Sunday, July 28, 2013

The People Who Will Be Mayor

In this consequential year for our city, twelve people are currently running to be our next mayor. Twelve! That's a quite a lot. If each one of them were an ice cream flavor, they could open a store. Anyway, this election has become a circus, as I have previously written about, and, if you want more musings about it and various scandals attendant to it, you won't get it here.

What you will get, however, is a serious look at what's at stake for our future. This big article in The New York Times Magazine does a good job looking at what one of these twelve people will inherit on January 1st, 2014:

"New York City stands at a crossroads. Things are good for many, but not for all. The balance      between the positives and the hazards could swing either way. In the first couple of years after the Great Recession, the economy’s growth, nearly 3 percent per year, outpaced the rise in national G.D.P. In 2011, 6.6 percent of the city’s households had income greater than $200,000 a year, while a third of the city’s population survives on Medicaid. Manhattan has become a tech rival to Silicon Valley, and bike lanes have come to Brownsville — a Brooklyn neighborhood where 4 out of 10 residents live below the poverty line. Wall Street, Midtown and the N.Y.P.D. are happy. Crime continues to decline: only one precinct, in East New York, has more violent crime than the Upper East Side faced two decades ago. And the population is growing. For all the fears of jihad, the end of capitalism and the advent of superstorms, the years since 9/11 have witnessed the arrival of a new generation. Perhaps as many as a third of the city’s residents did not live here a decade ago. And all those newcomers have contributed to the prize of this electoral season: the minority majority ... The list is long and growing: the public-employee unions — 147 bargaining units — working without contracts and hungering for retroactive pay; the rise in city pensions and health care payouts (pension obligations are projected to be more than $8 billion a year — more than the city’s combined operating budget for police, fire and corrections annually); the mayor’s plan to rezone East Midtown (among other things, opening up 73 blocks around Grand Central to super-skyscrapers); the first phase of the emergency measures needed to harden the city ahead of the next Sandy (projected cost: $20 billion); the mess that is public housing (approximately 400,000 New Yorkers trying to survive in 334 developments, another 225,000 in Section 8 housing and the all-but-orphaned-by-Washington New York City Housing Authority, which has a backlog of 220,000 repairs and faces $6 billion in unmet capital needs, a black hole expected to more than double in five years). " 

Riding on Rudy's 9/11 coattails, along with several hundred million dollars to boot and lots of racist fear mongering, Michael Bloomberg has basically anestitized the political culture in NYC for more than a decade. Democrats and other would be political opponents have barely stood up to him, either because they are afraid of his money or because they've been bought off. The press has given this mayor a major free pass, giving him barely any critical coverage or linking him to any of the scandals in city government (the corrupt housing department, for example) because, again they fear him -- and any reporter who dares cross him knows that his or her future employment opportunities may be few. Let's not forget, he isn't even supposed to be mayor any more, he was supposed to have left office in 2009. But Bloomberg used his power and, along with an equally power hungry city council, extended term limits. Under Bloomberg, the arrogance of power has never been more raw or on full display. He has made this a city of rich and poor, of insiders and outsiders, of those who can afford the "luxury product" of NYC and those who merely serve them. 

The next mayor will either continue these policies or give us a fresh start. And them's the stakes. 

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