Kathy Wylde, the head of the pro-business Partnership for New York City had a question for New York’s four Democratic mayoral hopefuls at the candidate forum she hosted today.
“Will the next mayor be as understanding, as visionary, as sympathetic to issues of the economy and business as Mayor Bloomberg, one of our own, has been?” Ms. Wylde said many of the city’s businesses leaders are inquiring, before elaborating, “So there is consternation about the post-Bloomberg era with regards to who is the next mayor.”
In case it wasn’t clear, this particular mayoral discussion, hosted by Crain’s New York Business, may have tilted a little bit towards the pro-business side of things. But at least one Democrat on stage, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, pushed back against the idea the business community has reason to be anxious about City Hall without Bloomberg.
“The way that she phrased that discussion topic is based on seeing the need for a certain continuity,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I would like to respectfully dispute the premise of it. I think that there some things happening in city and our economy that are very, very encouraging…But at the same time, we’re not on the right track for the future, in my view. I don’t think the city government is doing all it could possibly do to truly prepare for us for what is an increasingly competitive international economic environment.”
Mr. de Blasio, along with fellow contender Comptroller John Liu, argued that growing income disparities and other issues are the things that have them concerned about the city’s economic future.
“We’ve had some mixed results. For example, private job growth is up this year. The number of private sector jobs is astounding, now almost 100,000 jobs this year alone,” Mr. Liu said in one of his many answers stuffed with specific numbers, “But unfortunately, the employment rate for the City of New York is still 9.3% and not decreasing. So there is something that’s not jiving right there.”
For his part, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, the only officially announced candidate in the race so far, spoke more vaguely, declaring, “Our economic trajectory is a good one, but it needs to be better.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, however, struck a different tone, offering direct praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg not often heard among her Democratic rivals.
“I am very optimistic about the future of the economic state of the City of New York,” she told Ms. Wylde. “This recession was hard on New York City, like anywhere. But I think we are weathering the storm better than any city in America. Why? Because under the leadership of the City Council, myself, my colleagues and Mayor Bloomberg. We demonstrated that we understand that there’s nothing you can do to manage your way out of a bad economic situation if you didn’t manage the good times well.”
Along with the serious business, the discussion had its humorous moments as well. For example, Ms. Quinn, listing the lessons needed to be learned from New York’s “river city” status and the damage from Hurricane Sandy, jokingly picked a fight with another city. “We have to harden our exterior as a city. I hope no one here is from Stamford Connecticut; I hate to have to herald Stamford Connecticut as a New Yorker, but they learned in the 60’s about this,” she said, pausing to speak on the audience’s silence. “You can’t get a joke or something about taking a dig at Stamford? It’s a tough crowd.”
A moderator suggested she pick on New Jersey instead. “Half my family’s from Jersey,” Ms. Quinn quickly replied. “I can’t go there.”
(She would later also beef with two international cities, Copenhagen and London, by stating New York would outpace them in storm-protection infrastructure.)
Of course, even as these mayoral campaign events keep occurring, three of the candidates have yet to formally declare they’re candidates for Gracie Mansion next year. They were all given the opportunity to announce today but declined.
“Does that mean everybody else has to leave the stage right now?” Mr. Thompson joked.