The toxic political outlook that is costing New York City jobs by the tens of thousands claimed another victim Tuesday, when the developers looking to rezone part of Sunset Park in Brooklyn for a project called Industry City pulled the plug on their plan. The move comes on top of Amazon’s 2019 decision to give up on building a campus in Long Island City; and on top of the city’s recent move to kill another plan for that abandoned site because the landowners and developers found its demands so unreasonable.
There’s a pattern here, and it consists of high spenders in city and state government — as well as some future lawmakers waiting in the on-deck circle — driving away the businesses that fund the very programs they find so vital.
While the Amazon plan would have produced an estimated 25,000 jobs, Industry City was set to deliver 12,000, along with about $100 million a year in tax revenue. Now those numbers are zero. Unlike Amazon, the developers weren’t even getting subsidies. But in the end, they decided that “the current political environment and a lack of leadership precludes a path forward for our rezoning proposal.”
South Queens City Councilman Eric Ulrich summed it up succinctly on Twitter: “NYC is going to s--t. God save us!”
New York City was very fortunate following both 9/11 and the Great Recession, with businesses bouncing back and funding the ever-rising budgets enacted under Mayor Bloomberg and then, from fiscal year 2015 on, Mayor de Blasio. Whether it was more cops or de Blasio’s signature achievements, universal prekindergarten and then 3-K for all, taxpayers led by the financial sector have been there to pay for it. And the tax base became more diversified — a big goal of Bloomberg’s — with technology paying a growing share even as property taxes and other levies related to real estate made up 53 percent of revenue before the pandemic.
Ahh, “before the pandemic.” The good old days before the virus came. New York City could lose Amazon in February 2019 and think the jobs will just be made up somewhere else. But now the unemployment rate here is 16 percent, the city is expected to lose 500,000 jobs in total by the end of the year thanks to the pandemic, and there doesn’t seem to be any answer to our dreadful budget crunch other than a massive infusion of federal funding that may never come.
The pandemic also has shown that many people, especially in those high-end, white-collar jobs that pay most of the taxes, may not need to be here. One small Manhattan company we know, which pays $25,000 a month in rent, plans to cut its office space in half and rotate its workforce, while another even smaller firm is dropping its office altogether as soon as the lease is up. They’re just two among thousands.
Meanwhile the Titanic keeps racing through the iceberg field, Captain de Blasio asleep in his bunk, as his would-be successors and other up-and-coming politicians plan to steer us further to the left, vowing even greater public spending. Some are open Socialists (three from Queens alone will be joining the state Legislature in January). Neither they nor our heretofore more moderate leaders seem to remember Margaret Thatcher’s timeless axiom about socialism: “that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
If what the world needs now is love, sweet love, what New York City also needs is that thing that can’t buy us love: money. And lots of it. And it can only come when people who have the ability to take their business elsewhere choose not to, when not only is the virus on the run but so too is the corrosive belief that the city doesn’t need job creators and high earners. We do need them, and our leaders better take current events as a reality check and change their ways. Otherwise we’re sunk. Otherwise ... what Ulrich said.