NYC: The Not-So-“Lone” Recipient

While sometimes loans are necessary and just a part of everyday living (one example being for a mortgage), sometimes they can be incredibly overwhelming.  This has become the situation with many taxi drivers in New York City.

In an endeavor to facilitate this situation, a panel of individuals has been appointed by the New York City Council.  A bailout for the many taxi drivers who have been exploited by loans is being proposed.  The price tag could potentially hit $500m with a new partnership made up of public officials and private individuals who would take on the debt that cab drivers have which they used to buy their own cabs. Many of them fell into the category of immigrants who wanted to find a way to make money when they first came. According to City Council speaker Corey Johnson:

“We know that folks in this industry have suffered tremendously. I’m really excited that after six months of painstaking work and effort, the task force is going to be releasing a variety of recommendations that we think could stabilize the industry, plan for the future and help alleviate the suffering.”

Cab drivers aren’t the only New Yorkers who have been overwhelmed by loans.  But earlier this month a very old student debt was just reversed in New York Bankruptcy Court. The argument used by the lawyer in the case was the enormity of the debt that was too unrealistic to be paid.

Between 1993-1996, Kevin Rosenberg took out student loans, then went to the Navy for five years and then needed more loans for his 2001-2004 stint in law school.  All in all he owed over $116,000 which swelled to $221,000 by the end of 2019.  While paying it back he ended up with negative $1,500 per month.

The Fluctuating Landscape of NYC

The New York City landscape is often in flux.  Looking at last year we can be proud of the re-opening of the TWA Hotel terminal that had been closed for many years.  The terminal – originally constructed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen as the TWA Flight Center – is now the spectacular TWA hotel, featuring a perfect combination of the classic architect’s style with modern amenities.

An expansion of 40,000 feet has been made at MoMA, providing it with the space to display its collection.  The recent passing of the $1.7bn Green New Deal will construct 250 miles of protected bike lands, 15 miles of lanes just for buses and a million square feet for pedestrians.  This will be put in place within the next five years. Furthermore, new signaling technology will be implemented.  The idea behind this is to eliminate traffic violence and enhance road infrastructure for users.

All this (and more in the landscape development area of NYC) is crucial for developments, businesses and even jobs.  As Robert Rodriguez, Sarah Fitts & Jamie Rubin recently pointed out in an article:

“Simply put, we can’t grow if we can’t build our public infrastructure.” What is going to help achieve this goal is the recently-signed NYC Design Build Act enabling the creation of a union between architects, constructors and engineers, and give NYC the opportunity to select contractors who can offer the best work and schedule timing, rather than just being forced to chose the cheapest one.

Electric Cargo Bikes Arrive in NYC

For years there has been a problem with delivery trucks in NYC.  As it is New York’s traffic situation is a total disaster, a nuisance to society and an environmental embarrassment.   But thanks to the introduction of electric cargo bikes, this problem – at least in part – could be on its way to a solution.

A program that has been introduced by New York City is going to start with up to 100 pedal-assisted cargo bikes.  They will be used by delivery firms such as Amazon, DHL and UPS and will be able to park – without a fee – in commercial loading areas.

According to Transportation Commissioner of New York, Polly Trottenberg it seems New York is a bit behind on this trend.  She said:

“Around the world, we have seen how freight companies use cargo bikes to move goods around dense urban neighborhoods more efficiently,”

adding that by using these bikes instead of trucks, the safety of the roads would be enhanced as well.   And when it comes to the environment, it’s a no-brainer.  As Vice President for Specialty Fulfillment at Amazon, Rebecca Gansert said, this is part of the city’s attempt to reduce carbon emissions to zero by the year 2040.

In another attempt to reduce carbon emissions (but potentially create other problems), the SameDay Bot has been introduced to the city – a six-wheeled robot that delivers packages straight to your door. Roxo was seen on a test run in New York but have been met with some angst amongst New Yorkers. 

de Blasio’s Deputy Press Secretary Will Baskin-Gershwitz argued:

“FedEx’s robots wouldn’t just undercut the jobs of hardworking New Yorkers — they would be a danger on our crowded street…we’re prepared to take further steps if FedEx isn’t willing to get them off our streets.”

So on the one hand there is a huge fight for environmental enhancement in New York but on the other hand how will this impact job creation and a nuisance to the city?

100th Annual Veteran’s Day Parade

The 100th Annual Veteran’s Day Parade that took place in New York City. President Donald Trump introduced the event, along with General David H. Berger, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps. According to Bill White, co-producer of the event: “The president has been great supporter of our veterans and indeed this parade here in New York City for more than 25 years.” 2019 marks 244 years since the U.S. Marine Corps was established.

Award winners included:

  1. Marine Corps Service (WWII) Medal of Honor to Herschel “Woody Williams
  2. US Army service (Korean War) Medal of Honor to Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura
  3. US Navy service (Vietnam War) Medal of Honor to former US Senator Bob Kerrey
  4. Marine Corps Service (Gulf War) Navy Cross to Eddie Ray
  5. Founder of 3 veteran service organizations, soldier in second Fallujah battle, server in two Iraq tours and decorated Marine Corps Infantry Officer, Zachary Iscol.

