Chairman Gerson, and Council Members Foster, Liu, Mendez and Yassky, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding the rebuilding and use of office space at the World Trade Center (WTC) site. As the Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee and the sole Member of the New York delegation on the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee, I am particularly interested in ensuring that the redevelopment plans include opportunities for small businesses and access to affordable housing for low-moderate income residents of New York City. I am also supportive of efforts to create a vibrant, mixed-use community that includes business, residential and cultural facilities, while also honoring the memory of those lost in the attacks.
The issues to be discussed before the Committee today center on how best to move forward with rebuilding, and how much office space should be included in the plan. Knowing that small businesses are the engine of our economy - the vast majority of businesses in New York City are small, and they employ more than 2 million of the City's residents - I urge the Committee to consider the importance of ensuring that small businesses are not overlooked in the planning process. Of the businesses in the City, nearly 20 percent are minority-owned and more than one-quarter are women-owned. New York State ranks third in the nation for the number of small businesses, and this number is greatly driven by the businesses in New York City.
Though concerns have been raised about the feasibility of drawing businesses to the Freedom Tower and surrounding buildings, it seems that the benefits that can be derived from using small businesses as anchors to the buildings have not been fully explored. The proposed financial incentives designed to encourage businesses to locate at the WTC site will reap benefits in the future. Starting with small businesses, led by intrepid entrepreneurs, we can spur economic activity and attract larger firms to the area. By offering small businesses incentives to occupy space in the first few years, we can ensure not only the revitalization of the area, but the success of small businesses owners throughout Chinatown and Lower Manhattan struggling to regain ground that was lost since the attacks.
While the focus of this hearing is on the use of potential office space in particular, it is also important to consider the dire need for affordable housing in New York City, and the opportunities provided by the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. Recreating office space for business and, thereby, the thriving economic center that the area once was, is essential, but so too is the need for places for people to live, eat, shop and enjoy the arts and outdoor recreational activities. We must not overlook the importance of a comprehensive plan that effectively balances the need for all of these elements to the creation of a successful neighborhood. I, therefore, urge the Committee to ensure that the redevelopment plan includes access to affordable housing for the individuals who will ultimately be working in the stores, restaurants and companies in the area.
Finally, it is critical to ensure that the rebuilding of the WTC site serves as a chance to capitalize on the City's cultural richness by expanding beyond the model of a center of business to one that encompasses the arts as well. LMDC has awarded funds to the Committee to Revitalize and Enrich the Arts and Tomorrow's Economy (CREATE). CREATE recognized the need early on for a shared cultural space befitting New York's immigrant arts community and the unique identity of the neighborhood's heritage. Therefore, the organization has proposed a multi-use cultural center, which is expected to draw an estimated 55,000 visitors a year, and will serve as anchor to reviving a cultural and economic district in Chinatown and Lower East Side. I urge the Committee to support the capital funds needed to make this center a reality.
The September 11th terrorist attacks shook the core of New York City and made us, as a City, band together in grief, anger, incomprehension and, ultimately, the tenacity to rebuild and move forward to create a new Lower Manhattan that captures the spirit of this great City. We have a unique opportunity in redevelopment to strengthen small businesses, provide much-needed housing for the City's hard working families, and create a cultural hub that will draw visitors from all over the world. The Freedom Tower can offer the City a chance to come back strong - but in a new way that doesn't necessarily rely heavily on only large corporations. By capitalizing on the strengths of small businesses - both those already here and those willing to bring their services to Lower Manhattan - we can create a community driven by a more diverse economic engine that will serve as the basis for an even stronger center of commerce, residential life and recreation than it was before.