Northeast Queens Councilman Paul Vallone chaired a hearing of the Committee on Economic Development focused on the city’s Economic Development Corporation’s COVID-19 response, job development, and small business support in the “new normal.”
As New Yorkers continue social distancing to help stop the spread of the virus, thousands of businesses reopened their doors for the first week of New York City’s phase two.
Vallone acknowledged that large-scale testing and a plentiful PPE supply are a critical part of sustaining a safe reopening.
“As our city’s streets begin to bustle and our businesses open their doors to welcome back the local community, it is important to recognize the extraordinary local efforts that helped make that happen, while at the same time proactively planning ahead for the long term to ensure safety and prosperity for our mom and pops, whose success will be a critical part of a strong economic recovery,” Vallone said.
By establishing a local production chain, the NYCEDC reported to-date facilitating the production of 3.2 million medical gowns through partnership with 14 local manufacturers. In addition, a new supply chain with local biotech companies and small manufacturers are now producing 50,000 COVID-19 testing kits per week, according to the EDC.
“With the phased reopening underway, the hard work is just beginning,” NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett said during virtual testimony. “There are many things to consider: childcare, transit, how and when we return to our offices, and later to other public venues. All of this aiming to address the bigger question of how we restore vitality to this city we love.”
Patchett, noting that the city “must create a new normal” outlines a two-fold approach to economic development efforts in the coming month.
“One, bring good-paying jobs to all New Yorkers; and two, ensure they have the skills to get these positions, keep them and excel in them,” Patchell said, Advanced manufacturing, tech, cyber, life science, garment manufacturing, and fashion will be looked at for opportunities “to diversify the city’s economy while providing New Yorkers with real opportunities to attain a greater level of economic stability and success,” Patchett said.
In submitted testimony, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said, “the topic of relief efforts amid COVID-19 is vital,” especially since an economic recovery is on the minds of New Yorkers.
“It is important to continue efforts for this recovery since this requires a lot of innovation and work,” Williams added. “EDC can help with decisions that make sense and make a difference for businesses.”
Vallone spoke of the looming city budget negotiations and the need to prioritize economic development in the five boroughs.
“We know that significant cuts to EDC’s budget, particularly to the capital budget, would have a tenfold impact on each and every one of our city’s businesses and industries,” Vallone said.
Vallone and Patchett also agreed that Congress and the President must quickly act on an additional stimulus package and do more to aid small businesses.
“We need real economic relief,” Patchett said. “We need a stimulus package that supports states and cities, and provides resources needed for robust recovery.”
With regard to transportation, EDC has seen a “huge surge” in overall ridership on the NYC Ferry since phase one, and service has been ramped up in recent weeks, according to Patchett. Acknowledging that New Yorkers are now more than ever seeking safe modes of transportation, Vallone pushed Patchett to make continued investments in the NYC Ferry system, particularly in transit deserts like northeast Queens where residents face limited transit options.
“We know that New Yorkers love their ferries. They’re a really important way of linking New Yorkers from all over the city who are in transit deserts to other waterfront areas and to jobs,” Patchett said. “In this time, as you said, of social distancing, being able to be outside at the top of a ferry vessel is a particularly appealing way to travel and we’ve seen New Yorkers realize that.”