Economic Development: Addressing the Parallel Universe Dilemma


The new mayor should move policies aimed at reducing poverty and connecting a new generation of New Yorkers to the middle class to the center of the agenda. There are many things to learn from the current administration, and many of its economic development initiatives should and will continue. Yet the next mayor needs to look for a new play book on reconciling growth and equity by explicitly setting more evenly spread job growth, more evenly spread income growth and greater economic mobility for low wage-earners as goals. 

Several other cities – including Los Angeles – have pursued pro-growth strategies that also focus on economic mobility. These models show how embedding policies that put community partnerships into the DNA of city government and promote basic workforce linkage policies in conjunction with economic development projects can achieve both equity and growth. This paper reviews the recent history of economic development policy and suggests three “growth with equity” strategies for New York City: replace discretionary and as-of-right subsidies to firms with investment in public infrastructure and the adoption of labor demand strategies; use available public levers to increase training, earning, and economic mobility opportunities for unemployed and low-wage workers; strengthen the City's core blue-collar employment base by bringing a deliberate equity vision to the management of the city’s physical assets, especially industrial land.