Monday, January 29, 2007

Winning Hearts and Stomachs

The public health community, aided and abetted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an army of tort lawyers, doesn't really like the fast food industry. They see the McDonalds, Burger Kings, Wendys and KFCs as part of an evil unhealthy empire-and there is no question that they look down on the customers of these food outlets. They see the customers as the unenlightened and unwashed, dim bulbs badly in need of the assistance of their betters.

This underlying disdain and antipathy is what is behind the effort to force the fast food chains to post calorie labels on all of their menu and menu boards, an idea that could only be conceived by folks who never have owned a business, having spent their entire lives in the pursuit of a health nirvana for the less well-informed among us. They are part of a mindset that believes, just as the philosopher Rousseau did, that sometimes you just have to "force people to be free."

Which is why it is so refreshing to read the piece in today's Washington Post by Sebastian Mallaby. Mallaby goes into an in-depth evaluation of the response of McDonalds to a business downturn in 2002: "Besieged by its critics, the company suffered its first financial loss in 2002, and for a moment its hegemony seemed fragile. But then the empire struck back. After 44 consecutive months of sales growth McDonalds serves 6 million more customers a day than it did four years ago."

Why is this so? It did so because, unlike government that tends to reward failure, it responded swiftly to its critics and revamped its operations. And the company also did something that reflects the fact that it listens to its customers, especially when it comes to health; "It has listened to its health critics and adapted: it sold 304 million pounds of mixed greens in 2005, and the U.S. operation claims to be the nation's largest purchaser of apples."

And the company, just like most of its fast food cousins, provides extensive nutritional information to its customers. It is in this context that the silliness (if not so counterproductive and expensive) of the NYC DOH edict on menu labeling needs to be understood. Instead of the creative response of the private sector we are treated to the one size fits all dictum of the health commissars-taking their marching orders from those enemies of free enterprise (called capitalism in those quarters) at the CSPI.

Once again, the city's response to the obesity epidemic is to embark on a course that will do nothing to change the behavior of New Yorkers but will severely impact on the ability of the industry to be as productive as it can be. Make no mistake about it, the Department's proposal will cost independent franchise owners in the city millions of dollars in compliance costs (something that wasn't even a cost-benefit factor for the department in its deliberation).

Think about this: If these costs force local outlets to lay off one employee apiece, or not hire a youngster from the community because of the need to constantly pay for menu changes as new offerings are brought to the public, than the DOH initiative will have laid off thousands of workers. And for what?

For an unproven health scheme for which there is no research to demonstrate its potential efficacy? This is the kind of irresponsibility that we have come to expect from the self-proclaimed public interest anti-capitalists, but not from a government agency that is trusted to steward the health of millions of New Yorkers.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beating on Barclays

Trying to revive a dead horse for another beating, the Daily News' Michael O'Keefe goes after the Nets deal with Barclays Bank in today's paper. It appears that erstwhile Nets supporter and former assembly-felon Roger Green feels that the milions of dollars that the bank has pledged to the sports community is "inadequate." Really?

Let's not kid ourselves all of this blather is nothing more than a simple Jerry McGuire moment from those who see the possibility of more Jeffersons hitting the borough's pavements.. As Green told the News, "I think activists and elected officials need to present Forest City Ratner and Barclays with an agenda..." How's this for an agenda: Get a real job Roger.

Lights, Cameras and, Hopefully, Action

In today's NY Daily News the paper's Albor Ruiz calls for the re-institution of the city's Operation Safe Store program, an initiative that has been allowed to lapse by the NYPD. In his column he quotes the Jose Fernandez, the head of the Bodega Association, "Bodegas are under seige, and the city needs to join with the Bodega Association to expand the security camera program throughout the city."

It appears that the robbers are targeting those stores that they know are not being properly surveilled. One team of crooks is apparently responsible for a string of at least eleven heists. And, as Ruiz points out, "Miraculously, no injuries have been reported in any of the incidents. Three years ago, however, 12 store owners and employees were killed and if the city doesn't respond than this situation is likely to re-occur.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Uncorking the Bottles

As the NY Times reports this morning the governor seems hell bent on expanding the state's returnable container law, otherwise known as the bottle bill. The harbinger of the Spitzer position is his appointment of Judy Enck as "deputy secretary for the environment." As he told the Times, "an expanded program for refreshment bottles and cans" {refreshment?} is one of his key environmental priorities.

Now we know Ms. Enck very well having debated her all over the state 25 years ago when she was a representative of something called the Environmental Planning Lobby. From there she was promoted to "senior associate" for the environment at NYPIRG. So for the better part of three decades Enck has worked for advocacy groups that have a built-in bias against the private sector. Her appointment means that the governor may lack a certain sensitivity to the concerns of food retailers, but it certainly means that the bottle bill express has left the station.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Menu Labeling: Who's Behind the "Research?"

