COVID Recovery ∙ Cash Relief ∙ Economy
Bringing Back New York’s Economy
New York City is going to be the first urban center to come back stronger from the pandemic. We’re going to ensure that all New Yorkers can stay in New York and not only get back on their feet, but thrive in a modern economy.
Before COVID, the GDP of our metro area was $1.8 trillion and growing 2% per year. But GDP doesn’t tell the full story, missing the large percentages that couldn’t afford an unexpected bill and the majority of families that struggled with rent. COVID has hit this majority of New Yorkers particularly hard - unemployment is 12.1% (5.9% nationally); small business revenue is down 53% (32% nationally); and consumer spending is down 5.5% (1.7% nationally).
No city was harder hit by the virus and no city has done a better job making the sacrifices to keep cases under control. Now, it’s time to rebuild our city so that we all come back stronger and ready for the future.
Eliminate deep poverty through a UBI/Guaranteed Minimum Income.
The NYC economy is one of the largest in the world, beating out the vast majority of countries. It is a city filled with unimaginable wealth, making it equally unimaginable that we have over half a million individuals living in deep poverty.
We’re currently in a tough fiscal spot because of the pandemic, but such poverty has both human and economic costs that we need to end. By launching the largest cash relief program in our history, we end deep poverty in our city, helping those who are in the most need of economic health.
Start the People’s Bank of NYC.
If you’ve always had a bank account, it can be hard to know all the problems that come from not having access to reliable banking. However, 12% of New Yorkers face the issues associated with being unbanked.
This means that they don’t have savings or checking accounts. They rely on check cashers to cash their paychecks, opening themselves up to ridiculous fees. They develop financial habits that don’t maximize savings because they don’t have a place to reliably save their money and earn interest. By opening a People’s Bank of NYC, we can serve this unbanked community since we don’t have the same incentives as the commercial banks. We can also offer financial literacy classes through them to ensure that all New Yorkers are able to get their questions answered and their finances in check.
This People’s Bank could also invest in community development and small businesses that a larger bank wouldn’t be interested in. Minority-Owned Small Businesses find it much more difficult to secure financing and loans, so we could ensure access to capital for these entrepreneurs and communities that traditionally lack it. Through both direct loans and partnerships with local credit unions, the People’s Bank could make smart investments in our communities that will help all local entrepreneurs meet the needs of our city.
A full plan discussing the details and opportunities of the People’s Bank of NYC will be posted in the coming weeks.
Ensure all New Yorkers have broadband internet.
The simple truth is that you can’t function in the modern economy without broadband internet. This need was made even more apparent as classrooms and doctor’s offices moved online as the pandemic hit.
New York City is lucky in that the vast majority of buildings are wired for broadband internet - the problem is that it’s unaffordable for too many New Yorkers. With 27% of households lacking this high-speed internet service, we have too many households where children can’t learn, parents can’t interview or telecommute to work, and doctor visits require time off from work that many can’t afford.
While we need to subsidize infrastructure to reach the few remaining buildings that lack access to broadband, we also need to work with the companies providing it to lower costs for households that can’t afford it. Other countries and cities have figured this out - we can’t let New Yorkers get left behind.
Create local business spending vouchers.
In April, other countries began distributing consumption coupons, a type of voucher via e-payment to stimulate local spending. The requirements usually include a minimum spend and are often targeted at restaurants, supermarkets and other outlets hit hard by the pandemic. The system varied by city. For example, one city government released five rounds of electronic consumer coupons valid for seven days before expiring. All residents were eligible for one coupon packet per week distributed through five separate vouchers. We should create a voucher program of our own, subsidizing discounts for purchases at local establishments- use your vouchers and get a certain percent off your purchases from local businesses.
Expand the Fair Fares program to make transit affordable to all.
