How can we attract new commercial business development that will
create jobs, provide economic prosperity and tax relief for homeowners?
Image and reputation, location, skilled workforce, and quality schools are some of the key ingredients for attracting new business investments. As a businessman serving on City Council, I will use my business experience to benefit our city and leverage our close proximity to New York City to build a portfolio of successful business investments. Surrounding communities like New Rochelle, Yonkers, White Plains and Pelham Manor are moving forward with business development while Mount Vernon has been paralyzed for the last 4 years. I will change that trend.
DEVELOPING A NEW PROFILE Mount Vernon’s strength is its hardworking residents who live here and want a city they can be proud of. We are the “city of homes.” I will work to promote who and what we are – a diverse suburban community just north of New York City, ripe with residential character. The present industries in Mount Vernon have been neglected because City Council has not established a code of conduct for businesses. Let me give a few examples - the dinged facade on the Target Store could use a power wash and cleaning; across the street, the pile of rubble on Memorial Field is a disgrace caused by the mismanagement of a project that should have been completed years ago; stores on Fourth Avenue should have uniform facades and signage. We should be actively seeking to attract more higher-end retail stores. At its best, that street would be closed off to vehicular traffic and converted into a pedestrian mall lined with cobble-stone and trees, and perhaps a Starbucks. The city needs a master plan kicked off with a survey of existing businesses and a proposal that outlines those businesses which would complement and elevate the community. I will work hand-in-hand with our Council members and Mayor to develop a comprehensive master plan that encourages responsible economic development, which includes new green technology to improve our city, rebuild our infrastructure, and educate our residents on sustainability. Furthermore, the Mount Vernon Public Library can be developed to become the information, technology, and cultural center of our community and county. Westchester Community College and other colleges in nearby cities are great untapped resources that could benefit Mount Vernon’s development if the city could build relationships with these institutions. On the City Council, I would pursue all of these initiatives.
IMAGE AND REPUTATION We need to create a positive image, reputation and perception of Mount Vernon. Many businesses conduct intensive research before considering investing in a community. If that research reveals weekly gun violence and high crime; local officials being convicted or under investigation; failing school systems; and an ever-deteriorating quality of life for residents, businesses will not come to that community. That community is left with low-end businesses like dollar stores, store-front bodegas and liquor stores as evidence of its economic development. I will work to ensure that our community thrives economically, and does not suffer this tragic fate.
STRATEGIC LOCATION There are four cities in Southern Westchester: Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers. Three of these cities have garnered billions of dollars in business investment over the last five years, while Mount Vernon officials continue to settle for ribbon cutting photo-ops for dollar stores and storefront bodegas. This is not growth; this is not success. With our prime location and ideal access to New York City markets, we should not be at the bottom of the business development ladder. Mount Vernon’s location is a unique characteristic that we need to take advantage of in competing for business investments. In addition to traditional businesses, Mount Vernon could be attractive to the high-growth entrepreneurial businesses. Three Metro North stations and two city subway lines are within walking distance, and Mount Vernon does not have an income tax, which could be extremely attractive to entrepreneurs. We have the opportunity to create the space for the next Apple, Facebook, Google, or Twitter. We must build the talented work force through our network of local colleges, reduce crime, revamp our image as a haven from crime and corruption, improve the quality of life for our residents; build housing that retains residential characteristics near the railroad and subway stations, where people are not disqualified for being over the low-income limit.
OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT While some fast-growing cities have placed great emphasis on economic development by working closely with their chambers of commerce to actively increase business, Mount Vernon has not done so. The City of Yonkers has an Office of Economic Development that assists businesses in becoming more competitive, productive and profitable through a broad range of opportunities and programs. It provides advice about business and real estate development, financing initiatives and property management. The office has an experienced staff of professionals that provide eligible companies with information about diverse business-related topics. As your Councilman, I will actively support an economic development office staffed with qualified and knowledgeable professionals. I will also insist that the city develop a master plan and a written business strategic plan. The strategic plan will identify companies that we would like to attract to Mount Vernon and would complement our existing businesses as well as establish them as partners in our expansions plan.
QUALITY SCHOOLS The City government must change its position that the City has no responsibility for the education of our children unless the City has control over the school system. The City could play an important role in helping parents get involved with their children’s education and coordinating after-school educational support for children. This is an initiative that I will undertake as a City Council member.
SKILLED WORKFORCE One of the major volunteer projects I have been involved with for the past five years is developing a highly competitive labor force in the construction industry. The participants in this program are young men and women who have been in prison or had criminal convictions. I established a program that gave them basic life skills, discipline, and job training. Now, many of these young people are working as skilled laborers on construction sites around New York, making over $50 per hour. I will expand this experience to other types of businesses. We must develop the skills and education of our labor force. We have that opportunity working with Westchester Community College at its new campus on South Fifth Avenue in Mount Vernon and expanding training centers around the City while building relationships with the many institutions throughout the County.
Why economic development?
When a business moves to Mount Vernon it creates job for local residents. This is important because Mount Vernon has the highest jobless rate in Westchester County, among the highest in the state. Businesses generate property tax and sales tax revenues for the City to pay for essential services like education for our children, police, fire and sanitation. We must grow our businesses so that as a community, we can grow and thrive. I will work diligently to make this a reality.
Facing the Truth
Do the people of Mount Vernon have a problem, or is the problem the people? Let’s face it, Mount Vernon is such a small community, why has it been such a big problem? It’s time to look at those who have been in office and ask ourselves are things better now than they were 16 years ago? For so many years we have allowed our city to operate based on friendships, nepotism and favors. We are changing the way we do business in the city of Mount Vernon.