In doing an analysis of the public health research that the NYC Department of Health is relying on for its menu labeling advocacy, we came across the fact that the agency cites two co-authors (and only these two) no less than five times in its assertion that "leading experts" support "nutritional labeling." This research is the only research citation the agency gives us, but it also refers us to a "report" done by the advocacy Center for Science in the Public Interest that says that the public wants this information.

Is this the kind of "analysis" that a city agency feels justifies turning an entire industry upside-down? Even worse, in the body of the Department's notice, there is a chart that purports to show how menu labeling would work. Only thing wrong-it is exactly the chart that CSPI uses in its own propaganda.

Unfortunately the chart is a bogus rendition of the "simplicity" of calorie charting, and fails to highlight the vast diversity of menu offerings and the inescapable bewilderment that would emerge from any attempt to post on the complexity of this diversity of choices. After all, Starbucks has around 84,000 different drink choices.

The Department's reaction to this problem is to allow for the posting of a "range" of calories for, as an example, the twenty or so different burrito offerings at Taco Bell. This range posting, however, would be nothing but thoroughly confusing to any consumer (Perhaps 200-800 calories, and with the consumer no further enlightened about her particular choice). And this is true for every fast food restaurant.

Why is the DOH relying on the "research" of an anti-business "consumer" group, a reliance that it would never allow if the advocacy was coming from a business organization. This is all part of the ideologically-driven misconception that self-described "consumer" or "public interest" groups aren't as self-serving as any other special interest would be.

Which gets us to the two researchers that the Department relies on to indicate that the menu labeling regulation would be efficacious. In doing some research we found that one of the co-authors, Scott Burton is, of all things, the Sam Walton Chair of Marketing at the University of Arkansas. So is this a researcher that the New York City Council wants to rely on for a measure that will cost franchisees tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs?

We're going to find out since it now appears that Councilman Joel Rivera's alternative bill, one that is less restrictive and more comprehensive at the same time, will be introduced at the next stated council meeting. Let the games begin!

Barclays Billingsgate

Errol Louis, picking up on our own comments this week on the faux ire over the historic sins of Barclays Bank, attacks the hysteria and opines that there are many large corporations whose past sins deserve opprobrium but whose present behavior no where near resembles anything in its sordid past. As Louis says, "I readily concede, and have no doubt, that Barclays -like many companies with household names-profited from an untold number of monstrous crimes over the centuries."(my emphasis)

But Louis goes on the point out that this "blood money" theme, precisely because it is so common, is a thin reed to use in the attack on the Nets arena naming rights deal; "JPMorgan Chase, for instance, has multiple shameful connections to the slave trade and the Holocaust." (as does IBM as we have noted) This is surely indicative of the last gasp nature of the AY opposition.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bottles, Cans, Disposers and Food Stores

In today's edition of Crain's In$ider it is reported that Governor Spitzer has placed recycling bins all over the capitol, a move that some see as a harbinger of his support for an expanded bottle bill ("bigger and better" only for those who really don't care about the profitability of local food stores). Proponents of the measure, particularly the virulently anti-business NYPIRG, simply don't care about what kind of havoc this will cause to space strapped supermarkets in New York City.

Now we know all about the so-called limitation on redemption that the bill proposes for stores under a certain size and the measure also says that any store in New York City that can find a redemption center within a half mile can have its responsibilities waived under the act. Which is precisely our point. If redemption were profitable than we would have seen a proliferation of these redemption outlets all over the city.

It simply isn't under current regulations and the space and sanitary problems are manifest despite what the bogus "FAQ" put out by NYPIRG. After all what are we to make of its assertion that sanitation isn't an issue because "A survey of health departments in all ten states with bottle bills found no reported incidences of health code violations...due to deposit systems."

Really? Now just who would have "reported" anything related to a store's deposit system? Did NYPIRG survey any of the stores and inquire into their extra costs of sanitation? Did the group examine the relationship, particularly in New York City, between the existence of sweet residue in the deposit containers and an increase in rodent infestation?

Of course not, because when it comes to defending business the NYPIRG agenda is always on the other side. The same is true for its position on Intro 133, the pilot program for commercial food waste disposers. Here's a measure that will eliminate store-based food waste and will increase recycling at store level by 99%! Yet NYPIRG, more concerned for the flora and fauna in Jamaica Bay than the public health of black and Latino neighborhoods is opposed to this dramatic recycling initiative. Why? Because it would make stores more economically viable, a variable that is simply off the group's one-sided ideological radar.

