Crisis and Opportunity: Keynote Address


The questions posed at this colloquium touch on some of the major issuesconfronting New York City over the next four years and beyond. How weanswer these questions will have wide-ranging implications for the future direction of economic development in the City.

From an economic point of view, the role of the Manhattan Borough President is a unique one. Manhattan stands at the core of New York City as a world financial and business center. It is the engine that runs the regional economy. Manhattan is the headquarters of more than sixty of the 500 largest industrial concerns in this country, and 12 of the 50 largest commercial banks. It is also the headquarters of 12 of the 50 biggest diversified financial companies, and 7 of the 50 major retailing companies. It is the home of some of the largest and most active stock markets in the world. It is a Mecca of foreign investment; the first port of call for foreign capital that crosses our shores. Manhattan is also the employment hub of the City. Some 66 percent of all private industry jobs, or approximately 1.9 million positions, are located in this Borough. Manhattan is in the midst of one of the most vigorous economic booms in recent history. Construction levels for commercial office space are at their highest point in more than a decade. Despite the continuous addition of millions of square feet of new space each year, New York City has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. Overall, the vacancy rate is slightly more the eight percent, with the midtown rate of 6.9 and a downtown rate of 11.1 percent. Compare these numbers to a national rate of 16.5 percentand local rates as high as 29.4 percent in Fort Lauderdale, 26 percent in Denver, and 23.4 percent in San Diego. In the construction industry itself, the job total has hit an eleven year high, surpassing the 100,000 mark for the first time since 1974. Overall employment figures are equally remarkable. In its recent report on unemployment in 1985, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed an average unemployment figure for New York City of 8.1 percent compared to8.9 percent for 1984; this annual average is the lowest since 1974. Viewed over an extended period of time, the City’s job figures are even more impressive.Since 1976, the City has added 315,000 jobs, the strongest period of job growth on record. Two hundred thousand of these new jobs are in the business and related professional services and in the financial sectors.

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