Optimism for the Future Of New York

By , Chief Executive Officer
Optimism for the Future Of New York Recovery by Jim Capalino

The primaries are over, the votes have now been counted (correctly), New York City has reopened after the devastating impact of the pandemic, and New York City officials have agreed to adopt the largest budget ever, a $98.7 billion spending plan to drive the City’s recovery, including $14 billion in federal aid. Despite early snafus with ranked-choice voting in the Democratic mayoral primary, Eric Adams won the primary with a slim lead of 50.4% over Kathryn Garcia with 49.6 of the votes. In the Republican primary Curtis Sliwa led Fernando Mateo with a decisive 71.1% of votes. A new administration will take office in 2022 with responsibility for driving New York’s economic resurgence.

New York City came back after 9/11, demonstrating its resilience after a crisis and we’re now witnessing that resilience once again. I was proud to play a role in that comeback and I’m pleased to witness New York’s resilience once again. Our recent reopening is the culmination of 17 months of challenges and tragedy with the deaths of more than 53,000 New Yorkers and the closing of nearly one-third of New York’s small businesses. More than 1 million people statewide lost their jobs with a disproportionate impact on traditionally disadvantaged groups such as Black and Hispanic communities.

We recently released a new poll conducted by Honan Strategy Group for Capalino indicating New Yorkers are overwhelmingly optimistic about New York’s future, contrary to some media reports. In what amounts to a landslide, 92% of voters agree that NY was very hard hit by the pandemic, but they knew it would recover, and 92% are optimistic both about NY’s recovery from Covid-19 and New York City’s future.

Eight of ten people agree they would rather live in NYC than just about any other place. Despite the exodus of some New Yorkers during the early days of the pandemic, migration to New York is growing twice as fast as in 2019 according to location-data firm Unacast. Nearly three-quarters of voters believe the city’s best days are yet to come and, with NYC set to receive billions of dollars of federal aid to help rebuild the city after COVID, they expect NYC will be rebuilt better and stronger.

I was glad to learn that New Yorkers voiced overwhelming support for New York’s future. At Capalino, we launched a webinar series called “The Future of New York” bringing together key thought leaders across industry sectors to address critical challenges and solutions to drive New York’s recovery and these polling results echo the positive sentiments we’re hearing about New York’s future. The Capalino-Honan poll showed that New Yorkers believe rebuilding the economy and creating jobs and housing should be priorities for New York. Small businesses in NY need help recovering from the pandemic, taking advantage of the Business Pandemic Recovery Initiative programs—including $800 million in state funding for small businesses.

I served under Mayor Koch who restored NYC’s spirit when the City was near bankruptcy. In 1977 New York City had reached what the New York Times called a “nadir of sorts” with the Son of Sam killings, blackout and riots. When Mayor Koch took office in 1978, he was able to quickly show New Yorkers he was fighting to turn things around. For example, he appointed me a Senior Advisor to focus on city government’s relationship with the fifty-nine community boards, which had largely been ignored. We developed and executed a plan to reinvigorate the role and responsibility of the community boards, making them a priority for City Hall, city agency heads and borough Presidents. Our next Mayor should reprise Mayor’s Koch decision to prioritize community boards and build collaboration across City government.

The next mayor will also need to prioritize actions as Mayor Bloomberg did brilliantly after 9/11, identifying goals and harnessing resources for New Yorkers to experience significant improvement. Senator Chuck Schumer did an astounding job delivering funding for New York State and New York City to aid in our recovery. The next Mayor will need to leverage New Yorkers’ optimism, allocate funding wisely, and build credibility by driving robust, inclusive business growth. He will need to quickly address critical issues including housing, economic recovery, crime, education, homelessness, and rebuilding our tourism industry by raising hotel occupancy rates.

I am a strong believer that the legalization of cannabis has the potential to create significant economic opportunities in New York State, as well as righting wrongs of the past through its equity focus. We recently launched a Cannabis Advisory Team at Capalino to help clients navigate the business and political landscape and bring together potential partners to achieve the legislation’s equity goals. Once New York State’s plan is fully rolled out, tax revenues from the adult-use cannabis program are projected to reach $350 million annually, contributing to New York’s economic resurgence. Additionally, there is the potential for this new industry to create 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs across the State.

