Where New York Mayor Candidates Stand on Business and Entrepreneurship
From former Congressman Anthony Weiner to Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis and the first openly gay New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the slate of candidates in the Big Apple primary is diverse and opinionated.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
New York City is a beacon of commerce around the globe and the leader of the Big Apple has a powerful seat at the table in policy discussions about business.
Michael Bloomberg is coming to the end of his third term and will pass the baton when the next New York City mayor is elected in November. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, founded the financial software, data and media company most famous for the data terminal bearing his name. He has been a controversial leader in the business community. Some have cheered his ability to polish the reputation of New York City, a boon for all the businesses operating in the Big Apple. He has also rubbed many business advocates the wrong way for what some consider overbearing regulations, criticizing for running a “nanny state.” The most infamous regulatory battle was Bloomberg’s attempt to ban the sale of large sodas in the city, which ultimately was overturned.
Here is a look at the major candidates for the next Mayor of New York, their backgrounds and notable planks of their proposed agenda for small business and entrepreneurship if elected. The primary, when the field of candidates will be narrowed to one per major party, is today, Sept. 10.
Owner of Gristedes grocery chain
Born in Greece, Catsimatidis emigrated to New York City when he was 6 months old and grew up in Harlem. While attending New York University, Catsimatidis worked nights and weekends at a grocery store. He dropped out his senior year at NYU to work at the grocery store full time and by the time he was 25, Catsimatidis was running 10 Red Apple Supermarkets throughout the city. Today, the Red Apple Group, which includes Gristedes Foods, employs more than 8,000 people.
As a small-business owner turned big-business operator, Catsimatidis is keenly aware of the challenges facing entrepreneurs in New York. If elected, Catsimatidis has pledged to do the following to support the business community:
- Instate a Small-Business Advocate who would report directly to him on the needs of small-business owners.
- Create a business phone number, 1-2-3, standing for Open Your Business 1-2-3, which would give small-business owners a centralized point of access to information on startup resources and regulatory information.
- Crack down on what he calls the culture of fines in the City, vowing to levy fines only as a result of serious infractions.
- Help business owners gain access to capital, by creating a small-business revolving-loan fund, a city-funded capital seed fund, an interest-rate subsidy program and expanded access to debt-refinancing programs.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York
De Blasio has made a late-in-the game move to the front of the pack for the Democratic candidate, challenging longtime frontrunner Christine Quinn. De Blasio went to NYU and then Columbia and started his career in public service working for New York’s first African-American mayor, David Dinkins. After holding numerous regional political offices, de Blasio helped Hillary Clinton run her 2000 race for U.S. Senate. A decade later, de Blasio was sworn into office as public advocate, the second-highest elected office in the city. As public defender, de Blasio sued the city to get access to data on the nature of fines being levied on small-businesses.
If elected Mayor, de Blasio has pledged to make the following policy changes to help small businesses:
- Establish local economic-development groups in every neighborhood throughout the city, bringing together business owners, community leaders and teachers. Those local groups will serve as loan officers in a NYC Innovation Equity Fund, which would be funded with money from the city pension funds.
- Crack down on what he calls “nuisance fines,” those levied for non-serious infractions on small-business owners. Local economic groups would educate small-business owners, helping them to avoid unnecessary fines.
- Provide outreach and technical assistance specifically for immigrant entrepreneurs.
- Replicate the success of the Brooklyn Navy Yard by supporting manufacturing business throughout the city in land owned by the city.
- Give local businesses a leg up on winning New York City government contracts by giving them a second chance at winning a contract if a non-local business makes a more competitive bid.
Party: None, independent nomination
Hidary has no background in politics. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His great grandparents immigrated to Ellis Island and lived in Lower East Side tenement buildings. His grandfather and uncle started a business in the garment district, which, 60 years later, is still in operation. Hidary, born in Brooklyn, started his own tech-professional services business called EarthWeb with his brother and friend. EarthWeb eventually went public on NASDAQ. Hidary is also active in medical research and was awarded a fellowship at to study brain imaging at the National Institute of Health.
As mayor, Hidary pledges to bring more tech companies to New York City, increasing the momentum of Silicon Alley as an entrepreneurial hub. In particular, Hidary will push for increased development of innovation centers, like the Cornell-Technion campus. He pledges to make the city more accessible for small-business owners in the following ways:
- Launch a New York City microfinance arm to provide low-interest loans for startup entrepreneurs.
- Seek out industry leaders and offer job tax credits if they hire local New Yorkers.
- Launch tech, food, fashion and manufacturing incubators in all five boroughs allowing for small-business owners to put their heads together to deal with regulations and to band together purchasing power for necessary services.
- Establish tax incentives for businesses to locate in outer boroughs.
- Help New York City-based companies apply for EB-2 visas, which are available for employees who have specialized skills.
- Improve transportation in and around the city, including public transit, car-sharing and better-integrated ferry services.
Former Councilman in New York
Italy-born Sal Albanese moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, when he was eight. He has both a law degree and several financial-services licenses. He worked as a public-school teacher for 11 years and served in city council four times in a row. For the past nine years, Albanese has been the managing director at a financial-services firm, Mesirow Financial.
