When Ken Rothman’s father passed away in 1985, Ken came down from Boston to close up the clothing store his father owned on Fifth Avenue. But when he arrived here, he had second thoughts and instead poured his heart into reviving the family business. He moved the store into a former bank building on Union Square, which at the time was racked with abandonment and crime. Ken then teamed up with his brother, Jim, and together they got to work rebranding the business and, in the process, helping turn the neighborhood around.
Today, Union Square is one of the most vibrant, dynamic areas of our city – and the Rothman’s store has done so well that it’s moving into a larger location up the block. Rothman’s is a great example of how our city’s retailers can revive neighborhoods, galvanize investment, attract visitors, and create jobs for New Yorkers. Helping more retailers achieve these goals will give our economy the kind of boost it needs during these tough times. And that’s why last week, in partnership with the City Council, we unveiled a package of initiatives to support neighborhood retailing corridors.
They include, for example, a training program for local economic development leaders to sharpen their skills in promoting and strengthening their retail districts. We’ll also work with community organizations to determine the retail needs of their neighborhoods and then to attract the kinds of businesses that are currently lacking. We will create a competition to fill temporarily vacant spaces around the city with “pop-up stores,” which are a great way for generating buzz for neighborhoods and bringing in more shoppers. And we will set up a new online portal for the retail industry, which will contain a database of vacant properties, marketing and demographic information about neighborhoods, and a list of the City’s programs to help retailers.
To put more New Yorkers to work and to keep our economic recovery on track, we’re also investing in growing industries that have a bright future in our city – like food manufacturing. Even in these difficult economic times, we’ve seen a 14 percent increase in the number of food manufacturing businesses in our city over the past three years alone. That’s great news, especially for our immigrant communities – because our research shows that 70 percent of New Yorkers who hold jobs in food manufacturing are immigrants.
To help more of these businesses get off the ground, we’ve opened two kitchen “incubators” in Long Island City and East Harlem, where startup manufacturers, caterers, and bakers can access space and equipment at below-market rates. And last week, we held our first food expo, where we connected more than 100 immigrant food manufacturers with brokers, buyers, and wholesalers who can help their businesses grow.
Efforts like these are keeping our economy moving in the right direction. More entrepreneurs are launching their ideas here. More established businesses like Rothman’s are expanding here. And when we foster that kind of innovation and enterprise, it helps create the new jobs that New Yorkers need.