NEW YORK, March 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP presented "Five Borough Presidents in Action: What is their Agenda for 2014?" in a Government Leadership Forum, held today at the law firm's New York offices.
All five borough presidents participated: Eric Adams, Brooklyn; Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan; Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx; Melinda Katz, Queens; and James S. Oddo, Staten Island. The discussion touched on advocating for constituents, attracting more tourist dollars, affordable housing issues and supporting and promoting the unique qualities and attractions of their boroughs.
Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock's Government Relations Practice, and Jerry H. Goldfeder, Stroock Special Counsel and Election Law attorney, moderated the program. Ross F. Moskowitz, Stroock Partner and member of the firm's Executive Committee, introduced the program, describing the panelists as "The Fab Five."
"Borough presidents are important voices concerning the needs and development proposals for their respective boroughs and we saw a spirited and substantive discussion about key issues and projects," said Abrams.
Adams said he wanted to "turn Brooklyn into an international destination. The United Nations may be in Manhattan but the constituencies of those countries live in Brooklyn." Adams further discussed a major concern: increasing the infrastructure to support the burgeoning tech industry in Brooklyn.
Adams envisions "a clear pathway to college, with public schools connected to the state and city universities. College readiness should start in kindergarten, and we are going to create global children." Describing the composition of his borough, he said, "Diversity improves the human experience."
Diaz spoke of the $6 billion in recent investment in the borough, including a mall anchored by Macy's, and the Kingsbridge Armory development, which will be the largest ice sports complex in the world. He hopes that these and other projects will convince people that the Bronx is a great and safe place to stay and work. "We have a skilled trained workforce here," he said, after reminding the audience that the Bronx was where hip hop and salsa were born.
He also mentioned a new hotel for the Bronx as well as a new world-class golf course managed by Donald Trump at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge.
Katz described the role of borough presidents as facilitators for their constituents, leaders on capital projects and policy initiatives. "We can move the agendas forward."
She said one of her goals was to help rebrand Queens as a tourist destination. "The United States Tennis Association, (whose U.S. Open is held in Queens), is the biggest moneymaker of all sports events combined in the city." Yet, she said, "People land (by plane) in Queens from all over the world and go directly into midtown Manhattan without visiting the borough. We want them to come here and visit. Queens is the most culturally diverse community on the planet."
Brewer said that while midtown and lower Manhattan draw millions of tourists every year, her challenge is to get them to visit other parts of the city, like the Lower East Side and Harlem, which are steeped in history and attracting new businesses. "People love history," she said.
She also emphasized the need to create affordable housing for all New Yorkers.
Oddo noted that while the Staten Island Ferry is one of the most recognizable names in tourism, he anticipates the new Staten Island Ferris Wheel will draw millions of additional tourists to the borough. Construction of the 625-foot Wheel, anticipated to be the largest in the world, will create thousands of jobs.
Of representing Staten Island, Oddo said, "It is important to have a strong voice for Staten Island when your borough has the fewest residents of the five in New York City." He is committed to assisting with Sandy reconstruction, noting the need to build affordable housing in the super storm's wake.
Eric Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President in November 2013. He retired from the NYPD in 2006 to represent Brooklyn in the State Senate, and was re-elected to a fourth Senate term in November 2012.
Gale A. Brewer is the 27th Manhattan Borough President. She represented the Upper West Side and northern Clinton in the New York City Council from 2002 to 2013. Earlier, she was New York City Deputy Public Advocate for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Ruben Diaz Jr. was elected Bronx Borough President in the Special Election on April 21st, 2009. He served in the New York State Assembly since 1997, where he served Chair of the Committee on Election Law and on the Assembly's Standing Committees on Education, Ways & Means, Children and Families, Environmental Conservation and Transportation.
Melinda Katz is the 19th Queens Borough President. Elected in 1993 to the New York State Assembly, Ms. Katz went on to serve many of the same neighborhoods in the City Council, where she chaired the Land Use Committee. That group helped secure private-sector partnerships that led to the creation of over 15,000 units of affordable housing and also paved the way for important developments citywide, including the Downtown Jamaica Redevelopment, Highline, Hudson Yards and the extension of the #7 train line to the far west side.
James S. Oddo is the Staten Island Borough President. He was first elected to the City Council District in a February 1999 special election, and in 2002 was unanimously selected to serve as Minority Leader by the Council's Republican delegation.
Today's event was the 17th in a series hosted by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. Previous participants included New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.; Congressman Jerrold Nadler; and Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Most recent guests were Randy L. Levine, President of the New York Yankees, and Jonathan M. Tisch, Co-Chair of the 2014 Super Bowl Host Committee.
The forum was sponsored by Stroock's Government Relations group, which is comprised of former prosecutors, judges, and government agency officials. The practice is led by Abrams, who also served as President of the National Association of Attorneys General, Executive Chair of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Transition Committee and Honorary Co-Chair of Attorney General Schneiderman's Transition Committee.
SOURCE Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP