As with any election, last Tuesday’s had its clear winners. Since Mike Bloomberg is in many ways an unknown entity, however, it’s anyone’s guess how many of the city’s programs and players will fare. Here are a few to watch.
The region. Refreshing winds blew across the Hudson River and Cross-Island Parkway last week. Democrat James McGreevey, who spent precious election-season time at New York City’s Labor Day parade because so many of his voters work in the five boroughs, is now governor-elect of New Jersey. He also backs a cross-harbor freight tunnel, even though its greatest benefits would go to New York. Then there’s new Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, the ex-Glen Cove mayor who’s been pleased to share insights from his city’s innovations in brownfield and waterfront redevelopment with his neighbors in New York City.
Together with Michael Bloomberg, who recently indicated he is interested in neighborhood-based planning, the area’s new leaders have begun considering the rewards of looking at economies and infrastructure on a regional scale.
The power they now hold to turn that thinking into action is substantial. McGreevey will appoint top members of the Port Authority, which will likely play a major role in lower Manhattan rebuilding and could help forge regional pacts. Democrat Suozzi is a reminder that Governor Pataki can’t take Long Island votes for granted–something that could leverage Pataki’s cooperation as the governor makes his own Port Authority appointments and policy.
Could we see transportation planning, tax revenue sharing or agreements to bar poaching of businesses from one jurisdiction to another? Urban planners who advocate regional thinking are quietly hopeful. “These are all new thinkers who come without baggage, and thinking of a regional strategy that cooperates is not out of the question,” said Ron Shiffman, director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development.
Agreed Elliott Sclar of Columbia University, “It’s all possible. You now have people who have a sense of these things….With Bloomberg, you have someone who’s not beholden to real estate interests. If the region is doing well, the city’s doing well–it’s that simple.”
Abyssinian Development Corporation. Chief Operating Officer Darren Walker is said to be on the short list to step in as commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
The New York City Partnership. Michael Bloomberg wants to make New York City friendly for business. The New York City Partnership wants to make New York City friendly for business. But the go-it-alone magnate-turned-mayor and the group that advocates for the collective interests of city businesses have more in common than raw goals. Bloomberg’s ideas for increasing the city’s supply of affordable housing derive heavily from the Partnership’s own “blueprint” for housing development, which advocates an overhaul of building codes, zoning rules, labor practices and other barriers to building.
The Working Families Party. OK, the young party did lose some of its biggest campaigns, including that of mayoral hopeful Mark Green. But its second-biggest push, for City Council candidate Letitia James, though not victorious did produce more votes for her–42 percent of the Crown Heights electorate to winner James Davis’ 55 percent–than any third party candidate has won since the demise of the Labor Party in the1940s.
New Yorkers on welfare. For all his statements on housing, policing, education and traffic, Bloomberg has had very little to say about public assistance, skipping mayoral forums and declining to respond to written questionnaires. In a time when an economic downturn could force more people onto welfare, when more than 32,000 city families are about to hit their five-year time limit on federal assistance, leaving the city and state to pay their bills, and when the feds are about to begin debating the policy’s renewal, all eyes are on the Human Resources Administration. (At press time Commissioner Jason Turner’s plans were unclear.) One vaguely encouraging point: In a questionnaire from the Women’s City Club, Bloomberg called for “targeted assistance” to help recipients facing time limits find jobs, and recommended allowing more exemptions from workfare and providing more alternatives to WEP like job training and school. However, he also approves of requiring families to reapply for benefits rather than allowing them to shift right into receiving the state-funded safety net benefits, a process some critics say could cause confusion and lapses in support. Stay tuned.