To draw on past experiences, Wylde said she thinks back to the 1970s and 80s, when New York City was also broke. The city faced the issue of abandoned buildings and fleeing manufacturing jobs.
Wylde joined the Partnership for New York City in 1981 just two years after it was founded by David Rockefeller, former chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank.
As the founding CEO of the Partnership’s housing and investment fund affiliates, she developed and managed affordable housing and economic programs that addressed those very issues.
“We basically went to the city and said, ‘let’s figure out how the private sector can help address these problems,’” she said. “We built partnerships that extended from community development organizations, banks and homebuilders.”
The Ed Koch administration, working with the Partnership, created the New Homes and Neighborhood Builders programs, which produced more than 35,000 units of new, owner-occupied housing. The Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Program, meanwhile, helped more than 50 minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) purchase and rehabilitate apartment buildings formerly owned by the city.
These programs, Wylde said, expanded homeownership in neighborhoods like Corona, Elmhurst, Springfield Gardens and South Jamaica.
“It was all public-private partnerships that rebuilt those neighborhoods,” she said. “It wasn’t just a private developer coming with their own plans, it was a real partnership.”
Wylde, who became the chief executive of the Partnership in 2001, said that type of model will be necessary to help New York City recover. She said community development organizations must strengthen to help small businesses.
“COVID has made clear we cannot recover without having all New Yorkers on the same page together to solve these challenges,” she said. “That’s the same model we had in the 80s that we need to figure out how to replicate.”
The Partnership CEO said the city will have to deal with losing up to three-quarters of a million jobs, retraining employees who were formerly in the retail and small business sectors, and preparing the workforce for new jobs in a technology-driven economy.
That means the education system has to “quickly catch up.” She noted that Queens College already has the advantage of having computer science as a core subject at the school. LaGuardia Community College, she said, is also a leader in preparing students “for the innovation economy.”
Other organizations like Pursuit are also training residents for jobs in technology. “I think Queens is in a good position,” Wylde said.
On the other hand, she noted, the airline and tourism industries have really suffered due to the pandemic. Wylde said she hopes the federal government will play a role in supporting their comeback as quickly as possible.
With the 2021 mayoral election just around the corner, Wylde said she hopes candidates recognize how badly New York City has been damaged by COVID, and the need for collaboration between business and government.
“We can’t just impose new mandates, new taxes, new demands on businesses,” she said. “Because they don’t have the resources to respond.”
She also wants candidates to realize that the education system should focus much more on preparing people for jobs and careers. Wylde said that the economy has accelerated so fast, no one will be qualified for a decent-paying job unless they have an education that is relevant to the technology skills required.
For example, during the pandemic there was a tremendous increase in health care through telemedicine, despite not having not telehealth experts or technicians.
“It means we can’t be trying to keep the same old job priorities and training programs of the last couple decades,” she said. “Those will have to change dramatically.”
Looking at next steps, Wylde said the short-term goals of the Partnership include helping the city and state develop plans to deal with the immediate jobs crisis. That crisis includes people’s feelings of insecurity about growing crime and the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence, she said.
In the long term, the Partnership will look for opportunities to expand the city’s tax base through growth and private investment. For example, Wylde said the life sciences industry is “very promising,” and has only grown stronger during the pandemic.
Other long-term goals include delivering more affordable housing for New York City residents, pushing for homeownership and advocating for an education system that prepares people for new kinds of jobs.
“Hopefully, Queens has some great opportunities there,” Wylde said.