Moynihan’s Grand Vision
During his four terms as a United States Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan often sighed in frustration over the lost art of thinking big. New York City, the late Senator complained, had lost its ability to conceive and execute public-works projects worthy of a world capital.
In his last years, Moynihan championed (and funded) a project that promised to reverse the trends he so deplored: the conversion of the old Farley Post Office building on Eighth Avenue to a new and glorious Penn Station.
The project remains unfinished, but now two developers are offering a plan that is worthy not only of New York City but of the late Senator, whose name will adorn the new rail station. Steven Roth and Stephen Ross have proposed nothing less than the bold re-creation and re-imagining of the Far West Side. They want to move Madison Square Garden to Ninth Avenue, renovate the current Penn Station (which will continue as an Amtrak facility), build a new office complex where the Garden stands now and, oh yes, finish the Moynihan Station project.
It is a breathtaking plan, estimated to cost $7 billion. It would transform an area that has been waiting to be redeveloped for decades. It would satisfy the restless spirit of the late Senator, who believed in the importance of grand public projects.
One man, however, could wreck the whole thing: Governor George Pataki. The lame duck of Albany seems willing to settle for the easier, less-ambitious alternative of simply building a new rail station in the old post-office building.
To be sure, that was the original idea. But Messrs. Ross and Roth have taken that idea and expanded on it. Their inventive proposal is just what the neighborhood needs.
Critics fear that Moynihan Station will get lost in this more-comprehensive redevelopment. Those fears, while sincere, are groundless. It’s clear that the developers are committed to achieving Pat Moynihan’s dream of a great rail gateway designed to replicate the late, lamented Penn Station of yore.
Mr. Pataki is eager to get moving on the Moynihan Station project before he leaves office at the end of this year. Supporters of the Roth-Ross project fear that the Governor will block the larger plan simply because he wants to get the rail project underway as quickly as possible so he can claim credit.
That’s just another way of thinking small. The Governor had 12 years to get something done, and he dropped the ball. It’s time to let larger minds bring Pat Moynihan’s vision to fruition.
Bloomberg and Quinn: A Class Act
It might be a little early to be drawing comparisons with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but there’s no denying that Mike Bloomberg and Christine Quinn have turned the annual budget dance from a flat-footed, clumsy hoedown into something approaching grace.
During the talks leading up to this week’s passage of the city’s $50 billion budget, the Mayor and the rookie City Council Speaker have avoided the bickering and blame which have characterized previous years. Much of the credit goes to Ms. Quinn, who has kept her members in line by curbing their worst pork-barrel abuses. She has also resisted the budget-season ritual of cooking up confrontational photo ops to decry this or that aspect of the Mayor’s plan. Instead, she and Mr. Bloomberg have pioneered a consensual working relationship, with a refreshing lack of territoriality when it comes to claiming credit.
Ms. Quinn’s leadership of the fractious and difficult Council has been something to behold. In 2004, the Council’s spending wish list—which includes worthy and admirable items such as after-school programs, as well as giant wasteful heapings of pure pork—came to $700 million. This year, the wish list came to just $400 million, thanks largely to the new system put in place by Ms. Quinn, in which each spending request must be endorsed by 10 Council members representing at least three boroughs. This has cut way down on grubby parochial projects, while maintaining healthy funding for issues that Ms. Quinn regards as priorities, including hunger, poverty and better equipment, such as bulletproof vests for the New York Police Department.
Former Speaker Gifford Miller wanted to make a name for himself as a voice of opposition to the Mayor, and, politically at least, he succeeded, though with little to show for it in the long term. Ms. Quinn is forging a more productive, collaborative relationship with Mr. Bloomberg, in which disagreements don’t get in the way of good government. An example of this was the Mayor and Speaker’s support for legislation to curb the notoriously cozy relationship between lobbyists and Council members, by restricting lobbyists’ access to city lawmakers and barring politicians from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Council members have been put on notice that the hidden handshakes and tainted agendas that used to characterize business as usual will no longer be tolerated.
Politically savvy, with just the right blend of Irish charm and New York muscle, Christine Quinn is proving to be the perfect partner for this results-oriented, pragmatic Mayor.
Spitzer on The Waterfront
Fifty years ago, an oil-tank explosion in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, created a 17-million-gallon oil and chemical spill that soaked into the soil and nearby Newtown Creek. Toxic fumes still rise from the ground above the spill, and the surrounding area is little more than an industrial wasteland, unfit for development. ExxonMobil cleaned up approximately half of the spill, but then dawdled and stalled and delayed finishing the job. In an echo of General Electric’s long resistance to taking responsibility for the carcinogenic PCB’s it had dumped in the Hudson River, ExxonMobil and the two other implicated oil companies, BP and the Chevron Corp., fought the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s attempt to force a full cleanup. Residents, environmental groups such as RiverKeeper and local elected officials made noise about the delay, but those who recall G.E.’s stonewalling over the Hudson are aware just how decades-old environmental disasters can be easily pushed off the agenda.
Fortunately, the D.E.C. has now asked Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to investigate the spill, which could be the first step toward legal action against ExxonMobil if the company doesn’t pick up the pace and pay the full cost of the cleanup. The last thing a major corporation wants is a politically ambitious, notoriously effective attorney general such as Mr. Spitzer on its tail, and the mere threat of a state lawsuit may very likely force the three oil companies to do the right thing.
Which could be a very good thing for all New Yorkers, since the Greenpoint waterfront around Newtown Creek is ripe for development and could take its place alongside other formerly blighted areas, such as Red Hook, as a residential showcase.