Friday, August 15, 2014

Cabs Are For Kissing

There are cabs -- and there are New York City cabs. 

They are a world unto their own. These yellow automobiles have a certain romance to them, a certain ambiance, a certain je ne sais quoi that people love. It's not that people enjoy paying a fortune to be stuck in traffic -- no. Instead, it's about being a part of the New York City experience. It's about remembering uniquely New York moments. 

Think about being transported, as if by magic, from one part of the city to another. 

Think about being out late at night, then relaxing and getting home (relatively) quickly.  

Think about dashing out of the rain with a loved one, into a cab, escaping to warmth and shelter. 

Think about being in the back seat with a girl and ... never mind. 

Think about going down Park Avenue, late at night, seeing the famed boulevard ablaze in lights.
Think about coming back the airport in a cab, seeing the city for the first time in days, weeks, even months, and feeling at home. 

Think about traveling back to your apartment with your wife and newborn baby in the backseat.

Yes, these are just some of my taxi memories. My daughter's first car ride was in a NYC cab just like mine had been, 34-years earlier (sans the car seat). Cabs are a vital part of the New York life.

That's why I love this blog, Cabs Are For Kissing, created by a NYC taxi driver who's been on the job since 1977. This blog as been in existence since 2006 and it's a wonderful, uplifting continueing story of the a cab driver and this city. You must check it out.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Myths and Legends

During his 12 years in office, the general consensus about Mayor Michael Bloomberg was that, sure, he might be a heartless technocrat but ... he was competent; sure, the cost of living in NYC might be exploding but ... he was competent; sure, the police might be using aggressive, possibly illegal tactics but ... he was competent; sure, he might be trying to destroy the public school system and teachers unions and turn education all over to for-profit charter schools but ... he was competent. Yes, he might be overseeing the destruction of middle class NYC, turning us into a city of haves and have-nots but ... he was competent!

And what was the basis for this competency claim?

Well, he loved technology. Loved, loved, loved it. Under Bloomberg's watch, Google opened an office in NYC and, in conjunction with Cornell University, built a tech campus on Roosevelt Island. The media loves technology, the powers-that-be love technology, so if Bloomberg loved technology and wanted to apply it to government, that must make him great ... and therefore competent. He vetoed living wage laws and did other heartless things with the budget so he was viewed as "fiscally responsible." He instituted  "bike share" and other such fancy programs. Most of all, his background as a Fortune 500 CEO gave him the reputation of the ultimate skilled manager. Bloomberg was competent because, well, he had to be!

Mayor Mike also benefited from a very compliant City Council, lead for most of his time in office by the obsequious Christine Quinn, as well the contrast of the gubmint' in Washington, DC which, no matter who is president or which party is in control, seems incapable for governing. This made it possible for Bloomberg to boast about how he "got things done", "got results," etc. etc. etc. He regularly made the Time 100.

When Bill De Blasio was elected to replace Bloomberg as mayor, the media and "centrist" intelligentsia bemoaned the loss of this super competent technocrat executive at the city's helm, believing that he had bequeathed a wonderful, paradisiacal city that his class warrior successor would inevitably screw up. Et in arcadia ego.  

But it was all a lie. In fact, Bloomberg left behind a mess. Bloomberg was not the mythically competent mayor that his media allies and sycophants proclaimed. Bike share is going broke. The policing at Riker's Island is criminal disaster. The city's emergency response has been dysfunctional for years. Mayor Bloomberg left behind more than a 100 city contracts unsigned with the public workers unions, forcing De Blasio negotiate all of them. And these are just some of the problems the great Mike left for his successor.

The argument for heartless, mean-spirited governing ala Bloomberg style is that, well, you know, leaders have to make tough choices and can't give in to every do-gooder's Utopian wish list which will ultimately bankrupt the government. In this view, competency = cruelty. But what if, like Mayor Bloomberg, you're both cruel and incompetent? Well, then you are the ultimate failure. Because at least the do-gooders have good intentions, competency or not. The cruel don't have even that.

Meanwhile, the New York of our hearts increasingly slips away, from reality to legend. Thanks to Bloomberg's "competency", soon we won't recognize it.