Editorials

Pataki’s Graceless Exit

Leave it to George Pataki to keep making inexplicably bad decisions, even as he prepares to leave Albany—none too soon.

Mr. Pataki’s last budget address, given in Albany on Jan. 17, confirmed that the man long ago ran out of ideas and energy. Armed with the good news that the state has a $2 billion surplus—yes, you read that correctly—Mr. Pataki, panderer par excellence, announced that he would piss away that money in the form of $3.2 billion in unnecessary tax cuts.

Meanwhile, the state is still trying to figure out how to finance court-ordered increases in school spending in New York City. The state is supposed to increase aid to the city’s schools by $5.6 billion a year.

Mr. Pataki’s giveaway is simply inexplicable. First of all, as he surely knows, today’s surplus is tomorrow’s deficit. His proposed tax cut could, and no doubt will, lead to a decrease in revenues to the state in the near future.

How much better it would be to invest that $2 billion in the city’s public-school system—which, the courts have found, has not gotten its fair share of state aid in the past. That investment would pay dividends. Mr. Pataki’s plan promises only future shortfalls.

Then again, what more should we have expected from Mr. Pataki? He was elected in 1994 on a pledge to cut taxes. He delivered on that pledge. But once he did, he acted as if reduced taxes were the be-all and end-all of his lethargic administration.

He has failed to tackle other difficult issues, from Ground Zero to the school-spending mandate. Albany has been adrift for years, as policymakers tried to figure out if Mr. Pataki had any further ideas about how best to govern New York.

In his budget message, Mr. Pataki returned to the theme that put him in the Governor’s office in the first place. But it is no longer 1994. Things have changed. The state has new priorities. Mr. Pataki, however, is like an aging pop artist who keeps reprising his old hits, even as new audiences snicker and the old ones wonder what ever became of him.

Governor, we’ve heard this tune before. It sounded better when you were younger.

New York’s Intel-ligent Students It’s become an annual midwinter ritual: tallying up the semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search and finding that New York is home to the brightest young minds in the country. This year is no different: Last week, Intel announced that 140 of the 300 national semifinalists came from New York State. That’s not simply a mandate; it’s a landslide. The state that came in second was California, with just 23 semifinalists, followed by Texas with 18 and Maryland with 15. At a time when aptitude in math and the sciences is vital for the country’s next generation, New York is leading the way to a startling degree.

Once again, the city’s selective public schools featured prominently: Six semifinalists are from the Bronx High School of Science, eight from Stuyvesant, two from Hunter College High School. The city’s non-specialized public schools also held their own: Townsend Harris High School in Flushing had four semifinalists, and Midwood High School in Brooklyn had three. Public high schools on Long Island, meanwhile, were no slouches: Ward Melville High School in East Setauket had 12 semifinalists, and Paul D. Schrieber High School in Port Washington had eight. It’s worth noting that, with the exception of the Dalton School, which has one semifinalist, the city’s elite private schools are again conspicuously absent. Where’s all that tuition money going?

The Intel judges have a knack for choosing talent: Past winners of the Intel contest (formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search) have gone on to receive five Nobel Prizes, 10 MacArthur Foundation fellowships and three National Medals of Science. Overall, 53 percent of the semifinalists this year were female, which should disabuse anyone of the notion that the sciences are a male domain.

The finalists will be announced later this month, and the winner, who receives a $100,000 scholarship, will be selected in March. New Yorkers may remember that last year’s winner, David Bauer, a senior at Hunter College High School, chose to attend the City University of New York Honors College, instead of any number of Ivy League schools which would have been happy to have him.

The remarkable success of all the semifinalists is proof that New York schools are at the forefront of preparing young people for the future. We salute these brilliant, hardworking students, their teachers and, of course, the parents who provided the nurturing for such curiosity and drive to thrive.

The New Yankee Stadium: Play Ball

It’s no secret that building a new sports stadium in this town is no easy matter. So it would be almost unnatural if the Yankees’ plan for a new stadium in the South Bronx didn’t stir up controversy. But the plan is a good one, and it deserves the informed support of all New Yorkers, including those in the surrounding neighborhood who have been collecting petitions and holding raucous town meetings opposed to the stadium.

After years of threatening to move the team to Manhattan or New Jersey, Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner has switched gears and is committed to rebuilding in the Bronx. The plan calls for a 53,000-seat, $800 million stadium, with lots of those plush luxury boxes that help pay the bills. Construction would begin this summer, and the Yankees would foot the entire cost, though they’d get a break on property taxes. The city has pledged $135 million for upgrading local parks, while the state would kick in $70 million for new parking garages and low-interest financing. Construction jobs would be promised to local residents, to help combat the Bronx’s high unemployment rate. And in an effort to be good neighbors, the Yankee Foundation has been increasing contributions to Bronx youth organizations, Little League teams, churches and soup kitchens. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. has come out strongly in favor of the project.

So why has the local Community Board 4 voted against the stadium? The main objection has been to the team’s plan to eliminate two popular parks—Mullaly and Macombs Dam—for construction of the stadium. But those 22 acres would be replaced by 28 acres of new parkland, including baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts and a skating rink, all designed in conjunction with the city’s Parks Department. Neighborhood residents are understandably wary of giving up existing parks for ones that exist only in blueprint form, but the alternative—for the team to move out of the borough and invest elsewhere—would be a disaster for the neighborhood. Moreover, both the Yankees and the city will be under scrutiny to make sure the new parks are up to par.

The city’s Planning Commission and the City Council will be voting on the plan in the coming weeks. The new Yankee Stadium—which will accommodate the team’s need for a new ballpark while also improving recreation facilities that are vital to the local community—deserves their full support.

Editorials