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The Economics of New York Recovery - 2001-10-06


New Yorkers knew the cost of rebuilding the downtown financial sector of their city after the September 11 terrorist attack would be enormous. But the preliminary estimates city officials are now giving are staggering.

The New York City Comptroller's office says the disaster will cost the city $100 billion over the next two years. The figure includes the cost of cleaning up the devastation at the World Trade Center site and replacing or repairing nearby structures and damaged sections of the subway system.

The Comptroller's report also estimates the cost of overtime for the police and fire departments at $3 billion. Another $1 billion is needed to replace equipment and vehicles such as fire trucks that were lost in the attack.

New York has established a $250 million fund to help small businesses.

The federal government has already committed $20 billion to New York. On his second visit to the city since September 11 U.S. President George W. Bush announced he would ask Congress for more to help stimulate New York's battered economy and boost consumer confidence. Mr. Bush met with 30 business leaders, including Kenneth Chenault, the head of American Express. Mr. Chenault expressed optimism that the federal government will move quickly to help the financial district recover.

"We are all in this together," said Mr. Chenault. "It is important I think for the American public to understand that the long-term fundamentals that we have in our economy are strong. We have some short-term challenges. We have a number of specific actions that you are putting in place that will restore the economy, will restore the growth for our nation." The impact of the attack has spread far beyond the downtown financial section. New York officials are projecting a budget gap of $4 billion which, they say, will lead to long-term cutbacks in services throughout the city. City agencies have been told to trim their budgets.

Then there is the issue of jobs. More than 100,000 people are thought to have lost their jobs as a result of the attack. Many work in businesses that cater to News York's once-vibrant tourism industry.

Hotels, theaters and restaurants are struggling for business. Retail sales are down 40 percent. The loss of tax revenue from hotel and sales taxes is predicted to be more than $330 million.

To help the tourism industry, Delta Airlines has formed a partnership with New York. Delta Airlines chairman Leo Mullin announced the company is giving away 10,000 tickets to draw tourists from across the country. "We want to spur both the recovery of New York City as a primary business and leisure destination for travelers in America and get more people back on Delta Airlines," he said.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the city's foremost booster, is telling people to come now when they can help the city recover. "If you are thinking about coming to New York over the next year, do it now. Come here. Enjoy it," he said. "The city is one of the great places in the world to visit and this is exactly the time to come here."

Many businesses and associations are relocating their annual meetings and conventions to the city. A spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Agents says his group is taking the lead by moving its upcoming convention to New York. "In its hour of need, the travel industry is coming together to stand in solidarity with the people of New York," he explained.

On another bright note, the city issued one-year recovery bonds through the New York City Transitional Finance Authority to help pay for the clean up effort. The tax-free bonds were first offered to individual investors, then institutional clients. Mayor Giuliani noted demand outpaced supply. "We are very, very pleased with the bond sale," he said. "It was our most successful ever. We were over subscribed by four times. That means we had $4 billion offered for $1 billion worth of bonds."

The success of the sale may encourage the city to issue more bonds in the future. Don Keating is an analyst with Bear Stearns, the investment house that managed the bond sale. "Everybody worked real hard on this," he said. "The Wall Street community - everybody had friends and family or offices that were damaged by this and we all want to get the city back up and running."

As the shock of the terrorist attack begins to subside, theaters are beginning to fill seats and hotels are reporting an uptick in occupancy rates. But New Yorkers recognize that the boom days are over - at least for now.

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