What’s Wrong With The City’s Democrats?

There are a number of reasons why the Democratic Party, the dominant political organization in New York City, is having such a hard time winning Mayoral elections these days. The primary reason, of course, is the competence of the two Republicans-Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg-who broke the Democratic near-monopoly on City Hall.

Another reason has less to do with the virtues of Messrs. Giuliani and Bloomberg and more to do with the state of the Democratic Party itself. As is becoming evident this year, Democratic politicians and activists are prisoners of racial politics-the politics of the past, the politics of New York circa 1991, when the city was spiraling out of control. They need to wake up to the fact that New Yorkers of all races are too concerned about maintaining a vibrant economy and safe streets to let the old racial and ethnic conflicts determine their votes in the 21st century.

This year, several Democrats are vying for their party’s Mayoral nomination, and while there are some young faces in the field-Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressman Anthony Weiner-the campaign seems to be more about the past than the future. A huge controversy erupted when Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx Borough President and presumed front-runner, suggested that the killing of Amadou Diallo in 1999 wasn’t a crime. Diallo, of course, was the West African immigrant shot multiple times by police in a terrible, tragic accident.

Mr. Ferrer stated a fact: The four police officers were found innocent of murder. But his comments created a firestorm, because some factions within the Democratic Party have never accepted the jury’s verdict and desperately want to believe that the four white officers slaughtered Diallo simply for the sake of it. And so, when the candidates met several weeks ago, they rehashed the tragedy rather than focus on the anti-crime miracle that has unfolded in New York over the last 10 years.

But that’s not the only evidence of regressive politics among the Democrats this year. The party remains bitterly divided over the racially charged conclusion of the 2001 Democratic primary. That’s when Mark Green, of all people, was denounced as a racist because somebody-without Mr. Green’s knowledge-distributed copies of a New York Post cartoon that showed Mr. Ferrer kissing up to a rather rotund-looking Al Sharpton. The racial demagogues accused Mr. Green of racism-an absurd, Orwellian charge hurled at a man who spent years campaigning for civil rights.

To this day, some Democratic activists haven’t forgiven Mr. Green for this non-offense. By the same token, other Democrats haven’t forgiven Mr. Ferrer for stoking the flames in 2001.

So as the Democrats prepare to take on Mr. Bloomberg, they just can’t stop talking about the past. They seem to think that racial politics is the ticket to City Hall

That’s why they’re in danger of losing their fourth Mayoral election in a row.

A New Waterfront In Brooklyn

While much of the public was focused on the drama surrounding the redesign of the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero last week, the city put into motion one of the most ambitious transformations of its landscape in decades: The Bloomberg administration has proposed rezoning 175 blocks of Brooklyn waterfront property for residential housing, turning a desolate, crumbling area of abandoned factories and warehouses into a community of apartments, retail shops, restaurants and riverfront parks. The plan, which is expected to be approved by the City Council, marks a turning point in the city’s history.

New York has more than 500 miles of waterfront, much of it going to waste as once-active shipping facilities and manufacturing plants have witnessed decline and deterioration as the local economy has changed. Working together with the City Council, the Mayor’s plan would develop the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfronts with a mix of market-based and affordable housing. Indeed, the priority given to New Yorkers of modest means is refreshing: Developers who wish to build as high as 30 or 40 stories would be required to set aside 20 percent of the homes for low- and middle-income housing. Developers will also be responsible for building the esplanade along the river, which will then be managed by the city’s Parks Department.

What will the finished product look like? It would offer 54 acres of parkland and stunning, cinematic views across the East River to Manhattan. In addition to residential towers along the water, inland the buildings would be capped at four to six stories to preserve the area’s modest scale. A 22-block section would be apportioned for businesses and light manufacturing, with various benefits and protections for local industry.

This rezoning will take years to fully implement, but the basic elements are now in place to renew the shoreline. The Mayor, working alongside Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, and Shawn Donovan, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, achieved a rare, almost unprecedented consensus of community groups, developers, unions and the City Council on the plan.

It’s great news that more and more neglected areas of the city are becoming desirable destinations. The Brooklyn north waterfront will join other unlikely neighborhoods enjoying a revival, such as East New York, the South Bronx and Bushwick-places where, 10 years ago, no one would have chosen to live unless forced to by circumstances. And who knows: With beautiful parks being created on the city’s waterfront, perhaps fewer people will want to spend their summer weekends stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway just to get a glimpse of some water.

Do Parents Favor Attractive Kids?

It’s no secret that parenting in New York is a competitive sport, with mothers and fathers jostling to get their kids into the right preschool, the right summer camp, the best after-school program, with a hope and a prayer that these exertions will deliver their offspring into the arms of the right university. But parents also know that many things are beyond their control. Now, a controversial new study has been released which suggests that more primal forces may be at play than parents realized. Researchers at the University of Alberta found that parents seem to be more attentive and caring toward attractive children than homely ones.

They conducted their research in supermarkets and found that the more attractive a child, the more likely the parent was to make sure the child was safely buckled up in the shopping cart. When a mom was involved, 13.3 percent of pretty children were strapped in, compared with just 4 percent of the less comely tots. Dads were even more likely to throw caution to the wind: They didn’t bother buckling up any of their unsightly offspring, though they did take care to secure 12.5 percent of the more winsome kids. Also troubling, both moms and dads were more likely to let homely kids wander out of sight. The researchers also found that parents kept a more watchful eye on good-looking boys than they did on pretty girls, though they conceded that this was due to the greater independence of girls than boys of the same age.

The lead researcher, Dr. W. Andrew Harrell, concluded that parents may favor attractive children because such kids are seen as representing a better genetic strain and thus a better investment in the future. Other sociologists and psychologists have raised doubts about the study and its conclusions. One thing is certain: As news of the study becomes known, the not-so-pretty ones will likely be getting a second helping of ice cream this summer.