If elected Mayor of New York, Albanese’s small-business platform includes the following:
- Support Sandy-devastated small businesses by pushing for more city, state and federal grants.
- Implement a “warn first, teach second, fine last” approach with regards to levying fines against small businesses.
- Restructure the way that tolls are levied on goods coming in and out of the city, what is currently a $13 billion cost to businesses, according to Albanese’s campaign.
- Make the New York City Economic Development Corporation more small-business friendly, including developing language competency on its staff to help immigrant entrepreneurs.
- Move licensing and permitting online at all business-startup city agencies to make it faster for small businesses to get up and running.
- Support tech entrepreneurs in New York City by making computer coding a high-school degree requirement, working to get broadband to every home and business in the city, task a deputy mayor for technology to unite various technology-related policies across city agencies and launch multi-unit, micro-unit starter apartments in neighborhoods including Williamsburg to help young entrepreneurs gain access to affordable office space.
Former President of the Borough of the Bronx
Party: Independent Note: Carrion will not be facing any other candidate on the ticket for the Independent Party, so while he won’t be up for a vote for the primary, he will have a spot on the ticket in November.
Carrion was a youth pastor and a public-school teacher before holding a handful of roles serving the city. In 2001, Carrion went to Puerto Rico with the Rev. Al Sharpton to protest bombing exercises on the island of Vieques. He ended up spending 44 days in prison for his role in the protest. The same year, he won the title of president of the Borough of the Bronx. Carrion has become a leading Latino politician, underscored by his 2007 election to role of president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Also, he has founded a real-estate consulting firm called Metro Futures LLC.
If elected Mayor, Carrion has pledged the following policy changes to support small-business growth throughout the city:
- Grow the information-technology sector by helping the public-school education system to prepare students to be tech savvy.
- Provide affordable office space and incubators for startups in all five boroughs of the city.
- Streamline regulations and make the structure of fines that apply to small-business owners transparent and predictable.
- Offer professional training for low-income New Yorkers in the high-growth areas of light manufacturing, financial services and real estate, health-care research and delivery, tourism, information technology, and construction.
- Upgrade and modernize airports in New York City to help make the Big Apple a more competitive place to do business.
Former head of the Mass Transit Authority
Lhota lives in Brooklyn and is part of a family that has served the Big Apple and its residents for generations. He was born in the Bronx, his father was a NYC police lieutenant and his grandfather was both a NYC taxi driver and firefighter. Lhota was part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s managerial team in both terms. In 2011 and 2012, Lhota served at the head of New York City’s public transit system.
- Lhota has recently embarked on a citywide tour of the city’s small businesses. Here is what he would implement for small-business owners if elected:
- Address the City’s “burdensome” tax and regulatory environment.
- Gradual phase out of the Unincorporated Business Tax, a 4 percent tax levied on those business owners not caught by the corporate tax, such as tradespeople, professionals, and certain occupations of an individual, partnership, limited liability company, fiduciary, association, estate or trust.
- Establish what he has called a “cure period,” where business owners would have an opportunity to address infractions before they are levied.
New York City Comptroller
Liu immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan with his parents when he was five. He attended public school in Queens and the Bronx and earned a degree in mathematical physics from the State University of New York in Binghamton. He worked in the private sector before entering into public life and managed a team of financial analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2001, Liu was elected to the City Council and, in 2009, Liu became the comptroller of New York, responsible for the city’s finances.
If elected Mayor, Liu would take the following actions on behalf of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Liu supports the “Small Business Jobs Survival Act,” which would give business owners the right to go into arbitration if they can’t come to an agreement on a fair and reasonable rent.
- Waive the New York City General Corporation Tax for those businesses who owe less than $5,000 to the city each year. This would give a tax break to approximately 240,000 business owners and would cost approximately $200 million annually in lost revenue to the city, but would help the smallest small businesses.
- Exempt any business making less than $250,000 per year in revenue the New York City Unincorporated Business Tax. This tax break would directly target the dry cleaners, fruit and vegetable stands and mom-and-pop pizza restaurants.
- Develop high-tech campuses in Downtown Brooklyn and on Roosevelt Island.
- Raise the minimum wage in the city to $11.50 per hour.
Founder of the Doe Fund
George McDonald and his wife, Harriet, founded the Doe Fund, a New York City nonprofit organization that helps formerly homeless men and women find jobs so that they can live independently. Before launching the Doe Fund, McDonald was an executive in the apparel industry for 20 years. His wife was a Hollywood actress and screenwriter.
If elected Mayor of New York City, McDonald would support the following platforms to encourage small-businesses and entrepreneurs:
- In what he has called the ”making it here, selling it here, buying it here” campaign, McDonald would encourage New York City businesses and government agencies to buy from local suppliers.
- McDonald’s primary platform would be getting New Yorkers back to work, eliminating unemployment in New York City.
