Comptroller Candidate Addresses LIC Chamber
The new Long Island City Chamber of Commerce met on July 19 at the Waterfront Crabhouse. Leading the program was Councilmember Dan Garodnick, who since 2006 has represented Manhattan’s 4th Council District, which includes Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village and the East Village. He was appointed chairman of the Council Consumer Affairs Committee in November 2010. Garodnick is the first person to announce his candidacy to succeed current City Comptroller John Liu in 2013, though he said at the luncheon that he doesn’t expect to be the sole candidate much longer. He came to politics through corporate law, having been an attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and told the luncheon guests that at Paul, Weiss, where he practiced corporate law, he sensed that the city’s small businesses could not even hope for counsel comparable to that of his firm to address their grievances. As a councilmember, he has emphasized his support of both small businesses and consumers, citing as an example his Shop Second Avenue campaign to bring customers and clients to businesses along that route that are currently inconvenienced by construction of the subway line, necessary though that project may be. He said he encouraged publicity for Shop Second Avenue by having advertising printed on two million MetroCards. He worked to reform the status of building façade inspections by staggering the inspection schedules, rather than having them take place all at once.
Looking ahead to the office he hopes to occupy after next year’s election, he reminded his audience of the comptroller’s duties, which are to act as the city’s chief financial officer; to monitor and investigate city agencies and contracts, and to manage the city’s pension funds, currently worth $120 billion. He said the city’s chief financial problem is the lack of a steady income as it attempts to get by on one-time payoffs, such as revenue coming from penalties assessed after the CityTime scandal. He said the best hope for revenue raising is to bring in emergent industries, and he cited movie and television production as an example. He admitted that much of a comptroller’s power is influential and not direct, since city agencies report to the mayor, not to him; but said that where he lacks the power of enforcement he maintains the power of embarrassment. He gets along well with many of the city’s politicians and officials, but is ready to stand independent of all of them, he said. He concluded that his aim is to become a “value-add” to the city.
Pat Olmstead, owner of Urban Explorations, out of which she offers “landscape design for your urban oasis”, spoke about what she goes through as an employer who must deal with workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. She noted that fraudulent claims for unemployment and injury compensation amounted to $16.5 billion in the last three years. Olmstead has been through 10,000 Small Businesspersons, the course periodically given at LaGuardia Community College through sponsorship by Goldman Sachs, and said she would like to see 10,000 jobs created with the funds she would like rescued from fraudulent claimants. One of her inquirers said there should be a state office dedicated to investigating suspicious claims, while another man said it could all be tracked technologically, though he said also that it would be “a huge job”. Olmstead had some positive evidence too, as she introduced a man who has worked for her as a driver and carpenter for years and, she attested, is all an employer could want.
Chamber of Commerce President Arthur Rosenfield announced that the chamber is close to renting space in a building near Court Square. A networking meeting will be held at a restaurant on August 13. Chamber officers will be installed by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney on October 18, at 6 p.m.