Editorials

Bob Tisch

York Giants, one of the most prestigious sports franchises in the world. He and his fellow owner, Wellington Mara, personified an old-school approach to sports, to business and indeed to life. Mr. Mara died in late October; Mr. Tisch himself died on Nov. 15.

Known to his friends as Bob, Mr. Tisch surely loved owning the Giants and playing a role in bringing the team to the Super Bowl in 2001. But his involvement with the team was really the capstone of an extraordinary career and an extraordinary life.

Alongside his brother Larry, Bob built the Loews Corporation into a multibillion-dollar business. That role led quite naturally to his organizing the now-famous power breakfasts in one of the Tisch-family-owned hotels, the Regency on Park Avenue. He was able to bring together a disparate collection of New York’s power brokers to talk about everybody’s favorite subject, New York City. When the sessions started, New York was in the midst of a fiscal and confidence crisis. Thanks in part to the relationships formed under Bob Tisch’s direction, New York survived those dark days and has emerged stronger than ever.

Meanwhile, he found time to serve as Postmaster General for two years, during which time he significantly strengthened the Postal Service’s finances and management.

Bob Tisch served the city with grace, distinction and selflessness in many ways. He was the city’s unofficial ambassador to Washington, D.C., during the Dinkins years. He chaired the host committee for the Democratic National Convention in New York in 1976 and 1980—wildly successful events that showed the city’s resilience. He also served at the helm of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, the New York City Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce.

This Brooklyn-born son of Russian immigrants never forgot his roots, never forgot the city that offered him so much. More recently, he led a campaign to renovate the sports facilities at public high schools. Many of these fields were in bad shape because, for all of New York’s renewed confidence and power, budgets still get cut, and things like field maintenance still suffer. Thanks to Bob Tisch, however, New York’s student-athletes were given better facilities.

Bob Tisch played a leadership role at literally dozens of New York’s philanthropic institutions. He was fair-minded and generous, with a legacy throughout the city, making it a better place for all New Yorkers. The Observer extends our condolences to his family and friends.

skinnyblueline Editorials

Renew the Commuter Tax

One of the reasons New Yorkers of all political persuasions re-elected Mayor Michael Bloomberg two weeks ago by an overwhelming margin is because when he says something, he makes a lot of sense. A case in point was the Mayor’s recent call to reinstate the commuter tax. Predictably, upstate and suburban politicians reacted with ignorance, arrogance and fake outrage.

The city has been losing $500 million a year since 1999, when, in a cheap political stunt for upstate votes that had the blessing of Governor George Pataki and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the commuter tax of 0.45 percent was repealed. The tax had been in place since 1966, when it was marshaled through the State Legislature by Mayor John Lindsay. Since its repeal, fiscal experts have made the case that re-imposing a modest tax on commuters is eminently fair, considering how much time commuters—who pay no income tax to the city—spend under the protection of our police, fire and emergency medical services. Commuters also take advantage of the city’s theaters, restaurants and museums. And they are the main beneficiaries of several mass-transit infrastructure projects, such as a new Penn Station, plans to extend the Long Island Rail Road downtown and into Grand Central, and the ongoing renovations of Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

And as Mayor Bloomberg pointed out last week, suburban property values are up “because of their proximity to the city. If the city weren’t safe, their property values wouldn’t be as high.” A spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy responded that Mr. Bloomberg’s assertion was “ludicrous” and that people live on Long Island “because of the schools, open space, the beaches and safe living.” Apparently, Mr. Levy hasn’t connected the dots and realized that the only reason people can afford to live on Long Island, or in Westchester or Fairfield counties, is because of their high-paying jobs in the city. Money earned in Manhattan is what pays for those sprawling suburban houses.

The commuter tax was hardly prohibitive: Those making $100,000 were paying only $450. That percentage was in fact too modest. A more equitable commuter tax would be 1 percent, from which the city would realize $1 billion.

Mr. Bloomberg would need the support of the State Legislature and the Governor to re-impose the tax. He has yet to find any allies among Governor Pataki, Mr. Silver and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. It is particularly offensive that Mr. Silver hasn’t gotten behind a commuter tax, as he is allegedly the protector of the city’s interests. At a time when the city is facing a projected $4 billion budget gap, a billion dollars in uncollected taxes is being withheld from the treasury by small minds in Albany.

skinnyblueline Editorials

G.E. Is Still Welching

It seemed almost too good to be true: After 30 years of avoiding responsibility for cleaning up the million-plus pounds of carcinogenic PCB’s that its factories spilled into the Hudson River, General Electric announced this month that it had signed a binding agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to dredge 43 miles of the river. The plan called for G.E. to spend $700 million over a six-year period, beginning in 2007. Was this the same company that had waged a massive publicity and lobbying campaign against federal requests for such a cleanup? Had G.E. finally realized that New Yorkers weren’t going to forget about the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls that lay embedded in the river’s muddy bottom? Was G.E. stepping up to the plate as a decent corporate citizen?

Well, in a word: no. A confidential memo surfaced this week that exposes the hypocrisy of G.E.’s position. Written by a coastal-resources expert in the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named Lisa Rosman, the memo explains that G.E. plans to leave a large layer of PCB’s in the river and merely cap them with additional material. A strong storm would stir up the material and release the PCB’s into the water. Furthermore, the memo casts doubt on G.E.’s intention to return the river to its natural state after the cursory dredging is complete. If the plan goes forward as is, Ms. Rosman writes, “long-term recovery of the system may be delayed, projected time frame to achieve reduction in PCB’s may be extended and residual injury to natural resources may increase.”

Simply put, G.E.’s plan is a half-baked scam to avoid doing the real work necessary to return the Hudson River to cleanliness and health. Unfortunately, the E.P.A. answers to a President who has shown himself to be blind, deaf and dumb to the concerns of the environment. If E.P.A. administrator Stephen Johnson wants to be known as more than a spineless tool of the Bush administration, he should demand that G.E. do what any upstanding company would do: clean up its own mess.