For generations, the Statue of Liberty has stood at the entrance to New York Harbor, welcoming people from around the world to the “Golden Door” of New York City. And the great promise it offers remains unchanged after more than 200 years: an equal opportunity to succeed. This enduring tradition has created an engine of economic innovation unlike any the world has ever seen. It has transformed our city from a small trading post at the tip of the Battery into the entrepreneurial capital of the world.
In recent years, we have seen incredible growth in our entrepreneurial economy across a variety of industries—from finance, fashion, and food to marketing, media and high-tech. But while new startups emerge every day, we have not done enough to ensure that thousands of working-class New Yorkers in Brooklyn and other areas have the resources and skills to share in this growth. We have failed to ensure that this robust new economy provides a pipeline to the middle class for all the people of New York.
As my office points out in a new report “Start-Up City: Growing New York’s Entrepreneurial Economy for All,” only one in five startups in New York City is founded by a woman. Only 29 percent of employed Blacks and 20 percent of employed Latinos work in the “creative economies,” including management, business, science and the arts.
Mayor Bloomberg deserves great credit for diversifying the city’s economy. But now we must take the next step and ensure that the benefits of this economic activity reach New Yorkers who have yet to share in them. We need to expand “Silicon Alley”—startups stretching from Soho and Midtown Manhattan all the way up to Washington Heights and Harlem—into “Silicon City,” so entrepreneurs and job seekers in DUMBO, the Flatbush Avenue corridor, Sunset Park and elsewhere can take advantage of this new economy.
In many cases, entry level jobs in the tech economy can start at $65,000 a year. That’s well above a family’s median income here. So how do we make this a reality for more families? We can begin by ensuring that all of our residents have skills they need to succeed. These skills—from computer technology and marketing to financial literacy and the “language” of business—will serve all of our students well regardless of their future career goals. I believe the Department of Education should offer expanded computer-science training in schools throughout the city and bring together entrepreneurs, teachers, and advocates to build a curriculum that prepares students for the 21st-century economy.
We also need to streamline how entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses. We can make government more responsive to the fast-changing needs of emerging industries by building out NYC Digital to match the successful Office of TV and Film, and by cutting red tape at the Department of Buildings so innovators can launch companies without needless delays. We must also improve our Internet and transportation networks. New York City should explore the creation of a municipal fiber network—a project that has boosted Internet-service competition and drawn new businesses in cities across the country. Likewise, our city must create or expand transit links to areas of new job growth in the boroughs—from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Hunts Point—so thousands of New Yorkers can better reach them.
Finally, we must ensure that New York remains a city where people can afford to live, work, and raise families. We should embrace construction of micro-housing and accessory dwelling units that will create more affordable housing and open up larger units for New York families. By working together, we can create a new pipeline to the middle class, expand our entrepreneurial economy and ensure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to share today in the vibrant industries of tomorrow.