“There are multiple issues placing hardship on neighborhood retailers, most of which are not solved by commercial rent stabilization,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “Competition from many sources, most notably online retail activity, has cut into the revenues of brick and mortar retail businesses. New mandates imposed by local government have increased the costs of running a business in the city. Changing customer demands have undermined businesses, such as tobacco and newspaper vendors, that have failed to update their product lines. Rising rents are definitely a factor in business closures, but rent increases are at least partly due to escalating city real estate tax assessments that are passed along to tenants. The Council appears to have settled on one causal factor contributing to small business hardship, which is the presumption of landlord greed. This may satisfy their political agenda, but it will not solve the complex problems created by a rapidly changing economy and ill-considered government impositions on the marketplace.”
Today, the Partnership for New York City delivered testimony before the New York Senate in support of constitutional changes to modernize New York’s court system:
Testimony of Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City
Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary and Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary
Thank you Chairs Hoylman and Dinowitz and members of the committees for the opportunity to testify on court modernization. The Partnership for New York City represents the employers of more than 1.5 million New Yorkers. We work with government, labor and the civic sector to maintain the city’s position as the pre-eminent global center of commerce, innovation and economic opportunity.
The Partnership strongly supports the constitutional change put forward by Chief Judge DiFiore that would make the structural changes that are necessary to modernize New York’s antiquated and cumbersome court system. Since she took office, Judge DiFiore has done much to improve management of what is the most complex court system in the country. The many accomplishments of the Chief Judge and her team were recognized recently when she became the first public sector manager to be awarded the prestigious Deming Cup by Columbia University Business School.
Unfortunately, provisions of the state constitution place major restrictions on what even the best manager can do to ensure the prompt and fair administration of justice in New York. Whether it is a business suffering loss from long delays in the case backlog in the commercial court or an inmate at Rikers waiting years for their cases to be heard in criminal court, the current situation is not working for anyone.
Judge DiFiore’s plan relies in part on the work of the Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts, appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye in 2006, on which I served. We established at that time that the court system must be restructured in order to allow for efficient management and to eliminate duplication of effort. We recommended that the current structure, which is inflexible and difficult to navigate, results in substantial unnecessary costs for all involved, including the taxpayer. In its 2007 report, the Commission estimated that individual and business litigants, employers and municipalities could save $443 million from the type of reforms that Judge DiFiore recommends.
New York has eleven trial courts — three more than any other state. California has only one trial court despite having more than twice the population of New York. Many cases involve trials in several courts, resulting in multiple fees and excessive litigation over questions of jurisdiction.
New York court administration has very limited ability to move judges around to address case load needs in the different courts. This has been a key issue for commercial court litigants, who have increasingly moved their cases to Delaware where a more coherent court structure allows for relatively fast disposition of difficult business disputes. In fact, Delaware has enjoyed significant economic benefits from large commercial cases and legions of lawyers descending on them for timely litigation. This is, almost inevitably, at New York’s expense.
Many of us would welcome amendments that go further, such as the merit appointment of judges. But Judge DiFiore has presented a proposal that is both simple and modest, in order to take the first major step toward a better, more cost-effective and competitive court system. The Partnership urges the legislature to adopt these long-overdue reforms as soon as possible.
By Kathryn Wylde | Empire Report | 10/31/19
This week, Industry City in Sunset Park will begin a rezoning process for the second phase of Brooklyn’s most exciting new center of industrial, retail, and creative artisan activity. Despite opposition from anti-development activists, the project merits prompt approval by the City Planning Commission and City Council.
Formerly known as Bush Terminal, this six million square foot redevelopment of underutilized industrial land and buildings is long overdue. Industry City will bring more than 20,000 new jobs, job training for community residents, and affordable workshop, manufacturing and retail space for hundreds of diverse entrepreneurs and artists. It is already the headquarters and practice center of the Brooklyn Nets and home to an NYU-sponsored business incubator focused on veterans. Its community spaces feature entertainment and enrichment programs for all ages, making for a unique destination that showcases the best of Brooklyn.
