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    Default The Recession

    February 19, 2003

    Economy Is Tough All Over, but in New York, It's Horrid

    By LESLIE EATON

    Michael Amodeo is New York's most prominent auctioneer of failed restaurants and bankrupt businesses, and these days he is a very busy man.

    "It started right after the bubble ended in 2000, but after 9/11 it got really bad," said Mr. Amodeo, who was on the 50th floor of a skyscraper in Lower Manhattan one recent day selling off the contents of a cafeteria that once served a company that is now retrenching.

    The economic slump, he added, is affecting all kinds of food businesses, "restaurants and caterers and delis."

    The rest of the country may be debating whether the economy is recovering or heading into a second downturn, the dreaded "double dip." In New York City, there is no question.

    The economy here is in recession.

    New York City has lost almost 176,000 jobs in two years — more than the population of many cities. The unemployment rate, which in the spring of 2001 had fallen to 5.3 percent, has been climbing steadily and jumped to 8.4 percent in December.

    While the national economy has shown at least some growth, as measured by gross domestic product, a similar measure of the city's economy shows that it has been shrinking for two years. The New York City comptroller's office is forecasting another decline this year.

    Evidence of economic hardship in the city is increasing. There has been a big rise in the number of people who have been jobless for more than six months, and tens of thousands of people have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits but remain out of work. The number of households not on welfare but receiving food stamps, which some analysts cite as an indicator of a bad economy, has risen 20 percent in the last year, to 124,000.

    New York City has gone through boom and bust before, most recently during what Christine M. Cumming, director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, described as "the long economic winter" from 1989 through 1992. The entire region suffered then; Connecticut, New Jersey and New York State lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

    But what has surprised economists this time is that the economic carnage has been concentrated in New York City — and only New York City.

    Connecticut and New Jersey, relatively small and urban states, have suffered in the economic slowdown, but the unemployment rates, 4.6 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, remain below the national average of 6 percent. Upstate New York, often described as economically beleaguered and suffering from steep declines in population, has an unemployment rate of just 4.9 percent.

    Even areas long considered suburbs of New York City, with economies that had been tightly linked, are faring far better than the city. On Long Island, employment has declined by fewer than 4,000 jobs in the last two years; Westchester County, home of many of the city's bedroom communities, has had a dip of fewer than 3,000.

    In the past, "we always received an equal-opportunity clobbering," said Marc M. Goloven, a senior regional economist for J. P. Morgan.

    But in other parts of the region, the economies have become more diverse and less reliant on a few big industries. Their new bases of small and medium-size businesses, Mr. Goloven said, "represent a sea wall beyond which New York City's recession tide could not spread."

    New York City's economy is also more diversified than it was 20 years ago, when Wall Street was the be-all and end-all, Mr. Goloven and other economists say. There are more retail and tourism businesses and, despite the dot-com bust, more technology companies. Immigration has brought economic vibrancy to many city neighborhoods.

    "It's not like a town with just one auto plant," said James P. Brown, who analyzes the city economy for the State Department of Labor. "But a lot of what New York City does is related to the same thing: we sell services to other businesses." So while the 2001 recession arrived more slowly than it did in some manufacturing towns, it hit home all the same.

    Then came the attack on the World Trade Center. James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed research group, has calculated that half of the job losses in the last two years can be traced to the economic aftershocks of Sept. 11.

    Big financial firms were displaced. Thousands of small businesses in Lower Manhattan were destroyed.

    The steep decline in travel and tourism hurt not only restaurant- and hotel-heavy Manhattan, but also Queens, where many people lost jobs in and around the airports.

    The fallout continues all over the city. In Brooklyn, about 1,100 businesses recently filled out questionnaires on business conditions for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. More than two-thirds said they had lost revenue as a direct result of 9/11, and almost half of that group had laid off workers, said Kenneth Adams, president of the chamber. Very few, 45 of 365 businesses that cut workers, have rehired people.

    "People talk about the ripple effect of 9/11, but ripple is understating it," Mr. Adams said. "To many businesses, it was more like a tsunami."

