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Mayoral Candidates Try to Woo Skeptical Business Community

By Jill Colvin | November 29, 2012 7:56am

MIDTOWN — The four Democrats vying to become the city’s next mayor tried Wednesday to woo a reticent business community that remains deeply concerned about the future of New York without Michael Bloomberg at the helm.

“There is consternation about the post-Bloomberg era, regardless of who is the future mayor,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, who moderated a forum with the presumptive candidates at a Crain’s New York Business event.

While many in the business community are increasingly optimistic about the economy, Wylde said they now worry if the future Hizzoner will share their concerns.

“Will the next mayor be as understanding, as visionary, as sympathetic to issues of the economy and business as Mayor Bloomberg — one of our own — has been?” she asked.

But many of the candidates were quick to dispute the assertion that the city was on the right economic track.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio argued the Bloomberg administration has failed to prepare for the economic future and has saddled growth with soaring small business fines, red tape, cuts to early education and a growing economic divide.

“We have to recognize that if we have a fundamental growing income disparity, we can’t be the city we are meant to be,” he said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, one of Bloomberg’s strongest allies, was far more optimistic, praising the city for saving money during good fiscal times to provide a cushion when the economy turned for the worse.

“Under the leadership of the City Council, myself, my colleagues and Mayor Bloomberg, we demonstrated that we understand that there is nothing you can do to manage your way out of a bad economic situation if you didn’t manage the good times well,” she said.

She also touted recent reforms to small business regulations, which she said have helped speed up new openings.

But her competitors, including City Comptroller John Liu, dismissed the efforts, and accused the city of treating businesses like "cash cows."

“The vast majority of businesses in this city don’t want help from the city. They just want city government to stay out of the way so they can do their jobs,” he said.

Liu also called for the complete elimination of all taxpayer subsidies to businesses. He argued the city has shelled out millions to large corporations that fail to deliver on promised jobs.

“We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development subsidies, tax payer monies that are being used to subsidize private corporations that were supposed to create jobs," he said. "And we have seen the past few years…that many of these projects did not actually achieve or even come close to the job forecasts that these subsidies were supposed to create.

“Let’s figure out how to give everybody an even playing field as opposed to favoring some,” he added.

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, the only Democrat who has formally declared his candidacy, disagreed on scrapping subsidies, but agreed the city has a long way to go before it can call itself business-friendly.

“Small businesses across the city of New York consider the city to be the enemy. And we have to stop that," he said.