Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Iron and Steal

What a shock! The mayor has hired a new deputy for economic development and, in spite of the fact that a neighborhood baker was on the short list (just kidding); Mike Bloomberg grabbed another usual suspect. As the NY Times reports: “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to announce Tuesday that he has selected a former Wall Street banker as the next deputy mayor for economic development, according to administration and business officials. The banker, Robert Steel, worked at both Goldman Sachs and Wachovia and served as under secretary for domestic finance in the federal Treasury Department during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.”

In an unexpected development, the NYC Partnership’s Kathy Wylde went out on a limb to praise the choice: “It’s a terrific choice,” Ms. Wylde said. “He understands the challenges, particularly those facing the financial services industry. It’s somebody who can really make sure that we retain our stature in the world of global finance.”

Well, that’s all well and good, but what about the rest of the city-and the mayor’s expressed goal of diversification (kinda like the meadow muffins that Bloomberg serves in his PlaNYC 2030)? Bronx BP Diaz wonders the same thing. As NY1 reports: “Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who helped derail the administration's plans to develop the Kingsbridge Armory, wants to make sure Steel will turn his attention beyond Wall Street. "I hope that when he comes in he realizes that economic development means we need a plan of action for small businesses, to put everyday New Yorkers to work with decent salaries," Diaz Jr. said.”

Greg David also chimes in on this note: “There's already some skepticism about the appointment, namely because Steel's experience is so deeply rooted in finance and Wall Street."It's a very ironic choice for Michael Bloomberg, who has staked the next term on doing things differently in economic development. Innovating and growing new businesses and diversifying the economy," said Greg David of CUNY/Crain's New York Business.”

Irony it may be-but only if you actually take the mayor at his word; an adventure fraught with uncertainty. The fact remains that Mike Bloomberg has a single focus-one that devolves from what the sociologists call his, “mobilization of bias.” He has a certain perspective-after all, how many of us can say that our five best friends are all billionaires? And he has governed exclusively from that perspective; to the detriment of the city’s small businesses-whether at the Bronx Terminal Market, Willets Point, the Kingsbridge Armory or Flushing Commons.

So Mr. Steele comes in with absolutely no knowledge of NYC and with an additional handicap-his Goldman Sachs pedigree means that he has a trained incapacity for understanding the role of neighborhood small business in this city. Once again, the mayor who claims that his wealth insulates him from the lure of special interests demonstrates that he actually embodies them.