Today, the Partnership for New York City delivered the following testimony to the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Internet and Technology.
The Partnership for New York City represents private sector employers of more than 1.5 million New Yorkers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as the preeminent global center of commerce, innovation and economic opportunity.
Thank you, Senator Savino, for your thoughtful approach to ensuring that New Yorkers who earn their living through the so-called “Gig Economy” have the protections and benefits they need and deserve. Today, New York state is in a position to craft model legislation for the country that responds to the complexities of how internet platforms are used to connect people to work. Businesses should not be allowed to circumvent the standards that New York sets for treatment of full-time and part-time workers by mischaracterizing them as independent contractors.
We hope that New York will not make the same mistakes that California did in failing to carefully define who is covered in their gig worker legislation. There are several major problems with the California law, starting with an oversimplified “ABC” formula that determines who is a “gig worker” and who should be an employee. It potentially captures many situations where individuals have chosen to work as sole proprietors of small businesses. It also may include people who have decided to supplement their income by taking job assignments that are episodic and allow them to perform work on their own schedule and for multiple clients.
We have canvassed our Partnership members and found that many legitimately hire independent contractors, directly or through intermediaries, to carry out auxiliary functions that require special expertise or extra capacity. A California-type solution would disrupt large numbers of these voluntary business arrangements that are important to breadwinners across the state, as well as to their employers.
California law seeks to limit their interference with legitimate independent contracting arrangements by exempting vocations that are not connected to technology platforms. These exemptions include vocations such as insurance agents, certain health care professionals, securities broker-dealers or investment advisors, and cosmetology services. But many or most of these exempted occupations are likely to gravitate toward technology platforms in the future, so trying to define a gig worker by exception does not make sense in our fast-moving economy. There are also conventional jobs—such as newspaper delivery—that do not belong in the gig category because they are explicitly designed as a source of supplemental income and not as full-time occupations.
On the other hand, there are many technology platforms that provide a marketplace for independent contractors that should not be covered by “gig worker” protections. Examples range from marketplaces like Etsy, which has more than 80,000 New Yorkers using its site to sell products, to platforms that are connecting global networks of experts, software developers, or providers of other professional services. These workers may be available “on demand,” but are clearly not depending on a single client or employer as their source of income and benefits.
As a society, we should be trying to protect gig workers and part-time workers who are not able to protect themselves. On the other hand, we should not be imposing additional costs and regulations that interfere with voluntary business relationships and entrepreneurial activities of New Yorkers who choose to work as independent contractors or sole proprietors.
How do we define a new category of worker who should be protected through legislation? This is a tough question that the legislature has been struggling to address. The broad generalizations and exceptions that the California law put in place are not working. A better approach might be to consider the number of hours worked or on call (occasional versus substantially full-time over an extended period), the nature of work performed (auxiliary or support services versus core business functions), or the nature and rate of compensation (hourly wage below a certain level versus a fixed compensation for product deliverables). Certainly, the law should not apply to those whose hours of work are de minimis (say, less than 20 hours a week) or where the hourly rate of pay is substantially more than minimum wage.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated about 10% of U.S. workers have alternative arrangements to a typical 9-5 day at one employer as their primary job, including temp agency work, on-call work, contract work and freelancing. However, of all 881,000 independent contractors statewide, including those with a separate full-time job, 614,000, or 70%, are not on-demand workers. If New York is to take regulatory or legislative action in this area, it should be focused on the remaining 30%.
The Partnership and our member companies are prepared to work with the legislature and interested parties to come with legislation that achieves worker protections while protecting the rights and interests of independent contractors and those who hire them.
To the Editor:
Re: “Bill de Blasio Needs to Get to Work” ( New York Times editorial, Oct. 7):
It is hard to disagree with the call for the mayor to refocus on local problems after his withdrawal from the presidential race. But the editorial board’s agenda for the balance of the mayor’s term is pretty one-sided.
