Mike Spano inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy when he was sworn in as Yonkers mayor in 2012. Today, the city is in recovery, partly because of Spano’s creative approach to economic development. With a goal of attracting more startup tech firms to Yonkers, Spano created new incentive programs and policies to make it easier for these companies to set up shop. It worked, and, in 2013, the major tech firm Mindspark relocated its corporate headquarters to the iPark Hudson in downtown Yonkers.
At the same time, Spano’s administration launched an advertising campaign, “Generation Yonkers,” aimed at attracting young professionals to the area. But perhaps the mayor’s most innovative plans are based on the idea that the arts can drive economic growth. Spano has welcomed a greater film production presence and an influx of impressive artists—including Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin and her husband, esteemed art collector Daniel Wolf, who opened a gallery and studio at the waterfront. This newly cultivated arts presence has drawn additional restaurants and shops along the water, helping Spano finally begin to realize the gentrification that he campaigned on, and that his predecessors had hoped for.