Rent Reform Statement from the Partnership for New York City

Resource Type: News, Statements

“The state legislature has come out with a reform package on rent regulations that protects tenants at the expense of preserving their homes. The city’s older, regulated apartment buildings require constant upgrading and modernization. The proposed reforms substantially eliminate the tools that owners, investors and lenders have relied upon for funding building improvements and provide no replacement. Absent provisions to encourage private investment in rental housing through tax incentives or other means, this rent reform package will inevitably lead to the same loss of decent, middle class housing that we experienced in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is not enough to maintain affordability if it means tenants are living in terrible conditions, as we have seen with the deterioration of the NYCHA public housing stock. The proposed legislation sets up the city’s regulated rental housing to experience the same disinvestment as NYCHA, which ignores a lesson that we should have learned by now,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

Op-Ed: Intensely Lobbied Prevailing Wage Debate

Resource Type: News, Op-Eds

Kathryn Wylde | Empire Report 

As Albany closes out the legislative session, some of the toughest remaining issues involve reconciling the different needs of the state’s diverse regions. One example is whether and how to extend residential rent regulations state-wide. Another, less well understood, is the debate over imposition of prevailing wage requirements for construction work on state-assisted, private development and renovation projects. (Prevailing wage typically reflects the wage established in collective bargaining agreements between the building trade unions and the industry.)

The impetus for expanding prevailing wage requirements comes from Upstate, where chronically weak economic conditions mean a lot of construction union members are out of work or under-employed. In many Upstate regions, construction workers are unlikely to command a “prevailing” wage unless the government requires it.

The same is not true in New York City and other Downstate regions, where union-built, private construction is booming, and Building Trades members enjoy full employment. In fact, right now there is a shortage of more than 4300 skilled workers to fill available construction jobs in the five boroughs.  As a result, construction wages are already at a premium, without the need for any state mandate.

The challenge Downstate is not a shortage of jobs for union construction workers or the need to prop up union wages, but rather how to expand the supply of well-capitalized contractors and build a larger, highly skilled workforce that can meet the demand for renewal and expansion of our urban built environment.

A key benefit of many state programs is that they support a pipeline of private construction activity that is accessible to smaller, non-union contractors and workers drawn from the local community. This is precisely because they do NOT require prevailing wage and contractors that are party to industry collective bargaining agreements.

Grants and tax incentives provided through the state Housing Trust Fund, Regional Economic Development Council initiatives, the State Council on the Arts, NYSERDA, Empire State Development and other state agencies are largely directed into disadvantaged areas of the city and to nonprofit organizations. These state grants, loans or tax incentives represent a small portion of total funding for most projects. But they are necessary to close a gap and allow a project to move forward.

Importantly, these state-assisted, private and nonprofit projects offer local firms and workers, many of them minorities, a foothold in the construction industry that does not otherwise exist in the city, where barriers to entry are high. The construction activity they make possible is of little or no interest to the unionized industry, which has more than enough work to do on larger, more lucrative projects and has a high cost structure that would not allow them to bid competitively for this type of work.

In the prevailing wage debate, unions have proposed that any private construction or renovation activity that the state touches be declared a “public work,” comparable to subways, highways, schools and other public facilities. This would mean that projects that receive a modest government grant or tax incentive would be subject to the same rigorous compliance requirements as 100% government funded contracts. It is clear that the consequences would be far fewer projects built and displacement of many of the nonunion contractors and workers who are currently getting these jobs.

To address needs of Upstate, where unemployed construction workers don’t have much leverage, it might make sense to apply prevailing wage to those projects where the majority of direct funding (exclusive of tax incentives and tax-exempt bond financing) is coming from government. Studies show that this would increase project costs by as much as 30%, but it may represent a fair way to respond to concerns from some regions of the state where there is little private construction activity.

At the same time, the legislature should reject the imposition of public works status on the types of projects funded through its myriad housing, economic development and community facilities programs that involve a mix of public, private and philanthropic funds. Instead, there should be a concerted effort to integrate these programs with workforce development, training and Minority and Women Owned business development initiatives, doubling down on the creation of opportunities to expand and diversify the construction industry to meet demands in regions that are experiencing rapid growth.

At the end of a legislative session that has tackled many difficult issues, it must be tempting for legislators to just pass an intensely lobbied bill like expansion of prevailing wage and go home for the summer. Hopefully, that will not be the case, Albany will take the time to carefully consider regional needs, and act accordingly.