Chair of the United War Veterans Council and US Marine Corps Veteran Doug McGowan commended Trump’s support that was apparent long before he became America’s President. in the mid 1990s, he gave a significant donation facilitating the recovery of the many years of neglect the Parade had encountered.  Today it is the impressive institution it is, in no small part due to his assistance.  Trump also gave financial aid toward the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in NYC. 

New York Today: Economics, Businesses and Minimum Wage

When it comes to the escalation of minimum wage in New York, Ripley is a good case study to begin.  There, a gradual increase has been taking place since 2013 when it began at .  $7.25 per hour.  Today, that figure is up to $11.10.  It is due to reach $12.50 by next year.  For those working in the fast-food industry it is even higher, having already reached $12.75.

While wages in the hospitality industry in New York’s border counties are increasing, according to findings from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, this did not impact general employment growth.

In addition, there were increases in hourly wages in the southern counties of New York, in particular for the lower earners.   According to the National Employment Law Project between 2014 and 2018 there was an average of 6.6 percent increase in sales annually.

Earlier this year The Bank of America increased its minimum hourly wage from $15 to $17. The plan is that this figure will further jump to $20 by the end of Q1 2020.

WeWork: What’s Working and Who’s Not

WeWork is in trouble in New York.  Its Dock 72 space – spanning 220,000 square feet – seems more like a ghost town than a buzzing networking shared workspace. While it all seemed to be exciting when it opened – and then a few days following that – that has substantially died down ever since. 

Most of the private offices at WeWork are vacant with WeWork claiming 30 percent occupancy.  According to a recent NYTimes article written by David Trainer:

“If the economy stays strong over the next year, it’s possible WeWork could make progress towards profitability. However, it wouldn’t change the fundamental weakness of the business. The company’s strategy of taking on long-term lease obligations and then subleasing for 1-2 years leaves it vulnerable to an economic downturn and falling real estate prices.”

Attempts are however, being made to save it.  SoftBank has agreed to take over control and make some mega investments, on top of the $9bn it already has. It is aiming to decelerate its expansion pace, renovate, focus on its primary markets and more.

But perhaps WeWork is no long “WeWorking.”  Perhaps there has been a complete overhaul in attitudes to how we work.  That’s what German entrepreneur Lasse Rheingans might have us believe.  His idea was recently reported on in a WSJ article, which he is putting in practice in his tech start up firm.  He is developing a five-hour workday for employees to arrive at 8am and leave at 1pm at which point they are not expected to do any work until the next morning. BUT, while at the office, the phones must be left in their bags and use of social media is forbidden.  Meetings are limited to 15 minutes or less and work emails are only checked twice a day!

WeWork’s mission is to: “create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living,” but perhaps today Rheingans has a more practical way of arriving at this goal.

Enhancements to Local Landscape

The de Blasio office is attempting to diversify public art in the region.  One example of the endeavors being made in this sphere is the honoring of the Seneca Village property owners and educators – the Lyons family. 

A little bit of history: Back in the 1850s, an entire community was forced out of the Seneca Village neighborhood in order to create Central Park.  The majority of that community was black.  Now, NYC is planning to fund a private monument to honor this family that has roots that go back to that time.

One Upper East Side local, Jerry Montagu said the following:

“This is the right thing to do.  Sure – with 20/20 hindsight we see that Central Park was of course needed – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that an entire village was essentially wiped out.  It’s about time something was done to show respect.”

It will be an historical lesson as well.  As semi-retired landscape artist Moshe Victor Keinig pointed out:

“One of the most important contributions to a spectacular landscape is really, its history.  This new effort from de Blasio and his team is really an opportunity to right a wrong and to educate the people of New York.”

It is very often the case that people are completely unaware of their own history and what lies under the surface upon which they walk.  Keinig added:

“This is a great start for New York, its history and its future.  Let’s just hope that de Blasio and his people are regarding this as a first step in proper restoration.”

New York: Why It’s “Working”

New Yorkers are currently facing a strong job market.  According to a recent Fed report published by the Center for Microeconomic Data, lower income workers are increasingly meeting with the opportunity to leave their current positions as better jobs are coming up.  This rate is higher than it has been in five years.

In addition, CareerBuilder Chief People Officer Michelle Armer believes this trend is “unsurprising” given the current job climate and opportunities that exist.  Further, she refers to a study that predicted an increase of 3.1 million low-wage jobs from now until 2023, giving individuals the ability to look around and not necessarily accept the first job offer that comes their way.  As well as wages, there are benefits and other perks that could sway one to take a different job.

In New York itself, employment in the clean energy sector is booming. According to a recently report from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, 77 percent of all clean energy employment in the region is in energy efficiency.  Clean energy as an employment sector is very strong – in all its capacities – throughout the entire area.