Friday, December 28, 2007

The More Things Change: Lieber and Small Business

The announcement yesterday that EDC head Robert Lieber was appointed by the mayor to replace Deputy Dan serves to send a consistent message: apparently nothing's going to change down at City Hall in regards to the lack of concern for small business and neighborhood retailers. We hope we're wrong, but there's certainly no indication that anything will be different. As the NY Times reports this morning: "Some within city government said he had not done enough to reach out to neighborhood residents and business owners where developments are planned."

What's new here? Deputy Dan ran roughshod over neighborhoods and small businesses in the service of his real estate friends. Lieber's actions regarding the Willets Point development, and his planning around Coney Island are a clear indication that the more things change with the Bloombertgistas, the more they stay the same. As Councilman Avella told the Times: "In my opinion, the institutional arrogance that has permeated the E.D.C. for years has not changed under him,” said City Councilman Tony Avella, chairman of the council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises."

In fact, Lieber continues the trend of hiring folks from the financial sector who simply have no clue about what the economic engine is for the city's diverse neighborhoods. In fact, for the past six years economic development-from newsstands and bodegas, to supermarkets and small distributors-has simply ignored the little guys who make up the bulk of the city's aggregate economic activity.

So we'll see if Mr. Lieber is able to break out of this mold now that he's got his own shoes to fill. The Iron Triangle will be a huge test for him, and we hope that Peter Vallone Sr. is right when he tells the Times: "He’s been trying, literally with both hands tied behind his back, to do the right thing,” Mr. Vallone said. “The point is he really is trying, which hasn’t happened before now.”

The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding; but we don't see either the Willets Point or Coney Island ending well for the locals. The mayor, however, continues to believe that those who come from his own insular world are the ones who are best trained to rule. As he told the NY Sun: "His skills and experience in the private sector and in city government will serve him well as he fills some very big shoes here at City Hall." For us, though, those skills and experience amount to little more than a "trained incapacity" to understand and deal with those sectors that don't breathe the same rarefied air as the mayor and his cohort of masters of the universe.