It’s no secret that Andrew Cuomo would very much like to
occupy the New York Governor’s mansion in Albany, preferably as soon as
possible, and follow in his father’s footsteps. To win a Democratic primary,
Mr. Cuomo would likely lean heavily on his
record for the past four years as the Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development. But while he has been very public in claiming success at H.U.D.,
there is compelling evidence in New York City that New Yorkers should think
twice before handing him the keys to their state.
As The New York Times
recently reported, H.U.D. fell victim to a scam that has resulted in a
promising block of Harlem brownstones ending up as empty, garbage-strewn hulks,
and dealt a serious blow to a rising neighborhood. The H.U.D. program, designed
to reward home ownership in poor areas, was hijacked by corrupt speculators who
set up fake nonprofit organizations and ran off with H.U.D. loans-money that
the taxpayers will now have to pay back. Four hundred and fifty buildings
around the city are currently in disarray because of the ruse. Federal and
state prosecutors have charged 16 people.
Although Mr. Cuomo has talked a great game about his
revamping of H.U.D., he was not able to keep his own agency from being
swindled. Instead of giving speeches, staging superficial photo ops and going
to cocktail parties in Washington, D.C., he might have done better if he had
stayed in his office and kept an eye on the details. Does he understand the
damage his agency has done to the residents of Harlem who must live amidst the
Of course, Mr. Cuomo is leaving H.U.D. and Washington now,
forced out by a new administration. And his eyes are on New York’s top job.
Someone with less chutzpah might run for secretary of state or lieutenant
governor. He will need something more impressive on his résumé than a housing
scandal in Harlem.
East Side Phone
It’s good that City Hall has a Department of Information
Technology and Telecommunications. It’s a sign that the city fathers and
mothers, not always quick to recognize and embrace change, understand the
critical role high-tech will play in the city’s economy. Unfortunately,
somebody needs to remind the department that the digital age has arrived.
The department has
approved a plan to install more than 2,000 new pay phones, about half of which
will be placed on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood where cell phones are as
ubiquitous as imported sports cars. Residents are outraged, as well they should
be. Public telephones will one day be considered as quaint and outdated as public baths. In fact, that day
has pretty much arrived on the Upper
If the department’s plan
goes through, the new telephone kiosks will be splattered with
advertising, which suggests that this proposal may not be about public
convenience or safety, as the department insists, but about revenue-raising.
So the new phones will not only be unnecessary and outdated,
but ugly as well. How can the city justify “uglifying” a neighborhood that is
home to many of New York’s most loyal long-time citizens? Furthermore, the
phone kiosks are bound to exacerbate sidewalk crowding along the neighborhood’s
busy north-south avenues. No wonder City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz reports
that more than 50 residents have called her office to complain about the plan.
Further opposition has surfaced during community board meetings.
If the department wants to install public phones, whether
for convenience or as a means of generating advertising revenue, it should
place them in heavily commercial areas or in subway stations (where, of course,
cell phones are useless).
The Upper East Side is
in the digital age, even if the Department of Information Technology and
Telecommunications is stuck in the analog era.
New Yorkers are famously in touch with their pain, thanks to
what is surely the world’s most sophisticated and highly paid army of
psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, psychopharmacologists, social
workers and others in the mental-health field. A relatively new school of
psychology, however, is suggesting that rather than trying to “fix” what ails
them, people might prosper more if they simply turned their attention to what is
good in life. The American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology reports that “positive psychology” has
identified 20 personality characteristics which are the roots of happiness,
including “the capacity to love and be loved, altruism, spirituality, creativity, courage and wisdom.” Ed Diener, a
researcher at the University of Illinois who organized a recent
“Positive Psychology Summit,” explained the positive psychology approach this
way: “When you are laying awake at night, you are not thinking about how do I
get from minus eight to minus five, you are asking about going from feeling
plus two to plus twelve …. Psychology never told us to do that. Until now,
psychology has been all about making life less minus.”
Positive psychologists find that people tend to get the most
satisfaction from small rewards-receiving an unexpected gift or even finding a
quarter in the street. And that people do better work when they are given a
dose of positive emotion: In one study, radiologists were found to make more
accurate diagnoses if they had first been given a small present. Researchers
also found that people who saw their job as a calling, even if the work was not
particularly stimulating or interesting, enjoyed
higher life satisfaction than those who saw their job as just a career. Another
finding was that the greater the number of choices you are faced with, the more
unhappy you become. People who insist on always examining every option were
identified as “maximizers” and were found to be a fairly miserable bunch.
It remains to be seen
whether positive psychology will withstand New Yorkers’ capacity for
masochism, narcissism and cynicism. But the moral of the story is clear: Buy
your doctor a nice present before your next checkup.