Editorials

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

It is yet another measure of this city’s incredible renaissance that dozens of prospective buyers are lining up for a chance to purchase Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town from Metropolitan Life. It’s estimated that the eventual buyer will have to pay MetLife about $5 billion—maybe more—for the 110 apartment buildings that make up the huge complex. That’s good for MetLife, and good for New York City.

The impending sale has horrified the housing market’s professional activists, many of whom seem to regard subsidized housing as an entitlement. They conveniently ignore an inconvenient truth: Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town have been moving toward market-rate rents for years. Thanks to MetLife’s major capital improvements and a large turnover in tenants, a quarter of the complex’s apartments already rent for market rate.

That trend will continue when MetLife hands over the keys to a new buyer, one who will very likely have spent up to $450,000 per apartment for the complex. The new owners can be expected to demand, and no doubt will receive, over a long period of time, Manhattan-style rents for their apartments.

Peter Cooper Village and Stuy Town were built with government assistance to house returning World War II veterans and their families in the late 1940’s. MetLife’s commitment to affordable housing has lasted more than half a century, outliving most of the tenants for whom the complex was designed. And MetLife was never a nonprofit enterprise, after all.

It’s true that the complex was—and, to some extent, remains—a haven for middle-class people like firefighters, teachers and nurses. That also was true of Yorkville on the Upper East Side. But Manhattan changed, Yorkville changed, and now change will come to Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, which was happening in any event. These massive housing complexes have been witnessing a slow evolution in their tenant base for years.

It’s a change that ought to be embraced rather than resisted. There’s no turning the clock back to another era. MetLife’s complex, which houses 25,000 residents, successfully welcomed the Greatest Generation home 60 years ago. It provided a home to the children of those veterans, and to their grandchildren as well. Current tenants would not be forced out of their apartments under the new owners. The complex still is home to many senior citizens, and it is important to bear in mind that they will always have a home there.

Indeed, the only thing that will change, as a practical matter, is the owner. And the new owner, who will be in the real-estate business, will likely be a better landlord and manager.

Andre Agassi

With his dignified departure from the game of tennis on Sunday, Andre Agassi completed a stunning 21-year career that saw him change from an angry, impetuous young man into an articulate, graceful elder statesman of the sport. That his final match was played on the courts of the U.S. Open in Queens was fitting, for although he was raised in Las Vegas, surely Mr. Agassi is the quintessential New Yorker, a combination of gritty ambition, street smarts and stunning talent.

And so the 23,000 fans who packed the stands in Flushing Meadows roared and cheered Mr. Agassi as if he were a local boy, a star molded in the tradition of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, towering egos who eventually learned to tame themselves and become true role models rather than mere celebrities. The 36-year-old Mr. Agassi went out in a display of true class. He played through blinding sciatica during his gripping three-hour-and-48-minute win Thursday night over Marcos Baghdatis, afterward collapsing in pain on the sidewalk outside Arthur Ashe Stadium. He returned Sunday and fought a valiant four-set match against Germany’s Benjamin Becker, and when he lost, gave an emotional and heartfelt thank-you to his fans, many of whom realized they were witnessing a great moment in sports history. “The scoreboard said I lost today,” he said. “But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty …. I found inspiration …. And I’ve found generosity.”

And what he gave tennis fans added up to so much more than his remarkable skill. Yes, he was the only man in the past 37 years to capture all four Grand Slam singles titles, hoisting the trophies for the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also gave them a great comeback story: In 1997, his ranking had dropped to No. 141; at times, his off-court romances threatened to become the story. But his passion and his willpower brought him back, along with a solid marriage to tennis champion Steffi Graf. In addition to re-entering the top ranks, he started a highly successful charitable foundation and a charter school for poor children in Las Vegas.

In the days that followed after Mr. Agassi walked off the court in Queens, the game played on. Andy Roddick dispatched Mr. Becker with 21 aces, and Amélie Mauresmo made quick work of Serena Williams. The cast of characters may change, but the Open remains an example of New York at its best, a top-flight tournament that, year in and year out, is run with class and style. The Open provides a showcase for emerging as well as aging stars, in a setting that is pure New York, with the sounds of the elevated subways and airplanes overhead and crowds of all ages and ethnicities following the competition. It’s easy to take the Open for granted. We shouldn’t. It’s part of what makes New York a world-class city with world-class fans.

Fame

It’s been a long-held belief that the reason people want to be famous is for the money, perks and influence. But new research indicates that fame itself, stripped of its social and financial benefits, may be the prime motivator for a large number of people.

The roots of the drive to be famous seem to lie, not surprisingly, in childhood feelings of rejection and abandonment. People afflicted with the fame bug believe that if they become famous in the eyes of others, only then will they truly exist. The disorder is not as rare as one might think: Studies of American, German and Chinese adults report that 30 percent regularly daydream about being famous, and over 40 percent believe they will have a moment of fame at some point in their lives.

This feverish fervor for fame does not dwindle; indeed, late in life, it may even increase. “The motive never dies,” Orville Gilbert Brim, a psychologist who is writing a book titled The Fame Motive, told The New York Times. “And when we realize we’re not going to make it in this lifetime, we find some other route: posthumous fame …. It’s like belief in the afterlife in medieval communities, where people couldn’t wait to die and go on to a better life.”

Studies have also found that those whose driving force is fame are setting themselves up for far more angst and misery than those who spend their energies more realistically, such as by nurturing friendships or becoming more accepting of oneself. Fame, it seems, is a fickle mistress.