New York City Council speaker
Quinn, who was once a front-runner by leaps and bounds, is now fighting to hold onto her lead in the mayoral race. She has held any number of local government positions, including running a housing advocacy group and an anti-hate-crime group called the Anti-Violence Project in collaboration with the New York City police department. Quinn is notable for being one of the first high-ranking City officials who is openly a lesbian.
If elected Mayor, Quinn has laid out the following planks to her small-business and entrepreneurship platform:
- Double exports by 2020 and to do that, she has pledged to create a New York City-based regional export council including government and industry leaders from New York, New Jersey and the Port Authority. Specifically, this would generate jobs on the Staten Island waterfront, but it would overall support businesses throughout the region.
- Turn Sunset Park into the Next Brooklyn Navy Yard. Quinn wants to draw on the 9 million square feet of underutilized city-owned industrial space in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to create a new manufacturing hub, similar to what the city did in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. Quinn projects this could generate 2,000 new jobs.
- Start a small-business lending fund which will serve to guarantee loans made by community lenders. Quinn estimates that with $2 million in city funds, the program could backstop as much as $5 million in loans to small businesses.
- Start local food markets in neighborhoods around the city. Food is a $5 billion a year industry in New York City and Quinn wants to start markets for local retailers to sell their food goods. The first such market would be at South Street Seaport.
- Continue to invest in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle for startup tech entrepreneurs.
- Establish a single point of contact, New York City Business Link, for all the permit, inspection and license questions a small-business owner could have though the 311 phone tree.
- Work to get more New York City contracts in the hands of local small -business owners, not just into the hands of the lowest bidder, as is now mandated.
- Establish a goal to have New York City be the most wired city in the U.S. by 2018. Create a committee, called 5-Borough Connectivity, specifically designed to wire the city with high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi throughout the Big Apple.
Born in the Bronx, the son of Puerto Rican parents, Salgado did missionary work in the Dominican Republic before earning his doctorate in theological studies. He opened a church in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and worked at an auto-body parts store. He was promoted to manager of the auto shop before he left to start a bookstore chain with his wife. Salgado’s church moved around Brooklyn, continuously growing, until he started a second church and then a radio ministry called Radio Cantico, which grew to draw an audience from throughout the tri-state region.
If elected Mayor, Salgado has said he would work to make the following changes on behalf of small businesses:
- Limit bureaucratic red tape and regulations for small-business owners.
- Give small-business owners tax incentives for hiring.
- Prohibit the revenues from fines levied against small-businesses from being pocketed by the city.
- Pass tax incentives to bring manufacturers into the city, in particular in the clean-tech, bio-tech and nanotech industries.
Former Comptroller of New York City
Thompson was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is a resident of Harlem. His mother was a public school teacher for 30 years and his father was the first African-American state senator to come from Brooklyn. Thompson became a deputy borough president in Brooklyn and later the president of New York City’s Board of Education. From 2002 through 2009, Thompson was the comptroller of New York City, the lead financier in charge of New York City’s books. He managed nearly 700 people and oversaw a $100 billion pension fund. In a hotly -contested race four years ago, Thompson was narrowly defeated by the incumbent Michael Bloomberg to be the next mayor. Before working in public office, Thompson was a managing director at a minority-owned public-finance firm where he underwrote infrastructure projects.
If elected Mayor, Thompson would continue to champion the following initiatives to support the business and entrepreneurship community in New York City.
- Establish at least one technology school in each borough, modeled after the six-year P-Tech program in Brooklyn where students graduate with an associate degree in technology.
- Create business-improvement districts that will match small businesses and nonprofits seeking skills in a particular neighborhood with unemployed, but skilled, New Yorkers in that same neighborhood.
- Generate an online database of all available commercial space under 5,000 square feet so that tenants seeking an office can find an office.
- Bring an end to “excessive” fines on small-businesses.
- Match any new regulation with online courses and training programs to educate small-business owners.
- Work to end the $2,000 fee required when a business officially files registration that it is an LLC, which, now that the same LLC notification can be done for free with social media, Thompson argues is not reasonable.
- Support immigrant-owned businesses with technical support for website development, access to microloans and information about how to find retail space.
Weiner was a Democratic U.S. Representative for New York for seven consecutive terms before his political career was upended by a sexting scandal. After Weiner resigned from Congress, further allegations were released about another sexting scandal, this time under from the pseudonym “Carlos Danger.”
If elected Mayor of New York City, Weiner has said that he will make the following changes to help small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Weiner will create mobile offices operated by the city that travel to strip malls and other heavily trafficked areas where small-business owners can adjudicate fines, tickets and papers without having to close down their shop for an entire day.
- Create a website and an application, www.shopnyc.com, where consumers can input their current location and the good or service that they want to buy and the website or application will let you know where a nearby small-business sells that good or service available. This service would be particularly meaningful for businesses that may not have a website of their own, Weiner says.
- Create a venture-capital type fund with New York City money that would invest in social entrepreneurs in the Big Apple.
- Cultivate entrepreneurship in city government with an "Ideas Lab" where employees develop innovative ways to serve New Yorkers that save the city money. Weiner envisions boot-camp sessions at this “Ideas Lab” where places like York or Lehman colleges offer city classes on innovation and related topics to city employees.