Day in the life of: James Patchett

The EDC president and CEO on running an $850M operation, courting life- science tenants and his love of cooking

May.May 01, 2018 11:00 AM

James Patchett (Credit: Axel Dupeux)

James Patchett is the president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the city’s quasi-independent nonprofit with an annual budget of nearly $850 million. The 38-year-old Amherst College and Stanford Graduate School of Business alum took over the agency in early 2017 after serving as chief of staff to Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen. He was part of the team that pushed mandatory inclusionary housing through the City Council and worked on the city’s $201 million sale of the Riverton housing complex in 2015 to A&E Holdings, negotiating to keep 975 units affordable there for 30 years. He previously worked under Glen as vice president at Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group. A few of the projects Patchett is overseeing at EDC include the launch of the NYC Ferry program, the city’s $500 million investment in the life-sciences industry and infrastructure investments in Coney Island.

Patchett, who spent his childhood in New Jersey and his teenage years in Ohio, is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, a home chef and consumer of high-grade black tea. He lives in Crown Heights with his wife, Wall Street Journal reporter (and former editor at The Real Deal) Candace Taylor, and their two children.

6:45 a.m. My whole getting-ready process happens in about 15 minutes. It’s not that hard: Is [my suit] going to be gray or blue? My shirt will be blue, white or, occasionally, pink.


7:00 a.m. I’d say the first words of the day, almost any day, are, “Alexa, play WNYC.” We just got one of those smart speakers, so I listen to “Morning Edition.”

7:30 a.m. I get my son up. He’s three, so he increasingly wants to pick out his clothes. He’s got a superhero cape that my mom made for him, so that’s been a part of every outfit.

 7:45 a.m. Assuming I don’t have a meeting, my son and I eat breakfast. I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea — specifically, high-quality loose-leaf black teas. He and I both have Cheerios with granola mixed in. He used to eat Cheerios and I used to eat granola, but he started wanting my granola and I started to eat his Cheerios, so now we both eat the same thing.

8:35 a.m. I drop the kids off at school, where my driver is waiting outside. I’m fortunate because heads of agencies and commissioners get drivers. We aggressively use a GPS and other tactics to make sure we’re at work by 9 o’clock. I’ll make some phone calls and sometimes text with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who has been my boss for a long time.

9:00 a.m. I’m usually going through my schedule for the day with my assistant. We’ve been spending a lot of time discussing Amazon because we want them to bring their second headquarters here. We’ve also been courting some big life-sciences tenants for the Applied Life Sciences Hub for two potential sites on the East Side and one on the Long Island City waterfront.

NYC Ferry boatxx

9:30 a.m. I am probably in a meeting on a high-priority issue. A good example is a strategy session we have around the NYC Ferry operations. That’s probably 18 people from across different EDC departments [and we discuss] how ridership has been in the last week, how we’re doing on construction of new boats. We’re launching two more this summer.

11:15 a.m. We’ll usually do some sort of internal meeting at least once or twice a week. It’s a more than 500-person company, so employee engagement is a big focus of mine — getting people excited about what we’re doing or talking about the issues of the day. We recently had a Dr. Michael Kimmel talk about sexual harassment [Kimmel is a sociologist, author and professor at Stony Brook University].

12:30 p.m. If I’m eating at my desk, I’m working too. One of my favorite places to order from is Roti [Modern Mediterranean] on Maiden Lane. Another place is Nish Nush. I’m a pescatarian and I just got back from Israel, so I’m deeply into Israeli and Mediterranean food. Alternatively, City Hall often hosts lunch meetings with commissioners.

3:00 p.m. Multiple times a week, I’ll meet with an elected official. I meet a lot with Councilman Raphael Salamanca, who runs the Land Use Committee and represents Hunts Point, where EDC owns a huge amount of property. We’re currently turning the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into a 100 percent affordable housing campus and recreation space.

4:00 p.m. I’ll hop in the car and we’ll do an EDC site visit. I’ll check Twitter — I’ve been trying to be more active promoting what we’re doing. I’ve been going twice a week recently to Brooklyn Army Terminal. We recently completed a renovation of half a million square feet of rentable space.

Brooklyn Army Terminal

6:00 p.m. We did a ton of business development [research] in Israel [in January] and met CEOs from all these companies, so I’ll call to follow up on items we talked about — mostly cybersecurity and life sciences. I spoke at a cybersecurity conference while there and met with roughly 20 companies. That week, venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners, malware analysis startup Intezer and artificial intelligence software company D-ID all announced they would open New York offices.

6:30 p.m. Before I go home, I get a set of briefings for the next day from my deputy chief of staff. I bring that home.

7:00 p.m. I’ll get in the car to head home. The mayor usually calls me at night, somewhere between 6:30 and 10:30. Sometimes when I’m in the car. It’s happened multiple times when I’ve been putting my son to bed.

Crossword puzzle

8:00 p.m. I’m the cook, so I’ll start getting things ready while my wife is putting my daughter to bed. We try to work out for a half hour before we eat. The only time of the day to work out is that window right before you’re too starving to move. My focus is on Mediterranean. I’m also big into fish tacos. My wife is not a pescatarian, so she prefers when I cook steak — tuna steak for me, steak-steak for her.

11:00 p.m. I read for about 20 minutes before bed. I’m very into modern fiction. I’m currently reading “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen. Or my wife and I will work on the New York Times crossword together. We keep the Sunday puzzles — they’re the big ones, but not as hard as Saturday.

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