What’s Good for the City Is Good for the State
One of Governor George Pataki’s most consistent flaws has been his stubborn inability to understand that what’s good for New York City is good for New York State. As a result, he often pitted the city’s interests against those of upstate, to the long-term benefit of no one.
Now State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic front-runner for the Governor’s race and the man most talked about as Mr. Pataki’s likely successor, seems to be making a similar error, assuming a false dichotomy between city and state, which is all the more disturbing because of Mr. Spitzer’s obvious intelligence and savvy. To put it simply, he should know better.
The issue is the city’s offer to purchase development rights to the 26 acres of rail yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side, from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for $500 million. The city would spend an additional $350 million to build a platform over the site as a foundation for future construction. The plan, a joint effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, would make sure that development on the site is done in accordance with the city’s wish to create an appealing, top-notch residential, commercial and corporate community with space for affordable housing and open park land.
It is notable that Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn have come together to make the offer. Ms. Quinn was among the most vociferous critics of the Mayor’s prior, unrealized dream of using the space to build a multibillion-dollar football stadium for the Jets. Now, by making such a forthright and public alliance, the Mayor and the Speaker are sending a signal that this prime tract of land, so long in disrepair, will finally achieve its potential. And rather than the M.T.A. selling the rights to a private developer whose vision might be completely at odds with the wishes of the surrounding community, the Bloomberg-Quinn proposal protects the interests of all New Yorkers.
So what’s Mr. Spitzer up to? “This is an amount grossly under market value,” he said of the city’s $500 million offer, and called for an open bidding process. Rather than seeing the wisdom in the city getting a good deal, Mr. Spitzer has chosen to publicly and loudly take sides with the state-run M.T.A., turning the city into a villain out to fleece the state.
The echoes of George Pataki are ominous. Mr. Spitzer is taking a shortsighted, parochial position. Getting the rail yards developed is in the city’s best interests, and also in the M.T.A.’s and the state’s best interests. The city is the economic engine that powers the state; a new, vital mixed-use neighborhood in Manhattan will strengthen the city’s economic base and put more money into the state’s pockets, thereby easing the ongoing strain of funding the M.T.A.
Should he be elected Governor, a Spitzer administration will have its hands full trying to deal with the numerous unresolved issues of the Pataki years, such as school aid, out-of-control health-care spending, and the urgent need to reform Albany’s culture of non-decision-making. Surely Eliot Spitzer is not better equipped to make a decision about the Hudson Yards than the Mayor of New York and the Speaker of the City Council.
Mr. Spitzer should be pleased that Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn have the courage and the will to carry out an intelligent plan for Manhattan’s Far West Side.
NYPD Foils PATH Plot
With the exception of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, few people would disagree with the idea that New York City remains in the cross-hairs of America’s enemies. Terrorists have struck here already, and surely they will attempt to do so again. New York, in the minds of these fanatics, represents much of what they hate about America and the West.
Our safety, then, is in the hands of law-enforcement officials. Since 9/11, when so many things really did change—even if it doesn’t always seem that way—the New York Police Department has been transformed into a world-class anti-terrorist organization, thanks greatly to the passion and vision of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. And the results of that transformation are becoming apparent.
In early July, we learned that the NYPD, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other intelligence services, helped to foil a plot to bomb the PATH line, which connects New Jersey to lower Manhattan. Thousands of commuters board those trains every day.
The plotters had yet to set foot in the United States. Their plans were still in the early stages, although it appears they were hoping to carry out their murders later this year.
Before 9/11, the existence of would-be subway bombers was unknown to most of us and, it seems fair to say, to most law-enforcement officials, who understandably were more concerned with conventional crime than with global terrorism.
But we know better now, and so does law enforcement. Ray Kelly and his department have moved swiftly to protect New Yorkers from this new and frightening threat. That they have done so is a reflection not only of their professionalism, but of the resources given them by local, state and federal governments.
Lately, however, officials in Washington have been surprisingly less generous in doling out Homeland Security funds to New York. Apparently, members of Congress from other states are not happy with all the attention—and money—given to New York.
The foiled PATH plot ought to serve as a reminder to federal officials that the New York area remains, with Washington D.C., the main target for America’s enemies.
Bloomberg, Klein and Gates: Big Results From Small Schools
When there’s good news about New York City public education, it’s worth boasting about. Last year, the city’s high schools showed the highest on-time graduation rate in over two decades. This was no accident: The rate was pushed higher by the success of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s policy of creating smaller schools, in order to provide more personalized attention to high-school students otherwise lost in the massive factories known as public high schools.
Indeed, the city’s 15 new, smaller schools showed an average graduation rate of 73 percent, compared with the usual citywide rate of 50 percent. One of the new small schools, the Bronx Aerospace Academy, showed a graduation rate of 93 percent. And the really good news? There are more than 150 new small schools operating or soon to be under way.
Of course, such sunny news always meets with the doubts and grumbling of the bureaucrats and hacks still haunting the hallways of the city’s education system. These folks will argue with success until the bitter end.
Fortunately for students, such naysayers are becoming fewer, thanks in part to the enormous enthusiasm and trust that the Bloomberg administration has created in its efforts to reform the city’s public schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $100 million in the city’s schools, money which is administered by the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools. Fourteen of the 15 high-performing small schools were funded by the Gates Foundation, along with the Carnegie Corporation and the Open Society Institute.
When good ideas meet with serious money given by serious people, there’s a bright future for New York City’s 1.1 million public-school students.