Building a Better New York: A Goddard Gold Conversation

Rose, Wylde, Henry: A screenshot from Goddard Gold

What will a post-pandemic New York look like—and how can we make it a more equitable city for all? That was the question at the center of Goddard’s annual forum, Goddard Gold. 

Our speakers were Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit membership organization for the city’s top corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms, and Jonathan F.P. Rose, Founder & CEO of Jonathan Rose Companies, a green real estate policy, urban planning, development, project management and investment firm. The conversation was led by favorite Goddard Riverside host Angela Henry.

Despite all the challenges and losses of this past year, Wylde said, New York’s economy has emerged in relatively good shape. “Our professional services, financial services industries, technology, kept the city economy going at a macro level, working remotely for the last 15 months. So our economic losses in GDP were only about 3.3 percent last year. That’s the good news. But at the same time, we had a portion of the economy—food service and accommodations, hospitality, culture and theater obviously, and the nonprofit sector—that really took a hit.”  

The city must take the 6-plus billion dollars it’s been awarded by the Biden administration and invest it smartly for an equitable recovery, she concluded.  

A fairer and more prosperous New York City, Rose argued, starts at the top: with a long term plan. 

“We need a 2050 vision of what the ideal New York City would look like and who we want to become. There are wonderful community-based processes to do this,” he said, citing a project in Boston called Imagine 2030 that was “very successful in reaching out to a broad range of the community.” 

A 2050 vision should embrace “where we want to go at every level — health, education, job training, affordable housing, quality of life, parks and open space, all that,” he added. “And then we need a plan for how to get there.” 

Both Wylde and Rose highlighted technology as a priority.  

“There was a backup when the state unemployment system couldn’t handle the number of people last march who filing. They sent out a call for COBOL programmers. That’s what the systems are!” said Wylde, name-dropping a 60-year-old computer language that has largely been replaced by newer platforms. 

Digital access for low-income New Yorkers is a significant challenge. The struggles of students to access the internet over the past year are well-documented. In addition, Rose pointed out that many low-income tenants pay their rent with money orders. Often there are limits on the amount of money they can access at one time, “so they take a bus to a money changer and it may take 3 or 4 or 5 trips to get the money orders to pay their rent. What a terrible use of time and fees! Having those residents digitally bank, what a difference that would make!” 

What advice would these two thought leaders give New York’s incoming mayor? 

“I would recommend to the mayor to reach out and find the most dynamic, effective people they can as their commissioners,” said Rose. “A mayor and an amazing group of commissioners can transform a city.” 

Wylde focused on who the city is talking to, rather than who it hires to do the listening. 

“Gather those folks who are actually doing the work, whether it’s on the business or nonprofit side and hear their plans and lessons learned and incorporate that into policies going forward,” she said – “starting with the crisis of people who’ve lost their jobs, and that includes entrepreneurs who’ve lost their small businesses, and figuring out how we can all best support them coming back.”