Puerto Rican Day Parade: Filth and Garbage

It is hard to imagine any other major city allowing itself to be subject to the havoc caused each year by the Puerto Rican Day Parade. In the parade’s aftermath on Sunday, June 11, several Upper East Side sidewalks and streets were piled high with mounds of garbage, as if thousands of paradegoers had willfully taken it upon themselves to dump litter along Fifth and Madison avenues. Moreover, the next day’s newspaper headlines reported that three men had been stabbed near the end of the parade route and that seven women had been sexually assaulted in an area of Central Park by a gang of men who attended the parade. In one afternoon, the city’s streets were physically trashed, its citizens were violently attacked and its worldwide reputation as a safe place to visit was damaged.

As horrifying as the violence was which followed the parade, one cannot hold the parade organizers responsible for the actions of a small band of hoodlums. But it is reasonable to ask whether the parade’s overwhelming disregard for New York’s civic culture contributed to the lawless atmosphere. The behavior of many of those attending the parade, who apparently thought nothing of dropping their garbage on the ground beneath them, was simply outrageous. Where was the pride? Why were so many New Yorkers willing to debase their own city? What did their children think, what lessons did they learn, as they watched their parents throw their refuse on the sidewalk?

This is not simply a matter of good or bad manners. New York’s economy benefits tremendously from a thriving tourist trade. It is hard to imagine any tourist who would return to the city after having seen the garbage piled high along Fifth Avenue. And four of the seven women who were sexually assaulted were tourists from Europe. The city’s ongoing reputation is crucial to its overall economic health. We cannot allow Central Park, one of New York’s showcase attractions, to become a garbage dump or crime scene. All of which raises the question, Why were the police not handing out summonses for littering, or keeping a keener eye out for post-parade violence?

Unless police commissioner Howard Safir and Hispanic politicians recognize the importance of enforcing the law during and after the parade, it is likely that this event, once viewed as an opportunity to celebrate a community, will become an embarrassment to all New Yorkers.

Tuning Out Al Sharpton

Rudolph Giuliani deserves credit for his recent, long-overdue efforts to meet with New York’s elected minority officials, such as Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, as well as the family of Patrick Dorismond, who was shot by police officers in Manhattan earlier this year. Unlike the Reverend Al Sharpton, officials such as Ms. Fields and Mr. Ferrer actually represent the minority communities of the city. They are elected politicians, who have won the right to speak for the citizens of their boroughs. The Mayor is not only expanding his network of advisers, he is also sensibly ignoring Mr. Sharpton, whose only claim to fame is his insatiable appetite for a TV camera and his deep ties with some of the country’s most rabid anti-Semites. One of Mr. Giuliani’s legacies could be to marginalize outdated troublemakers such as Mr. Sharpton, who thrive on conflict and have no interest in the well-being of New York City.

Mr. Sharpton lives by television exposure alone. His legitimacy is rooted in the TV camera, not the ballot box. One hopes the producers at Time Warner’s cable channel NY1 will take a cue from the Mayor and call Ms. Fields, Mr. Ferrer and other legitimate leaders, rather than Mr. Sharpton, the next time they want a representative of minority groups.

A Minor-League Town?

When you think of minor-league baseball, certain images come to mind: small towns, bland suburbs, provincial cities. The good citizens of places like Newark and Bridgeport, Conn., no doubt are delighted with their new minor-league teams. But we all know where those minor-league players would love to wind up: in major-league cities. Like this one.

But does that mean the city needs to spend millions of dollars to make it happen? The Yankees now have a low-level minor-league franchise on Staten Island, and the Mets have a minor-league affiliate based temporarily in Queens. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani helped broker the deal that brought the two teams from the boonies (where the teams often were a lonely source of civic pride) to the outer boroughs. Worse yet, the Mayor, an enthusiastic baseball fan, has agreed to spend more than $100 million on brand-new ballparks on Staten Island and in Coney Island. The Staten Island stadium alone will cost an estimated $71 million –when it was first proposed several years ago, the city was talking about spending about $20 million.

Even in a budget as huge as this city’s, $100 million is not exactly chump change. The notion of all that money going to pay for two minor-league stadiums, for teams that play only about 35 home dates (the Staten Island Yankees and soon-to-be Brooklyn Mets play in the short-season New York-Penn League) seems shortsighted. The parent organizations of these two teams are not exactly impoverished, although that won’t stop them from asking for even more city money to build or rebuild their current facilities.

While there’s still time, the city ought to reconsider its wasteful stadium spending spree. The money could go to renovating and expanding the city’s parks and green spaces, which are used nearly every day of the year, by a great deal more than the 5,000 or so people who’ll show up for a minor-league baseball game. That would be a big-league decision.