Robert K. Steel, “Perspectives in the City’s Economy: Today and Tomorrow”

On December 3, 2013 the Roosevelt House welcomed New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Robert K. Steel. Jonathan provided introductory remarks and then sat down with the Deputy Mayor for a discussion about his years of public service and the challenges facing the new Mayor.  Video of the event can be viewed here.

Robert K. Steel

December 3, 2013

I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to tonight’s program with Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel.  He will reflect on his three years working with Mayor Bloomberg, accomplishments, disappointments, and challenges that lie ahead for the next Mayor.

I am especially pleased Bob Steel is here tonight because I have been privileged to work with him and Business Services Commissioner Rob Walsh in selecting the winners of the Neighborhood Achievement Awards and the BID Challenge grants.   Bob Steel, like Franklin Roosevelt, understood that local innovation is essential to economic development.

Hear President Roosevelt’s words in a 1933 Fireside Chat. Our program “will succeed if our people understand it—in the big industries, in the little shops, in the great cities and…small villages. There is nothing complicated about it and there is nothing particularly new in the principle. It goes back to the basic idea of society and of the nation itself that people acting in a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could even hope to bring about.”

I think Franklin Roosevelt would be very pleased we are gathered in his home to talk about a city he loved.

This has been a good period for economic development in New York. Job growth is steady, tourism continues to rise, and crime rates are at historic lows. An influx of nearly 500 new start-ups between 2009-2012 made New York the second largest center in the US for tech companies. And New York leads the nation with the largest bioscience engineering workforce in the country in 120 bio-tech companies. And the media sector is booming with media companies contributing more than $400 million in annual tax revenues to the city.

No wonder that a recent study found that New York holds a competitive edge on the world’s cities that is not likely to disappear any time soon. And Bob Steel’s portfolio has been at the heart of this success.  It includes the New York City Economic Development Corporation, The Department of Small Business Services, the City Planning Department, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

A few weeks ago Brookings Scholar Bruce Katz spoke here about his new book The Metropolitan Revolution which argues that cities and their larger metropolitan regions are the “engines of economic prosperity and social transformation in the United States.” He devotes a chapter to the New York story in which Bob Steel is a central player.

Bob Steel has done an extraordinary job.  He has led Mayor Bloomberg’s major redevelopment projects in Lower Manhattan, the South Bronx, Hudson Yards, Willets Point among others.  The accomplishment that I most admire is the new Technology Campus that Cornell and Technion are building on Roosevelt Island.  But that’s not all.  Also coming are The NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress in downtown Brooklyn, Columbia’s new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, and Carnegie Mellon University’s new Integrative Media Program at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.   Bob Steel has played a key role in the realization of major projects such as the 7 Train extension, the redevelopment of Seward Park, the Big Wheel in Staten Island, a large retail complex and ice rink for the Kingsbridge Armory in Willets Point, and the redevelopment and expansion of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Bob Steel was well prepared for his leadership role in our city.  He was at Goldman Sachs for nearly 30 years, rising to head its U.S. Equities Division.  He was Under Secretary for Domestic Finance in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and later President and CEO of Wachovia.  He has balanced his business career and public service with an active civic life, chairing the Board of his alma mater Duke University, as well as the Aspen Institute, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the After-School Corporation.

New York is fortunate to have a person of such deep and broad experience serve as the intellectual engine shaping our future. And New York higher education is blessed to have a person with his passion for the life of the mind in a key leadership position.

After the Deputy Mayor speaks, he and I will have a conversation for a few minutes, and then invite your questions.  We will end by a little after 7.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Deputy Mayor Robert Steel.