You urge expanded investment in affordable housing, public hospitals, safer streets and other worthy causes. But what about fiscal challenges, unfunded pension and health care benefits due public employees, and mounting debt?
“The MTA Board’s unanimous approval of a $51.5 billion, five year capital plan signals consensus on a program that, when successfully implemented, will dramatically improve our regional transit system. We congratulate the MTA leadership and Governor Cuomo for laying out clear priorities and the funding commitments required to achieve them. Through the Transit Innovation Partnership, the business community is working closely with the Governor and the MTA to ensure that New York becomes the global leader in public transportation. Nothing is more important to New York’s economic well-being,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
“Today, the MTA has laid out a clear agenda for capital investment over the next five years that is required to achieve a world class transit system. The business community is heartened by what is clearly an acceleration in upgrades of services, equipment and accessibility and will put its expertise and resources to work in support of this plan,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
The Partnership for New York City submitted the following comments to the MTA in response to far-reaching proposed regulations on the debarment of contractors.
The Partnership for New York City is compelled to comment on proposed regulations promulgated pursuant to Section 1279-h of the Public Authorities Law, enacted as part of the 2020 budget. Typically, we would defer to industry experts to argue the details of regulations, but this is a case where poorly conceived regulations will almost certainly present a significant obstacle to necessary improvements in our regional transportation infrastructure and, consequently, result in a negative impact on the economy of the city and state.
In short, the regulations make the risk associated with winning an MTA contract so extreme that responsible contractors are highly unlikely to bid. The unilateral risks imposed on contractors by these draft regulations are both substantive and political. The substantive risks relate to the fact that the MTA both defines the terms of contracts and change orders and is the sole arbiter in the event of disputes. The political risk is that the MTA is effectively controlled by the Governor and other elected officials who appoint its board and control its funding. For a contractor bidding on a large MTA procurement, these combined risk factors, under the terms of the proposed regulations, are impossible to effectively manage. As a result, responsible contractors are unlikely to participate in MTA procurement and the result will be the inability of the MTA to complete essential transportation infrastructure projects.
It is clear that some action was required to ensure that the MTA and its projects are not held captive by relatively few large vendors and contractors who are willing and able to do business with the authority. The threat of debarment for verified poor performance is a reasonable condition of procurement contracts. But the proposed regulations impose conditions that are impossible for responsible vendors and contractors to fulfill since a failure on the part of the MTA to perform its side of the contractual obligations is not accounted for. Unfortunately, it is the experience of virtually all MTA contractors that the authority is likely to be the primary source of time delays and cost overruns on major projects.
The transformation process being undertaken by the MTA, pursuant to the state budget, promises to result in more predictable costs and improved project management. This should result in more competition for MTA procurements and better performance by both the agency and its vendors. Unfortunately, as written, the proposed regulations on debarment threaten the progress toward a more efficient and predictable procurement process and better cost controls.
The Partnership urges the MTA Board to work with industry and business experts to adjust the proposed regulations on debarment to standards that improve performance without jeopardizing the authority’s ability to secure solid and competitive contracts. The Partnership would be willing to identify experts to help in this process and to develop regulations that protect the public interest while encouraging participation by top-quality contractors and vendors.
Four Companies Chosen for MTA Pilot Projects through the Transit Tech Lab
Press Conference Streamed Live at youtube.com/MTAinfo
At a press conference today, leadership from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Partnership for New York City jointly announced the successful completion of the Transit Tech Lab, an accelerator program that enables tech companies to test and introduce new products designed to improve transit services. Starting today, four of the six companies graduating from the accelerator will begin pilots with the MTA to implement products that address key subway and bus challenges.
“As the MTA experiences a period of historic reform, transformation, and innovation, we’re leveraging this new model for evaluating and introducing technologies that address some of our most critical challenges. The result is an inaugural Transit Tech Lab that far surpassed our expectations,” said Patrick Foye, Chairman & CEO of the MTA. “We are eager to develop these mobility technologies over the next year to improve subway and bus service for riders across New York City.”
