Editorials

Bush and Spitzer Bleed City Hospitals

New York City has long played a major role as a center for producing the country’s top physicians and researchers. Our medical schools and teaching hospitals serve the entire nation by educating med students, training interns and residents, and preparing the specialists who have kept America at the forefront of health care.

That may all be about to change, and not for the better, thanks to the combined effect of budget cuts put forward this week by President George W. Bush and Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Both proposals would impose severe cuts on the city’s leading teaching hospitals and medical schools. Simply put, this is a recipe for short-term savings at the expense of both the city’s status as a wellspring of medical research, and the health of Americans across the country. Indeed, roughly one in seven doctors in the U.S. has been trained at a New York teaching hospital. As Senator Charles Schumer remarked, Mr. Bush’s plan is “an all-out assault on graduate medical education” and a “dagger to the heart of New York health care.”

The loss would amount to several hundred million dollars a year for New York State hospitals, with the impact felt most severely in the city: Fifteen of the 200 hospitals in question would absorb over 50 percent of the cuts, and 14 of those 15 hospitals are located in the city. Beth Israel Medical Center would lose approximately $15 million a year, for example, while New York–Presbyterian would see its funding drop by $24 million annually. Less financially secure hospitals would also suffer reductions—Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn would lose 6 percent of its income, while Brooklyn Hospital Center would see a reduction of 4 percent.

It comes as no surprise that Mr. Bush would make a foolish decision that would adversely impact New York City and the country as a whole. It’s more distressing that Mr. Spitzer would enact such measures—though he will likely face little resistance upstate, since the cuts are concentrated in the city. Surely, however, the Governor understands that harming the city’s hospitals and medical schools will only weaken the state, since the city’s medical powerhouses are magnets for doctors and patients from around the nation and world. One trusts that, when he goes over Mr. Bush’s numbers, Mr. Spitzer will revise his own plan. There is no need for him to bloody our hospitals to balance his budget.

Meanwhile, it is time for Senator Schumer and Senator Hillary Clinton to go to work in Washington to defend the city’s hospitals. Lest they forget, this is exactly the sort of thing New Yorkers elected them to do. They will remember that in the late 1990’s, when the Clinton administration attempted to strip hundreds of millions of dollars from the city’s teaching hospitals, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan fought back, and prevailed.

A New West Side Story

East New York. Red Hook. Bushwick. In decades past, any of these desolate and forbidding areas would have made a good set for a movie director intent on capturing the mean streets of New York. Now, however, filmmakers in search of urban grit will have to take their camera crews elsewhere, as the last 10 years have seen a remarkable renaissance of new residential development in these and other neighborhoods, creating viable and thriving communities fueled by the city’s healthy economy and low crime rate.

Now, another formerly abandoned patch of land—the Far West Side of Manhattan—is about to experience an invigorating surge in investment, as the 300-plus acres that cover 30th to 42nd streets west of Eighth Avenue are being colonized by real-estate developers who plan to construct almost 6,000 apartments, with 20 percent set aside for low- and moderate-income tenants.

The list of projects is ambitious in scope: Rockrose Development Corporation plans two apartment buildings of 44 and 24 stories; Related Companies has a 60-story tower—including a hotel and movie theaters—in the works; Larry Silverstein is about to break ground on two 58-story glass towers; and Joseph Moinian is building a 60-story, $760 million apartment building.

This abundance of private investment is the direct result of public policy: Two years ago, the Bloomberg administration rezoned the area for residential and commercial development, an idea that was initially proposed by Senator Charles Schumer’s “Group of Thirty-Five” report in June 2001. The second major factor is the planned extension of the No. 7 subway line to 11th Avenue—a project that received a boost when City Hall sold $2 billion in bonds last December. Meanwhile, the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hope to sell development rights over the nearby rail yards, creating further opportunity for growth.

The Far West Side is the last significant portion of Manhattan that remains to be developed. This area, which has been largely inaccessible to New Yorkers, will soon be served by mass transit, and serve as a wonderful example of how an aggressive and optimistic approach to the future of New York can rescue neighborhoods from ruin.

Our Intel-ligent Kids

At a time when proficiency in math and science among high-school students is sorely lacking across much of the country, with dire implications for America’s ability to retain its competitive edge, it’s heartening to see that the students of New York State have once again wowed the judges in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Last week, Intel announced that among the 40 finalists, 12 came from New York, by far the highest percentage of any state. The next-closest contenders were California, Michigan, Maryland and New Jersey, each of which had three finalists.

The Intel contest (formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search) is the most prestigious high-school science competition in the country. The winner, who will be announced in March and collect a $100,000 scholarship, will join the ranks of previous winners, who have gone on to receive six Nobel Prizes, 10 MacArthur Foundation fellowships and three National Medals of Science. When the 300 semifinalists were announced last month, New York State had maintained its annual domination, capturing 117 slots; California came in second, with 23 semifinalists. It’s clear that New York is a hotbed of scientific talent, when nurtured with supportive teachers and schools, and that ongoing and increased investment in math and science education should be a priority for the city and state.

Conspicuous among the semifinalists were, true to form, the city’s selective public schools: six students from the Bronx High School of Science and seven from Stuyvesant High School. While none of those 13 made it to the finals, the city’s public schools do have one finalist in the running: Hermain Shahid Suhail Khan, a senior at Staten Island Technical High School, whose submission involved using electron-spin resonance to date fossilized crocodile teeth. In his spare time, the 17-year-old wrote a play that was performed Off Broadway and started a nonprofit which raised money for earthquake relief in Pakistan, where his family originated.

Conspicuously absent among the semifinalists and finalists, as in previous years, were the city’s elite private schools—which, despite their exorbitant tuitions, are apparently content to short-change students when it comes to providing a top-notch education in the sciences. Bravely holding the lone private-school banner this year was Kathryn Friedman of the Chapin School, who made it through the semifinalist competition to become one of the finalists. Ms. Friedman’s project involved determining the relationship between peanut and sesame allergies. Showing some private-school-student chutzpah, when she realized that Chapin didn’t have sufficient science facilities for her research, she got her personal allergist to lend her his lab at Mount Sinai Hospital.