On Tuesday 10th January 2017, Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, testified to the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development on The Economic Impact of Increased Security for the President-Elect upon Local Businesses and the City as a Whole. Below is a summary of her comments to the committee.
Thank you Chair Garodnick and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify today. 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 promote economic growth and job creation in New York.
Fifth Avenue is one of the city’s most important commercial and cultural destinations, drawing millions of people from around the world to New York City. In 2015, Manhattan retail stores employed nearly 180,000 workers and sold $27.3 billion in goods. There are about 1,400 retail stores per square mile in zip code 10022, which includes Fifth Avenue from 49th to 60th streets, among the highest concentration in the city.
Since the Presidential election, the Fifth Avenue retail district surrounding Trump Tower has experienced an influx of press, gawkers, security personnel and barriers that have severely obstructed pedestrian and vehicular access to the blocks between 50th and 58th streets. It has the look and feel of an occupied zone. The result has been a significant loss of economic activity in the area and this condition is likely to get worse after the inauguration, given the security requirements around a sitting President.
Traffic problems are not new to this part of Manhattan. In 2006, the Partnership worked with HDR to conduct an analysis of the traffic burden in Manhattan south of 60th street and concluded that the annual losses to the economy at that time were $13 billion a year. Today, that cost is undoubtedly much higher.
It is important to recognize that the world is watching what happens around Trump Tower, particularly along Fifth Avenue, which contributes much to the image of the city as an international marketplace. New York businesses and residents well beyond the immediate area are affected by what happens here, not just in terms of cascading traffic problems, but the image of the city’s style and magic.
Discussions between city officials and employers in the affected area have resulted in some important actions to improve conditions and a variety of proposals to mitigate the economic impact of necessary security provisions. The Partnership recommends that formal working relationships continue and that the city monitor conditions in the area and take actions required to ensure this important shopping and cultural destination is safe, attractive and accessible.
For example, Operation SHIELD is a counter-terrorism network through which the NYPD maintains regular communication with private sector security managers through briefings, trainings, website postings, email alerts and conferences. Operation SHIELD could be a vehicle or model for a proactive communication network between businesses in the Trump Tower area and law enforcement.
To improve pedestrian and vehicular access to the area, we would endorse recommendations of local employers for a temporary moratorium on street vendors and parades on this stretch of Fifth Avenue and relevant side streets; we support the provision of accessible drop-off and pick-up locations for taxis and for-hire vehicles as well as bus stops. Closing of streets to vehicular traffic should be minimized. Obstruction of store entries should be avoided. Attention should be paid to design and location of security barriers and the location of press, protesters and police check points, to reduce obstruction of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Finally, there should be a concerted effort to promote this area and encourage tourists and residents to continue to visit and shop here through marketing initiatives, rapid response to problem conditions and proactive planning for minimizing the impact of demonstrations, Presidential security activities and other potential disruptions.
Safety and security is obviously the top priority for this district and the NYPD and Secret Service will continue to provide for that. At the same time, cooperation and responsiveness to the unprecedented problems that the area will continue to face during the Trump presidency require the city to take extraordinary actions to ensure that the great contributions that this district makes to the city in terms of jobs, tax revenues, tourist attraction and global branding are not diminished. The Partnership is prepared to work with public agencies and the Council to achieve this objective.