New York Gets Smarter

One hesitates to say it, because New Yorkers tend to hold their intelligence in a high enough regard as it is, but the facts speak for themselves: We’re getting smarter.

According to newly released data from the Census Bureau, more and more college graduates are choosing to live in the New York metropolitan region—a stunning increase of almost 700,000 between 2000 and 2005. During that same time, the number of high-school dropouts in the region fell by 520,000, or nearly 20 percent.

Not surprisingly, the city—particularly Manhattan and Brooklyn—is driving the trend. Over 57 percent of Manhattanites now hold a bachelor’s degree—up from 50 percent in 2000—and 25 percent have advanced degrees. Brooklyn, which has become a burgeoning outpost of the Manhattan intelligentsia, has seen a 24 percent rise in college graduates, and a 24 percent decrease in high-school dropouts, over the past five years.

Not only are college grads from around the country zeroing in on New York, but local high-school students are also choosing to pursue their higher education here at home. City University, for example, has seen enrollment rise by 12 percent since 2000, while for the past three years in a row, New York University has come out ahead of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell and Stanford in a nationwide survey asking high-school seniors which university they would most want to attend.

The ramifications of the census figures are significant. With more college graduates, the city will likely see less crime and less behavior that puts a strain on social-service agencies. New York’s status as the world’s media, information and finance capital will be strengthened. At the same time, there is concern among some sociologists that the surge in educated New Yorkers will result in lower-income residents being pushed out of the city. The answer to that is twofold: increase the supply of affordable housing, and invest energy and capital and bold ideas into public education, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are doing, and thereby increase the pool of educated residents.

The fact that more and more college students want to establish themselves in New York is not an accident. It is the direct result of over a decade’s worth of smart, vigorous leadership from City Hall. The city has become the safest large metropolis in the country, as new youth-friendly neighborhoods continue to emerge in formerly bleak areas such as Fort Greene and Washington Heights.

Of course, New York has always been a natural magnet for the country’s most ambitious citizens. We welcome these latest smart arrivals. Now let’s see if they can make it here.

Bloomberg’s $125 Million Smoke-Free Zone

Decades after the Surgeon General first announced that smoking cigarettes can—and, indeed, probably will—kill you, a stunning number of Americans, as well as people around the world, still insist on cultivating this fatal addiction. The burden this places on public health is immense, not to mention the secondhand smoke which degrades the well-being of those unfortunate enough to live in proximity to a smoker.

In his first term, Mayor Bloomberg was periodically ridiculed for his commitment to enacting the smoking ban in the city’s bars and restaurants, whose owners often claimed that the ban would destroy their business. That, of course, never happened. Instead, bars and restaurants are doing a booming business, with new establishments opening every week. And thousands of food-service workers, not to mention restaurant patrons, are breathing easier.

If smoking can be curtailed in New York, why not elsewhere? Last week, the Mayor announced that he is donating $125 million of his own money to global anti-smoking and tobacco-control efforts over the next two years. One of the priorities will be to change the image of smoking, so that young people in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia—particularly in poor Third World countries—see the dangers and folly of getting hooked. The money will also go toward encouraging politicians to create laws that ban smoking, increase tobacco taxes and fund programs to help people quit.

Mr. Bloomberg’s contribution is the largest single donation ever to the anti-tobacco movement, according to health officials. “If Mayor Bloomberg can help governments take tobacco seriously, then it will have an impact,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, an authority on tobacco control at the University of Toronto.

Like his fellow billionaire Bill Gates, Mr. Bloomberg has said he plans to give most of his $5 billion to charity. Toward that end, he is creating a foundation, to be housed in a $45 million mansion he is purchasing on the Upper East Side. Last year, he gave away $144 million, ranking him seventh in a list of the country’s top philanthropists. The Mayor is to be commended for encouraging a culture of generosity among the city’s wealthy.

Yankees Win! So Does City

The Yankees went to Boston this week and knocked the stuffing out of the Red Sox, their first five-game sweep of the Sox in 55 years. It was perfect timing: Last week, ground was broken on the construction of a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The rickety grand old jalopy of the current stadium—built in 1923, refurbished in the 1970’s, and limping along today—will see its last game in 2009. The new arena next-door, built with $800 million of the Yankees’ money, will be good for the Bronx and good for New York.

Fifteen years ago, it looked plausible that team owner George Steinbrenner might move the Yankees to New Jersey. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proposed that the team relocate to Manhattan’s West Side—indeed, many fans were reluctant to travel to the Bronx. Things have certainly changed since then.

The Yankees are drawing fans in record numbers, winning with smart and savvy players, and letting the manager manage without sideline advice. Now the team is spending its own money on a state-of-the-art stadium, with the city and state investing in parks and infrastructure in the surrounding area.

Chances are good that the Bloomberg administration will not repeat the errors of the Lindsay administration, which used taxpayer funds for a renovation of Yankee Stadium but failed to invest in the community. While it’s true that the stadium will be built on a site currently occupied by two parks, it is also true that a new park will be built where the current stadium stands. Everybody wins.

The Yankees are the world’s most famous sports team. They deserve a 21st-century ballpark. So does the newest generation of Yankee fans.