The four Republican candidates for mayor discussed issues affecting small business at a forum hosted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce held at St. Francis College on Tuesday, April 30.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, business mogul John Catsimatidis, former MTA Chair Joe Lhota and DOE Fund founder George McDonald answered questions from each borough’s chamber of commerce regarding small business, bringing manufacturing back to the city, job growth, bike lanes, infrastructure after Sandy and food vendors – just like the Democratic candidates did last week.
Journalist Errol Louis, who hosts NY1’s “Road to City Hall,” moderated the forum.
Catsimatidis and Carrion contended that fixing the school system is the answer to creating long-term jobs. “We can teach them to be plumbers, electricians and carpenters. Just give them an opportunity to make a living instead of drop out,” Catsimatidis said. “It’s crucial that we save these kids.”
“The underlying, insidious problem that we must address is that we need a good education system that turns out people with the skills to climb the ladder,” Carrion said. “They don’t have the fundamental building blocks to keep the job [such as] language and tech skills. We need to be the leading broadband city.”
Catsimatidis added that the city needs high-tech manufacturing, such as bio technology.
Lhota agreed that vocational education “is very important” but at the same time “academics are equally as important. We can’t have a carpenter who doesn’t understand angles.”
The only Brooklynite in the Republican race noted that clothing is already being manufactured in Sunset Park. “We are going to have mixed-use neighborhoods and high and low impact technology,” Lhota said.
“We have jobs and people that need jobs but the skills of the people don’t match with the jobs,” McDonald said. “We have to invest time, energy and effort to get them the proper training to get into the workforce.”
McDonald contended that there was no space left in the city to create industry and proposed building on top of brownfields for manufacturing.
The candidates were asked how they would make transit move more smoothly.
McDonald said that he is a founding charter member of the city’s bike share program and the Second Avenue subway. “Help with transit is on its way,” he said, adding that he is “in favor of bicycles.”
“Bike lanes are a good idea but only in coordination between city agencies,” Lhota said. “There is absolutely no forward planning or coordination between these agencies and that’s what a mayor is supposed to do. The future of New York is a combination of bikes and cars.”
Lhota opposes the MTA’s plan to bring the 7 train to New Jersey. Instead, he said that when the Department of Environmental Protection began digging for the siphon project between Brooklyn and Staten Island, it should have coordinated with the MTA. Although it would have cost billions, it was “a missed opportunity” to bring the R or N train to Staten Island, Lhota said.
“Staten Island is a borough that doesn’t have mass transit,” he stressed.
Catsimatidis called for “common sense management. There is a place for bike lanes, but we can’t block traffic.”
Carrion said that he is a cyclist and during his time in City Council, he “advanced a bill that would encourage different types of transportation.
“We have to restore common sense,” he went on. “We can’t be led by activist groups.”
The candidates were then asked what they would do to build infrastructure after Sandy.
Lhota said that he would appoint an incident commander to handle all efforts instead of “churches in Rockaway.” Carrion said he would set up an office at City Hall for two deputy mayors of operations with the “number one priority getting people back in their homes as quickly as possible.”
Catsimatidis said he “has been talking to investment bankers about creating a $100 million fund with $50 million in bonds to create 30,000 jobs to build infrastructure.”
McDonald simply said that the DOE Fund has been on the ground in Coney Island, Staten Island and the Rockaways since Sandy hit – and denied that Mayor Bloomberg was not given a warm welcome from Rockaways residents when he visited the area just days after the storm.
Lastly, the candidates were asked what their position on food vendors was.
“I suffer from this,” Catsimatidis said, adding that there is a fruit vendor outside of one of his supermarkets. “We have cart people right in front of our doorstep that pay no taxes or worker’s comp and pay a small permit fee but have no costs, selling bananas for half the price. It’s wrong.”
Lhota, Carrion and McDonald all agreed that more comprehensive legislation was needed.
“It’s an issue of fairness and equity,” Carrion said. “We must create an environment fertile for investment.”
Primary day is Tuesday, September 10.