Op-Ed: Approve this natural gas pipeline: The New York metropolitan area’s economy will suffer greatly, and we’ll only wind up relying more on dirtier-burning oil

Resource Type: News, Op-Eds

Kathryn Wylde and Jim Cahill | Daily News

New York is a state where business and organized labor regularly work together to forge practical solutions to challenges that threaten our state’s economic vitality. That is the spirit in which we are jointly endorsing expansion of a natural gas pipeline known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, or NESE.

We cannot afford for NESE to go the way of Amazon, which was driven out of New York by many of the same groups that are opposing the pipeline. We also cannot afford to lose access to relatively clean natural gas during the uncertain period of our state’s transition from dependence on oil, gas and nuclear power to a future where we will hopefully be able to meet most of our energy needs from renewable sources like wind, sun and hydropower.

Earlier this month, the application to build the pipeline was turned down by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a technicality. We urge the developers of the pipeline expansion to pursue an amended application and hope that both New York and New Jersey regulators will move quickly to authorize a prompt construction start.

The entire state is at risk if NESE is not built. We all depend on the payrolls and tax revenues generated by the metropolitan region. Already there is a looming moratorium on new, gas-powered buildings here. As much as $300 billion in new development is at risk if the pipeline is not constructed. Even worse from an environmental point of view, a gas moratorium will force many new buildings to revert to oil-powered systems — an option that no one should welcome.

As more companies and consumers have moved away from oil as their primary energy source in order to reduce carbon emissions, the demand for natural gas has dramatically increased. The scheduled closing of the Indian Point nuclear plant, which has been a major source of clean energy, has made dependence on natural gas even greater.

Downstate’s fastest-growing industry is technology, which requires a huge amount of power to support its equipment, operations and data centers. Other big industries like finance and health care are also increasingly dependent on technology, so their needs for power are larger than ever.

Until the last year or so, it seemed that good sense would prevail over the objections of advocacy groups and political interests that insist on cutting off construction of any new infrastructure that sustains the natural gas supply in order to try forcing a faster conversion to renewables. The anti-fracking movement generated a lot of misinformation about the natural gas supply that has contributed to opposition to essential infrastructure like the NESE.

We should all share a commitment to moving as quickly as possible to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change, but we also need to be realistic about how long this may take.

Above all, let’s be practical. As it stands, renewables cannot meet New York’s enormous energy demands. It will take many years before that changes. National Grid has said that nearly 8,000 planned oil-to-gas residential conversions annually will be put on hold if NESE is not approved. In addition, planned conversion of major commercial buildings, including public housing, will be halted and will continue to depend on dirty oil for heat — a net loss for New York’s environmental, public health and clean air goals.

On behalf of the Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 350 major employers and 1.5 million workers in New York, as well as the NYS Building & Construction Trades Council, which represents 200,000 construction industry workers and a network of more than 2.5 million workers in the state’s AFL-CIO, we support the governor’s commitment to a carbon-free New York. However, we are also pragmatists. It is a fact that there is simply not enough renewable energy available right now to meet the growing demands of the Downstate region. We need the NESE pipeline.

Partnership Opposes New Requirements for Private Employers

Resource Type: News, Press Releases, Testimony

Today, the Partnership for New York City testified before the City Council to oppose legislation that would require private employers to provide paid vacation time to employees.

Thank you Chair Miller and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify on providing paid vacation time to private employees. The Partnership for New York City represents employers of a million private sector workers in the city.

The Partnership opposes Proposed Int. 800-A as an imposition on the decision of what benefits private sector employers will provide their employees. Adding ten vacation days to the five mandated paid sick days would triple the amount of paid time off for New York City employees. It would require little or no notice to employers and would substantially add to the administrative and cost burdens that the city and state have placed on employers.

These burdens are particularly difficult for small businesses to bear. They do not have legal departments to interpret new laws or human resource professionals to manage the compliance and recordkeeping for new mandates. Empty storefronts, which the Council is concerned with, are a symbol of the impact of a less-friendly business climate in the city. This is in part a result of the growing cost of new mandates, ranging from increased minimum wage to new scheduling restrictions and new training requirements that employers must comply with.

Most large employers provide paid time off, often more than would be mandated under the proposed legislation. But every company has different practices with respect to how and when this leave is taken, depending on their individual business requirements. For example, many employers incentivize employees to take time away from work by requiring them to take all of their leave time each year. Other employers allow carry over of a limited amount of unused leave time, but policies vary widely in the amount and type of time that can be rolled over. Most large employers have operations outside the city and their leave policies are difficult to change in response to local law.

There is no clear reason why the City Council should impose a single paid time off policy on all New York City employers. Certainly the specific prescriptions in this bill leave little room for policies that reflect the needs of individual businesses or the extent of the hardship that this may impose on some employers. We recognize the political impetus for the legislation and urge that, if you are moving forward, that the law exempt business with fewer than twenty employees and all those employers who certify that they are already providing at least fifteen days of paid time off pursuant to collective bargaining agreements or their own benefit arrangements. This would at least mitigate the negative impact of the bill.

Partnership Supports Ranked Choice Voting

Resource Type: News, Statements

Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted comments on changes to the New York City Charter in support of ranked choice voting, which will increase fairness in the city’s election system.

Thank you, Chair Benjamin and members of the committee, for the opportunity to comment on changes to the New York City Charter related to ranked choice voting. 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 the pre-eminent global center of commerce, innovation and economic opportunity.

The Partnership urges the Commission to include ranked choice voting for all city primaries and special elections in the ballot questions to be submitted to the voters in November 2019. The cost of administering elections and the public funding of candidates mean that all taxpayers, including the business community, have an interest in ensuring the city’s election system is fair and achieves the goal of electing officials who represent their constituents. The city spends a considerable amount of money supporting elections. In 2017, the year of the last mayoral election, the city spent $17.7 million in public payments to candidates and nearly $30 million to administer the election. More recently, the city provided $7.2 million in matching funds to 11 candidates for the Public Advocate special election.

Despite all of this funding, the outcome of city elections is not necessarily a true reflection of the will of the majority of the electorate. New York City often has very low voter turnout, particularly for primaries and local offices. For example, only 12% of active voters participated in the primaries in 2017. Local candidates often win without a majority – the successful candidate in the recent special election for Public Advocate won with approximately 35% of the vote. As a result, candidates may rely on a relatively narrow spectrum of the electorate to give them a plurality rather than striving to win the support of a broad constituency.

Ranked choice voting pushes a candidate to try to reach beyond their base in order to attract more voters. The result is elections where the winners more truly represent their districts. Election of office holders with a broad constituency is likely to inspire larger voter turnout. We are hopeful that this system will improve the civility of campaigns. Finally, ranked choice voting may also save the city money. At a minimum, it would avoid expensive run-off elections like the 2013 Democratic primary run-off for Public Advocate which cost more than $11 million.

Ranked choice voting has already been successfully implemented internationally (Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Northern Ireland and Scotland), in the state of Maine and in other U.S. localities (e.g., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe). We hope you will allow New York City voters to choose ranked choice voting in November. This is a good first step toward electoral reforms that are needed in New York.

Stringer’s Child Care Proposal Should Not Require a New Tax

Resource Type: News, Statements

“Comptroller Stringer’s proposal to help working families cope with rising costs of living in the city is a good idea, but he could have been more creative about how to fund it. The Comptroller’s audits of city agencies have found more than enough potential savings to provide a child care benefit without imposing yet another new tax on New York’s business community, ” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

Job-Training Partnership Aims to Boost Diversity in City’s Tech Industry

Resource Type: Fund News, News, Partnership Fund

By Ryan Deffenbaugh, Crain’s 

A collaboration hopes to introduce a new generation of technology leaders from diverse backgrounds to an industry where the workforce is disproportionately white and male.

The Future FinTech Leaders program is a partnership between the FinTech Innovation Lab New York and Pursuit, a Queens-based program that provides a free four-year training program in software development. The pilot program will pair four Pursuit graduates with financial technology firms—ranging from startup NPM to global investment firm BlackRock—for a paid three-month on-the-job training program, which includes participating in programming offered by FinTech Innovation Lab. Read more.

Testimony on Freight & Delivery Parking Fine Programs

Resource Type: News, Testimony

Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted testimony to the New York City Council on the Commercial Abatement and Stipulated Parking Fine Programs.

New York City Council Committees on Finance and Transportation

Int. 1141-2018, prohibiting any city agency from agreeing to reduce fines for parking violations in exchange for a waiver of the right to contest parking violations

Thank you Chairs Dromm and Rodriguez and members of the committees for the opportunity to testify on legislation that would prohibit the city from operating the Commercial Abatement Program and the Stipulated Fine Program. The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers and we work to enhance the economy of the five boroughs of New York City.

