Democratic mayoral hopefuls discuss small business

April 24, 2013 Denise Romano
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The Democratic candidates for mayor faced off at a forum hosted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce at St. Francis College on Tuesday, April 23.

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Reverend Erick Salgado and former Comptroller William Thompson answered questions from leaders from each borough’s chamber of commerce regarding small business, bringing manufacturing back to the city, job growth, bike lanes, infrastructure after Sandy and food vendors. Dave Evans, ABC News’ political correspondent, moderated the forum.

“The goal of this forum is to promote and discuss issues that have an impact on our economy and quality of life,” explained Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

When asked how to bring back manufacturing to the city, Thompson said that he would do so by providing incentives and noted that exporting goods rather than constantly importing them is greener.

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Albanese said that in order to do so, “There has to be a feeling of confidence that the city will work with small businesses. We have to rebuild that trust.” He proposed manufacturing subway cars and buses in the city itself at sites like the Brooklyn Navy Yard or Hunts Point Terminal, noting that cities like Philadelphia are doing the same.

Liu said, “The city made it difficult for manufacturing to relocate or expand. We have to get rid of special favors only given to politically connected companies that get subsidies.” The comptroller added that Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to allow the new “Taxi of Tomorrow” to be constructed in the city.

Salgado said he would give tax breaks to manufacturers, while Quinn said that she would take the structure applied at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and apply it to manufacturing in Sunset Park.

When it comes to bike lanes, all candidates agreed that both small businesses and local community boards should be consulted before any more are installed.

Salgado went on to say that he wants them eliminated from “all congested areas. We have to make sure that cars making deliveries have a driver and a delivery person so they can move the car.” He also proposed making one parking spot per block designated for a green car.

Liu admitted that “bikers have been for a long time rejected” but added that a “one-size-fits-all approach across the five boroughs is not working.”

Albanese talked about a mass transit plan that would lower tolls in areas where mass transit is scarce and raise them in places such as the East River bridges. He also supports a bike lane over the Verrazano Bridge.

Regarding infrastructure and transportation after Sandy, Quinn said she would look to “harden barriers,” increase bus service and look into expanding ferry service to all five boroughs, since it was the first mode of transportation up and running after the storm.

DeBlasio said he would look into wind and solar power, wetland restoration and changing the zoning and building code. Thompson said he would appoint a deputy mayor for infrastructure and work to restore the commuter tax directed at mass transit. Liu said he would put electrical lines underground.

Salgado said he would “give incentives to the private sector to build on the shorelines with conditions that they will provide 30 percent of apartments to affordable housing, especially Sandy victims.” He also proposed extending the R subway line to run over the Verrazano Bridge.

Last, the candidates were asked what they would do to level the playing field between food vendors and brick and mortar businesses.

Quinn said the issue was “very complicated. I’m not sure we should have a citywide law for food vending. Some food trucks are offshoots of brick and mortar stores.”

“I respect the vendors, but it’s the wild, wild west out there. Brick and mortar stores are being hurt,” de Blasio said. “We have to make sure that we stop the incessant fines on businesses.”

Thompson and Albanese said that not every neighborhood is the same, but there is a place for vendors that should not adversely impact brick and mortar stores.

“I am tilted a little bit towards the vendors,” Liu said, but noted that the policy had to be changed due to “too much conflict.”

Salgado said that there should be a map of the city that lists all the vendors “placed in places that make sense.”

Primary day is Tuesday, September 10.

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