Venice in New York

At a time when everyone is looking how to fix the electrical grid because of the ’03 blackout, we shouldn’t confine ourselves to thinking of repairing the past without looking at some truly magnificent opportunities for the future. New Yorkers live surrounded by one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and most never give it a single thought. We’re talking, of course, about the waterfront, those extraordinary 578 miles of shoreline which range throughout the city and have the potential to become an urban attraction to rival Central Park. Given the city’s abundance of waterways, New York is indeed “the Venice of the East Coast,” as John Waldman, the senior scientist at the Hudson River Foundation, recently told The New York Times. But instead of drawing the millions of tourists who flock to that Italian city by the sea, New York’s shoreline has been underused for decades, more of an embarrassment than a world-class tourist destination. The city’s waterfront policy has been characterized by neglect and abandonment, a place where pathology and crime have been allowed to flourish despite much rhetoric.

Fortunately, Mayor Michael Bloomberg-who announced in his first State of the City address that he intended to bring new life to the waterfront-is committed to taking action. Already under his watch, the city has proposed rezoning the Brooklyn shore area for housing, completed a bike path around Manhattan and developed new links to the lower Manhattan

waterfront. Many New Yorkers have seen the progress on the $400 million Hudson River Park project between Battery Park City and 59th Street. And as The Times noted, there are plans to redevelop the area around the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the waterfront near Yankee Stadium and the Harlem Piers. The city’s parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, deserves praise for making the shorefront a priority of his department.

But the city and the state should put far more money into the waterfront, and secure federal funding as well. To take just one example of an untapped natural resource, look at the Harlem River. A sizable public investment along with private donations could reface that entire shoreline, spruce up the bridges, build condos, boating facilities and restaurants, and transform the area into something resembling the Grand Canal. Tourists and residents would be drawn there, all of Harlem would benefit economically, and what is now totally wasted space would become a showcase attraction.

And it’s not just the area around Manhattan which is ripe for development. Look at the remarkable number of bays and canals in every borough, such as the Rockaway Inlet, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend Bay, the Gowanus Canal, Little Neck Bay, the Bronx River-not to mention the shorefront of Staten Island. Any Governor or Mayor with real vision could put the most extraordinary development in the 21st century into play. And if the Bush administration were wise, it would invest heavily in such a history-making project. If the federal government were to take the money from the space program and invest it in New York’s waterways, they’d see huge, bankable returns. Indeed, while the government of Italy spends billions on Venice, Florence and Rome, and the government of France spends billions on Paris, the U.S. government spends zero on New York. This is not only shortsighted from a cultural point of view, it’s also a lost opportunity to create a permanent source of tax revenue.

To put it simply, a full-scale investment in New York’s waterfront would benefit everyone. Imagine going for a candle-lit dinner and a gondola ride on the Harlem River.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

President Bush is said to be keenly aware that his father lost his re-election bid in 1992 because he was thought to be out of touch with the nation’s economy. The elder Mr. Bush had approval ratings of more than 90 percent after the Gulf War and seemed unbeatable. Months later, however, the American people were more concerned about pocketbook issues that military adventures.

If George W. Bush did learn anything from his father’s mistakes, it’s not showing up in his actions. The unemployment rate has inched up since the President’s election and now stands at 6.2 percent. What is worse, the official jobless rate doesn’t reflect the real number of unemployed and underemployed. With the recent upsurge in the Dow Jones index, the administration has been encouraging us to believe that recovery is around the corner. Perhaps, but it is a limited recovery. It is not creating new jobs, and it is not inspiring the business community’s confidence.

All the while, the Bush administration touts tax cuts as a miracle cure-all, as if that potion hadn’t been sold before. Amazingly, the supposedly fastidious Republicans in the White House see no problem with the startling deficits they’ve rolled up in the last two years, frittering away the surpluses of the late 1990’s.

During George W. Bush’s time in office, good jobs have disappeared, either because of recession or because corporate America has moved such jobs to other countries, where citizens are happy to be exploited. Mr. Bush apparently believes that voters will not consider any of this next year, and will support him simply because he is engaged in a war on terror.

That’s a grave mistake, not only for Mr. Bush’s political future, but for the nation as a whole. High unemployment and a proliferation of McJobs will do nothing to help bring the country together at a critical moment in our history. Economic instability tears at the social fabric, destroys our communities and undermines our faith in the system. The litmus test of how a country is doing is the value of its currency, and as everyone knows, our dollar has eroded by 20 percent in the past year. Indeed, probably all assets are worth 20 percent less-including this country.

It’s time for Mr. Bush, who revels in his role as a wartime president, to show that he understands the nation’s economic anxieties. Otherwise, he, too, may learn the wisdom of the ancient Romans: All glory passes.

What Do Rich Men Want?

Rich men want beautiful wives, right? And of course it goes without saying that beautiful women want rich husbands, yes? Not so fast: A new study indicates that men of means are more apt to look at a potential mate’s bottom line than her … well, you get the picture. And the same research shows that a comely lass is more drawn to a handsome rake than to a guy who rakes in the bucks.

The study, conducted by Dr. Stephen Emlen, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, and published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , would seem to discount two widely assumed New York traditions: the rich swell in search of a “trophy wife” and the stunning woman on the prowl for the fat cat. Indeed, the new research shows that wealthy males tend to seek out wealthy females, while the men who consider themselves good-looking are the most apt to pursue women who are easy on the eyes. Meanwhile, women who turn heads place a man’s looks ahead of his bank balance.

What does all this mean? Maybe that rich men are smarter than you think.

Venice in New York