New Yorkers of a certain vintage will remember the night in February 1968, when the “new” Madison Square Garden opened. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby hosted a glittering salute to the U.S.O. before ceding the floor to the Garden’s main tenants, the Rangers and the Knicks. Meanwhile the war in Vietnam was raging, and before long, dissent over that war led Lyndon Johnson to drop out of the ’68 Presidential campaign. New York’s junior U.S. Senator, Robert F. Kennedy, would soon declare his candidacy for President.
As sports arenas go, this is all ancient history. The current Madison Square Garden is a relic of another time. The Dolan family, which also owns the Rangers and Knicks, wants to replace the Garden with a new version, a block to the west. It’s a good idea and deserves the city’s support.
Like it or not, New York has to compete with other cities, whether the subject is infrastructure, quality of life or sports venues. The city has learned that lesson the hard way: People, teams and corporations will leave the city when it becomes too dangerous, too expensive or just too old.
The miracle of New York’s revival since the early 1990’s shows that politicians and other decision-makers understand this reality. New York is a world-class city, and residents expect world-class facilities.
It is safe to say that Madison Square Garden is not a world-class showcase anymore. It certainly is famous, and it certainly has a great history. But the building just can’t compete with new structures in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and other major cities.
The new, new Garden would be built near Ninth Avenue, on the western portion of what is now the Farley Post Office Building—which itself is being transformed into a new rail terminal, named for the project’s patron, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
The Dolans have been talking to Stephen M. Ross, who heads the Related Companies, and Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty Trust. They already are familiar with the site, because they are teaming up to convert the post office into a rail terminal. They are the perfect team to build something memorable, worthy of the name Madison Square Garden. Moreover, the current site of the Garden will be recycled to accommodate a modern office and residential complex, something that can only help to foster new investment in the surrounding area.
A new Garden would achieve some of the economic-development goals that Mayor Bloomberg hoped to accomplish with his now-failed bid to build a football stadium on the West Side. Ironically, of course, the Dolans opposed that project.
But that was yesterday’s battle, and it’s over. The Mayor and the Dolans need to mend fences and work together to make this new project happen.
Is the Party Over for Anti-Semite Fulani?
Are New York’s elected officials finally finding the courage to stand up to Lenora Fulani and her toxic, anti-Semitic views? As political observers well know, Ms. Fulani may be a crackpot and a flunky, but as a leading member of the Independence Party, she commands an inordinate amount of attention and dutiful respect from those running for office in the city and the state. Particularly for those running on the Republican ticket, the Independence Party’s endorsement can be a deciding factor: In 2001, the party delivered 59,000 votes to Michael Bloomberg, handing him a narrow margin of victory over the Democrat Mark Green.
But it looks like New York’s patience with Ms. Fulani’s circus act may be wearing out. The chairman of the state’s Independence Party, Frank MacKay, has sent letters to county leaders, asking them to oust Ms. Fulani from the party’s executive committee at an upcoming meeting in Albany on Sept. 18, because of her refusal to repudiate anti-Semitic statements she’s made in the past. This follows on Mayor Bloomberg’s description last spring of Ms. Fulani’s embrace of anti-Semitism as “phenomenally offensive.” Additional momentum is reportedly coming from Senator Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer; as Mrs. Clinton seeks re-election and Mr. Spitzer prepares his Governor’s race, neither candidate wants to be saddled with courting a party whose most visible figurehead proclaimed in the late 1980’s that Jewish people “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel” and held it only by acting as “mass murderers of people of color.” She recently stood by those revolting comments in a TV interview and said she had simply raised “issues that I think need to be explored.”
Another promising sign that Ms. Fulani’s perverse grip on power may be slipping: The city has put on hold a $216,000 contract with a student performing-arts group, the All Stars Project, founded by Ms. Fulani, because the State Attorney General’s office is investigating the group for alleged financial improprieties.
By any standard, Lenora Fulani should have been consigned to oblivion years ago. She is a sick and dangerous political player whose lack of decency and dignity are an affront to all New Yorkers.
Autumn in New York
It’s here. After a long, hot summer, autumn is slowly enchanting the city with its promise of cool, crisp nights and new beginnings. While spring may be the season of renewal in the rest of the country, New Yorkers find rejuvenation in the fall, as we abandon summer’s irrational flings—the overpriced Hamptons rental, the ill-considered camping trip to Maine that the kids hated as much as we did—and get back to the serious business of navigating New York. This month, the theater and opera seasons will compete for drama with the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, thousands of new college students will pour in from around the country, replenishing the city with an army of starry-eyed dreamers and plucky schemers. And with the return of the analysts from their shingled Cape Cod beach cottages, New Yorkers can indulge in the illusion that, this year, we’re finally going to conquer our neuroses and grow up.
Autumn also means new restaurants—60 of them, to be precise. (Place bets on which 30 will still be booked come April.) As the days grow shorter, the shadows in Central Park grow longer, and for some reason, everyone seems a little smarter—maybe because they’re wearing professorial tweeds.
But sadly, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will always remind us of the terrible loss that the city endured that day, a tragedy that will haunt us forever. And the country is currently mourning the devastation of New Orleans, a great American city brought to its knees by an extraordinary force of nature.
Such losses make one grateful for the daily gift of family and friends. It’s autumn in New York. It’s good to live it again.