One of the most beloved aspects of New York’s cultural life is restaurants. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on the restaurant industry in New York and its revival is a critical part of our economic recovery. The good news that restaurants can now operate at 100 percent capacity. The comeback we envisioned is finally in our sights. However, due to the challenges of the Delta variant, New York City just became the first major U.S. city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination at restaurants, as well as gyms and other businesses. In order to support restaurants and workers impacted by the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced the launch of New York State’s $35 million Restaurant Return-to-Work Tax Credit program. The program is designed to help expand employment opportunities for restaurant workers and provide relief to COVID-impacted restaurants.

The Capalino-Honan poll shows that an overwhelming 82 percent of New York City voters believe that New Yorkers should eat out at restaurants to help the restaurant industry, which puts money back into the hands of working people. Capalino recently held a program on the “Reviving NYC’s Restaurant Industry: Bringing New Yorkers Back to the Table” featuring celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and Andrew Rigie, head of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, moderated by Travis Terry, President of Capalino. Terry, Colicchio and Rigie discussed the need for tourists as well as lifelong New Yorkers to explore the city and visit restaurants in boroughs outside Manhattan. Consistent with this 89 percent of New Yorkers polled feel that bringing New Yorkers and tourists back to eat at restaurants across all five boroughs is critical to NYC’s recovery.

Capalino recently launched a new Hospitality Advisory Team to help restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector leverage funding opportunities and rebound from the pandemic. The team leverages Capalino’s ability to serve as a “one-stop shop” with services including strategy, real estate, permitting, financing, and lobbying to help restaurants and other businesses strategically plan their recovery. Capalino has a long history of partnering with the hospitality and restaurant sector to help well-known operations such as Ian Schrager Hotels, the Gramercy Park Hotel, Chatwal Hotels, the Four Seasons Restaurant, Knickerbocker Hotel, the River Café and Union Square Hospitality Group.

In addition, 83 percent of likely Democratic voters agree that keeping outdoor dining enhances neighborhoods and communities. Combined with open streets, they create a more vibrant, energetic city, helping people feel connected. New York has built a café culture taking advantage of these open spaces. Capalino has been a vital part of building outdoor spaces in New York. We were instrumental in the creation of the High Line park, from advocating for City support to securing hundreds of millions in funding for the construction and operations of the park. Called the most successful urban renewal and economic development project in decades, the High Line has transformed New York City and become an inspiration to other cities for its extraordinary use of public space.

Capalino also advised Time Square Alliance on government and legislative affairs that resulted in the City Council passing legislation to allow the City to better manage public space in pedestrian plazas. We assisted with passage of a bill enabling the Department of Transportation to regulate all public pedestrian plazas throughout New York City. These initiatives addressed many problems in Times Square, as well as creating areas for public gathering. The High Line and Times Square projects are leading examples of how the design of urban landscapes can have tremendous positive impact for residents and visitors alike. 

With new leadership taking office across New York City, we look forward to assisting clients in navigating the political landscape, leveraging Capalino’s expertise in both lobbying, strategy and insights, and finance to drive growth for our clients.  It’s clear that New Yorkers are optimistic about New York’s future and businesses and institutions look forward to working with the incoming Administration.

As Broadway reopens in September and tourists return to the Big Apple, New York’s economic engine will roar to life again. It’s important that our next Mayor drive economic growth and address the key issues New Yorkers care about. That’s how to keep New Yorkers’ high level of optimism going and rebuild the City’s future.

To learn how Capalino can drive inclusive growth for your company in New York City, contact us at travis@nullcapalino.com.



James Capalino

About the Author

James Capalino

Jim Capalino is recognized as one of New York’s premier urban problem-solving strategists. His background combines senior management roles in government, public relations, real estate, and construction management.

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