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chapter seven Governing at the Tipping Point Shaping the City’s Role in Economic Development Lizabeth Cohen and Brian Goldstein Upon his inauguration as New York City’s mayor on January 1, 1966, John V. Lindsay acknowledged the daunting situation he inherited: “New York City represents all that is exciting about our cities and everything that threatens to destroy them.” But beyond this assertion, Lindsay’s inaugural address gave relatively little attention to the fundamental transformations under way in New York City’s economy, such as rising rates of poverty and joblessness, neither probing their root causes nor offering potential solutions. “The fight for new and better employment,” as Lindsay termed his task, was just one among the many challenges he listed on the day he moved into City Hall.1 Yet, if Lindsay gave New York’s economic instability only modest mention at first, it would quickly become a major preoccupation of his administration during his two mayoral terms spanning from 1966 to 1973. At the time of Lindsay’s election, in the mid-1960s, New York found itself at the center of turbulent economic trends. Manufacturing, long New York’s financial backbone, had declined at an increasing pace in the years preceding Lindsay’s mayoralty and continued its precipitous drop during his administration. By 1975, industries that had employed more than a million New Yorkers in 1950 provided paychecks to barely half that many. While officials looked to the city’s white-collar sectors to fill the gap, increasing departures for New York’s suburbs by many of the best-known corporations shook confidence in the city’s survival as the business capital of the nation. And as the city’s middle-class families likewise departed for new suburban homes and schools, they left behind a residential population that was younger and older—and poorer, with blue-collar job skills increasingly obsolete in the city’s rapidly transforming economic landscape.2 New York City faced crises common to many major American cities during Lindsay’s eight years in office, but as the nation’s largest city with a long-established industrial economy, New York witnessed the structural transformations commonly 164 Summer in the City known as deindustrialization at an unprecedented scale. Likewise, while policy makers nationwide pursued job and revenue creation as a means of buoying declining urban centers, an arena that came to be known as “economic development,” Lindsay’s administration—given the visibility of New York—played for especially high stakes as it pursued those goals. Economic development became a realm of increasing importance both to cities and to the country as a whole in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but one that historians have largely overlooked in assessing the twoterm mayoralty of Lindsay. By no means the originator of the concept of economic development policy for cities, Lindsay served as New York’s chief executive at a crucial time in the field’s definition . The public sector in America, including at the municipal level, had played a role in stimulating private economic growth as early as the eighteenth century, by planning for the use of resources and by seeking to attract industry to new markets. But the term “economic development” had most frequently been used in the context of American interventions abroad. Not until the mid-1960s did it increasingly appear in the domestic urban realm, prompted by the unprecedented shifts under way in the American economy. The national Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, for example, established the Economic Development Administration as a federal office under the Department of Commerce, responsible for grant making to support job expansion projects in designated areas of high unemployment . Likewise, state and local governments adopted economic development as a widely used phrase and standard responsibility in their toolkit of governance by the early 1970s. During the era of Lindsay’s mayoralty, economic development moved into the mainstream work of urban public officials, who believed that they could reshape the character of local employment at a time of great change. Lindsay shared this belief.3 Lindsay’s tenure at such a pivotal moment in the history of American capitalism reveals much about his approach to policy making as well as his vision of economic development itself. While mention of economic development today often brings to mind generous tax giveaways to corporations threatening departure or incentiveladen negotiations to attract new business, in this chapter we argue that Lindsay’s approach offered a broader, more democratic vision of...


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