Ex-Citi Banker McGuire Bets on More Borrowing for NYC Comeback

A former Citigroup Inc. banker running for New York City mayor said he plans to take advantage of historically low interest rates to pay for projects that can revive the city’s economy.

Ray McGuire released his economic plans on Wednesday, saying the city is $30 billion under its debt cap. He called for an increase in borrowing to fix dozens of crumbling bridges and restore hundreds of water mains, among other plans.

“There is room to take advantage of historically low interest rates to accelerate projects that would otherwise be slated for out years, and increase planned borrowing beyond the current five-year plan,” McGuire said.

McGuire, who led Citigroup’s investment bank for over a decade, could face difficulty in tapping public markets to pay for his projects. Last month, Fitch downgraded the city’s underlying rating, and said the coronavirus pandemic will probably have a longer-lasting impact on economic growth in New York than in most other parts of the country.

“Very low rates of employees returning to offices and the potential for a longer-term trend of lower office usage could exacerbate current economic pressures on the city’s credit profile,” Fitch said in a statement.

Other mayoral contenders have sought to address such fears, with Shaun Donovan vowing he would ensure the city’s sprawling public transportation system can meet New Yorkers’ needs once the city begins to reopen.

“The MTA is contemplating cuts as high as 40% to commuter and subway service,” Donovan said in his own plans. “Such cuts would cause immense damage to the Manhattan business center, where the pre-Covid employment density simply cannot be supported without public transit operating at full daytime service.”

McGuire, 64, and Donovan are among more than two dozen people vying to be New York City’s mayor. Rivals including Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia have also released plans for reviving the city’s economy. McGuire, who has never held public office and isn’t as well-known outside of Wall Street, will have to raise his profile to emerge from a crowded field.

McGuire said if elected he’ll plan the NYC Comeback Festival -- a yearlong event to kick-start tourism that would start in the spring of 2022. His administration would invite artists to create projects in the empty storefronts across the city and bring back Broadway theater as part of the festival.

Among his proposals, McGuire vowed to expand the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program and guarantee a summer job for every high school student who wants one -- a proposal that would be twice as large as the $132 million program that served 74,000 youths. He also said city agencies responsible for approving small-business permits would have only 90 days to complete the initial phases of their review, and just 180 days for the entire process.

“Any agency that does not meet the 90-day deadline will have to cut its permitting fees for that business by 50%,” McGuire said. “If the agency does not meet the 180-day deadline, through no fault of the business owner, that fee will be waived entirely.”

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