Citywide access to broadband, a live fashion museum in the Garment District, more industrial parks like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, lab space and incentives for biotech companies – these are just a few of the ventures that the city’s most prosperous industries want the de Blasio administration to support.
At Crain’s “City in Transition” conference, representatives from each successful industry – the arts, education, fashion, film and movie production, manufacturing, and technology – told the business community that they need city support in order to stay flourishing.
The founder of Shutterstock, Jon Oringer, said that the city must give every person access to low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet. “How many ideas aren’t being built because someone doesn’t have Internet access?” he said.
The city also needs to focus on tech education, he said. “Learning computer language is as important as learning a foreign language,” said Oringer, noting that at age seven, he learned how to program a computer.
William L. McComb, the CEO of Fifth and Pacific Companies, said the New York fashion industry has the unique opportunity to connect with the city’s tech industry – something that could put it ahead of competitor countries like France and Italy.
“We may not compete with Milan or Paris for luxury goods, but we can merge with technology, creating apps to help the consumer connect with brands,” said McComb.
McComb also proposed a live museum in the Garment District that could show off the industry to tourists and have featured talks with designers. “A lot of people come to New York to see the fashion industry, but you can’t really see it,” said McComb.
Safety is also a top priority, said McComb, to ensure that fashion companies feel comfortable signing long and expensive leases. And, the progressive immigration program must be supported, said McComb, because design talent comes to New York from all over the world.
As for the manufacturing industry, Andrew Kimball of Jamestown Properties dismissed the popular notion that manufacturing has been in steep decline.
“Manufacturing isn’t declining, it’s been redefined,” said Kimball. “This isn’t the manufacturing of the 1950’s.” Kimball expressed excitement that big factories are no longer needed, and that small companies with innovative ideas such as 3-D printing are coming to fruition.
“I’m excited that this new kind of manufacturing is focused on sustainability and local sourcing, which consumers are demanding,” said Kimball.
These manufacturing jobs pay more than service jobs and allow workers to move up the economic ladder more quickly, said Kimball.
But there are problems, said Kimball, mainly lack of space. “People are talking about lack of affordable housing, but not about affordable space for industrial jobs,” said Kimball. He suggested converting the large self-storage units along the B.Q.E. into industrial parks, which would create more jobs. The industry needs city support through zoning and building codes.
Representing the education industry, Marc Tessier-Lavigne of Rockefeller University lamented how Boston has surpassed New York in the biotech industry, even though “we have more college students in New York than the population of Boston.”
“We have a real opportunity in the next five to seven years to push New York to what the Bay Area was in the early 90’s, and what Boston was just ten years ago,” said Tessier-Lavigne.
The city needs to bring biotech companies here with financial incentives and cheaper lab space in order to prevent the talent from going to Boston or San Diego, he said.
“There are a lot of willing victims,” said Tessier-Lavigne. “Many CEO’s in Boston would rather live in New York.”
The film industry is booming in New York, thanks to tax credit and studios like Steiner Studios, Silvercup Studios, and Kaufman Astoria. Alan Suna of Silvercup Studios said the industry does great things for tourism, thanks to promotion by TV shows like “Sex and the City” and “Girls.”
He called on the next mayor to work with communities. “Filming in communities can cause NIMBY reaction, but we need to accept these minor inconveniences,” said Suna.
Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum of Harlem, stressed that the arts should not be overlooked – it has the ability to revitalize a community and turn it into a destination, like the Studio museum and the Apollo Theater have done for Harlem.
“The city needs to think about artists as key citizens,” said Golden, “and how creatives help us imagine the city in different ways.”