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CityLaw Breakfast: Scott Stringer

Scott Stringer, former state assemblyman and newly elected Manhattan Borough president, discussed the need for better planning in the future development of Manhattan at a CityLaw Breakfast on Friday, February 24th.

Mr. Stringer grew up in Washington Heights, attended public schools in Manhattan and graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He began his political career, he said, working for his mother’s cousin, Bella Abzug, who represented the Upper West Side of Manhattan in Congress from 1971 to 1977.

When he was growing up, Mr. Stringer said, “We were a very mixed borough but people really lived together.” Now, 30 to 40 years later, Mr. Stringer commented, the people who built Manhattan’s neighborhoods “are all in jeopardy of being pushed out.”

Mr. Stringer said he recognized that the skyline of Manhattan had to change, but said that change should not come at the expense of the people who have lived here all their lives. Mr. Stringer said Manhattan also had to be accessible to young people who come to New York to live and work.

“All those dreams will be deferred if the entry price is a $12 million condominium,” Mr. Stringer said.

The best way to accommodate older residents and newcomers, Mr. Stringer said, is to create planning that gives neighborhoods a role in their own development.

Mr. Stringer said he has initiated an urban planning program in his office with students from Columbia, NYU and Hunter College that will put an urban planner on every community board.

“Neighborhoods are for everybody,” Mr. Stringer said.

In response to a question from Henry Stern, former city council member and former parks commissioner, Mr. Stringer, who as a 13-year-old worked on Mr. Stern’s first campaign, said he was not against development, but in favor of “rational development planning.”

“The outcome will be a whole lot better if neighborhood people are involved,” Mr. Stringer said.

During the question-and-answer session, Mr. Stringer commented on the role of his office and that of the state legislature. He said that part of his platform is to speak our on social issues. It’s important, Mr. Stringer commented, that we have “a sense of what we’re about.”

Mr. Stringer spoke about the need for balance between competing groups. He said that while there is a need to settle contracts with city workers, it is important not to demonize the unions. He said his own activism is concerned with “the underbelly of Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer cited the needs of the poor, the elderly and people who live in public housing as his priorities. “We’ve got to help the bottom 20 percent,” he said.

Speaking about the state legislature, Mr. Stringer said it has been characterized as “the most dysfunctional in the nation.” He said that Governor George Pataki’s “disengagement” from the legislative process was “a disgrace.” Mr. Stringer did have some words of praise for another Republican – Mayor Bloomberg. He lauded the mayor for turning away from the confrontational style favored by his predecessor, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and credited Bloomberg with bringing people together.