Tag Archives: New York City

Citing signs of stabilization, economists hopeful about next year

By Kieran K. Meadows

What a difference a year makes.

Jobseekers may not feel better, but if you ask economists, things are not nearly as bad as they thought they might be.

“Looking forward and looking backward, we’re better off than most people would have imagined at this point,” said Barbara Byrne Denham, an economist for Eastern Consolidated, a real estate investment company.

Just over a year since the financial crisis plunged New York into the depths of recession and uncertainty, some economists are now cautiously optimistic about next year’s outlook. They predict a moderate turnaround in mid-2010. While conceding there’s a long road ahead to a full recovery, they point to some encouraging signs the economy is stabilizing. Some say this is largely the result of government intervention.

“The government came in and bailed out the financial firms and they are major employers in New York City,” said Ken McCarthy, an economist for Cushman Wakefield, a real estate services firm. “The financial sector is coming back more quickly than anybody expected.”

After being propped up over the last year by the feds, Wall Street to estimated to make $59 billion in profits in 2009—its highest ever—and a complete U-turn from huge losses of $11 billion in 2007 and $42 billion in 2008.

On Thursday, the Independent Budget Office reported fewer job losses and higher tax revenues than it had originally projected. “We expect New York City job losses to be far lower than we anticipated last spring,” said Ronnie Lowenstein, the director of the IBO.

The revised report forecasts the city to lose 157,200 jobs from the peak of employment in August 2008 through mid-2010—much fewer than the 254,500 lost jobs from the earlier report. “That’s a huge difference,” Lowenstein said.

The construction sector has also showed signs it’s slowly improving. Work began at $3.9 billion worth of projects in the third quarter of 2009, twice that of the year’s first three months, according to an analysis by the New York Building Congress.

The state Department of Labor reported that the city’s jobless rate was 10.3 percent in October, unchanged from September. “After deteriorating for months, the city’s unemployment rate appears to be stabilizing,” said Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. in a statement.

Despite encouraging signs, the city is not close to being out of the woods yet. Unemployment is likely to come down very slowly, said Rae Rosen, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She says banks are rebuilding capital, which limits their ability to make loans to businesses. With less access to credit, small businesses, which are traditionally engines of recovery, have been unable to create jobs.

Moreover, the unemployment rate will likely inch higher until it levels off at least six months from now, after we shed another 50,000 to 75,000 jobs.

To counteract this trend in 2010, Jonathan Bowles, the director of the Center for an Urban Future, says city officials should focus on diversifying our economy to depend less on Wall Street. “We need to identify areas where there’s substantial opportunities for growth,” he said, citing the tech and creative sectors. “We attract the most talented and creative people,” which is “a core strength,” he said.

New Yorkers should hope the city follows the footsteps of the national economy. On Friday, more evidence revealed the U.S. is turning the corner toward recovery faster than expected. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 10.2 percent in October to 10 percent in November—perhaps not a significant drop, yet symbolic after a year of awful economic news.

“Positive job growth at the national level will be a huge boost in morale overall,” Denham said, building confidence on Wall Street and on the part of consumers, which can help accelerate the city’s economic recovery into the new year.

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NYC homicides on pace to set record-low number

Crime continues to fall in New York City, the mayor and the commissioner of the NYPD said this month, and they boasted about how New York is still the safest big city in the country, according to new data from the FBI’s Crime in the United States, the Uniform Crime Report from 2008.

Criminologists often say that the murder rate is the best indicator when forecasting overall crime. If this is the case, then New York City is doing quite well this year (that is, if you can ever say that when you’re talking about murders). The city is on pace in to hit a record-low number of homicides in 2009—while the number stood at 325 as of Sept. 18, the NYPD projects it will rise to 457 by year’s end. While still a lot, the number is the lowest in nearly 50 years since the police department began keeping the data in 1962. The previous low was 497 in 2007.

The high was in 1990, at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, when there were 2,245 homicides. That year was also in the midst of a hard-hitting economic downturn in the city, and unemployment was on the rise. Perhaps that’s why some criminologists are thankful about this year’s numbers, but still nervous about what is to come. The city is again in a recession in 2009 and unemployment jumped to 10.3 percent last month, hitting double digits for the first time in 16 years. The unemployment rate is not expected to hit its peak for at least another year.

One also begins to wonder about crime statistics kept by the city—especially in a year when the mayor is up for re-election.

While we should all be happy about crime being lower, it is interesting to note that the NYPD’s rate of the number of homicides solved in a year, compared to number of murders in that year, stands at about 70 percent, which is the same as it was about 15 years ago. So can the mayor and the NYPD really take so much credit? (Not to make light of this all, but I’m assuming that topping the list of unsolved homicides is the very first murder recorded in New York City from 400 years ago.)

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Department of Juvenile Justice Says It Will Have to Cut Some Discharge Planning Services

By Kieran K. Meadows

Officials from the city Department of Juvenile Justice said they would have to make tough budget choices, as a result of impending state and city cuts, when they testified Wednesday at a hearing held by the City Council committee that has oversight over the agency.

One of the more controversial moves the department plans to make is to eliminate its discharge planning staff.

Discharge planning’s focus had been helping youth with serious health and mental health needs make the transition home from detention more seamless, by connecting them with community organizations and other support networks.

The agency plans to combine its discharge planning service into its case management system.

The chairwoman of the Committee on Juvenile Justice, Sara M. Gonzalez, asked agency officials to explain how the integration of the two units would benefit youth in the department’s custody.

Nina Aledort, the department’s assistant commissioner for program services, said that many parents get confused when they receive phone calls from too many different people.

“By incorporating the discharge planning responsibilities—none of which will go away—the parent will have a single point of contact,” Aledort said.  “A person who knows how the person is doing day-to-day in detention will also be able to work with the young person about how and what they might need when they return to the outside. It’s much more coordinated, really, is how we see it,” she said.

However, the addition of discharge planning responsibilities would place more pressure on case management staff, juvenile justice advocates said.

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In Contentious Vote, City Council Approves Speaker’s Choice For Clerk

By Kieran K. Meadows

The City Council approved Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) appointment of Michael McSweeney to the position of city clerk on Thursday, by a 32-16 vote. McSweeney, of Queens, has been the acting city clerk since the fall.

The vote was contentious—all but one member of the Council’s Brooklyn delegation voted no. They were joined by one Council member from the Bronx. The outcome exposed the ongoing conflict between borough delegations, but particularly between Brooklyn and the speaker.

Brooklyn Democratic Chair and Assemblyman Vito Lopez, along with Bronx Democratic Chair and Assemblyman Carl Heastie, had hoped to postpone the vote. They had been hoping to work out an agreement with the speaker regarding the city clerk position at a later date.

McSweeney is a former aide of Queens County Democratic Chair and U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley. Although Brooklyn has the largest delegation in the council, Quinn became speaker in 2006 by putting together a coalition between Manhattan and Queens. By giving the city clerk position to a Queens resident, the speaker is likely politically paying back the borough for its support.

The city clerk appoints the deputy city clerks in each borough, and they control a number of jobs. The clerk’s salary is also a handsome $185,700 – a nice reward for a loyal party player.

“When you deal with patronage, it’s a plum spot, because those are appointed jobs,” said Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island), as he stood in the lobby of City Hall before the vote. “It’s been said that that is the mother’s milk of politics, and quite frankly, it’s in full effect right here. There’s tons of meetings with the speaker, with the county [party] leaders in trying to come to an agreement on who will be the next city clerk.”

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