    The shadow of Sept. 11 continues to hang over many businesses.

    "New Yorkers have taken a huge beating to our self-confidence and entrepreneurship," said Chan Suh, chief executive of Agency.com, the company whose cafeteria equipment and excess office furniture Mr. Amodeo was auctioning.

    A rare survivor among the city's once flourishing Internet sector, Agency.com still has 75 employees in New York City, as well as offices in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. Mr. Suh said the business climate in New York was different.

    "People are more reluctant to make decisions, launch something, get something started," he said, adding that worries about war and terrorism made things worse. "We know New York is a focal point," he said. "That's not just hubris: we know New York is a symbol."

    If New York was the terrorists' target, Wall Street was the bull's-eye. And the financial industry, possibly the most important to the city in income if not in jobs, is in dire straits.

    The stock market has dropped for three straight years, the only time this has happened since World War II. December is usually a good month for the stock market; in 2002, it was the the poorest since 1931.

    Even worse for New York City's financial firms, corporations across America have largely stopped merging, making acquisitions or selling stock. Helping companies do those things — the business of investment banking — is where financial firms make the really big profits. At least, they used to.

    Wall Street's revenues and profits have plunged. Bonus payments dropped to $7.9 billion last year, from $12.6 billion in 2001 and $19.4 billion in 2000, according to estimates by Alan G. Hevesi, the state comptroller. On Wall Street, bonuses are not icing, they are the cake. (Bonuses often dwarf base pay, and almost nobody in high finance lives off the salary.) This means Wall Street workers have just taken a $4.7 billion pay cut.

    That bonus money has paid for a lot of things in New York City: high-priced apartments, private school tuition and lavish dinners at Alain Ducasse. But it has also provided paychecks for a lot of people, like nannies and housekeepers, livery car drivers, restaurant deliverymen and the like.

    Taxes on those big bonuses and on stock-market profits also used to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into city government's coffers; their decline goes a long way toward explaining the city's fiscal crisis. The city is billions of dollars short of the money it needs to balance its budget, and analysts fear steep cutbacks in areas like health care, which has been one of the few bright spots in employment.

    In the future, far fewer Wall Street employees are likely to be around to get whatever bonuses are paid. Brokerage firms have laid off more than 23,000 New Yorkers in two years. That is more than 12 percent of their work force, and they are not finished.

    Even if the stock market rebounds, "the securities industry here will probably stagnate," said Frank Fernandez, chief economist for the Securities Industry Association. Wall Street firms have been cutting back the number of employees in New York for years, Mr. Fernandez said, and New York remains an expensive place to do business when companies are desperate to cut costs. The attack on the World Trade Center convinced some financial firms that they had to spread out their employees, decisions reinforced by federal regulators worried about the nation's financial markets if another disaster occurs.

    For employment in New York City to improve, Mr. Fernandez said, investment banking must rebound, and that does not appear to be on the horizon.

    Even enactment of President Bush's proposal to cut taxes on corporate dividends would not provide much immediate increase in Wall Street business, he added, in part because few corporations are in a position to pay dividends.

    What all the laid-off investment bankers are doing these days is unclear. Most received severance packages for which they were sworn to secrecy about their former employers. The last thing they want to do is appear as a hard-luck case in a newspaper article.

    But they are out there. In certain neighborhoods of Manhattan, in certain suburban towns, there has been a sudden increase in people with time on their hands. Some are from Wall Street; others had high-paying jobs in advertising, publishing or consulting.

    Now, they are "working at home," said Owen R. Berkowitz, who runs a bakery in Pelham, in Westchester County. Commuters he used to see at dawn before they crowded onto trains are now stopping by after they drop the children off at school. Normally, he added, "in Westchester, men are not around at 10 of 9."

    Paul Bernard, a consultant who works with executives, said he used to tell clients that finding a new job might take six months; now he warns them to expect to hunt for up to 14 months.

    Those who graduated from business school three or four years ago are in a particularly tough spot, he added. "There are very few jobs for people in that category, if they want to stay in New York." He has even had M.B.A.'s apply to be his office manager, a job that pays about $60,000 a year. He said he had received almost 1,300 résumés from applicants.

