is going to take place in the outer boroughs, so a lot of what we are doing in this administration is to concentrate the areas of prospective growth in those areas where we have transportation.
If you look at what [City Planning Director Amanda Burden] has done in rezoning, a lot of that has been directed at where we have mass transit: in downtown Brooklyn, in Long Island City and most recently in Jamaica.
Do you really think that these secondary business districts are going to work?
I absolutely think they will work. I don’t know whether you want to use $100 a square foot [or] $180 a square foot for what is prevailing office rent in midtown office buildings, but that’s pretty damn expensive for start-up businesses and businesses that need lots of space. I think that Long Island City is at the tipping point, that it is poised for growth and will take off. I think the weakness of Long Island City is that it still looks like an industrial area, and you don’t have a lot of commercial activity. Residential, yeah, but there is no place to shop. There are no pharmacies, no drug stores, no great places to eat, no restaurants.