The Fair Fares program provides discounted public transportation to low-income New Yorkers. Before the pandemic, Fair Fares, a $200 million program, was providing half-fare transit to 200,000 New Yorkers out of a pool of 600,000 eligible. The program saw cuts during the pandemic because of the damage to the MTA system’s coffers, hitting low income New Yorkers particularly hard. This is penny wise and pound foolish - how can we have a robust economy when New Yorkers are struggling to pay the fare to get to work? Instead of cutting the program, fares for public transportation should be lowered post-pandemic as we try to bring activity back into the system.
Tax Big Box e-commerce deliveries.
Even Pre-COVID, The New York Times reported that New York City receives 1.5 million e-commerce packages per day from retailers including Amazon, Walmart, and more. During COVID, that volume has grown to the point that our postal system can no longer keep up, and meanwhile our small businesses are dying because of a shortage of retail foot traffic. New York State Senator Robert Carroll has proposed a $3 surcharge for big box e-commerce deliveries (excluding food and medicine) as a means of reducing strain on our overwhelmed shipping infrastructure and bringing demand back to independent physical stores. I would support implementing this surcharge and use it to fund initiatives to support our independent physical stores.
End tax breaks for MSG.
Madison Square Garden, one of New York City’s most iconic entertainment arenas, has received a full property tax exemption since 1982. MSG gets over $40 million in tax breaks per year, the result of a state carveout that was specifically designed for the arena. The total cost in lost revenue over the time period is over $555 million. This is especially significant with the recent overhaul of Moynihan Train Hall, a $1.6 billion project, which will undoubtedly service public transit to MSG. If nothing is done, MSG’s total tax break could be $1 billion by 2030. I would support existing legislation in the State capital that finally ends this 38-year long property exemption.
Make NYC the leader in early stage startups.
Startups create high quality jobs that contribute to the city’s tax base and offer goods and services that transform how we live. We have the talent, the universities, the late-stage investors, and the big tech offices that function as hubs for the ecosystem. However, New York still lags behind San Francisco in creating the biggest companies of tomorrow. Tesla, DoorDash, Uber, Airbnb, and Zoom - they all depend on New York as a major market...but they were started and are headquartered in California.
We will create the biggest startup incubator the country has ever seen. With $100 million of capital raised from private sources, we will invest in 1,000 startups with founders of diverse backgrounds ($100k per startup in a convertible note). We will draw on all the strengths of the ecosystem - professional services support from NYC law and accounting firms; mentorship from other tech startups; co-working space; and more. Our demo day will be the event for VCs around the world and make NYC the city leading VCs feel they need to have a base in.
Foster community economies through Borough Bucks.
NYCHA housing needs tens of billion of dollars in repairs and low income households are in need of childcare, home health care, and other services. There is enormous latent capacity for New Yorkers to help each other, but we don’t have the financial infrastructure to unlock that social currency. To unleash this potential, the city will create $3.4 billion in “Borough Bucks.” NYCHA residents can spend their Borough Bucks with each other, creating a trust currency that can multiply in impact through the city in the same way that dollars multiply in our fractional reserve banking system. In Sanger, TX, the community has experimented with an interesting model along thematically similar lines, using a points system to help community members share goods from a store-like food pantry.
Lobby the federal government for reinstatement of the SALT deduction.
The Trump Tax Cuts of 2017 eliminated deductibility for state and local taxes - a clear and successful attempt to take resources away from heavily urbanized, highly diverse, Democratic-leaning states. New York already pays $27 billion more in taxes to the federal government than it receives in benefits each year. This is the most negative balance of payment with the federal government of any state. The elimination of the SALT deduction costs New York City 55,000 jobs and reduces economic activity by $20 billion each year. New York has always paid more than our share and we’ve never complained - we’re a prosperous economy - but we’re hurting during COVID and it’s time to at least return the SALT deduction to the pre-Trump status quo.
New York City has been hit hard by this pandemic. The good news is that our economy was strong before the crisis. We need to restart that machine and get it humming again so we can do all the other work needed to make New York a fairer, cleaner, and safer city for all.