    One may well have come from Vicki Herschman, 43, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She said she had been sending out hundreds of résumés a month. Laid off from her job as a magazine circulation assistant in July 2001, Ms. Herschman has not been able to find a job of any kind.

    "I've applied to places like Starbucks, but they see me as overqualified or say I don't have a retail background," she said. The employment agency that helped her find her last job has gone out of business.

    Her unemployment benefits ran out early last year, Ms. Herschman said, and she has found it increasingly hard to keep body and soul together. She continues to volunteer at a soup kitchen, but does it now to get free meals, and she says she considers it a good week when she can afford subway fare.

    Recently, she overcame her embarrassment and applied for public assistance. She is still looking for a job, but she is considering leaving New York City.

    "I find it, especially after 9/11, gloomy and negative and depressing," Ms. Herschman said. "Before, it was lights, camera, action."

    College-educated workers like Ms. Herschman are more likely to find themselves unemployed than they were in previous recessions, economists say. But those most likely to find themselves out of a job in New York City are blue-collar workers, those without high school diplomas, the young, and black and Hispanic workers, said Mark Levitan, senior policy analyst for the Community Service Society, which helps the poor.

    Despite the gloomy statistics, visitors can roam the streets of Manhattan without noticing signs of economic distress. And their presence is part of the reason: tourists have returned to Times Square, and if they do not spend as much as business travelers or international visitors, they are keeping Broadway and other businesses alive.

    Real estate remains relatively strong so far. Apartment prices have not tumbled, as they did in the last recession. An increasing number of small storefronts are empty, but retailers continue to open big new stores.

    Vacancies in office buildings have risen in the last year, but the percentage of empty office space in Manhattan remains well below the average for city downtowns, said Bruce Mosler, president of United States operations for Cushman & Wakefield, real estate brokers. Much of the space available is being put up for sublease by retrenching companies, Mr. Mosler said.

    That is the fate of the former cafeteria in the skyscraper, one reason the equipment had to be auctioned — to get it out of the way of potential tenants.

    But also on display at that auction were the optimism and determination that New Yorkers like to think characterize them as much as their gift for complaining does. Despite the poor economy, several bidders were planning to open new bars or restaurants in the city.

    One was Aricka Westbrooks, 32, of Brooklyn. Until about a year and a half ago, Ms. Westbrooks had one of those "only in New York" careers that combined fashion, public relations and the Internet. But after she was laid off — twice — she decided to go into business for herself, she said.

    So, if all goes well, she will soon open a takeout restaurant in Brooklyn called Jive Turkey (after the house specialty, which will be deep-fried).

    It is not at all what she expected when she moved to New York City seven years ago, she said, but she has no intention of moving back to Chicago.

    "Never that," she said firmly. "Never, ever, that."



    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
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    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    The economy here is in recession.
    Certainly in my industry (arch./eng.) there have been lay-offs and cutbacks everywhere. Hasn't been this bad since George Bush Sr. was in office.

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    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    This is tough. *What the hell is NY gonna do? *

    I would like to think that NYC can somehow lure some est'd businesses to the city and build on the tech/bio-tech industry, but who knows.

    It'll come back, though. *NYC always comes back - *that's why there's no place in the world I'd rather be.

  4. #4

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    I don't understand how businesses and people would be so terrified of going anywhere near New York at this point. And why would Mike Bloomberg be pitilessly attacking smoking in bars and clubs when 160,000 of us are on the unemployment lines?

  5. #5

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    yet our gov't. can give 26 billion dollars to Turkey but can't give that much to its #1 city who has just been attacked.

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    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    Really, when are we gonna stop "aiding" all these damn countries.

    Nobody, but maybe UK, Canada, and Australia consitantly back us.

  7. #7

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    I think that rebuilding the Twin Towers will restore the economy that NYC lost on 9/11.

  8. #8

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    Yes.
    Only if that reconstruction doesn't linger forever. Otherwise there won't even be much need of a rebuilding. People and businesses will start to think the big void is just fine.

