New York City's CFO Estimates The Financial Impact of 9/11

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When New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson stood up to present his report on the financial impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, he began with a quote from John F. Kennedy: "To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future." All told, Mr. Thompson said, the attacks could cost the city up to $95 billion.

The 64-page report must have been as difficult to prepare as it was to deliver. There is no way to put a value on human life, and no American would want to give the country's enemies the satisfaction of knowing how much damage they have caused. But society has always looked to accountants and comptrollers to be the measurers, and someone had to give the final tally. Below are a few highlights of the comptroller's report:

  • Expressed as a range of estimates, the total cost of the terrorist attacks could amount to between $83 and $95 billion by the end of 2004, depending on the number of jobs relocated out of the city.
  • The expected cost of replacing destroyed or damaged buildings, infrastructure and lost tenant assets is approximately $21.8 billion.
  • Prime office space destroyed in the attacks amounts to 13 million square feet - an area equal to the entire office inventory in the central business district of Atlanta or Miami.
  • New York City is down a total of 146,000 jobs as a result of the attacks. These losses have already cost $17 billion in lost wages. In addition, the city has not gained a projected 63,000 jobs that would have resulted from its recovery from recession.
  • The attacks have cost the city nearly $3 billion in lost taxes and about $500 million in unreimbursed expenses. Roughly half the $6 billion budget gap that had to be closed in fiscal 2003 was attributable to September 11th.

Commenting on the numbers, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "The terrorists are not going to win, [but] it is going to take a long time to work our way out of this." He added that anyone who expected an overnight recovery in the job market would be mistaken.

Download a copy of the full report entitled, "One Year Later, The Fiscal Impact of 9/11 on New York City."

-Rosemary Schlank

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