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"The events of the last few days," New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. began in an appearance September 17 at NYU Wagner, "have been astonishing."
Speaking at a morning briefing co-sponsored by the Wagner School of Public Service and the Citizens Union, Thompson said that New York City can ride out rough turbulence affecting the economy with the same resolve and resiliency it showed more than 30 years ago during a brush with municipal bankruptcy, and in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
"With every downturn New Yorkers have encountered, our city has rebounded stronger than before," the two-term comptroller said at the briefing session co-sponsored by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Citizens Union. "That is the spirit of New York. We are fighters. We are resilient. We are innovators."
Thompson spoke only hours after the Federal Reserve had worked out an unparalleled $85 billion rescue of American International Group, the latest dramatic development in the financial crisis involving mortgage-related assets. "Uncertainty is in the air," he said.
In his hour-long talk, Thompson sought to ensure city retirees and others that the city's pension funds are secure and are cushioned against by ups and downs in the financial markets.
"As Comptroller," he said, "I'm the chief investment adviser to our city's pension plans, and it's important to me to assure the retirees that the pensions are safe and secure. We've been reducing our exposure to risk by diversifying our portfolio beyond stocks and bonds. This approach is helping us weather these tough times better than we would have ever before."
Thompson also underscored his opposition to an effort by the City Council to extend, from two to three, the number of terms that a city official can serve. Thompson is contemplating a run for mayor next year to succeed Michael Bloomberg.
"The people have said that there are two terms," he said. "To undermine their will, to do an end-run around democracy is just wrong."
The breakfast briefing was part of an NYU Wagner/Citizens Union series that will pick up again on October 7 with a visit by Eric Gioia, two-term member of the City Council from Woodside, Queens.
On November 12, Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, who is also looking to succeed Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, will be the featured guest of the breakfast series.
Last spring, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and John Liu, councilman from Flushing, Queens, who is a prospective candidate for the public advocate's post, also appeared at Wagner as part of the series.