Looking beyond an ‘economic renaissance’

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Stringer’s new report highlights disparities in the city’s growth


  • A recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer showed that while business throughout the city is booming, many low-income and minority business owners are being left out of the profits. Photo: Thomas Good, via Wikimedia Commons

A new study by Comptroller Scott Stringer starts with the good news: the city has “experienced an economic renaissance” over the last few years, with the number of businesses growing from roughly 203,000 to roughly 237,000 between 2000 and 2015. Low-income communities saw a 41 percent jump in business establishments during the same time period, compared to just a 12 percent boost in higher income areas. But most of the findings for lower income New Yorkers aren’t that promising. The fastest-growing neighborhoods are largely classified as gentrifying, and they also have the highest rates of unemployment.

Stringer’s report offers some suggestions to the city to remedy this, including installing a network coordinator to “strengthen the pipeline between local businesses and residents” and helping entrepreneurs secure storefront space. Greg David, a columnist at Crain’s New York Business and director of CUNY’s business and economics reporting program, called these ideas “effective on the margins.” “There are a lot of small ideas that over time have not proved terribly effective,” he said. “I don’t recommend anything because I think city government’s only a marginal force in this.”

David found the report to be overwhelmingly positive, despite indications that the city’s economic gains were not being felt citywide. “As the city gentrifies, businesses are doing well outside the Manhattan core,” he said. “And as communities are getting better they’re luring businesses and retail. So that’s the big picture and that’s the good picture.”

Though the midtown and downtown central business districts saw an eight percent loss of businesses between 2000 and 2015, President of the East Midtown Partnership Rob Byrnes also looked on the bright side. “I think that’s sort of a logical outgrowth of the shifting demographics of the city at any time,” he said. “And that’s a good thing. Midtown and lower Manhattan always be the commercial hubs of the city, but we shouldn’t be the only hubs.”

However, the report makes clear that minority-owned businesses are struggling to reap their share of the benefits. “Though minorities own 34 percent of all city businesses with employees, these establishments account for only 21 percent of business employment and 16 percent of revenue,” the study reads. “Blacks, in particular, are significantly underrepresented. While accounting for 22 percent of the city’s population, they own only three perfect of local businesses.” Between 2007 and 2012, black-owned businesses decreased from 2,294 to 558.

In a statement accompanying the release of his report, Stringer said what is needed is an economy “built on fairness.” “The increasing rents and economic distress that accompany gentrification are challenges that we as a city must confront,” he said. “As the jobs landscape changes, we need to do everything possible to support those who helped build their communities in the first place.”

Madeleine Thompson can be reached at newsreporter@strausnews.com

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