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Grapevine: De Blasio's gain is ... N.J.'s gain?

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You'd have to go back 20 years to remember the last time a Democrat served as mayor of New York. That was David Dinkins, who, in case anyone was wondering, is actually a Trenton native.

And if short-term memory is more of your thing, when mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is sworn in on Jan. 1, it will be the first time in 12 years that someone not named Michael Bloomberg will (figuratively) reside in Gracie Mansion.

Along the campaign trail in the months leading up to his landslide victory last week, de Blasio made it clear to the business community that he's not Bloomberg, nor is he trying to be. In particular, his advocacy for a living wage bill and less than enthusiastic outlook on corporate incentives has drawn the ire of some in the city's business community.

It's also got New Jersey's attention, says one real estate insider.

"Maybe it was just campaign rhetoric, but some of the dialogue on the campaign trail was a bit antagonistic to the business community and a tad too divisive for the appetite of most business people," the source said of de Blasio.

For New York-based companies that might have already been eyeing a move across the Hudson River due to newly available incentives, de Blasio's election "could very well be the final straw" that finalizes their decisions to relocate out of the city, the source said.

The source said he's already seen some interest on behalf of the food and online retail industries.

And as for businesses already in the Garden State that might have been contemplating a move to New York, the source said, "Mayor-elect de Blasio might be the final piece in their decision to stay in New Jersey."

Mr. Zipkin going to Washington

With Cory Booker settled into his new U.S. Senate seat, a source said it's only a question of when — not if — Adam Zipkin follows him to D.C. And the city's choice for his successor could have major implications for the developers who have ventured into Newark in recent years.

"(It is) a huge loss for the city," the insider said of Zipkin, the deputy mayor of economic and housing development in Newark. "That may be the most important position that the city fills."

Zipkin, who moved up to take the post in 2011, has earned great respect in the real estate industry during what's been a resurgence in Newark's development pipeline. Zipkin has been behind the scenes in many of the projects that have helped raise Booker's profile in recent years.

"Finding somebody that the development community has that sort of trust and confidence in is going to be a big challenge," the source said. "If it's a politically connected hack, in a lot of development projects, people won't make the investment."

It's not clear what role Zipkin would play in the Capitol, but there's no doubt his replacement will have big shoes to fill.

More specialty for Merck?

Merck & Co. Inc. CEO Kenneth Frazier has suggested the pharmaceutical company is planning more changes as it refocuses its portfolio to counter declining sales.

An academic who studies the pharmaceutical industry said Merck, whose sales have declined because of expiring patents and increased generic competition, needs to sharpen its focus on cancer drugs in order to regain momentum.

"They need to get in the cancer market, specialty markets," the source said. "I think they're really behind on that. If they are going to refocus their business model, they better be doing that. That's a major source of cash."

The source said he can see Merck selling certain Phase I or Phase II projects in its pipeline in order to focus on projects with higher returns on investment. Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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