William C. Thompson is invested in Manhattan. Literally. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the current comptroller of New York City—and leading front-runner candidate for mayor in 2009—looks after his sizable metropolis on a daily basis as the city's highest ranking CFO. "It's an office that can serve as a strong advocate for the people of New York City," says Thompson proudly. "It's an office that fights for New Yorkers."
Of course, fighting for those inhabitants each week is as tough and varied in content as the diverse residents are themselves. A typical day for Thompson might include press conferences on everything from senior citizen's critical Meals-on-Wheels programs, reviewing costly city bonds and wages, or good old number-crunching with audits of recent settlements against the city, improving conditions at children's daycare facilities and enforcing the idea of corporate responsibility (he gained national exposure for the latter after September 11th). But despite such Big Picture issues, the affable Thompson remains grounded in the everyday challenges faced by real life New Yorkers. "Our biggest crisis is a lack of affordability, shown best in housing. And it's not just for those between the ages of 21 to 30, but also families who have helped to stabilize New York City—who have been here through good and bad times—that are being pushed out of their neighborhoods," says Thompson, himself the father of an adult daughter who was once the victim of the city's rocketing rents when she was just out of college. "How do we continue to attract people here, and how can we keep people here, given how much it costs to live in New York City?" Luckily, Thompson is a man with a plan. "We need to really work with the developers and non-profit organizations, so we can all come up with major solutions together."
It's that kind of collaborative thinking—and caring—that have added up to a list of awards and honors for the busy Thompson that would topple most trophy cases. And while his frantic schedule may constantly whisk his town car from fundraisers to board meetings—Thompson couldn't imagine life any other way. "Look, I was born here, I grew up here," says the lifelong Bed- Stuy resident. "New York City in the mid-to-late 70s and 80s was a dirtier city, a dangerous city, and now you see a different place," he says, his hometown heart clearly on his sleeve. "It's things like that—moving this city forward, changing the face of this city, and helping make it a better city for everybody—that continues to drive me. That's the joy," he says sounding every bit the future candidate. "I look at downtown Brooklyn I had a role in making it better, I was part of establishing a vision 10, 15, 20 years ago. It makes you want to continue working."
Of course, you know what they say—the key to doing anything right is all about location, location, location: "New York is the best city in the world. It's the combination of heaven knows how many groups from all over the world, who speak over 100 different languages, that helps make New York City so exciting. Sure, it's the institutions—some of the best in the world—but it all comes down to the neighborhoods, and the people in those neighborhoods," says Thompson. "It's those people who make up non-profit organizations, block associations, civic organizations—you name it. People get involved. They hold elected officials accountable. It's people standing up and fighting to improve their neighborhoods, block by block by block."
Even interests outside of work reflect his Manhattan infatuation: Thompson's team? The Mets. His TV show? The Big Apple based drama Law & Order. His favorite author? The NYC-born (natch) Robert Ludlum. And all of it—his job, his downtime, his passion, equates to one hell of a political future. "What makes a great mayor is the ability to listen and to lead," he says. "New Yorkers don't want someone who says, 'Wait a second...lemme think about this for a few days.' They want someone that makes a decision, and moves forward." Moving forward? That sounds like a certain comptroller we know of, who quite frankly--and thankfully--never slows down.
One of the most spectacular views of the city... …more
The restaurant is always a festive environment... …more