Thursday, January 26, 2006

Build WTC Site Faster!

Tonight, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg told us what he plans for what will likely be his final term. For Bloomberg, this was an enormous event, as he has hinted that he'll be mayor twice and will also give up the impressive Bloomberg Media business he built beforehand in favor of a life of philanthropy.

To be honest, I kind of dislike Bloomberg because his vision of NYC differs from mine -- I see this as a place of extreme liberty and a place for libertines, while he sees it as some chaos to be brought to order and control (as Giuliani did, before him). The "order" vision," much as it isn't mine, has lots to to recommend it -- the city was, before I got here, once so chaotic that it might have become an irrelevant embarassment, at one point. If you want to know that point, watch "Law and Order" (any version) which always starts an episode with a heinous crime, noticed by locals who aren't sure if they should even care.

Or, better yet5 (because it's good) watch Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing," which will show you a picture of a dangerous and hazardous Bed Stuy, which is, these days (when last I was there, at least) a neighborhood full of admirable brownstone buildings with the finest of fine cars parked safely on the street. Race tension still exists there, to the point where, a few years ago, my wife at the time and I were denied an apartment there aren a great price and that had two working fireplaces because the African American landlord living below worried that her child would be allergic to our pet bird, but... honestly, that landl0rd had the right and if she perhaps lied but really was trying to rent to a couple like us but African American, it was an impulse beyond objecting to. She let us look, after all. She thought about it. Probably agonized over it. Wouldn't even have been a possibility in the "Do The Right Thing" days.

My point in writing this, though, is that though this city's racial tensions have subsided and though even the worst neighhborhoods have turned open to all, that there are things about New York that have been lost and Bloomberg, our current mayor, has pushed some good things into the ether.

For example, this has historically been THE major cirty in the US where labor and workers have a voice. But when our subway workers went on strike to get a raise that they hadn't gotten in years and to preserve benefits that others called "outdated," Bloomberg worked to rally a city full of people who have more in common with subway workers than government employers against them.

When it's come to tax cuts -- and NYC city residents get really burdened with taxes since we pay the nations highest city taxes and highest state taxes and the national taxes we all pay when most don't even pay a city tax -- Bloomberg tried to relieve the burden by cutting taxes for property owners in a city situated on such limited geography that it's just guaranteed that most of us rent.

And now, he says, about the World Trade Center site: "We cannot allow the Trade Center to be a construction site for the next 15 years, which the plan all but ensures that it will be."

Well, sure. We all want to rebuild their quickly. Most of us would have been most happy had, a week after m9-11, construction crews had built five towers, with the middle one built a little taller, as a message to Osama. Had that happened, at least the 8 million in our five boroughs would STILL be laughing.

But, let's deal with New York. The WTC site is owned by both public and private interests, so we have to work out the differences in vision shared by those parties. This is a union city, less than in earlier times but still union, so you have to give the workers (who will have to actually risk their lives to rebuild the site, the same way our military volunteers risk their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment) to get the buldings built and you have to deal with what 8 million people want to see erected over that tragic tomb. As an aside, a lot of people here, and some people I know, actually lost people during 9-11. But even for those, like me, who didn't lose people directly, we all suffered and have feelings about this. Memorable feelings. For my part, nobody I can name died in the WTC that day but I knew enough people that might have that I found myself checking voicemails and emails for them months later and I'm not even especially connected here.

This has been a rambling post and it was inspired by Bloomberg's quote, which suggests that expedient rebuilding is the answer. "We cannot allow the Trade Center to be a construction site for the next 15 years, which the plan all but ensures that it will be,” said the mayor.

Bloomberg is in his second term as mayor here and despite my disagreements with him, I'll admit that he's done a good job. But, he still doesn't get it.

Major projects actually move very slowly in New York City. They move so slowly that we're often held up as an example of a city governed less by needs than by beacracy, the trappings of government and effete sensibility.

At the same time, I think, what makes us move slowly and what makes us seem sluggish is a strength. This city does, more than others, take labor's thoughts into account. It listens, more than others, to local residence and even, despite the size of a city that is larger than some states, residents that aren't quite local. On top of that, our city has people who've put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk and also a local and state and, in this case, federal government, that has risked the same.

15 years for a WTC rebuilding? That thought alone sounds ludicrous and Bloomberg played on that. But, given the various interests who have the right to a say... well... 15 years would still be too long, but it's not the sin it seems. This city... 8 million trying to get along... so many interests, large and small... you just have to be patient with it.


At 4:23 PM , Blogger adriana said...

GODDAMMIT, I love New York.


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