How the titan of New York business rallied bankers to rebuild the city
By Kathryn Wylde
March 21, 2017
I was introduced to David Rockefeller in 1981 by labor leaders Harry Van Arsdale and Peter Brennan, who wanted New York’s banks to fund the rebuilding of burned-out city neighborhoods with housing for working people. They asked me to write a proposal to give David, who was then CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank. In a matter of months, I ended up as one of the first employees of the Partnership for New York City, responsible for managing a public-private initiative to build 30,000 new homes on vacant lots across the five boroughs.
Up to that point, I shared the stereotypical view of the Rockefellers as New York’s royalty. What I came to learn was that David, who died Monday at 101, was a gentleman, but not a patrician. His values were those that define the culture of New York: generosity, intellectual rigor, can-do spirit, everybody under one big tent.
In establishing the Partnership, David’s first instinct was to include leaders from business and labor, but union leaders turned him down, saying they had constituencies that would not understand. He knew it would take the power of the city’s corporate CEOs to help government deal with the many crises of the day (fiscal, public safety, education and exodus of its middle class, to name a few). But this was a group comprised exclusively of white men who did not reflect the diversity of the city, so David reached out to Harlem real estate executives George Brooker and Lloyd Dickens, Hunter College President Donna Shalala, Arthur Barnes of the New York Urban Coalition, Jewell Jackson McCabe of 100 Black Women and others who could ensure that the Partnership was in touch with the priorities of the entire city.
He scheduled every Partnership board meeting in a different borough. At the first meeting in Brooklyn, one CEO announced that this was a location he preferred to fly over. David was not deterred.
David brought in newly elected President Ronald Reagan and impressed on him that a public-private partnership was something that business and government would do together, not one where the business community was going to take over government’s job. The only time David got upset with me was when I suggested that the banks were backing our housing initiatives because they were mandated to by the Community Reinvestment Act. He firmly responded, “You are wrong. We are doing it because it is the right thing, not because the government told us to.”
True, when the Partnership had its annual meeting at Rockefeller’s Pocantico Hills estate, there was a traffic jam of executive helicopters hovering over Tarrytown. David was, after all, New York royalty. But the unique respect in which he was held was not because of his wealth and power, but rather because of the way he consistently deployed these resources for the greater good of our city and all of its people.
When David finally stepped down as chairman of the Partnership in 1987, Arthur Barnes gave a speech in which he quoted a lyric from an old song: “If I never had a cent, I’d be rich as Rockefeller,” noting that David could have reached down to anyone in the city, but instead he always reached out in a spirit of humility and love.
Kathryn Wylde is President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
The Technion Institute is the engine driving Israel’s emergence as a “Start-up Nation” where tech businesses are thriving. Its partnership with the New York Genome Center represents an opportunity to bring the same ability to generate entrepreneurial activity in the life sciences to our state. This is a very good move on the Governor’s part.
Celmatix was recognized for its innovation in fertility prediction as one of Fast Company’s Top 50 World’s Most Innovative Companies. Celmatix is a biotech company spun out of Weill Cornell that leverages predictive analytics and genomics to create products focused on the treatment of infertility and proactive fertility management.
“New York imposes higher tax rates than any of our international competitors and, within the U.S., only California has moderately higher tax rates than New York City. Texas and Florida, with no personal income taxes, are growing their economy and creating new jobs at a significantly faster pace than New York. Moreover, Downstate accounts for 92% of all personal income tax revenues generated by New York’s highest earners, putting a disproportionate burden on the region that is producing the most jobs and economic growth for the state.”
“The city’s property tax system is in desperate need of reform to achieve fairness and to support public policy objectives. A simple tax cap, like the rest of the state, is not sufficient to address the disproportionate burden that New York City’s tax code places on commercial properties, including rental housing, businesses and utilities. Legislation authorizing appointment of a bipartisan commission is a great first step. We congratulate the State Senate leadership for passing this bill and urge the Assembly and the Governor to follow suit.”
Kathryn Wylde was interviewed by CBS New York on the impact President Trump might have on New York’s business community. See the segment below.
“Today, the state Assembly Democrats issued an income tax plan predicated on the absurd contention that the state’s most successful entrepreneurs, investors and business executives will turn over 54 cents of every dollar of their top earnings to the government for the privilege of living and working in New York State. They assume that New York can raise taxes on the highest earners by 17 percent and collect billions of new revenues. It is far more likely that such a move will cost the state billions of lost tax dollars and many thousands of lost jobs. On most of their income, these taxpayers would pay only 40 cents of every dollar to the government if they move to Florida or Texas; 45 cents in London or Paris; less than 25 cents in Hong Kong or Singapore. Their proposed tax increase would make New York City the highest taxed location in the country. The last time the state imposed rates this high was in the 1970’s – a decade in which the city lost half its Fortune 500 companies, about a million residents, and nearly went bankrupt. Their proposal should be dead on arrival.”
Growth-Stage Companies Offer New Platforms for Simplifying Health Data and Improving Patient Care
New York, NY – January 24, 2017 Today, at the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA) demo day, six growth-stage health tech companies presented their cutting-edge health care solutions to an audience of health care providers, insurance companies and investors. The event marks the culmination of the five month program run by the Partnership Fund for New York City (Partnership Fund) and the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), which bolsters New York’s growing health tech sector and encourages the development of innovative digital health tools. This year’s winners included: BMIQ, Diameter Health, eCaring, Healthify, Somatix and Spring.