A Threatened Water Supply

Here’s a truism that ought to be emblazoned on the walls of the Mayor’s office: You don’t fool around with the water supply.

The health, prosperity and very existence of New York depends on safe and clean reservoirs. A threatened water supply is a threatened city, and all the talk about lower crime rates, budget surpluses and improved reading scores wouldn’t mean a thing if New Yorkers had reason to believe that their water was anything but pristine. It would stand to reason, then, that the city would do everything in its power to ensure the safety of its vast watershed in and around the Catskill Mountains. Unfortunately, City Hall is content to take halfhearted measures in the face of evidence that suburban sprawl is endangering our drinking water.

More than two years ago, the Giuliani administration unveiled measures designed to protect the watershed, which ranges from Westchester County on the eastern banks of the Hudson River to rural upstate. The city would purchase property around the reservoirs to prevent development; septic systems and construction near the watershed threatened to contaminate our drinking supply and force the city to build a $6 billion filtration system.

But now the National Academy of Sciences has issued a disturbing critique in which scientists said that while the plan to buy property around the reservoirs was good, the city must be more aggressive about monitoring the condition of the watershed. Dr. Charles R. O’Melia of the N.A.S. warned of deadly organisms such as cryptosporidium and giardia, and urged the city to spend money improving the septic systems in the watershed region.

City Hall has been put on notice. No halfhearted, half-funded measures will do. A polluted watershed would be a disaster. The city must spend whatever it takes to ensure that generations to come will have a reliable supply of safe water. Otherwise, everything else is in vain.

Mark Green Knocks Cops

It’s hardly a secret that Mark Green, New York City’s Public Advocate, burns with a desire to become Mayor, either through an election or as successor to the current Mayor, should Rudolph Giuliani win a seat on the United States Senate. What’s also clear is that although the tanned, telegenic Mr. Green has been a known quantity to New Yorkers for several years, he has been unable to galvanize the man or woman in the street. Mr. Green’s failure to connect comes from an unfortunate combination of knee-jerk liberalism and a political tin ear.

Mr. Green demonstrated both qualities in the choice of his most recent target, the New York City Police Department. Now, finding fault with one of the world’s largest police forces, located in one of the world’s most complex cities, is hardly news. Yes, New York cops make mistakes, sometimes lethal ones, and more oversight is needed. But the fact is, the department has done a remarkable job of transforming New York, which not too long ago was the poster metropolis for murder and mayhem, into the safest large city in America. The benefits from New York’s newfound, safer image are incalculable; more tourists, businesses and co-op buyers have streamed into town, shoring up the economic base and rejuvenating morale. Most New Yorkers have been deeply grateful for the change. Mr. Green’s attack on the Police department does not augur well if he does indeed succeed Mr. Giuliani; as Mayor, he would foster an adversarial relationship with what may be the most effective law enforcement organization in the world.

The particular contents of Mr. Green’s recent report are skewed toward his political agenda. He finds legitimate fault with the department for not adequately punishing those officers against whom civilian complaints had been filed, but the fine print reveals that he only looked at statistics for the years 1994 to 1997, ignoring 1998 and 1999. It just so happens that within the last two years, the department has revamped and strengthened its internal disciplinary procedures, a fact Mr. Green conceded when asked about it by some pesky, detail-oriented reporters.

One wonders if Mr. Green’s ill-advised idea to position himself as the anti-cop Mayor will be followed by a pro-mosquito rally.

Fred Rose

One of the city’s great leaders passed away on Sept. 14, a man who never held public office but whose private generosity helped shape New York in profound ways. Had the city not been blessed by the dignified and spirited presence of Fred Rose, we would find ourselves living in a diminished cultural landscape. But fortunately for us, Mr. Rose, the patriarch of a real estate family who oversaw several million square feet of apartments and commercial space, had an extraordinary passion for the city and a mind attuned to life’s higher values.

That passion can be seen in the magnificent legacy Mr. Rose has left, a result of his donations of time and money to such institutions as Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History and the Juilliard School of Music, as well as to charities such as the Children’s Aid Society. From providing $15 million for the gorgeous renovation of the library’s main reading room, to giving $20 million for a new Hayden Planetarium, to raising $1.4 million for the Kosovo refugees, Mr. Rose gave personality and character to the word wealth.

Mr. Rose accomplished all of this with uncommon grace and class. His donations were usually given anonymously, he eschewed publicity, and his family always came first. The son of a Bronx real estate developer, he attended Yale University, served in the Navy during World War II and married his high school sweetheart. The family business prospered under his hands-on guidance; he also had a flair for the piano, the golf course, the chessboard and any room full of friends. The city and the country have lost a real mensch.

We at The Observer extend our condolences to his wife, Sandra, his brothers, Dan and Elihu, and his children, Deborah, Jonathan and Adam. A Threatened Water Supply