  9. #9

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    March 12, 2003
    Tough Times for the City Are Lingering
    By MICHAEL COOPER

    New York City's recession has now lasted two full years, according to a report on the last quarter of 2002 issued yesterday by the city's comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr.

    Jobs and tax collections fell during the last three months of 2002, as the rate of inflation and office vacancies increased. And the city's economy continued to shrink, even as the nation's grew. "It is imperative that we work to quickly decrease the burden this recession has placed on our budget," Mr. Thompson said in a statement.

    The report found that the city lost 29,000 jobs in the fourth quarter — which was its worst quarterly drop in a decade, with the exception of the quarter that immediately followed the World Trade Center attack. The city's unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in the fourth quarter of the year, well above the nation's 5.9 percent unemployment rate. During all of 2002, it said, the private sector lost 88,300 jobs.

    The inflation rate in the metropolitan region rose to 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter on an annual basis, up from 2.6 percent in the third quarter. The report said that it gave New York the fourth-highest inflation rate of the nation's 14 largest metropolitan areas. The report also said that the gross city product, a measure of economic activity, fell by 2.2 percent in 2002, which is significantly worse than the 0.3 percent drop in 2001. While the city's economy declined in the fourth quarter, the nation's grew moderately.

    The lingering recession is bad news for the city's budget makers, who several times have had to scale back their estimates of how much the cash-starved city would collect in taxes this year. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council are grappling with how to close a deficit of roughly $3.5 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

    With few signs that the economy will take off in time to fill the city's coffers, Mayor Bloomberg is increasingly looking to Albany and the city's labor unions for help. City agencies are due to report back to the mayor today with their plans for cutting $600 million in case the unions do not come through.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  10. #10

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    The combination of high inflation and decreasing activity is a sign that the demand and the resources are still there even though the production is relocating elsewhere.
    It's just a phase.

  11. #11

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    March 14, 2003
    Job Losses in New York City Since 9/11 Continue to Grow
    By LESLIE EATON

    The national recession and the attack on the World Trade Center cost New York City 47,000 more jobs than previously believed, bringing the city's total job losses to about 223,000 in the last two years, according to new data released yesterday.

    The State Department of Labor, which released the revised job loss figures, also reported that the unemployment rate in the city edged up in January, to 8.6 percent from 8.5 percent in December.

    The increase was not large, but contrasted to the trend in the rest of the state and the nation, where the average jobless rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point in January. Nationally, the unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent that month; in New York State excluding the city, the rate was 4.7 percent.

    "We're weaker than the nation," said James P. Brown, who analyzes the city's economy for the State Labor Department. And given the kind of industries that dominate the city's economy, including Wall Street, Madison Avenue and business services, he added, "we will continue to lag until there is a noticeable improvement in the national economy."

    Economists had been expecting that job loss figures would be revised upward this year, though some were surprised by the magnitude of the increase.

    The Labor Department compiles its jobs data from a monthly survey of 18,000 businesses across the state. Once a year, it compares the results of its monthly survey with data it receives from business tax returns.

    In years when the economy is strong, the revisions usually show that more jobs were created than the department's survey shows; in years when the economy is weak, the losses are usually greater than the survey originally indicated.

    The effects of the World Trade Center attack were particularly hard for the survey to measure, said James Parrott, the chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group. "The nature of the survey is that it always misses what's going on in smaller firms," he said, "and 9/11 had a disproportionate impact on small firms."

    But the new jobs data also show that the economy had begun to stall even before the effects of the attack were felt. There were also larger-than-expected job losses in the second half of last year.

    One possible bright spot in the Labor Department's report was that in January, the number of jobs fell less sharply than in 2002 (employment typically falls in January as stores and restaurants lay off holiday help and corporations cut employees to meet budget goals).

    In fact, after adjusting for those seasonal factors, the number of jobs in the city may have actually risen, said Barbara Byrne Denham, the chief economist for an economic newsletter called The New York Stat.

