FORMER New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (pictured), says cities like Brisbane and the Gold Coast need to build on their strengths and reduce crime if they are to attract big business.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit today in Brisbane, the former Big Apple boss says that if cities and their mayors want to be successful and to revive economies, a combination of vision and the ability to execute plans is required.

“To lead, you need vision and you have to have a plan to achieve that vision. If you only have a goal, you’re a thinker, a philosopher, a professor or an academic, but if you have a goal and plan to get there, then you’re in business,” he says.

“When I took over New York City in 1993, it was in bad shape and I knew if I was going to be successful, I had to change its direction and I needed a different vision of what it should like compared to my predecessors.”

At the top of his list of changes for the city was the regeneration of Times Square, which he says was a ‘terrible place to visit’.

“Times Square is the crossroads of the world, more people come together there than any other place I can think of and there are people there from different parts of the world – every language of the world is spoken there,” says Giuliani, who gained international attention for his leadership during and after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

“I used to go to Times Square and before I was mayor, I was the chief federal prosecutor for five years, so I understood all the things that were wrong with New York.

“Times Square was terrible – it was filled with drug dealers, prostitutes, muggers and it used to be beautiful, so when I became mayor, I had a dream we could change it. I knew we couldn’t go back, but maybe we could change its future.”

Giuliani successfully attracted new business and private investment into Times Square.

“In order to do this, I sat down with the head of Disney at the time because he was thinking of taking over a theatre there called the New Amsterdam Theatre, which was rat infested, falling apart and used for pornography,” he says.

“The head of Disney wanted to take over this theatre, fix it and hold live Disney productions there. Disney had never done live productions before – they’re a movie company, but he decided some of their iconic movies, like Beauty and the Beast could be done there as live productions.

“What he said to me though, was that he couldn’t take that theatre because children couldn’t visit Times Square because of all the prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers – he said we needed to get rid of them.”

Giuliani doubled the number of police, put in a court, ‘started arresting people’ and re-zoned the city.

“Within about two years, it was cleaned up,” he says.

“Once it was cleaned up, Disney invested the first private dollars in this theatre and the minute Disney invested in Times Square, 20 other companies started investing their private dollars as well.

“Over a five-year period, there are now three live theatres, 26 movie theatres, galleries, museums, restaurants – Times Square has totally changed. Children and families can go there and none of it would have come about if we didn’t have a vision and a plan to achieve that vision.”

Giuliani believes mayors also need to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of their cities.

“You can’t be all things to all people, so I thought, what makes New York city relevant and unique, so that we can build on that and put our money, tax incentives and loans into the areas that will allow us to grow,” he says.

“One of the things that makes New York City unique is that people love to make films in New York. We knew movies were a great thing because they bring in business, work and most importantly – advertising.

“So I did everything I could to bring movies to New York – we used to charge fees, I got rid of the fees, we used to refuse to close streets, we started closing streets, we used to make it difficult to film in New York, we made it easy.”

He says industry unions charging too much money put film producers off and made Toronto (Canada) a more attractive location.

“People were filming New York City in Toronto – we had 12 films made about New York City and Toronto was make to look like New York City because they could film a movie there for a quarter of the price they could in New York,” he says.

“So I made New York competitive so we would have films made there and I saw it as part of my advertising budget and this all comes back to figuring out your strengths and building on those strengths.”

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