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Mayor Michael Bloomberg: January 2011 Archives

January 2011 Archives

Progress at Work in New York City

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Even as many New Yorkers still struggle to find work, our city is emerging from the national recession faster and stronger than others. We've achieved this by spurring new jobs in growing industries and by managing our budget to protect the vital services that are so crucial to our economy and our quality of life.

In my State of the City speech, I laid out our strategy for keeping our progress going. The pressures on next year's budget are greater than ever, and there's no windfall coming from Albany or Washington to save us. But make no mistake: we will not raise taxes to balance the budget. That would merely undermine our recovery by driving jobs out of the city.

Instead, we'll continue to fuel the City's engine of innovation by investing in the future - because, as we learned in the 1970s, when you stop investing in the future, the future hits the road. That's why we'll take the next steps in creating new, dynamic neighborhoods in Willets Point and the Staten Island Homeport. To continue attracting the next generation of entrepreneurs, we'll hatch more business incubators in fields like new media and fashion. The biggest step we can take to encourage innovation is fixing our broken immigration system - and we'll push Washington to pass reform this year.

Over the next 12 months, we will infuse the spirit of innovation into government itself by making every agency smarter, more efficient and more customer-oriented. For instance, using our newly installed wireless water meters, we'll notify homeowners when we detect a leak - so they can save money on their water bills. To help restaurants and businesses open their doors faster, we'll cut the red tape and streamline the permitting and licensing process. 

We'll also create a new category of livery cars that can make on-street pickups outside of Manhattan, just like yellow cabs. Everybody in every borough ought to be able to hail a legal cab on the street.

Our top legislative priority this year will be working with Albany to reduce unfunded mandates - especially our out-of-control pension costs. The average New York City tax filer will be paying $2,400 more to cover pension costs than they did back in 2001. This can't continue - not if we are going to continue improving our schools, providing the best public health services, and keeping our city safe. 

In many ways, public safety is the foundation of a strong, growing economy - and this year we will work to make the nation's safest big city even safer. As part of this effort, we will continue to crack down on truancy and partner with Governor Cuomo to overhaul our juvenile detention system. 

The challenges before our city are big. But because of our fiscal discipline and our job creation efforts, we've put ourselves in a position to face them head on. New Yorkers have shown time and again that we are strong enough, united enough, and determined enough to confront anything that comes our way. And I know we'll do it again.
Let me start by wishing New Yorkers across the five boroughs a very happy 2011. This is the time of year when many people take stock of what they've done in the past and think about how they can improve on it in the months ahead. You can be sure that the men and women who work at the top levels of City government -- including me -- are doing that as well.

Our City accomplished a lot during 2010. We battled back from the national recession to lead the nation in job growth. Our schools, once the poster child for what was wrong in public education, are now being hailed by the Obama administration as a national model. Many of the innovative job training and social service programs we've piloted were awarded Social Innovation grants, so they can be replicated in other cities. And, PlaNYC, our City's far-reaching sustainability agenda, won recognition at the national and international levels.

We've made a lot of progress over the past 12 months, but unfortunately the year didn't end on a high note. The last week of the year was a difficult one for our city. After we got pounded by one of the toughest blizzards in New York's history, our transportation network faltered, and the snow clean-up took far longer than it should have.

Clearly, the response to this storm did not meet our standards, or the standards that New Yorkers have come to expect from us. The long delays in plowing some of the city's streets should not have happened -- and we make no excuses. For nine years, we have insisted on accountability from all agencies -- and from all City employees, from top to bottom. When something goes wrong, we find out why it went wrong -- and then we roll up our sleeves and fix it. That's what New Yorkers expect from us -- that's what we have an obligation to deliver -- and that's exactly what we'll do here.

We also take our emergency life-saving responsibilities very seriously, and as I recently announced, I've asked Skip Funk, the leading expert on emergency communication in the country -- and now our new Director of Citywide Emergency Communications -- to look at how and why the emergency system became overwhelmed.

One of the bright spots of that week was that many New Yorkers continued to do what we always do best: help each other out. On Staten Island, an organization called "Where to Turn" deployed groups of teenagers to shovel walks and driveways for their older neighbors. In Marine Park, Brooklyn, I met two families who had spent the week running errands for an older neighbor who'd been effectively snowbound. And I know that stories such as these -- of neighbors helping neighbors -- were playing out all across the five boroughs. I'd like to thank all the New Yorkers who made the best of a bad situation and ended 2010 helping one another.

Tourism is one of New York's biggest industries. Out-of-town visitors to our city spend $31 billion a year -- spending that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in our restaurants, shops, hotels, and cultural institutions. And any way that you look at it, 2010 was a year for the tourism record books in our city.

Here's what I mean. We estimate that last year we hosted nearly 48.7 million visitors -- a new record, and a nearly 7 percent increase from 2009. That included 39 million visitors from the rest of the U.S., and roughly 9.7 million from abroad -- both all-time highs, too. Last year, New York was the destination of an astonishing 33 percent of overseas visitors to the U.S., making us by far the most popular American destination for such visitors -- who, incidentally on average spend three-and-a-half times what domestic visitors do.

Our strong tourism industry is a major reason why New York City has weathered the national recession better than most other cities have, and why our economy is creating jobs at a rate faster than the nation as a whole. In fact, when final jobs figures for 2010 come in later this month, we expect they'll show it was a record year for tourism-related employment in our city. We already know that in November more than 320,000 people had tourism-related jobs -- an increase of 6,600 jobs from the previous year. During 2010, some 25.7 million hotel room nights were sold in our city --also a new record. Our hotels maintained an average room occupancy rate well above that in other major U.S. cities. And we did that even while we added a net of nearly 7,000 new hotel rooms in 2010, which was -- you guessed it -- a new one-year record in New York City.

How were we able to set all these records only a year after a deep, global economic recession? Our well-deserved reputation as the nation's safest big city certainly has a lot to do with it. So do our world-renowned cultural and entertainment venues. In surveys, nearly half of visitors say arts and culture are what bring them to New York. 2010 was a banner year for attendance at many museums and cultural venues. And Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters are putting up big attendance numbers this season, too.

We're also seeing the payoff from the imaginative and aggressive efforts of the City's official tourism and marketing agency, NYC & Company. In recent years, they've mounted successful promotional campaigns -- often in cooperation with major private sector companies like American Airlines, American Express, and AT&T -- that have drawn visitors to New York from across the country and around the world.

As good a year as 2010 was, we're anticipating that 2011 will be even better -- in large part because NYC & Company will step up its efforts to attract visitors from growth overseas markets.  That will keep us on course to hit our goal of hosting 50 million visitors by 2012 -- and keep our economy on course to produce more new jobs for New Yorkers, too. #
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