    The current downturn may seem especially harsh because it was preceded by a boom, whereas the economy was anemic for several years before the city's last recession began in 1989, said Jason Bram, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That recession cost the city about 300,000 jobs, he said, adding, "Hopefully, we won't get there."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    American cities that are heavily dependant on major national industries (i.e.: New York and finance, Detroit and automotives, Chicago and shipping) are generally the first to feel the effects of an economic recession and the last to feel the effects of an economic upswing. *If the national unemployment rate is starting to go down, then that could mean that sooner or later unemployment will go back down.

    Considering that unemployment only rose .1% since the end of 2002, I think that it could be a sign that job losses are levelling out.

    For now, lot of companies still seem eager to hire, if not for just temporary positions (me and my law firm) or for summer jobs (my sister and Deutsche Bank).

  13. #13

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    May 6, 2003
    City's Crisis Doesn't Mirror the Big Picture, Economists Say
    By JANNY SCOTT

    For months, the New York City economy has been described in terms neither encouraging nor dire. Sluggish, it has been called by economists. Anemic. Weak. Joblessness is up and wages are down, but the city has seen worse. Firms are not departing, home prices have not plummeted, residents are not jumping ship.

    Then last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled two budgets. The first he called painful; the second, devastating. His best-case plan entailed laying off 4,500 city workers.

    His worst-case one would have required 14,500 layoffs, 40 firehouse closings, padlocked swimming pools, fewer police officers.

    The term used for the second budget was the "doomsday budget."

    The Legislature has since agreed to help the city, raising the sales tax and imposing a temporary income tax surcharge on higher-income New Yorkers. But the doomsday terminology brought home a paradox: The city government is in crisis; yet the economy appears not to be — at least, not quite.

    "I haven't heard anybody refer to the economy as the `doomsday economy,' " said Marc M. Goloven, the senior regional economist at J. P. Morgan Chase. "If you view it through the lens of the public sector budget, things do look pretty bleak when you are facing significant budget deficits.

    "But one can be generally optimistic about the economy," he said, "because if indeed the national economy picks up steam and gathers momentum, then the New York City economy will, too. And it does appear that the national economy is picking up steam."

    A municipal budget, after all, is a product of more than the health of the local economy.

    It is shaped by past decisions about taxes and spending, along with things like the political calendar and the availability of state aid. In New York City, a handful of high-paying industries contribute disproportionately to tax revenues. When those industries stumble, the city's finances collapse.

    The city's economy is certainly not flourishing. More than 225,000 jobs have been lost since late 2000. The unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, compared with 6 percent nationally. Wage earnings have declined for two years in a row. Hard-hit industries have cut a quarter to half their jobs.

    On Wall Street, the profits of New York Stock Exchange member firms dropped to less than $7 billion in 2002 from $10.4 billion in 2001. Companies cut their compensation expenses by 11 percent.

    The resulting layoffs and cuts in bonuses have reverberated throughout the city.

    And there is more.

    "The economy is more than just jobs and wages," said Andrew M. Joseph, the city's deputy comptroller for the budget.

    "They're a convenient measure," he explained, "but people at times can get overly focused on them. There are other portions of the economy, including profits and capital gains."

    James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group, said, "I'm one of those people who think that the recession is as severe, if not more so, than the budget from the point of view of the effect on average people in New York."

    The economy does not appear, however, to have sunk to the levels it reached during the recessions of the early 1990's and the 1970's. Between 1987 and 1992, New York City lost about 340,000 jobs. Unemployment peaked at 11.6 percent. In the 1970's, the city lost 600,000 jobs.

    This time, there has been no exodus of employers as in earlier recessions. Housing prices may have dipped a little but have remained relatively stable. The crime rate has continued to drop. A handful of industries, including several big ones, have weathered the recession moderately well.

    Jobs in health care and education, for example, have actually increased since late 2000, as have jobs in social services. Jim Brown, a labor market analyst for the State Department of Labor, said some retail service sectors are also doing all right.


    Marcia Van Wagner, chief economist for the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan civic organization, said of the recession: "It's heavily concentrated in two areas, in the financial sector and in the tourism industry. Which is not to say that other people haven't been hit.


