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NYC Primary: All Eyes On City's Economic Recovery As Voters Decide All 5 Borough President Positions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The future of the five boroughs isn't just being decided by the mayor's race. All borough president slots are up for grabs.

The "BPs" are thought of as mini-mayors who will be crucial in the city's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.

It has become a familiar sight in every borough.

"You go up and down any one of these avenues -- for rent, for rent, for rent," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said.

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Brewer believes there was at least a 300% increase in vacant storefronts during the pandemic. She says her successor needs to encourage landlords and tenants to hang in for at least a year.

"Somebody who can think about the street and the outdoor dining and the bike lanes and the bus lanes and the scaffolding, all these other things, because I think that would also help the small business," Brewer said.

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Because the BP literally shapes the borough.

"What the borough president does is to appoint people to community boards, to distribute relatively small amounts of money, to see after the best interests of the borough to weigh in on zoning decisions," said David Birdsell, dean of the School of Public Affairs at CUNY Baruch College.

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Borough presidents also have the authority to weigh in on development projects and can be influential in what to do with empty storefronts.

"Back in the early 1990s, we had empty storefronts all over lower Manhattan, where my office is, and it ended up that the borough president worked with the art and culture community and the nonprofit sector and put in free artists spaces," said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

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In Queens, for example, the BP was crucial in the Willets Point redevelopment project behind Citi Field. The directors of the chambers of commerce in Queens and Brooklyn said the BP is their biggest cheerleader.

"We know that during pandemic a lot of traditional industries disrupted, but everybody had to use tech. So, we want to bring a tech mindset to Queens," said Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

"Stand up to the city agencies that sometimes don't really do their due diligence when it comes to reaching out to the individual communities to solicit their feedback," added Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce head Randy Peers.

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It's the small decisions that will make a big impact in the city's recovery.

And bringing business back will be another issue for borough presidents. The Partnership for NYC estimates only about 62% of workers will be back in the office come September.

Other studies show tourism will only reach about 50% of what it was pre-pandemic.

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