“Our City Needs Us Like It’s Never Needed Us Before”: Maria Torres-Springer On New York’s Long Road To Recovery, How Business Leaders Can Help

On April 5, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association held its first in-person networking breakfast since the start of the pandemic, and keynote speaker NYC Deputy Mayor for Economic & Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer was on-hand to discuss the new administration’s vision for the city’s future. 

Attendees munched on muffins and breakfast sandwiches in One Wall Street’s historic Red Room, a magnificent Art Deco lobby whose multiyear restoration concluded recently. Torres-Springer, who previously held multiple roles in the De Blasio administration, spoke about Mayor Eric Adams’s plan to not only bring the city back to where it was in March 2020, but to improve upon its pre-pandemic economic and quality-of-life concerns.

“We need more than to return to 2020,” Torres-Springer said, after describing the pandemic and ensuing economic woes as a “cascade of crises”. “Our pre-pandemic prosperity was not perfect, and now things are worse.” 

Torres-Springer noted that bringing New Yorkers and tourists alike back to central business districts like Lower Manhattan was a major factor in helping the city get back on its feet. Tourism numbers, while improving, have lagged during the pandemic’s uneven recovery, and workers have been slow to return to their offices.

“The economic ecosystem depends on people coming back to central business centers,” Torres-Springer said. “We should be promoting the idea that the city is open and roaring back.”

To make these central business districts more attractive, Torres-Springer said the city was investing in subway safety, crime-fighting, enhanced sanitation and providing more resources and support to Business Improvement Districts. She also noted that investing in cultural resources was equally essential, and that the administration was working closely with marketing, tourism and partnership arm NYC & Company to strengthen and support the cultural and hospitality industry. 

Torres-Springer acknowledged that the city had been hit hard by the pandemic, but also painted an optimistic picture of its future. “I’m very bullish,” she said, noting that Mayor Adams’s dedication to getting New York back on track was palpable throughout the administration. “The message that the city deserves to change and improve, it’s coming from the mayor himself,” she said. “He means it.” 

She spoke about Adams’s plan to invest in a diverse range of industries, including technology, manufacturing, life science and television. The administration also wants to invest in their workers’ education and training, spanning from early to adult education. Other areas of focus include climate change and resilience, mental health and helping to provide resources to organizations and agencies suffering from two years of underinvestment. 

Torres-Springer said central business districts had a road to recovery ahead of them, but Lower Manhattan’s resilience even in difficult times served as inspiration for other areas of the city struggling to recover their foot traffic. “Lower Manhattan has evolved in a way that makes it stronger when weathering a pandemic,” she said, pointing out the neighborhood’s mix of residential and commercial residents, and its impressive track record at rebounding after disaster.

In the end, Torres-Springer said, it was up to New Yorkers, particularly business leaders like those in the DLMA, to help get the city to where it needed to be. “You wear many hats as civic leaders for the city, but also as incredible New Yorkers. We need the type of firepower and passion that exist in rooms like this,” she said. “Our city needs us like it’s never needed us before.”