Happy 2001

What a year it’s been. Even New Yorkers with our Kevlar-coating of cynicism had to do more than a few double takes to make sense of what 2000 brought us. To give but a few examples, just 12 short months ago, Rudolph Giuliani was a good bet for Senator, the Internet was a gold mine, the Subway Series was part of a dimly remembered golden age and the U.S. Supreme Court was a highly respected institution.

But a look back at the year reveals far more half-full glasses than half-empty ones. Especially for those who make their home in New York. With one of the best years ever for the city’s economy, coupled with the continuing decline in the crime rate, New York further confirmed its status as by far the country’s most productive, safe, lively and livable large city. Broadway and Lincoln Center are packed, museums are speed-dialing their architects (“Build! Build!”) and every Hollywood star who doesn’t already live here is pricing lofts in Tribeca. Most recently, the consummation of Time Warner and America Online, and Time Warner’s planned new headquarters on Columbus Circle, reinforce New York’s hegemony as the media capital of the world.

The Mayor’s medical and marital woes thankfully have not dimmed his robust nature, evidenced by his recent parrying with the teachers’ union. (“It’s easier to convict a criminal than get rid of a bad teacher,” he said with the characteristic subtlety that more than a few will miss.) Yet Mr. Giuliani’s unfortunate tendency to star as his own worst enemy may have clouded any hopes he has of a political comeback. Meanwhile, every Democrat in sight is lining up for his job, guaranteeing that the city’s political consultants and assorted hacks are already stuffing their Christmas stockings.

Not all our stars were of the stage-and-screen variety. During a memorable week in October, New York became the baseball capital of the world. All summer long, we had cheered as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and the rest of Joe Torre’s team came together for yet another memorable year, made all the more remarkable by the sheer grit the Yankees displayed in the season’s final, nearly catastrophic weeks. And we had watched Mike Piazza put up M.V.P.-type numbers for the Mets. It all culminated on two autumn nights in New York, as the Mets clinched the National League pennant at Shea Stadium in Queens, and the Yankees staged a dramatic rally to clinch the American League flag at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Suddenly, a new generation of baseball fans had a Subway Series to call its own. And while the Yankees won handily in five games, each game was close, and the end came dramatically in the last inning of Game 5. The Yankee victory sealed the team’s reputation as a dynasty; the Mets showed that they have put their recent past behind them.

The city bid farewell to John Cardinal O’Connor, who died at age 80. His Eminence had led the New York Archdiocese, with its 2.3 million Roman Catholics, for more than 15 years. During that time, this son of a working-class Philadelphia family became a true New Yorker-combative, empathetic, colorful and passionate. He didn’t need to reinvent himself; he didn’t need to rewrite his biography to make himself more fashionable. Instead, he remained true to his core beliefs, which included a passion for social justice. He became one of our city’s gifts to the world.

The year 2000 also saw one Clinton fall-Bill’s coattails couldn’t carry Al Gore past a far less experienced, less intelligent candidate-and another rise. Hillary Clinton’s ascendancy remains a question mark. The danger is that she will think she’s Senator for all 50 states, not just New York State. For those New Yorkers who did not celebrate Mrs. Clinton’s victory, and who do not see her as a worthy heir to the great Daniel Patrick Moynihan, there is perhaps some consolation in the fact that Mr. Clinton’s former paramour, Monica Lewinsky, has established herself in New York. Her regular appearance in the local tabloids may provide a healthy reality check to the inevitable Clinton myth-making.

On the national front, it appears at the moment that history will not treat George W. Bush or Al Gore as particularly significant figures. Mr. Bush will soon take up residence in the White House without any real public record, while Al Gore will retire from the scene-at least temporarily-with a lifetime of public service and yet nothing convincing to say about it. Both men may yet surprise us. Mr. Bush, for whom expectations could not get any lower, could turn out to be crafty after all, and his genial demeanor suggests the possibility (however unlikely) that he’ll be able to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Mr. Gore, in the meantime, may reinvent himself yet again and emerge as the Democratic Party’s leader-in-exile and President-in-waiting. His genuine concession speech suggests that the wooden man does, after all, have a heart. Having discovered it, Al Gore may yet become the man so many wished him to be-if not in politics, then in perhaps some other field.

As one year winds down and another begins, we hope all New Yorkers share with us the mix of wonder and skepticism as we help compose the first draft of history, filled as it is with messy, maddening details. No other place on the planet has New York’s history, nor its future.

The Observer would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our readers and advertisers, and wish them happy holidays and a healthy new year.

Happy 2001