Reviewed by Greg Clark
New York has been on a roll in recent years. In March, the Economist Intelligence Unit proclaimed New York to be the world’s most competitive city. This is heady stuff even for the Big Apple — but the big question facing the city is how it will sustain its success in the face of the mayoral transition that will occur less than two years from now, in January 2013.
Consequently, many of the city’s business leaders are worrying about New York’s future, as their counterparts in Hong Kong did in the years leading up to Britain’s handover of the Crown Colony to China in 1997: as though the world as they know it was about to come to an end. But as Hong Kong demonstrated, life goes on, and world cities have enormous resilience, if their strong leadership can be sustained through political transitions.
Over the past decade under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leadership, the City has made great strides in sustainable and economic development: it has rebuilt Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks, has withstood the global fiscal and economic shocks since 2008 and has begun to rebuild its school system. It has also diversified its economy by attracting a new generation of technology companies and bringing a new Cornell / Technion engineering campus to Roosevelt Island. More importantly, Bloomberg’s New York has sustained the city’s success over two decades of reducing crime rates, making it today one of the world’s safest big cities. This has allowed the city to attract millions of new residents and jobs and bring more than 50 million tourists this year, bolstering an already strong hospitality industry. Bloomberg has also sustained the city’s efforts over the past three decades, in partnership with the State of New York, in rebuilding its transit system, reclaiming its parks and public spaces and building hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing. It has also regenerated vast areas of the city, including Times Square, Coney Island and entire districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn that were experiencing disinvestment and housing abandonment. It has officially begun to implement the city’s first long range sustainability plan.
All of these successes will need to be sustained over the coming decade, or the City’s unique position at the apex of the global economy could quickly erode. To ensure the city’s continued success in 2014 and the years that follow, New York’s active and engaged business and civic leadership will need to pull together once again to make sure the next mayor sustains and builds upon these achievements. In the exclusive and increasingly competitive club of world cities, treading water doesn’t assure sustained success.
Finally, and reassuringly, no one expects Michael Bloomberg to disappear from the city’s public policy scene when he steps out of the Mayor’s Office for the last time. He will still control both the city’s largest charitable foundation and one of its biggest media companies. He’s also demonstrated that he isn’t shy about making his views known on important public issues. So once again, the odds remain strong that no one will get rich betting against New York in the years to come.
IMAGE: Scatto Felino