“Thanks to the leadership of the MTA and the ingenuity of Transit Tech Lab finalists, New York City’s transit riders will benefit from mobility technologies designed to improve operations and customer service,” said Natalia Quintero, Director of the Transit Tech Lab.
Following a global competition last Fall, in which nearly 100 companies participated, six finalists were selected for the inaugural class of the Transit Tech Lab. Over eight weeks, the companies worked closely with New York City Transit and MTA personnel to test how their products could improve service and customer communications.
Two companies will advance to the pilot phase for the subway challenge:
- Axon Vibe provides smartphone app technology that enables public transport operators to deliver personalized communications based on users’ commuting behavior. If service is changed, MTA can proactively notify the impacted users (taking into consideration their location and context) and provide alternative transportation suggestions based on rider’s anticipated destination and commuting preferences.
- Veovo instantly measures the number of passengers moving through a subway station to identify crowding and make service more efficient. The MTA can use this information to improve the deployment of staff to stations, change train distribution and plan more efficient station design.
Two companies will advance to the pilot phase for the bus challenge:
- Preteckt studies vehicle data from buses to predict system failures at least 48 hours before the Check Engine light is activated and the bus must be removed from service. Preteckt’s insights have the potential to reduce time spent on maintenance, prevent service disruptions and reduce fleet costs.
- Remix provides software for designing transit systems that enables MTA planners to more quickly and efficiently produce the bus network redesign outlined in the Fast Forward NYC Plan. To ensure equitable access and support public engagement, Remix’s technology uses public demographic data and generates easy-to-understand transit maps for community feedback.
The Transit Tech Lab is managed by the nonprofit Transit Innovation Partnership, led by Rachel Haot, previously the first Chief Digital Officer for New York City and the first Chief Digital Officer for New York State, and the Partnership Fund for New York City, led by Maria Gotsch. It is modeled after the highly successful FinTech Innovation Lab that the Partnership Fund has run for the past nine years and played a critical role in establishing New York City as a hub for the global financial technology industry. The goal of the Transit Tech Lab is to establish New York as the center of innovation for mobility, particularly as it relates to public transit.
Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted testimony to the Taxi and Limousine Commission Hearing on High-Volume For-Hire Service Provider Congestion Rules
Thank you Chair Heinzen and members of the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) for the opportunity to submit written comments on the proposed high-volume for-hire service provider (HVFHSP) rules. The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as a global center for commerce and innovation.
We urge the TLC to hold off on adopting proposed regulations that would prevent the issuance of new for-hire vehicle (FHV) licenses and limit FHV travel without passengers in Manhattan below 96th street. In the past year, the FHV industry has had to absorb many new rules and charges including the congestion surcharge and new formulas for paying drivers. The TLC should allow time to assess the impact of these rules on the industry, its customers and mobility throughout the city before taking further action.
For-hire vehicles have become a significant and valued part of transportation services in New York. As this industry matures, we should be seeking to ensure that it is competitive and responsive to needs of our very diverse communities. Over-regulation at this early stage in development of the industry risks market distortion and inadvertent bias for or against a business model or company.
FHVs are particularly important in transit deserts that are not well-served by public transit, where FHVs may be the only good option. To ensure adequate service to these areas, it is important that companies can license sufficient cars and drivers. The proposed cap on new licenses and driver pay rules may not support that objective. It is important to study how these rules affect citywide services before further regulating the industry.
Furthermore, high-occupancy FHVs should not be subject to the license cap or per capita charges that discourage shared rides. The TLC should exempt these vehicles in order to reduce congestion and advance environmental goals. The Partnership was an early supporter of congestion pricing and we are inaugural members of the OneNYC Advisory Board which has assisted in developing city initiatives that promote reduction in carbon emissions. Encouraging more shared rides in multi-passenger vehicles is part of these goals.