New York’s Republican Party has a big problem. The party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate this year was humiliated. Democrats hold all of New York’s statewide offices except Governor. And the man who holds that job, George Pataki, is not expected to seek a fourth term in 2006. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a popular Democrat, already has made it clear that he will seek a promotion to Governor.
The Republicans are worried that they have nobody on their bench if Mr. Pataki packs it in. The current Governor has clearly lost interest in his job; he is surrounded by third-stringers and spends as little time in Albany as he can. Morale is sinking as the party sees its influence waning in onetime G.O.P. bastions like Nassau and Westchester counties. One of the party’s few stars, Rudolph Giuliani, has his eyes on national office, so most people don’t expect him to run in New York in 2006.
Where, Republicans wonder, is the savior who can rebuild the party and win the Governor’s race next year against a candidate as well-funded and media-savvy as Mr. Spitzer?
It’s odd that the question is even being raised, because a solution is very much at hand. Assuming he wins re-election as Mayor next year, Michael Bloomberg would be well-positioned to make a powerful run for the Governor’s office. He has demonstrated a flair for good government, which would be a novelty in Albany; he has dealt with severe budget crises; and he has a knack for bringing top-notch talent to government. New York State has suffered for too long from the machinations of our political leaders. No matter which party is in control, the state has been unable to get a budget adopted on time, to develop a strategy to control health-care costs, to design a fair system of school aid, and to create a stable source of funds for mass transit. Mr. Bloomberg’s no-nonsense approach to governing would cut through much of this stagnation. A businessman who is not indebted to donors from any political party, he is the sort of clean, incorruptible leader who could deliver for the citizens of this state.
The fact is, Michael Bloomberg is the most prominent Republican in New York after the Governor himself. It’s surprising that the party apparently hasn’t given him much notice as it seeks to avoid electoral catastrophe in 2006.
Republicans with a sense of history would no doubt point out that no Mayor of New York has ever managed to go on to higher elected office. Then again, Mr. Bloomberg made history in 2001 when he became the first Republican to succeed another Republican as the Mayor of New York City. He is not a man who takes these sorts of barriers very seriously.
It’s entirely possible that Mr. Bloomberg isn’t interested in moving to Albany. But it would be foolish for the Republicans to pretend that he doesn’t exist. Yes, the city would be losing one of the best Mayors in modern memory, but having an ally in Albany might just make up for it.
The New MoMA
New York depends on people and institutions reinventing themselves, and the new Museum of Modern Art, unveiled last week, does not disappoint. Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso, Pollock, Duchamp, Miró, Brancusi and Bonnard are all back in midtown, in spectacular new surroundings, after an absence of two years during which MoMA huddled in Queens awaiting its $858 million relaunch on West 53rd Street. There was something admirably scrappy about the museum’s sojourn in that déclassé borough, where it occupied a former Swingline staple factory, like a Park Avenue dowager who’s fallen on hard times and must retreat from view for a spell. But of course MoMA has belonged to Manhattan since its doors opened in 1929. And so it was no wonder that New Yorkers stood in the pouring rain for hours to be among the first to glimpse the museum’s expanded offerings and 630,000 square feet of spacious, light-filled galleries.
For those who didn’t make the trip to Queens, the absence of one of our greatest museums was a startling inconvenience-like an old friend who suddenly stops showing up for Sunday lunch. But the Sheetrock and scaffolding on 53rd Street also served to remind New Yorkers how fortunate we are to have one of the world’s greatest collections of modern art so close at hand. To have the museum suddenly and boldly here again, its famous paintings given the space and light they deserve thanks to the architecture of Yoshio Taniguchi and the talents of chief curator of painting and sculpture John Elderfield, is a welcome reminder that, at a time when American culture seems awash in knee-jerk morality and junk TV, New York is still a city of Art with a capital A.
Some museumgoers have remarked unfavorably on MoMA’s new $20 ticket price, up 66 percent from its previous price of $12, and indeed the high tariff might have the unfortunate effect of discouraging spontaneous visits. But the economics of maintaining a world-class museum don’t lend themselves to low entrance fees-MoMA gets no funding from the government for its operating expenses-and many would argue that an afternoon spent with Matisse and Mondrian is well worth twice the price of an afternoon with Mel Gibson. Admission is still free for everyone 16 and under, and there are discounts for students and seniors, not to mention that Friday nights are free for everyone. Before its renovation, MoMA averaged about 6,000 visitors a day. Time will tell whether the higher entrance fee is truly problematic.
In the meantime, MoMA is back-and better than ever. Our congratulations to Glenn Lowry, the museum’s director, and the trustees of MoMA for an extraordinary job. Recreating an institution with a billion-dollar expansion in midtown Manhattan is without precedent and almost beyond belief.
CUNY Conquers Rhodes
While the city’s two pre-eminent private universities-New York University and Columbia University-have more than their share of the world’s smartest college students, this year it is two students from the City University of New York who will be receiving Rhodes Scholarships to study at the University of Oxford in England.
Eugene Shenderov, a senior at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, and Lev Sviridov, a senior at the City College campus, are both chemistry majors and both immigrants from the former Soviet Union who moved to the U.S. at a young age. This is the first year that two students from CUNY have won the Rhodes.
And no wonder, because these guys are no slouches: Mr. Shenderov, who had his immune system damaged by the Chernobyl explosion as a boy in Ukraine, is a varsity tennis player, president of the chess club and has done research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He plans to continue studies in immunology. Mr. Sviridov, who has been the City College student-body president, was homeless for a time and spoke no English when he and his mother first came to New York when he was 11.
The city’s two new Rhodes Scholars are more proof that New York benefits enormously from the influx of immigrants who arrive with hope, ambition, a strong work ethic and belief in the value of education. CUNY deserves praise for turning those aspirations into real achievement. We congratulate the parents, the teachers and, most of all, Mr. Shenderov and Mr. Sviridov.