New York Conference Hatches Initiatives for ‘New’ Economy

By Staff Report

Feb. 6, 2009

New York has launched an effort to ensure that bankers and other finance professionals laid off in the Wall Street meltdown stay in the city.

The Web site provides guidance for the recently unemployed on how to apply for benefits and links to job search and training sites. It also includes links to stories with tips on how to capitalize from the Wall Street collapse.

The project is one of several initiatives discussed at the “Future of New York City” conference sponsored by Crain’s New York Business on Tuesday, February 3. The effort reflects the new reality that the financial services sector may not play as significant a role in the city’s economy as it has in the past. Professionals in the industry who have been laid off will need to reinvent themselves.

The city plans to spend $170,000 developing and marketing the Web site. In addition to that effort, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced plans for a new $10 million angel fund and a startup incubator to help new companies get off the ground. A spokeswoman for the city said details on those plans are not available.

Addressing a panel on emerging industries, Sara Horowitz, the founder and director of the Freelancers Union, said the city needs new policies to support independent workers. She cited an estimate from the city comptroller’s office that shows that half of the new jobs created in the city over the past decade are held by the self-employed.

Horowitz encouraged Wall Streeters and other laid-off professionals to consider becoming independent contractors. One way the city can help is by developing new zoning rules to encourage “co-working” spaces where independent professionals can share office space.

Even though independent workers may not go to work every day in a traditional office setting, Horowitz said, “People still want to go out and work with other people.”

All the doom and gloom in the financial community may provide an opening for the city’s biotech industry, said Sharon Mates, chief executive of Intra-Cellular Therapies. Consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry—most notably the possible merger of Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.—is an opportunity to attract top talent from research institutions in New Jersey.

To capitalize on the opportunities, Mates says the city should provide more funding for public-private partnerships like the biotechnology centers being developed at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the East River Science Park. She also said organizations like the New York City Investment Fund, a private investment fund that aims to diversify the city’s economy, should step up investments in biotech to help spur the industry.

“The intellectual capital here is unmatched,” Mates said. “This is an opportunity for growing it and there is still financial capital—it’s the price of the capital that’s changed.”

Filed by Matthew Sollars of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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