One City/One Future: Redefining Economic Development in New York City

Across the nation, cities are exploring new strategies for ensuring that economic development delivers the good jobs, affordable housing and livable communities that local residents need.  In New York City, NELP partnered with the Pratt Center for Community Development and New York Jobs with Justice on a major coalition-based policy initiative to make economic development more equitable and accountable. This coalition, called One City/One Future, recently released its landmark policy blueprint providing a roadmap for how the city can rebalance its approach to economic development to share the benefits of growth more broadly.

Strong Growth But Widening Inequality

Like many cities, New York has seen strong and sustained growth since the 1990's.  Unfortunately, that same growth has also fueled an intensifying level of inequality that is undermining the city's social and economic fabric.  The number of working poor continues to grow alongside an unprecedented concentration of wealth.  Those who can afford rents displace those who cannot.  Some neighborhoods shoulder the city's environmental burdens, while others benefit from the creation of new open spaces.  And race-based inequality and segregation persist.

Publicly-sponsored economic development, while a key engine of growth, has too often contributed to these trends.  Whether in the form of large subsidized projects or the more standard incentive packages for private developers, economic development continues to create low-wage jobs in a high-cost city; to escalate real estate prices, thus driving out manufacturers, small businesses, and affordable housing; to strain an aging and inadequate infrastructure; and to take place without meaningful community input and planning.

A Blueprint for Growth That Works for All New Yorkers

To respond, NELP and its allies launched the OneCity/One Future initiative in 2004.  This collaboration brought together more than 100 civic leaders, neighborhood advocates, community development organizations, labor unions, local development corporations, environmentalists, and others to chart a new course for making economic development work for all New Yorkers.

Our focus is on reorienting the city's economic development programs to focus on leveraging New York's comparative advantage as a "strong growth" city to deliver good jobs and services in diverse, livable, and affordable communities.  Maintaining our city's economic engine is essential, but it should be done within a social contract that promises to share prosperity, reduce inequality, increase opportunity, and fully involve all stakeholders in determining the city's future.

After an intensive research and policy development process, in early 2009, One City/One Future  released its landmark policy blueprint for reforming economic development in New York, and brought together hundreds of community advocates, labor leaders, elected officials and others for a release forum promoting this vision of equitable and accountable growth. 

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Annette Bernhardt, abernhardt@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

Partnership for Working Families

Good Jobs First