    "What you're not seeing is a lot of boarded-up stores," she said. "Toward the tail end of the recession in the early 90's, that was noticeable. That becomes a visible sign of a failing economy. That's not something we're seeing at this point, at least not in the central business district."


    She added: "For most people, if you have a job, you don't notice that much. It's that old saw about the difference between a recession and a depression: A recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose your job."


    The city's fiscal crisis, on the other hand, is unambiguous.

    Until the Legislature and the Bloomberg administration reached agreement over the weekend, the city was facing a $3.8 billion budget gap in the coming fiscal year. And Gov. George E. Pataki has said he would veto at least the state portion of the proposed tax increases.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg's merely "painful" budget plan, the city would lay off more people than at any time since 1991. Children's clinics and two zoos, among other things, would be closed. Under the "devastating" budget, the Police Department would be shrunk to its smallest size since at least 1995.

    "We have a very bad budget situation," said Carol O'Cleireacain, a former New York City finance commissioner and a budget director during the Dinkins administration who is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "But we have had worse economic situations."

    The fact is, the local economy and the budget do not move in unison, economists say.

    It takes time for an economic downturn or upturn to leave its full mark on the budget. Early in the current recession, the city still had accumulated surpluses to fall back on. And after the 1990's recession, the city remained in bad fiscal health for two years after job growth resumed.

    Now, the national economy is no longer in recession, although some signs are pointing that way again. The rate of job loss in New York City is said to have slowed. But the damage done to city revenues by two years of decline and malaise is glaringly apparent.

    "The government tends to be late to the party," Mr. Brown said. "Private sector employment peaked out at the end of 2000. We're only really getting discussions of layoffs now. In 2001, when the economy was already weakening, city tax revenues were still influenced by those nice, fat bonuses."

    The crisis also reflects the nature of the city's tax structure. New York depends heavily for its revenue on certain high-paying industries, and those industries, including the securities industry, are the ones that this time around have been worst hit.

    The tax structure is especially sensitive to fluctuations in income, economists say, because the city has a personal income tax and business income taxes. The current recession has been characterized by an unusually steep drop in income, resulting in a steep drop in tax revenues.

    "You have tax revenue that is much more dependent on certain sectors of the economy than on others," Ms. O'Cleireacain said. "You've got some powerful engines. And when those engines stall, everything can go on well for other people, but it makes a big dent. To me, that's the kernel of it."

    The city's dependence on the financial sector appears to have increased in the 1990's. According to Mr. Joseph of the city comptroller's office, financial services and insurance accounted for 3.9 percent of all jobs in 1990 and 9.3 percent of all wages. By 2000, that sector accounted for 5 percent of all jobs and 19.8 percent of all wages, or one-fifth of the city's economy.

    "It may have been hard hit but it's a wealthy sector generating huge amounts of economic activity," Mr. Joseph said. "If you have a sector that was huge and it contracts, it will have a disproportionate impact. But it still can be the major element of your economy."

    So which is a better indicator of the city's health: the economy or the budget?

    "You have to take the two together," Ms. Van Wagner said. "Part of the condition of the city is how solvent the government is. Clearly, there are serious problems. And if the city engages in a lot of layoffs and has to reduce services, that's going to affect the economy and the attractiveness of the city."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  14. #14

    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    You have to take the two together," Ms. Van Wagner said. "Part of the condition of the city is how solvent the government is. Clearly, there are serious problems. And if *the city engages in a lot of layoffs and has to reduce services, that's going to affect the economy and the attractiveness of the city."

    That's why, though not popular, the right decision was made in Albany to increase revenue rather than cut expenditures.
    Pataki is now in a position, if he vetoes the measure, to be labelled with "drop dead NYC." Assuming he is looking for a national post, this would look far worse on his resume than "he raised taxes."

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    Default The City's Sad Economic State

    Or some of the fluff can be cut. *Didn't the budget rise from $45mil to $60mil in only a few years? *That's ridiculous.

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