Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Rich Have Reached The Zenith Of Their Power In NYC

FT  |   The tax fight is a preamble for an upcoming mayoral election that all sides view as one of the most consequential in New York’s history. The Democratic primary, which is expected to crown the eventual winner in a city where seven out of every eight voters are Democrats, is in June. Business leaders and the wealthy have been nursing existential dread at the possibility of what one prominent property developer calls another “ideological” mayor. That is, someone in the mould of the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is limited to serving two terms. Two days after winning the 2013 Democratic primary, De Blasio attended a private lunch with the city’s business leaders and promptly alienated many of them. They expected he would solicit their advice and extend a hand. Instead, the mayor reprised his “tale of two cities” campaign rhetoric, and declared that he cared about the other side. “Faces dropped,” one attendee recalls. 

That divide has only deepened in the ensuing years. De Blasio’s legion of executive class critics deride him as a lazy manager who deploys politicised rhetoric to cover for his own incompetence. While the budget has increased by 35 per cent during his tenure, problems like homelessness and public housing have worsened — even before the pandemic. “The city is at a crossroads. This is truly the most important election of our lifetime and in NYC’s history,” Stephen Ross, chair of The Related Companies, and de facto king of the city’s developers, wrote to fellow business leaders last month as he urged them to join his effort to elect a business-friendly mayor. The race’s outcome, Ross wrote, will determine whether “NYC will rebound or languish”. Looming large for executives like Ross is the grim memory of the 1970s, when a fraying city ended up losing half its Fortune 500 companies — many fleeing to surrounding suburbs — and shedding more than 1m inhabitants. That era also birthed a civic movement. It was christened at a breakfast meeting at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in 1971 when the developer Lew Rudin and hotelier Robert Tisch hatched what would become the Association for a Better New York, a group of business leaders who aimed to step in where city government was failing. ABNY’s moguls lobbied the federal government on the city’s behalf. They also brought labour leaders into their tent.