The sorry state of upstate New York’s economy has defied the well-intentioned efforts of governors, legislatures and entrepreneurs for more than a generation. Some hoped that state spending—sadly, in the form of prison construction—would spur new development. Others have been waiting for the holy grail of casino gambling.
Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come up with a creative and potentially game-changing partnership between the public and private sectors. Mr. Cuomo recently announced the creation of tax-free zones for businesses that set up shop on the campuses of the vast State University of New York system. In addition, the zones would be extended to private university and college campuses north of Westchester County. Qualifying businesses would be exempt from sales tax, property tax and state income tax for the first 10 years of operation.
Do state legislators have even the slightest idea of how they are perceived? Do they realize that the New York State government remains a world-class embarrassment, even after years of promises to clean up Albany?
Apparently not. Here’s the latest—you may recall that last year four women filed sexual-harassment allegations against Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Read More
up in smoke
Poor smokers! Forced to shiver outside with chilly, chapped fingers all winter long, and then when the weather finally improves, New York announces that it will be expanding its state park smoking ban.
The ban on smoking in some areas of state parks had a rocky start (the state suspended it temporarily after smokers’ rights groups threatened to sue) and the legal challenge is, in fact, ongoing, But apparently, New York State is feeling very cocky, not only moving forward with the ban, but extending it to even more parks. Now smokers will only be able to suck fresh air into their damaged lungs when they visit one of the city’s parks. Or, the skin particle-laden air that passes for fresh in New York City.
Legend has it that when Boss Tweed was at the height of his power, he dismissed criticism of his corrupt ways and means with a single, memorable phrase: What are you going to do about it?
The cartoonist Thomas Nast made the phrase famous—some believe he actually fabricated Tweed’s response—as a symbol of official arrogance Read More
Earlier today, multiple bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least two and injuring dozens more.
New York City has already stepped up its own security efforts in case there is a plot to attack additional cities, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced.
“[T]he NYPD has stepped up security at strategic locations and critical infrastructure, including our subways,” the mayor said in a statement.
“Some of the security steps we are taking may be noticeable, including deployment of Critical Response Vehicles and additional police personnel, and others will not be. We have 1,000 members of the NYPD assigned to counter-terrorism duties, and they – along with the entire NYPD and the investments we have made in counter-terrorism infrastructure – are being fully mobilized to protect our city.”
Der New Yorkishe Beobakhter
The Satmar Hasidim of South Williamsburg have their own schools, their own ambulance service, their own police and their own courts. And soon, they may have their own armory.
Rumors have been swirling within the community that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, represented informally by Orthodox businessman Abraham Eisner, is on the verge of concluding a deal between the warring Satmar factions—led by the late Grand Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum’s two sons, Aaron and Zalman—over disputed property.
The two factions, according to the rumors, would jointly purchase the 165,166-square foot, 3.2-acre Marcy Armory from the state, which has been trying to offload the property. The armory would be physically divided between the two camps, though the Zalmanites would pay more than the Aaronites. In exchange, the Aaronites would renounce their claims—claims unlikely to be backed by secular courts—on summer camps in Ulster County and a matzoh bakery on Broadway in Williamsburg.
Parks: what’s there not to dislike?
A group of parks activists in Queens have been pushing “QueensWay,” a linear park that would be built atop the old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road in the central and southern parts of the borough. As New York Times opinion writer Eleanor Randolph put it in her pro-QueensWay piece, it “has no celebrity patrons, no Diane von Furstenberg, no Barry Diller, no big-name donors to give enough seed money to turn the park into a fashion statement.”
But with a High Line-like makeover, she wrote, “QueensWay would offer both a walkway and a bike path. There could be small shops or stands featuring cheese guava buns, dim sum dumplings, pani puri or yam fufu.”
Planes Trains & Automobiles
How did L.A. wind up taking our transportation lunch money? New Yorkers were so busy bullying each other, we didn’t even notice when they took it and beat us to the mass transit punch.
The Architect’s Newspaper had an interesting story earlier this week pointing out how back in November, Los Angeles launched its own congestion pricing system to speed traffic on some of its jammed, anything-but-free freeways, and it has been enjoying impressive results. This was, of course, “made possible by political gridlock in the New York State Assembly over congestion pricing,” as the paper points out. All the while, the MTA has been hemorrhaging cash, leading to reduced service (later restored through cuts elsewhere) and all those fare hikes.
After Albany failed to pass the congestion pricing measure, a portion of the hundreds of millions in federal funds that had been set aside to start our program were given over to L.A.
Best Laid Plans
Basically everybody but the Bloomberg administration and select landlords in the area wants to see the Midtown East Rezoning delayed. While there is a general consensus that creating room for bigger, more modern office buildings in the heart of the city’s central business district makes sense, many planners and community groups fear the administration is rushing the plan to get it done on the mayor’s watch, rather than taking the necessary time to figure out exactly what to build.
Now, the three community boards directly effected by the rezoning are calling on Governor Cuomo to intervene, and their rationale is an interesting, if desperate, one.
Hurricane Sandy was a moment of reckoning for the city, and that reckoning has begun. The general consensus is that the city and the state must build back better, stronger and quite likely differently than before. Are sea walls appropriate? Should we let people live on barrier islands? What kind of improvements should be made to our transportation infrastructure, and how?
These are among the questions our leaders will be grappling with, and to help answer them, Gov. Cuomo has just announced three new commissions, NYS 2100, NYS Respond and NYS Ready. The commissioners are a who’s who of business, infrastructure, environmental, planning, utilities and emergency preparedness professionals and experts. As Gov. Cuomo made clear, their job is neither simple nor easy.