Had it not been for 9/11, the Bush administration might well have spent the last four years cheerfully ignoring New York. The city, after all, had made its opinion of George W. Bush fairly plain on Election Day 2000. And Mr. Bush’s scorn for political, cultural and social elites made it equally clear that he was no fan of New York.
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 changed the dynamic between New York and the Bush White House. But as we approach the beginning of a second Bush administration, the chances are good that the President and his advisors will keep their distance from this blue-state capital.
The concerns of New York are not high on the administration’s list of priorities. To take just one example: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is staring at a fiscal disaster that will require fare hikes and service cuts. Even during the Reagan years, hardly a high point in American urban policy, New Yorkers could look to Washington for mass-transit aid. But those were the days when Democrats ran Congress. Now Republicans from the South and Southwest are in charge not only of the White House, but Congress too. We shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for more mass-transit aid from today’s Washington.
This Congress and this administration will not be sympathetic on a host of issues that concern New Yorkers, like affordable housing and health care. Over the next four years, New York can expect an assault on everything from clean drinking water to federal regulations protecting consumers and workers. White House ideologues have their sights set on the American social safety net, so much of it made in New York, as they attempt to return the country to the days before social welfare was considered the government’s business.
It is imperative that Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer join with veteran Representatives like Harlem’s Charles Rangel in resisting this drift. Mr. Schumer is said to be considering a run for Governor in 2006, and Mrs. Clinton is among the Democrats who may run for President in 2008. At the moment, however, they are New York’s most prominent voices on Capitol Hill. Whatever their future ambitions, they must look after the state in this anti-urban, anti–New York atmosphere.
What’s more, New York will need to work together with like-minded states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts in developing a regional strategy to combat the powerhouses of the South and Southwest. There was a time when the Northeast could engage in border wars. That time, however, is over.
Jets Stadium: A Hail-Mary Pass With City Tax Dollars
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is building a remarkable legacy of which any Mayor would be proud. He has brought crime down to levels not seen since the early 1960’s, establishing New York as the safest large city in the country. In the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks in world history, the city has not seen an exodus of residents; indeed, co-op and condo prices are at record highs. And employment is growing in the city’s retail and tourism industries. Mr. Bloomberg has also kept a level head, avoiding the public histrionics that turned some of our previous Mayors into caricatures.
With such a legacy setting him up nicely for a possible second term, it’s unfortunate that the Mayor is spending a great deal of political capital on the proposed $1.4 billion Jets stadium in Manhattan. Adding his voice to the growing opposition to Mr. Bloomberg’s plan, City Comptroller William Thompson has written a letter to the Mayor stating that the administration’s overall $3 billion financing plan for redeveloping the far West Side-which includes the stadium as well as parks and an extended No. 7 subway line-is “extremely risky” and could cut into tax revenue which is currently used for keeping city services running smoothly. The Comptroller’s main objection is that the Mayor’s plan would be paid for in bonds, which would be paid off from increased property-tax revenue. If those increased property taxes don’t materialize, the city would have to use money from income-tax revenue. Such a plan, Mr. Thompson wrote, “is not only fiscally imprudent, it also flouts the principles of responsible government.” His forecast supports that of the city’s Independent Budget Office, which has said that the development plan carries “significant risks for the city budget” if the projected property-tax revenues fall short. And the financier Felix Rohatyn, who was instrumental in the recovery from the fiscal crises of the 1970’s, recently noted of the proposed financing: “Given the current economic outlook, it is a project that carries significant risk.”
The city counters that the stadium would generate about the same tax revenues as bond payments. Where did they get those numbers? From a study commissioned by-you guessed it-the Jets.
Any way you look at it, the proposed stadium would be a misuse of a magnificent plot of land in the heart of the city which, if developed over time with care, could become a residential, retail and commercial complex to rival New York’s most robust neighborhoods. A stadium is not the way to realize that vision. Sports stadiums are famous for doing almost nothing for the surrounding neighborhood or urban economy. As Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, recently said, “The experience in North America is that stadiums, particularly football stadiums and dual-use stadiums, have repelled commercial and residential development, not attracted it.” Broadway’s most prominent theater owners have noted that stadium traffic would cause gridlock in the theater district and make attending the theater a nightmare for New Yorkers and tourists. The city’s own Environmental Impact Statement reports that on game days, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel would be at 90 percent capacity and 10 prime Manhattan intersections would see traffic tie-ups. The stadium would also derail the proposals to transform the old High Line into a green public promenade.
Finally, it has been argued that, without the Manhattan stadium, the city will be out of the running for the 2012 Olympics. This doesn’t hold up: There is plenty of space for a stadium in Queens, closer to the proposed Olympic Village.
Is Revenge Healthy?
Does vengeance help keep society happy and healthy? That would seem to be the conclusion from a recent study by behavioral economists at the University of Zurich. In trying to figure out why some people do good deeds while expecting nothing in return, the researchers found that we all unconsciously know that if we don’t spread some good will around, someone, somehow, will make us pay. That’s because, the study found, most societies seem to contain a significant number of people with a taste for vengeance who will punish those who do not contribute to the greater good-even if by exacting such punishment, they themselves will lose out. As Professor Ernst Fehr recently told The Wall Street Journal , “Even when naturally selfish individuals are a majority, the presence of people willing to punish freeloaders can enforce social cooperation in much larger groups.”
The researchers conducted a study in which four players in a game each start with $20 and are told to contribute whatever they like to a common kitty. Whatever the amount in the kitty, it automatically gets doubled and then split four ways. So if everyone puts in $20, then the kitty becomes $160 and they each get $40-double their money. But if one of the players chooses to hang onto his or her $20, the kitty is $120 and each gets $30-so the selfish player walks away with $50. The researchers found that after a while, the players figure out that it pays to be selfish. But even if it meant losing a larger sum of their own money, players preferred meting out punishment to the most selfish.
In other words, vengeance was satisfying-and yet was necessary to keep the selfish in line.