A Bloomberg Victory:
$11.2 Billion for New Schools
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is turning out to be that rarest of species: a politician who keeps his promises. Throughout his first term and into his second, he has made a vow to the voters of New York to be the education Mayor and to fix the city’s sprawling, bureaucratic, crumbling public-school system. The $112.4 billion budget that state legislators agreed on last week shows bracing evidence of Mr. Bloomberg’s success: $11.2 billion has been allocated for school construction in New York City, money which will allow Mr. Bloomberg to embark upon the most ambitious school building and renovation plan in the city’s history.
That money didn’t just fall into the city’s lap. The Mayor aggressively fought to convince the state’s legislative leaders, Joseph Bruno and Sheldon Silver, and his fellow Republicans in the State Senate to allot the money. Albany has been almost criminally negligent when it comes to funding New York City’s schools, ignoring or contesting court decisions which have found that our city’s schoolchildren are being deprived of their right to a good education because of the state’s unwillingness to provide the money. Indeed, the courts have concluded that Albany owes the city an extra $4.7 billion to $5.63 billion in money for operating expenses, including hiring new teachers. Aware that state legislators would do everything they could not to hand over that money, Mayor Bloomberg decided to go after the construction funding instead, and his strategy paid off. The funding will come in two ways: $2.6 billion in state bonds, plus a provision that allows the city to borrow $9.4 billion through the New York City Transitional Finance Authority.
The impact will be significant. The Mayor plans to build or lease 76 new school buildings as well as upgrade and renovate existing schools. Building more schools opens up the potential for smaller class sizes and offers students the chance to learn in a clean, up-to-date environment, one that isn’t literally falling down around them.
The $11.2 billion in construction funding in no way absolves the state of its responsibilities to more fully fund our schools, and one can trust that Mr. Bloomberg and his team will continue to pursue the billions that are owed to the city. Meanwhile, this victory is a harbinger that Mike Bloomberg is not going to be a typical second-term Mayor who lets his lame-duck status limit new initiatives.
Leslie Koch Is Good News
for Governors Island
What to do with Governors Island and its 172 acres of unrealized potential sitting off the southern tip of Manhattan? Owned by the city and state since 2003, the former Army and Coast Guard base has aroused many imaginations and grand schemes—how about an amusement park? a college campus? a conference center and think tank? a replica of the Globe Theater?—but as of yet, nothing of substance has materialized to take advantage of the island’s open spaces and breathtaking views of New York Harbor. Which may be no surprise, since the city has understandably been preoccupied by the redevelopment of Ground Zero and, until recently, a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. But Governors Island is about to be back on the front burner, thanks to the terrific appointment of Leslie Koch as president of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation.
Ms. Koch comes with impeccable credentials. As chief executive of the Fund for Public Schools, along with Caroline Kennedy she raised $150 million for the public-school system from some of the country’s most prominent philanthropists. She’s also a local: She grew up on the Upper West Side, with undergraduate and business-school degrees from Yale, and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Her combination of smarts and diplomacy will serve her well in the new position. Private developers have been wary of investing in Governors Island, because of the landmark status of many of its buildings, its relative inaccessibility, and uncertainty whether the city and state can put aside their differences and be responsible stewards of the property. It will take a deft administrator and fund-raiser to harness the public and private sectors into an alliance so that Governors Island can enhance the life of this city. Someone exactly like Leslie Koch.
How the Truly Rich Retire
It’s long been conventional wisdom that being affluent in one’s middle years is a good way to guarantee a happy retirement. After all, an accumulation of wealth allows for a second home, for European vacations, for being able to give your children and grandchildren the very best. Likewise, a sense of emotional well-being in one’s 40’s and 50’s is often seen as a good indication that one is well equipped for retirement.
But a new study indicates that economic status may have very little bearing on overall contentment in one’s later years, and that a happy and prosperous middle age doesn’t necessarily lead to a peaceful and pleasurable retirement. The study, which followed men from adolescence to the age of 75 and was recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that retired men who’d done well for themselves financially, and stored up large pensions and savings, showed no appreciable increase in happiness over retired men who’d struggled economically their whole lives. Likewise, men who’d been emotionally content in middle age did not necessarily sail blissfully into their golden years.
Instead, the researchers found that what matters most in retirement is a happy marriage, a sense of purpose and activities done for their own sake, with no hope for recognition or reward, such as volunteering for a good cause or playing the piano. Indeed, if those factors were in place, then even having a physical disability wasn’t found to be an obstacle to fulfillment.
A study has yet to be done on what makes retired women happy—a fact for which their husbands should probably be grateful.