Their hopes for a new stadium on the West Side foiled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the New York Jets may yet return from their 20-year exile in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. You can’t go home again? Guess again. The Jets are talking about returning to the borough they played in for two decades: Queens.
The team recently unveiled a proposal to build a new stadium, at a cost of $1.3 billion, near Shea Stadium. City officials ought to seize the opportunity to bring the Jets home.
Currently the Jets are tenants in a stadium built for the Giants, the area’s other, more fabled National Football League franchise. The Giants fled New York in the mid-1970’s for the promise of mega-parking lots and a field to call their own. The Jets followed suit in the early 1980’s, after then-owner Leon Hess was appalled by the deteriorating conditions at Shea Stadium in Queens.
So, for more than 20 years, the Jets have been playing in a facility called Giants Stadium—a small point, but no other professional football franchise shares a field with another N.F.L. team.
The Giants are currently in negotiations with New Jersey officials to build a new Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. The Giants will pay for construction, but, of course, they are expecting New Jersey to chip in with infrastructure improvements. One question is whether the Jets will be included as a legitimate partner in the new project, or if they will continue to be little more than second-class citizens in the New Jersey sports pecking order.
The team’s actions indicate that they would be delighted to return to New York. The Jets were willing to pay construction costs of the now-defunct West Side stadium (although, again, the state and city were going to have to pay for other costs). And now it appears they have their eyes on a 15-acre tract in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, a site that, notably, has superb access by mass transit and automobile.
Under the Jets’ plan, the state and city would have to shell out about $300 million in infrastructure upgrades. That would be a sound investment, if the stadium were designed for other uses in addition to football. After all, the Jets play just eight regular-season home dates in the fall and early winter. It would be imperative that the facility be used for other events when the Jets aren’t playing.
Pro sports facilities often promise more than they deliver. But there can be little doubt that Queens and the rest of the city will benefit from professional football’s return to New York. And it says something positive about the Jets that they didn’t simply give up on New York after their West Side stadium plan fell apart.
They want another shot at becoming a real New York team again. The city should give it to them.
Our Next Mayor? Black Voters May Decide
As Michael Bloomberg and Freddy Ferrer square off in the bruising autumn of this Mayoral campaign, both camps are fervently courting the city’s African-American vote. Which is no surprise: Black voters represent about 25 percent of the voting electorate and could well determine the winner in a tight race. What is surprising, however, is that Mr. Ferrer, the Democrat of Hispanic descent, will have to fight for those votes as tirelessly as Mr. Bloomberg, the white Republican billionaire with a townhouse on the Upper East Side.
The old days of identity politics in New York City are over. Recent polls have shown that black voters are split evenly between the two candidates. And that’s despite the fact that Mr. Ferrer has received the endorsement of several of the city’s most well-known and prominent black leaders, such as former Mayor David Dinkins and Representative Charlie Rangel. But the time when someone like Al Sharpton could use racial politics to sway a crowd are over; Mr. Sharpton’s endorsement of Mr. Ferrer has done the candidate little or no good with black voters. Indeed, in black middle-class households across the city, there’s a growing recognition that the era of the Sharpton-dominated campaign is over, and that their interests reflect the values of most New Yorkers: safe streets, good schools and a healthy economy. And these voters, concentrated in growing neighborhoods like Cambria Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Fort Greene and St. Albans, are no longer dominated by the handful of Harlem politicians who used to call the shots.
This shift in voting patterns can be seen to have its origins, ironically enough, in the Rudy Giuliani years. While Mr. Giuliani was hardly embraced by black New Yorkers, the stunning drop in crime he initiated was felt most directly in black neighborhoods. Streets were suddenly safe again, and there’s no overestimating the impact that has had on families. Mr. Bloomberg’s proven ability to keep crime at record lows, without the real and alleged incidents of police brutality that flared up under Mr. Giuliani, has earned him the respect of all New Yorkers. And his pledge to improve public schools, as well as the results he has already achieved in that area, resonate most powerfully with those who cannot afford to send their children to private school.
The Democrats know that they can no longer take the black vote for granted. This is a positive sign for the future of the city and the growing influence of black voters in influencing municipal priorities.
The New Math: High Expectations
With more than one million children in the city’s public schools and more than 1,000 school buildings, the school system is a long-term challenge for teachers, principals and parents as well as the children. But the climate of expectations has changed in recent years: We are no longer willing to accept failure as inevitable.
Last week, it was reported that the city’s fourth graders achieved a notable increase of 9.3 percent in math proficiency over the past year, which was the largest jump in New York State. Some of our city’s schools seem to have performed miracles: At P.S. 40 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the percentage of fourth graders who scored proficiently in math soared 40 percent. Likewise, District 5 in Harlem showed a 15.7 percent increase. These healthy numbers mirror the recent upturn in fourth-grade reading scores across the city. The reading and math scores suggest that the Bloomberg administration’s controversial policy of ending the social promotion of fourth graders is starting to pay off.
Overall, the numbers indicate that school reform under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is working. That said, changing the city’s public schools isn’t something that can be done in one year or two years, or even four years.
The next step will be for the leaders of the teachers’ union to come down off their soapboxes, finally accept the changes in work rules that the city has asked for, and put the needs of students first.