New York 2013 & Beyond successfully launched
HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 11/2/2012, 3:06 p.m.
There wasn't an empty seat at the launch of New York 2013 & Beyond's breakfast Thursday morning at Melba's 125 in the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.
It was a groundbreaking breakfast much like those conducted at A Better New York (ABNY) and Crain's Business Summits--a point enthusiastically highlighted by Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in his opening remarks.
"We chose to have our inaugural breakfast a few days before the national and local elections in order to come together to discuss some of the critical issues we face, no matter who the winners are," Williams said. "This presidential election will be one of the closest in history, and we have to be ready to adjust no matter who wins."
Education, economics, equality and equity were among the key subjects addressed by four esteemed panelists--Kenneth Knuckles, vice chair and president of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Deborah Wright, chairman, president and CEO of Carver Federal Savings Bank; H. Carl McCall, chairman of the State University of New York; and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. Kim Jasmin, vice president of JPMorgan Chase Foundation, was the moderator.
In their opening remarks, each of the panelists offered key concerns in their separate arenas with Mulgrew, stating that "children are our major clients." Among McCall's chief concerns was the preparation of students for college. "Twenty-one percent of our students are not ready for college," he lamented.
Reaching out to the broader community was Wright's principal objective, noting that she was alarmed that in the immediate community "65 percent of our residents are unbanked," she declared.
"Real estate to New York is like oil to Texas," Knuckles explained. He then cited a number of projects around the metropolitan area that will bring jobs to the community.
It was during the question and answer session, led by Jasmin, that panelists were allowed to expand on their initial comments.
McCall, in detailing his concern about the preparation of students, said, "We must pay more attention to the pipeline of education, and that's why we've created a task force to deal with this problem." He said that financial aid does not cover the tutorial and remedial classes that are necessary for many incoming freshmen.
One of the solutions to the increasingly problematic issue of public schools versus charter schools was outlined by Mulgrew. He said that a model solution can be found in Cincinnati, where "they have forged a partnership between private and public education," something he felt deserved further study and possible implementation.
"Financial literacy," said Wright, is absolutely important in our community if residents are to obtain the knowledge and information they need in creating bank accounts and investments. During the recent economic downturn, she expressed dismay that so many churches in the community had been hurt.
Knuckles believed that some of the conflict arising from rezoning efforts could be eased by a "mixed" planning strategy that combined commercial and residential development. He cited the development along Frederick Douglass Boulevard as an example of this approach. "And many of the restaurants are owned by minorities," he said, giving special kudos to the work of C. Virginia Fields, who put the plan in motion during her tenure as borough president of Manhattan.
"This is just the first step in this initiative," Williams said at the close of the breakfast, "and while we have had a chance to break bread this morning, let's continue to break ground in February, when we host the second of our quarterly meetings."