Brooklyn native Jack D. Hidary is a respected technology entrepreneur, angel investor, board member of nonprofits such as the Clinton Global Initiative, and a cousin to his namesake Jack A. Hidary, the CEO of Hidrock Realty, which owns several properties in New York City, including the Courtyard by Marriott hotels at 960 Avenue of the Americas and 133 Greenwich Street. What’s less well-known about Hidary is that he’s running to be mayor of New York City.
Though the independent candidate hasn’t quite made a dent in the polls, his two decades of experience with tech companies have left him bursting with ideas on how to attract and nurture them as tenants. He recently caught up with The Real Deal to share his thoughts.
Why do you want to be mayor of New York City?
Growing up on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn I know the need to bring economic development out to the boroughs. We must unleash the entrepreneurial energy of the city and enable anyone who wants to start or grow a new business here to do so. We must keep the city safe and continue the reduction in crime that has made it such an attractor of tourism and capital investment.
And what qualifies you for the job?
I am the only candidate who understands how to drive our city forward to compete in a global economy, and the only one who is an entrepreneur from the growth sectors. I know what it takes to create jobs in our city and how to bridge the skills gap so that we can help more people get those jobs. I alone among the candidates have the experience of running a publicly-listed tech company and successfully helping other people start new companies as well. I have spent the last 10 years working on public service issues such as improving our schools.
Affordable housing is one of the hot-button issues this election. What’s your strategy to improve affordable housing in NYC?
I’d look to initiate improved tax incentives for developers to create affordable housing as part of the construction agreements with the city. I’d use Section 202 [a federal program that enables the development of affordable housing by nonprofits on public land] to encourage the creation of smaller, specialized units for the elderly to free up larger affordable units for families. I’d also increase the use of 421a [tax abatements] – particularly in the outer boroughs. And I’d use moderate rezoning to allow the development of smaller rental “micro- units” and allow more mixed use of commercial space on ground floors and affordable rentals above (expanding the use of M1-6D zones).
What’s your involvement in Hidrock?
Okay, let’s talk tech. The last few years have seen some mega-projects come into being, such as Hudson Yards (developed by the Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group). What kind of innovation could these projects benefit from?
Developers think about world-class living space. But they should also think about how to use tech to build a community. They could invite companies like NextDoor (a neighborhood-specific social network) in so that residents can connect with each other as soon as they move in.
Something like Hudson Yards — or Willets Point [development project by the Related Companies and Sterling Equities near Citi Field in Queens] – can also take advantage of car-sharing and other collaborative consumption models. These kind of initiatives will attract a lot of the creative class.
Paris, for example has 3,000 dedicated street spots for electric car-sharing. We have to take advantage in New York of our density, which equals the merger of ideas and capital. You may not want to own a car here, but you do want to be able to jump in one and go to IKEA.
Co-working spaces are all the rage these days, with companies such as WeWork and Regus expanding their dominions all over Manhattan. How do you think these co-working spaces will evolve over time?
The first wave was generic co-working spaces, the second wave will be vertical-specific. So a dedicated space for tech companies, one for green companies and so on. Developers need to be thinking about how to cater to these clusters. For example, any developer who has a defunct restaurant in their portfolio can turn it into a shared restaurant workspace, where food startups can come together. But developers have to think about each sector’s specific needs.
One of the crucial things will be bringing broadband access to buildings. The average speed of a New York City Internet connection is five megabytes per second – that’s 200 times slower than Kansas City, which is connected by ultra high-speed Google Fiber. Think about the kind of innovation that can happen with those speeds.
And how can brokers tap into this new trend?
It’s a big opportunity for them. Rather than simply looking at the traditional five-year and 10-year leases, they can open up a division that connects venture capitalists and startups with these co-working spaces. They can thus gain momentum with these companies, and have a relationship with them when they’re ready to go out on their own and sign bigger leases. Brokers can go network in Silicon Alley to meet some of these startups and get involved with groups such as the NY Tech Meetup. It’s the Johnson & Johnson strategy of getting in when they’re young!
What about tech giants such as Facebook and Google? Clearly their demands for space are quite different to the city’s traditional financial and law firm tenants.
These companies place so much importance on culture that they would really rather have a dedicated space to themselves. They’re also all about open space and fun. Developers should think about particular large assets they hold, even in Brooklyn and Queens, that could work for these companies. These buildings could easily be the next New York headquarters for a Boston- or Silicon Valley-based company. Let’s render the spaces in a manner that appeals to these tenants and then have brokers go and market the properties.
The rewards can be huge. Google [at 111 Eighth Avenue] opened up 3,000 jobs for New Yorkers.
Bill de Blasio’s leading the polls by over 40 points and is considered a shoo-in for City Hall at this point. Have you thought about what you’d like to do after the election?
[Laughs.] It’s not over yet. Let’s just say, for now, that I’ve always been civically involved and will continue to be, whatever format that takes.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.