Editorials

New Stadiums Are a Bad Idea

There is no question that as Rudolph Giuliani leaves City Hall, he does so as one of the greatest New York Mayors of all time, a man who used his powers to rally and comfort a city struck numb by the worst terrorist attack in world history. It is therefore unfortunate, if not inevitable, that he would throw a wrench into his final days by unveiling a flawed deal for the city to invest $1.6 billion to help build new state-of-the-art baseball stadiums for the New York Yankees and New York Mets. In the current economic climate, when sacrifice is being asked of all New Yorkers, this is hardly the time to indulge the fantasies of the owners of the Yankees and Mets. Mike Bloomberg has judiciously refrained from promising he will pursue the deal.

Even if the city’s economy were robust, the plan for the new stadiums would be misguided at best. Such an investment would perhaps be justified if the plans called for a multi-use stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, something original and forward-thinking. But instead, the city and team owners propose placing the new stadiums adjacent to their existing locations: The new Shea would be in the current stadium’s parking lot; the new Yankee stadium would be located in Macomb’s Dam Park, across the street from the current, 1920’s-era stadium. Both would have retractable roofs, more bathrooms and concession stands, and other perks.

That’s great for the teams, but what’s in it for the city? Very little–and absolutely nothing to justify a multibillion-dollar spending spree. The idea that the Yankees or Mets will ever leave the city is ludicrous. The owners know that New York represents the country’s largest media market, and New Jersey has been less than eager to build stadiums for restless New York teams. Supporters of the new stadiums claim that they will bring new revenue to the city, despite the fact that no solid evidence exists that sports stadiums bring money into their host cities or neighborhoods.

Shea Stadium has certainly seen better days, and the transportation system surrounding Yankee Stadium is frayed. But the teams are private enterprises and should be willing to finance improvements–or new stadiums–on their own, or with modest help from taxpayers. It’s worth noting that 40 percent of the fans who attend the games are from Westchester, Connecticut or Long Island, adding insult to the idea of the city financing the new stadiums on its own.

If the city truly feels it can afford $1.6 billion, why not take that money and invest it wisely by putting it toward rebuilding the infrastructure downtown near the World Trade Center site? The need to restore a sense of wholeness and economic promise to that area far outweighs the need to bolster the fortunes of wealthy owners of sports teams.

Rudy Giuliani leaves New York in far better shape than he found it. This last-minute idea should be dismissed as the forgivable impulse of a man caught up in his moment in history.

Return of the Squeegee?

Aggressive panhandlers on the streets and in the subways. Menacing men with squeegees harassing drivers entering and leaving the city. Prostitutes on midtown street corners. Public urination and drunkenness. Flagrant littering on the sidewalks. These are some of the “quality of life” crimes which were a big reason why the rest of America and the world used to regard New York City with trepidation, and which helped drive young New York families to the suburbs.

Before Rudolph Giuliani and his Police Department cracked down on such crimes, the daily presence of random disorder left New Yorkers with the impression that their city was ungovernable. The phenomenal decline under Mr. Giuliani of larger crimes such as murder, robbery and rape was matched by a reduction in quality-of-life offenses–which in turn contributed to the drop in major crime, since those caught jumping turnstiles or drinking in public were often found to be wanted by the police for more serious charges. Mr. Giuliani, who was initially mocked for his “war on squeegee men,” was simply putting into action the radical proposal that New Yorkers and visitors have a right to go about their business with some measure of personal safety and dignity.

It is thus welcome news that Mike Bloomberg has strongly declared he will continue Mr. Giuliani’s remarkable legacy in this area, and has promised that “quality-of-life crimes are something we are not going to back away from.” Indeed, since Sept. 11, with a large contingent of police officers deployed downtown, many New Yorkers have noticed a return of defiant panhandlers and even squeegee men. The new police commissioner, Ray Kelly, says he will begin a major push to reverse this worrisome trend. Particularly at a time when so many tourists are coming to New York to pay their respects, it is crucial that they not encounter a city of low-grade lawlessness. And New Yorkers deserve a continuation of the overall sense of safety which prevailed during the past eight years.

Mayor Bloomberg seems to understand that the public perception of the city has a direct impact on its economic base. By committing himself early to keeping New York livable, he gives reassurance to New Yorkers who have grown accustomed to a hard-won and much-treasured public civility. Editorials