Who Best to Follow Bloomberg:
How About Dick Parsons?
Mike Bloomberg will be a hard act to follow. His second term doesn’t expire until 2009, but many New Yorkers are rightly concerned that we never go back to the dire days of professional politicians and clubhouse politics. The Mayor’s distinctive profile—a billionaire Republican business executive with wide appeal to Democrats—is unlikely to be repeated any time soon. And his ability to run a city government with a budget in excess of $50 billion, without catering to political clubs and pressure groups, is no mean feat. Amid the murmurings, however, one name has recently emerged that bears serious consideration: Richard Parsons, the chairman and chief executive officer of Time Warner.
Mr. Parsons has done a terrific job overseeing a multibillion-dollar company with headstrong executives, 18,000 employees and sprawling investments in movies, television networks, cable systems and the Internet. He demonstrated great skill in conflict resolution during the recent proxy battle with shareholder Carl Icahn. A self-described “Rockefeller Republican,” he’s comfortable with politics: A lawyer by training, he served as counsel for Nelson Rockefeller in the Ford administration. After Washington, D.C., he returned to New York and embarked on a highly successful career as chairman and C.E.O. of Dime Bancorp. For the past several years at Time Warner, he has led a turnaround by reducing debt from $30 billion to $13 billion, selling the lackluster Warner Music business and strengthening the company’s balance sheet. Last year, Institutional Investor magazine named him the top C.E.O. in the entertainment industry.
Born in Bedford Stuyvesant, Mr. Parsons knows New York. A few years ago, he and other prominent New Yorkers were asked their opinion of what the incumbent Mayor Bloomberg’s priorities should be. Mr. Parsons replied, “In the long term, New York’s recovery depends on building and maintaining an education system that trains literate, technologically proficient graduates who can secure this city’s place in a global economy. The performance of the city’s schools will determine whether a chasm separates a privileged elite from masses of underemployed and unemployed. Only with successful schools can New York retain and expand its middle class and maintain a tax base sufficient to modernize a fraying infrastructure.”
Mayor Bloomberg has indeed made education the core of his agenda for his second term. It’s hard to imagine a better candidate to continue that good work than Richard Parsons.
Queen Mary Comes To Red Hook
Prior to the arrival of the jet plane, the passenger ship was the principal mode of international travel to and from the United States, and New York was the leading North American port for travel to and from Europe. While those trans-Atlantic sea voyages may be a quaint slice of history these days, citizens around the world continue to embrace ocean travel, in the form of luxury cruises aboard vast, opulent vessels. But until now, the largest of those ships were unable to dock in New York, because the city lacked a terminal that could accommodate their bulk and depth. But last week, the Queen Mary 2 pulled into the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook and 2,600 passengers promptly disembarked, their wallets stuffed with tourist dollars.
Apart from the excitement and bustle that comes with the sight of the largest passenger liner ever built sailing into port, the event capped a deal that the Bloomberg administration signed with the Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines, which will bring millions of additional visitors to the city over the next decade.
Just three years ago, the Red Hook berth was a crumbling pier, reflecting the neglected nature of the Brooklyn waterfront. The Mayor’s team invested $52 million to create the 182,000-square-foot terminal, with a palatial waiting room and ticketing area, and to deepen the berth, allowing the terminal to accommodate larger ships. In return, the cruise lines will pay the city $200 million in fees over the next decade. In the first year alone, it is estimated that 192,000 passengers will come ashore. The city’s Economic Development Corporation predicts that the surge in cruise-ship traffic will eventually generate an additional $300 million a year in economic activity.
The Red Hook terminal marks the first time in 40 years that the city has made a major investment of public funds in the Brooklyn waterfront. A nearby 85-acre stretch of riverfront property is being developed into the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which will feature open green space, fishing piers and a marina surrounded by luxury condos, hotels, restaurants and shops, with stunning views of Manhattan across the East River. A waterfront renaissance in Brooklyn is underway.
John Marchi: A Class Act Departs Albany
Observers of the goings-on in Albany are quick to generalize about the low level of intelligence, integrity and competence of the men and women who inhabit the State Legislature. For the last half-century, however, one man has stepped above the fray and brought a refreshing dignity to those chambers: State Senator John J. Marchi of Staten Island.
Mr. Marchi has been the antithesis of the mindless hackery that so many commentators associate with the state capital. Thoughtful, articulate and honest, he is a walking riposte to the argument that local politics produces only shallow careerists and narrow-minded advocates.
He has represented Staten Island in the State Senate since 1956. The other day, at the age of 85, he announced that he would not seek another term this year. For Staten Island and for the city of New York, an era is about to come to a close.
Most New Yorkers of a certain age will remember Mr. Marchi for his Mayoral campaign in 1969, when he challenged the incumbent John V. Lindsay for the Republican nomination and won, to the astonishment of Lindsay’s Manhattan base. Although Lindsay would go on to win a second term on the Liberal Party line, Mr. Marchi impressed voters and commentators with his wit and intelligence. He and Lindsay would later become friendly.
Indeed, it is hard to be Mr. Marchi’s enemy because he remains, even after a half-century in Albany, a magnanimous and generous man. For many years, the Democratic Party on Staten Island simply cross-endorsed his candidacy. He was unbeatable, and besides, nobody wanted to run against a man held in such high regard. About two decades ago, he launched a campaign to separate Staten Island from the rest of New York City. Most city residents considered the secession movement foolhardy at best. But Mr. Marchi knew what he was doing: When the old Board of Estimate was declared unconstitutional in the late 1980’s, he feared that the city’s least-populated borough would lose its clout. By advocating secession as a last resort, he brought the borough’s concerns to center stage. The issue was resolved peacefully.
John Marchi has hung around public life long enough to see great civic honors come his way while he is still with us. A new ferryboat bears his name, as do several institutions on Staten Island. A student of history and a champion of his home state, he would say that he already has honor enough, for he is a New Yorker. For that, we are most grateful.