Neither the Mets nor the Yankees enjoyed a particularly memorable September-the month during which champions often are made or unmade. Three weeks ago, the Yankees staggered into post-season having lost several games in a row, while the Mets clinched a playoff berth despite a miserable finish. Fans were almost inconsolable, for there was a sense that the Yankees, two-time defending world champs, had grown old overnight, and that the Mets simply didn’t have what it takes. An early and quiet departure from the playoffs seemed inevitable. Yankees fans grumbled about the struggling Paul O’Neill; Met fans whispered that it was time to dump manager Bobby Valentine.
Now the Mets are in the World Series, and, as of press time, the Yankees were one win away from their third straight Series berth. If the Bronx Bombers do their part, New York will host a Subway Series for the first time since 1956, when the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers one last time.
The Mets and Yankees are big-market teams with high payrolls and, consequently, they have some of baseball’s brightest stars-Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo. It would be easy to dismiss the prospect of a Subway Series as the inevitable result of baseball’s new economics.
But, as fans of the Rupert Murdoch–owned Los Angeles Dodgers know all too well, money alone can’t buy pennants. Ask Met fans about the early 1990’s, when management bought the services of Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray and Vince Coleman, and promptly imploded.
The 2000 Mets and Yankees showed character and grit in giving us an October to remember. Credit surely goes to the two managers, Joe Torre and Mr. Valentine, for not surrendering to panic and desperation, and to as good a collection of players as this city has seen in decades. It has been a pleasure to root for these teams.
The real question is: Who is Hillary for?
Vallone’s Lead Balloon
One would think that New York City’s elected leaders would do everything within their power to protect the city’s children from the dangers of lead-paint poisoning. After all, lead paint is more dangerous to the city’s youngest citizens than asbestos. Exposure can lead to I.Q. deficiencies, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans and hyperactivity. Lead poisoning affects as many as 1.7 million children aged 5 and under, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 80 percent of homes built before 1978 contain lead paint. It’s hardly the kind of issue that should create any argument. But it turns out that City Council Speaker Peter Vallone pushed through a stunningly weak lead-paint law last year-a law that has fortunately just been overturned by Justice Louis York of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Just before Justice York weighed in, the Environmental Protection Agency concurred, saying that Mr. Vallone’s law would likely result in more cases of lead poisoning among children.
The overturned law was a darling of the real estate industry and city landlords: it raised the amount of allowable lead, and it permitted landlords to monitor their own buildings for lead violations, through casual, annual visual inspections. It was no surprise that tenant groups and environmental organizations strongly opposed the bill last year, but the City Council-led by Mr. Vallone, who was apparently enchanted with real estate industry campaign donors-passed it anyway. (This is the same City Council, by the way, whose members are making yet another attempt to overturn the voter-approved term-limit law that kicks most of them out of office next year.) Mr. Vallone’s law had replaced a tougher one requiring more supervision of landlords and trained crews to do any repair work. The court ruling will likely put the previous law back into effect. Mr. Vallone should understand that real estate developers do not deserve protection; kids do.
3,000 Smart Teachers
Whatever else happens in a great city, perhaps the truest measure of its greatness is the quality of what happens between its public school teachers and their students. A city that can mount a brilliant production of La Bohème , that can serve the perfect four-star meal and showcase the world’s best art, shouldn’t preen when so many of its 1.1 million students are mired in a shameful excuse of an education system. Which is why Schools Chancellor Harold Levy’s plan to pump $600 million into a program to lure bright professionals into the classroom as teachers is money well spent.
The New York City Teaching Fellows program throws a much-needed curve ball at the old way of hiring teachers in New York, dispensing as it does with an education degree as a prerequisite for entering the teaching force. As long as the would-be teachers graduated college with a 3.0 grade-point average and majored in the subject they wish to teach, they are eligible. Once in the classroom, they are monitored by a veteran teacher and required to pick up a master’s in education by taking classes on evenings and weekends. Mr. Levy launched the program last summer; 2,300 people across the country immediately applied for 350 slots. He liked what he saw, and now plans to create 3,000 positions.
The program makes the bureaucrats at the teachers’ union nervous, and no wonder: The New York Times reports that when the first crop of Fellows took two of the state’s certification exams this August after little preparation, almost all of them passed. Those teachers not in the Fellows program had a failure rate of 60 percent.
The Chancellor is willing to make big leaps, and it’s refreshing. Like his proposal to pay private school teachers high salaries if they transfer into the city’s worst schools, and his campaign to encourage private companies to “adopt” public schools. “It’s a risk,” Mr. Levy said of expanding the Fellows Program. “But it would be a bigger risk not to do this. These are smart people, and my bet is that given enough time, they will produce smart results.” If we want to remain a smart city, we need to expect nothing less.