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Schumer creates group to focus on lack of commercial space.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer unveiled a very good idea a few months ago. Speaking at a Crain's New York Business Forum, Schumer announced the creation of what he calls "The Group of 35." This coalition of 35 leaders, mostly from the corporate world but including some labor and government representatives, was being formed to handle what he sees as a major problem confronting the city's future economic growth: lack of commercial space. Schumer related that in all of his meetings with business leaders, lack of office space was their number one problem -- and not just for Silicon Alley firms. Businesses across the spectrum which are experiencing rapid growth are having a had time finding space to suit their needs and, against their will, are being forced to leave New York. His Group of 35, co-chaired by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, has been created to conduct an in-depth study of the "space crunch" and report on what steps the city and state can take to "ensure New York's continued economic domi nance."

This is a good move on Schumer's part, and I wish both him and the group a great deal of success. And I hope the senator doesn't mind if I give him a little advice -- namely, don't stop there. Schumer has gathered together an impressive group of players. Why not take advantage of this coalition to address economic development concerns beyond the space crunch?

For example, for decades New York's economy has been hampered by our outmoded freight delivery system. Whereas most cities receive between 30 and 40 percent of their goods directly by rail freight, New York receives only around two percent. The vast majority of our goods are delivered by truck, which is expensive, environmentally unsound and results in excessive wear-and-tear and overcrowding on our roadways. We therefore pay more taxes for road repairs; consumers pay more for goods; and manufacturers, unable to ship materials in or goods out at an affordable price, leave the city, taking valuable blue-collar jobs with them.

This is a problem that has been talked about and acknowledged for years. A high profile group such as this one might at last force government officials to come up with a solution to it.

Affordable housing is another issue. Aside from the justifiable moral argument that people of all economic levels should be welcome in our city, businesses benefit from having employees who live in the same city in which they work. Absenteeism and tardiness are significantly reduced, for example, and employees are usually happier (and therefore more productive), when they are not forced into a long commute to-and-from work.

The list goes on and on. An expansion of the Javits Center, for example, to boost tourism and the considerable dollars associated with it. A workable plan for Governors Island, development of the Brooklyn port to accommodate the deep-draught ships which the New Jersey ports cannot (and never will be able to) handle and the establishment of a viable job training and job creation program for welfare recipients. I am sure you can fill in the blanks yourself.

As Schumer has noted, New York City is in good shape. But there is always room for improvement. Schumer's Group of 35 is a good idea and would bring about good results. But it would be a shame if they settled for "good" when the deeds of a coordinated program of broad economic growth and expansion are so much greater. Why not begin to solve some of the immediate "space" problems and move on from there?
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Title Annotation:Charles Schumer
Author:Paprin, Maurice
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:May 24, 2000
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