Republican Keynote Address: Giuliani and Bloomberg

It’s no secret that the Republicans are coming to town. The country’s current ruling party will hold its national convention at Madison Square Garden from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. There is talk of making former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani the convention’s keynote speaker, which would be a crowd-pleasing choice, since he led the city-and by extension, the country-through the aftermath of Sept. 11. And Mr. Giuliani’s own much-speculated-about political future would no doubt receive a rousing boost from a prime-time television address.

But the Republicans may be missing out on a great opportunity, for Mr. Giuliani is not the only Republican success story worth highlighting: We’re talking, of course, about Michael Bloomberg, another Republican Mayor in a 5-to-1 Democratic city, and one who has achieved remarkable results in his first term. While tradition does not require a political party to lionize the Mayor of a convention’s host city, in this case deference ought to be paid to Mr. Bloomberg. National Republican leaders may look at the Mayor’s low approval ratings and shake their heads, but Mr. Bloomberg is a startling Republican success story. If Rudolph Giuliani made New York into a safe city, Mike Bloomberg has made it even safer-and he has done so without the strong wind of the 1990′s economy at his back. Whereas Mr. Giuliani’s time in office was marred by racially charged police incidents, Mr. Bloomberg has managed to defuse several potentially explosive racial situations before the tabloids have had their first cup of coffee. And he’s made the improvement of the city’s troubled public schools the No. 1 goal of his administration.

If the party leaders are wise, they will have two keynote speakers: Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Both have great New York stories to tell.

Two Teams for the West Side

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to bring the Summer Olympics here in 2012 has inspired renewed talk of building a sports stadium on Manhattan’s far West Side. Rudolph Giuliani floated a similar proposal several years ago, when George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, was making noises about moving his team out of the Bronx. That talk stopped when the Yankees began drawing three million people a year to their allegedly archaic ballpark.

The new stadium proposal is a vital part of the Mayor’s overall plan to redevelop the far West Side. At the moment, however, the proposed facility has no tenants in line for its post-Olympics life. But developer Jay Cross believes the new stadium would make a fine home for football’s New York Jets, who currently play their home games in Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. The question is whether Mr. Cross’ plan can work if he has no other major sports team as a tenant.

There’s little doubt that the Jets, under the ownership of Woody Johnson, would love to come back to the city. The Jets were born in the old Polo Grounds and spent their formative years at Shea Stadium in Queens before leaping across the Hudson River. For 20 years, they’ve been the “other” tenant in a facility built for the so-called New York Giants, the area’s other professional football team.

So, fine-bring the Jets back to New York. But let’s remember that professional football teams play just eight home games during the regular season. Throw in a couple of pre-season games and maybe a playoff game during a good year, and you have a facility built for all of 11 or 12 dates a year, and perhaps a few convention dates. This is hardly an efficient use of the funds required to build the stadium.

In cities across the country, football teams are demanding that taxpayers build glittering new facilities for their use alone. Gone are the days when football and baseball teams share a facility, as the Yankees and Giants shared Yankee Stadium, and the Jets and Mets shared Shea. If New York is going to spend a billion dollars or more to build a new sports palace, it should be for a football team and a baseball team. Both the Yankees and Mets have been agitating for new ballparks for years. Either one would be a good fit along with the Jets.

A taxpayer-supported stadium should not be vacant on all but a dozen days a year. While it’s true that Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and other cities have been suckered into building football-only stadiums, that hardly seems a recommendation. If the taxpayers of those cities don’t mind such a waste of their money, that’s their problem.

Anti-Semitism At the Trinity School

The Trinity School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is not a place you’d expect to find anti-Semitism. As one of the city’s most elite private schools, Trinity prides itself on offering a top-notch education suffused with the liberal values of this largely liberal city-not to mention that a significant portion of Trinity’s student body is Jewish. And yet, at a recent basketball game against the Dalton School, several Trinity students in the stands taunted a Dalton player named Goldberg with anti-Semitic chants and references to yarmulkes, gefilte fish and other Jewish customs. None of the other Trinity students, nor any Trinity parents seated nearby, tried to stop the abuse. In fact, it only came to light because a Dalton parent overheard the chants and wrote a letter to the Trinity headmaster, Henry C. Moses, who apologized and ordered an investigation.

Mr. Moses and the Trinity administration handled the matter with refreshing speed and appropriate concern. But the admirable way that Trinity dealt with the incident doesn’t dispel a deeper disquiet. It is shocking to learn that a portion of the Trinity student body is apparently quite at ease with anti-Semitism, and feels comfortable yelling anti-Semitic slurs in public, in front of their friends and parents. It’s one thing to mock an opposing team’s athletes; it’s quite another to bring bigotry into the arena. And why was no Trinity official present to curtail the invective? Equally disturbing is the fact that this didn’t happen in middle America or in an underprivileged school, where ignorance and lack of social contact with Jewish people might be expected to allow anti-Semitism to breed. Instead, these students are part of New York City’s most educated population. And if anti-Semitism has taken root at Trinity, it’s a fair bet that the problem is more widespread than most people realize.

Some will say that the Trinity-Dalton controversy is much ado about nothing-that kids will be kids, let them have their fun, they’ll grow out of it. But that would be a willful misunderstanding of how bigotry works its way into society. Most students at New York’s private schools will go on to the country’s top universities and colleges-where anti-Semitism has been reported to be growing, often cloaked in student protest movements. Last year, Harvard University president Laurence Summers felt compelled to give an impassioned speech about the rise of anti-Semitism on American college campuses. So when one witnesses a group of private-school students amusing themselves with anti-Semitic taunts, it’s not just a few bad apples, but rather a symptom of a nationwide trend that must be vigorously opposed wherever it occurs.