A Clear and Present Danger

Does anyone really believe that the Indian Point nuclear-power plant deserves to continue operating? Apparently, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission does: The troubled plant’s two active reactors were recently given a clean bill of health by the N.R.C., giving the plant a chance to go full blast despite its long history of shoddy safety evaluations, an inadequate evacuation plan and its proximity to New York City in a time of increased terrorism concerns. The commission, apparently impressed with the way the New Orleans–based Entergy Corporation, which owns Indian Point, has invested in improving security and safety procedures, announced that it will lower its oversight of Indian Point from “heightened” to “standard”-even though the commission admits that significant problems still remain at Indian Point. We are all worse off for this decision.

Fortunately, there is still powerful opposition to Indian Point, on both safety and environmental grounds. Richard Brodsky, a state assemblyman from Westchester, has made closing the plant a priority. Of the N.R.C.’s recent decision, he remarked, “The N.R.C. is being an apologist, not a regulator.” Meanwhile, the state has demanded that Entergy build a new cooling system, which would rely on recycled water and reduce by 97 percent the millions of fish the plant kills each year. Entergy, which is a $10 billion corporation, complains that this would cost more than $1 billion and that it would be forced to permanently close the facility. Anything that makes Indian Point less attractive as a business is a step in the right direction. And it’s worth noting that several non-nuclear power plants now being built would be able to replace all the power, and then some, currently being generated by Indian Point.

Simply put, this is a matter of national security, not of energy policy. Terrorists would stop at nothing to use Indian Point as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. One of the planes that struck the World Trade Center flew right by the plant. A meltdown or terrorist attack at Indian Point would make Sept. 11 look like a minor tragedy. One N.R.C. study estimated that a meltdown at Indian Point would kill 46,000 people immediately-not to mention the panic, trauma and economic calamity that would result from a full evacuation of New York City, which is located just 35 miles from Indian Point.

If George W. Bush is at all serious about winning votes in New York, and isn’t just using the city as a camera-ready, 9/11-tinged backdrop for the Republican National Convention this summer, he will understand that closing Indian Point would make all New Yorkers safer, and would frustrate militant Islam’s unholy warriors.

Clarence Norman: Kings County Crook

It has been several months since Clarence Norman, the slippery Democratic boss of Brooklyn and a senior member of the State Assembly, was indicted on corruption charges. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, has charged that Mr. Norman tried to steer judicial candidates to his organization’s favored consultants, adding weight to the long-whispered charges that judgeships were sold in Brooklyn’s Democratic political bazaar. Mr. Norman is also charged with billing the state for $5,000 in travel expenses, even though the party had reimbursed him.

Since the indictments, Mr. Norman has continued to function as the county leader of the Brooklyn Democratic organization and as an assemblyman. Outrageously, there has been little pressure on him to step down from either position, and he has shown no signs of doing so. And why would he, when he earns a $100,000 salary for his part-time Assembly work? Mr. Norman’s arrogance is matched by his corruption; for years, he has weaved a web of finances and fishy explanations which smell worse than the Gowanus Canal on a mid-August afternoon.

Take, for example, the fact that Mr. Norman came to own a stock portfolio that grew from as little as $40,000 in 1995 to as much as $4 million by 1999. He has a simple explanation: He watched CNBC and read a book by Peter Lynch, the Fidelity fund’s financial guru. Well, that explains everything. Mr. Norman’s remarkable good fortune has been spread around to his friends: The head of the law firm that employed Mr. Norman, Ravi Batra, has received nearly a half-million dollars in court-assigned work. And Mr. Norman apparently felt quite comfortable with the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s credit card, racking up $140,000 in expenses over five and a half years.

Mr. Hynes should move quickly in bringing this case to trial. The longer this is dragged out, the greater the opportunity for the borough’s demagogues to play the race card. Even though Mr. Hynes has a reputation as a racial healer, some of Mr. Norman’s allies are complaining that their man was singled out for prosecution because he is black.

That’s worse than rubbish: Would they also claim that the late, unlamented Meade Esposito was prosecuted because he was Italian-American? The history of New York politics-particularly in Kings County-suggests that corruption is an equal-opportunity offense.

Let the case against Mr. Norman proceed. The longer he remains in power, the longer it will take the Brooklyn Democratic organization to rebuild after decades of corruption.

N.Y.U. Outshines the Ivies

Given his or her choice, most high-school seniors would want to attend an Ivy League university, wouldn’t they? Not according to results of a new survey by the Princeton Review, which polled 3,000 high-school students to find out their “dream school” and asked, “What college would you most like to attend if chance of being accepted or cost were not an issue?” New York University came out on top, followed, in order, by Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Duke, Columbia, Princeton, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Cornell. Last year, in the same survey, N.Y.U. came in second to Stanford, but still beat Harvard, Yale and Princeton. So, for two years running, N.Y.U. has shown more drawing power than the Ivy League threesome so often mentioned in one breath as the Holy Trinity of American higher education.

While the academic community has known for years that an N.Y.U. education can match that offered by the Ivies, it’s notable that high-school students are now attaching more value to a diploma from the leafy streets of Greenwich Village than they are to one earned on the banks of the Charles or in the gritty streets of New Haven. N.Y.U. has benefited from extraordinary leadership and the recruitment of top-quality academic talent from around the world-a magnificent legacy left by Larry Tisch and continued into the 21st century by chairman Martin Lipton and the university’s visionary president, John Sexton.

The university’s success is also a measure of the city’s success at creating a highly desirable quality of life. The assertive crime-fighting policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have allowed New York to keep its standing as the safest large city in America. Parents can feel good about sending their children here-not to mention that they don’t have to buy Junior a car. And N.Y.U. students have some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions a mere subway ride away. Indeed, since 1994, undergraduate applications to N.Y.U. have increased by 135 per cent, and more students have applied for admission to N.Y.U. in fall 2004 than to any other private university-indicating that fears stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks haven’t hurt N.Y.U.’s appeal.

N.Y.U. students don’t just study here; after graduating, they contribute to the city in many important ways, working in finance, government, journalism or the arts. It’s almost impossible not to encounter N.Y.U. graduates in the halls of city government, or deeply involved in arts institutions, or working on the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. As Frank Sinatra sang, they know that if they can make it here ….

A Clear and Present Danger