Bloomberg Takes Out The Trash

Earnest policy wonks have been talking about New York’s emerging garbage crisis for years. The abrupt closing of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island during the Giuliani era meant that the city had to come up with another way of getting rid of 11,000 tons of trash every day. Fresh Kills was New York’s last working garbage dump, the final resting place of nearly all of the city’s residential trash.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently unveiled a long-term plan—there’s a phrase you don’t hear very much in politics—to dispose of our residential-garbage problem. It’s a good example of pragmatism, sound public policy and even environmental awareness.

The Mayor wants to send the city’s garbage to incinerators and other disposal sites via barge. To accomplish this, he wants to renovate four marine-transfer stations along the waterfront. Two of the transfer points would be in Brooklyn, one in Queens and another on the Upper East Side. Garbage would be moved to the barges at the transfer sites, and the barges would bring the trash to incinerators in other cities and jurisdictions.

It goes without saying that garbage disposal is hardly the sexiest issue in New York politics. But it is vitally important, and it has been careening towards a full-fledged crisis ever since the Staten Island landfill was closed with no viable replacement in place.

By relying on barges—and, in the Bronx and Staten Island, on rail—to transport the city’s waste, Mr. Bloomberg’s plan would reduce the number of trucks that currently haul our garbage across the Hudson to points west and north. That’s good for the environment and good for traffic.

If the plan simply dealt with trash removal, however, it would be confronting only a part of the problem. Fortunately, the Mayor also understands that the city has to reduce its waste stream and not simply figure out how to get rid of it. His plan calls for an increase in recycling, with a goal of recycling 25 percent of the city’s trash during the next few years.

Mr. Bloomberg has presented an ambitious agenda to solve a problem that other city officials have chosen to ignore. He could have waited until after next year’s elections to deal with this issue. Indeed, people in neighborhoods near the marine-transfer stations are already grousing; City Council Speaker Gifford Miller is leading a “not in my backyard” movement against the proposed transfer station on the East River at 91st Street.

But rather than hope the garbage will simply go away, Mr. Bloomberg chose to deal with it now. That’s smart, far-sighted leadership.

Two Broadway Lights: Gerry Schoenfeld And Bernie Jacobs

What’s the world coming to, when two venerable Broadway theaters get renamed after a couple of guys in suits? News that the Shubert Organization is naming two theaters in honor of its late president, Bernard Jacobs, and current chairman, Gerald Schoenfeld, rattled the theater world last week and shook loose a good amount of pretentious posturing from the guardians of Art. The New York Times ’ Charles Isherwood wrote, “With this peculiar decision, the company seems to be abdicating, at least in a minor way, its responsibility to help safeguard the integrity of the theater as an art, or even as a popular entertainment.” And it’s true that theaters have traditionally been named for playwrights, actors, critics and theater owners, but never for an executive.

But in this case, the honor is well-deserved. No two men have done more offstage to make the Broadway stage economically viable and the community surrounding the theater district physically appealing. Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Schoenfeld joined the near-bankrupt Shubert Organization in 1972, when it had fallen far from the days when Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Tallulah Bankhead, Fred Astaire, Bob Hope and Bert Lahr had filled its theaters. The two lawyers restored the company to a sound financial footing, brought back the Shubert magic and built it into Broadway’s largest theater owner. Two of their 16 theaters—the Royale and the Plymouth on West 45th Street—will now become the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater and the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, respectively.

Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Schoenfeld may not always have been as colorful as the three Shubert brothers who founded the business in 1900, but their persistence, passion and vision revitalized a struggling art form and created the conditions for Broadway’s current boom. “These two guys really saved the American commercial theater when it was in a time of big, big trouble,” producer Rocco Landesman remarked when the plans to rename the theaters were announced.

The two men also brought the Shubert Organization’s considerable influence to bear on cleaning up Times Square, so that it is no longer a wasteland of criminal activity, seedy sex shops and dangerous streets. Recently, Mr. Schoenfeld has helped make a solid case against the proposed Jets stadium on Manhattan’s far West Side, pointing out that it would be a disaster for the theater district.

While the tradition of naming theaters for performers and playwrights and composers should be honored, the fact remains that without the dedicated, quiet work of Gerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs, there would be fewer stages and fewer players, and the lights of Broadway would burn less brightly.

Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York

Why does it seem so inviting?

Autumn in New York

It spells the thrill of first-nighting …

When Vernon Duke ( né Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dukelsky) wrote that song in the 1930’s, the words were just as true as they are today, and just as true as they were when Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald sang them. Autumn is New York’s most glorious, breathtaking season, the time of year when the city casts a spell even on those who have lived here for decades and think they’ve seen it all. Autumn means shaking off one’s sluggish summer self, snapping to it, getting off the beach and back onto the (analyst’s) couch; it’s the start of the theater and opera seasons, the culmination of the Yankees’ season, and a time when thousands of new college students pour into the city. New restaurants open, the bad ones close, and the unfortunate fashions of summer are forgiven. The days may be getting shorter, but the pleasures of a long October stroll through Central Park more than make up for it. It’s a season of tweed and hot apple cider and permission to spend an entire Saturday with the latest Roth or Updike. It is a season of new love affairs and old friendships.

And New Yorkers somehow seem smarter in the fall, a bit easier to take, less jumpy (yes, the shrinks are all back). Sure, winter will follow autumn, but remember, Vernon Duke also wrote a little song called “April in Paris.”

It’s autumn in New York. It’s good to live it again.