The Spitzer Era Begins

Unlike some of our neighboring states, New York does not have a revolving door in the state’s executive mansion. Only five people have been elected Governor since 1958: Nelson Rockefeller, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki and now Eliot Spitzer. The beginning of a new administration, then, is reason to proclaim a new era in New York history.

Mr. Spitzer takes office amid calls for change in Albany. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard this tune before: Mr. Spitzer’s immediate predecessor promised to reform Albany, but wound up changing very little. Mr. Pataki’s failures, however, only add to the urgency of Mr. Spitzer’s mission. If he does not change the way Albany does business, voters will have every reason to judge him harshly.

In a promising sign that Mr. Spitzer intends to put his own stamp on things, he chose to keep New York open for business on Jan. 2, and not join the federal government and other states in closing down in honor of the late President Gerald Ford. While Ford was a decent man and an honorable President, there was no need for New Yorkers to bear the expense—which could easily have reached tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars—of suspending the state’s operations to honor what was essentially a funeral in Washington, D.C. Mr. Spitzer’s decision is a solid omen of more independent actions to follow. He understands that state governments should adopt policies that fit their priorities and values rather than just mimic what goes on in Washington.

Reforming state government, while important, is hardly the only challenge awaiting Mr. Spitzer. Indeed, his administration has a chance to preside over what could be an unprecedented era of planning and building, from infrastructure improvements in and around the city to a retooling of the ailing upstate economy.

The city’s astonishing revival over the last 15 years has led to a boom in our civic imagination. For the first time in decades, projects long considered mere pipe dreams—like the Second Avenue subway—are ready to be implemented. Other projects, like an extension of the No. 7 train and a connection between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal, are ready to leap from blueprint to reality.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun to plan not for the next election cycle (he can’t run for re-election anyway), but for the housing and job markets of 2050. The Mayor hopes to redevelop long-neglected areas of the city to ensure that New York never again has to endure the economic collapses of the 1970’s and late 1980’s.

Mr. Spitzer will have a great deal to say about all of this, and more. Ground Zero is now officially his project. So, too, is the scandalously delayed Moynihan Station project at the old Farley Post Office Building on Eighth Avenue. The new Governor must straighten out these messes right away.

But even as he presides over a building boom that will truly usher New York City into the 21st century, Mr. Spitzer and his fellow New Yorkers cannot ignore the plight of upstate, which remains an economic basket case. New York City’s revival and continued prosperity are important for the state, but the future is bleak indeed if nothing can be done about Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

Mr. Spitzer does not lack for challenges—and opportunities. If he makes the best of them, he will have a long and memorable tenure in Albany.

Bloomberg Takes Poverty Private

Reading the headlines of the past month, one could be forgiven for thinking the city is awash in wealth, thanks to the staggering bonuses on Wall Street, the stock market’s record highs and the 44 million tourists who flocked here in 2006.

But that, of course, is only part of the picture. We still have more than a million New Yorkers who live in poverty, a shameful statistic for a world-class modern city.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made fighting poverty the No. 1 priority of his second and last term, has launched an innovative program to assist the poor in developing the skills and capacity to improve their economic well-being. To do so, he’s created a new city office—the Center for Economic Opportunity—with a $150 million budget drawn from public and private money. The center will function as both a philanthropic foundation and a venture-capital company, by investing in unconventional, incentive-based anti-poverty strategies. As the Mayor noted, past “conventional approaches … have kept us in this vicious cycle of too many people not being able to work themselves out of poverty even though they’re doing everything that we’ve asked them to.”

The center will operate under intense scrutiny; those programs that don’t show results will be scrapped, in keeping with a private-sector approach. Planned are measures such as cash bonuses to those who stay in school, tax credits to help defray child-care costs and classes in sound financial management (more than a few of our middle- and upper-class citizens could benefit from the latter as well.)

The center, which will operate under the capable auspices of Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, stands to be a terrific model for involving the private sector in the public good. The social and economic stability of our city is based on making sure that all New Yorkers feel good about the future.

Couples Coast on Good News

It’s no secret that a partner in a couple may occasionally glance across the table at his or her paramour and wonder, If I really get walloped with some crisis, will this person come through for me? And the ability of a couple to survive an unpleasant life event, such as an illness or career downturn, is often mentioned as the benchmark of the health of the marriage or relationship. Yet a new study indicates that how your partner reacts to your bad news may be much less crucial than how he or she reacts to your good news.

The researchers, who published their results in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, placed a number of couples in a lab and asked them to discuss positive events that had happened to one or the other. Those couples in which a partner glowed with pride and shared enthusiasm over a mate’s triumphs, both minor and major, also reported a higher level of satisfaction all around—whereas when a partner tended to react to his or her loved one’s good news with indifference, passivity or subtle undermining, the couple was more likely to split up within a short time.

The authors of the study also noted that past studies have shown that from the point of view of most couples, positive events outnumber the bad ones by 4 to 1, so there are numerous opportunities to strengthen a relationship’s bond by celebrating those small victories.