Abolishing the Commercial Abatement and Stipulated Parking Fine Programs will not improve New York City’s traffic and parking problems. Our buildings and streets are not designed to accommodate the volume and types of commercial freight activity that a modern economy requires. E-commerce is bringing more trucks to neighborhoods where the lack of loading and commercial parking zones is particularly acute. Changes in usage of our streets and sidewalks such as bike lanes, bus lanes and clear curbs have reduced parking and standing spaces. It has become almost impossible for commercial drivers to find legal parking or standing spaces.

The Commercial Abatement and Stipulated Parking Fine Programs were an attempt to provide a fair and predictable way to deal with the inability of the city to accommodate freight and service deliveries. By requiring participating companies to waive their right to contest violations, these programs also helped reduce the burden on the city’s administrative courts. Without these programs, delivery and service companies will contest many tickets, resulting in dismissals or reductions in fines, particularly in cases involving “expeditious delivery.”

The city must figure out how to legally accommodate commercial deliveries and service vehicles rather than punishing companies for the essential conduct of business. Some actions could be taken immediately, such as freeing up more curb space by reducing parking placards and enforcement of illegal placard parking, expanding loading zones and commercial parking spaces, providing incentives for off-hours deliveries and encouraging alternative delivery mechanisms (e.g., bicycles).

We propose that the Council establish a freight and service delivery task force to examine other measures that could be taken to actually address what will be a growing problem for the city and industry. For example, the conversion of parking lot space to last mile delivery hubs may be possible as congestion pricing, driverless cars and improved transit options reduce demand for off-street parking. Removing private cars from loading dock areas, encouraging night deliveries, and restricting employees who work in central business districts from receiving personal deliveries at work are a few ideas that could be explored.

We are all paying for the punitive fines that emanate from failure to deal with this issue in a constructive way. Elimination of the Commercial Abatement and Stipulated Parking Fine Programs would accomplish nothing but a return to a more cumbersome and expensive system. The Partnership would be happy to work with you on coming up with real solutions to the delivery challenges facing the city.

New York City Council Testimony on the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project

Resource Type: News, Press Releases, Testimony

Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted testimony to the New York City Council in support of the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project:

On behalf of the Partnership for New York City, this testimony is to highlight the need for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (“NESE”). The Partnership represents business leaders and major employers working to promote economic growth and job creation in New York.

New York needs world-class infrastructure, including abundant and reliable sources of energy, to maintain its position as the global center for finance, business and culture. Transco’s existing pipeline has reliably served the New York City area for more than 60 years and currently provides half of the gas consumed in the city.

The NESE project is an expansion of the existing Transco pipeline infrastructure. It is expected to provide an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to National Grid customers in New York City and on Long Island—areas that are experiencing significant economic and population growth.

Increasing the availability of cleaner, more reliable energy is crucial to meet current and future economic development and housing needs. The NESE project will establish a critical new link to additional supplies, making access to natural gas more reliable via the safest method for transporting energy.

Thanks to increased natural gas usage and the displacement of heating fuel oils, New York City is currently experiencing its cleanest air in more than 50 years. This project alone will provide for the displacement of more than 900,000 barrels of oil per year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 200,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of removing 500,000 cars from the road a year. This project will also help reduce other local emissions by more than 300 tons per year, including smog, acid rain and particulates that have negative health and environmental effects.

The NESE project is even more urgent because of the scheduled phase out of Indian Point nuclear power production and the shortage of gas that has led to a moratorium on new developments in Westchester County and, shortly, in New York City and Long Island. New York state is making good progress in its transition to increased reliance on renewable energy, but an expanded supply of natural gas is essential to supporting this transition during the next few decades. Uncertainty over the energy supply will discourage investment in jobs and housing that the city desperately needs. The NESE must move forward immediately.

Ex-DFS Chief Vullo Named ‘Regulator-in-Residence’

Resource Type: Fund News, News

By Aaron Elstein, Crain’s 

Plenty of companies have an attorney or publicist on retainer. A few have an in-house doctor or therapist. And now FinTech Innovation Lab New York has a regulator-in-residence.

The lab, founded by consulting giant Accenture and the Partnership Fund for New York City, said Maria Vullo, former superintendent for the state Department of Financial Services, will advise startups on how to deal with regulators as they mature and start interacting with banks and insurers. Read more.