One last point. In the NYPIRG FAQ there is talk about the compatibility of deposit systems with curbside collection. In trying to make the case for compatibility, however, the group does the opposite and argues persuasively for the elimination of curbside when it says, "Bottle bills are more effective at collecting recyclables than curbside programs, and at no cost to tax payers."

Aside from the fact that most tax payers are also beverage consumers and will surely pay the deposit "tax" incurred with the extra costs of collection (plus the added-on costs if the government "reclaims" the unclaimed deposits from beverage wholesalers), this argument needs to be examined further. We have been pointing out for at least sixteen years that a fully developed deposit-redemption center system (one that by-passes food retailer entirely) can and should replace the expensive and ineffective curbside system.

NYPIRG and the rest of the environmental lobby simply can't see its way past the ideological commitment it has to an anachronistic urban curbside collection program. A free-standing deposit system with adequate handling and collection fees built into the system, would create jobs and enhance recycling while at the same time enabling food stores to go back to what they do best: food retailing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bodega Roberries Redux

In a pattern that is a repeat of the spate of bodegas robberies and murders four years ago, the Bronx is experienced a new crime wave directed at the boroughs most vulnerable retailers. As the NY Daily News reported last week, "Bronx detectives are hoping that the public-and a fat reward-will help them collar a team of bodega bandits that have been grabbing cash and lottery tickets from terrorized store owners up and down the borough."

This renewed violence has led the Bodega Association to call a news conference tomorrow in front of a local Bronx bodega at 2460 Holland Avenue at 1:00 PM. The press conference will be joined by local council member James Vacca who has represented Bronx neighborhood for over twenty five years, first as District Manager of CB# 10, and now as the local councilman. The councilman has always been a staunch proponent of public safety and his presence is welcome.

What is also distressing in all of this is that it appears that the robbers are taking care to target the most vulnerable stores, those without surveillance cameras. This is particularly unfortunate because in 2002, on the heels of a bodega crime wave, the NYPD had launched "Operation Safe Store"-(Tienda Segura). This pilot program was experimenting with the installation of security cameras at selected stores all over the city. The police department investment was more than matched by a grant from the City Council and over fifty stores were equipped.

The results of the pilot were positive but the NYPD never followed up with any expansion of the program and because of that the council initiative was also allowed to lapse. So now we are faced with another crisis, and one that might have been avoided if the NYPD had followed up on the success of their own pilot program.

We should also never forget that the city's confiscatory cigarette tax, a hike 0f over 1800%, led to a decline in sales at local bodegas and other outlets that exceeded $250 million a year! It would be fair if the city that can so easily harm the profitability of local stores (the mayor called it a "minor economic issue," but we would call it legalized theft) could also find a way to protect beleaguered store owners for the illegal predators.

Taxing Public Safety at Wal-Mart

There is an instructive article in today's Rockland Journal News about the public safety issues at the Palisades Mall in the town of Clarkstown. It seems that Clarkstown supervisor Alex Gromack is asking Rockland's County Executive to rebate a considerably larger slice of the county's sales tax because, in Gromack's words, "The county doesn't spend a single cent on the mall, but we provide policing, building and fire inspection. Our tax payers pay for the mall being here."

Food for thought, no? Certainly something that the Town of Ramapo needs to consider when it tries to evaluate the worth of allowing Wal-Mart to build a giant super center on Route 59. It costs Clarkstown $3.3 million a year to police the mall. As police chief Noonan told the Journal News "there are thousands of arrests for white collar crimes" at the mall.

Imagine what the Wal-Mart super center will bring to then quietude of Monsey. Now Chief Noonan does reassure us that the Palisades Mall "does not have a lot of violent crime," but how much is a lot, especially for tranquil, law-abiding Monsey? All of this brings us back to our original point about Wal-Mart's "high cost of low prices." Too often policy makers only focus on the so-called benefits but overlook the considerable costs that Wal-Mart adds to a local community.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Neighborhood Health

In this week's Gotham Gazette there is a post done on the Department of Health's neighborhood-by-neighborhood health survey. As we have discussed in the past it is quite clear that certain areas of the city have more health challenges, especially when it comes to the obesity epidemic and its health related problems.

The existence of this health disparity provides the impetus to the DOH's healthy bodega initiative as well as for its anti-trans fat and menu labeling efforts. In addition, the naming of a food czar and the launching by Speaker Quinn of her greenmarkets program is instigated by these health data.

What is missing here is the kind of grass roots activism that government sponsored efforts so often ignore (the idea is what we can do for them). This is precisely why the Health Corps is such a welcome idea. since it looks to activate the young people in the community to take the lead on creating healthier attitudes and life styles. Access to fruits and veggies is important, but wanting to eat them is an even more crucial variable in the war on obesity.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Food for the Thoughtless

The city, in a move that we felt was predictable all along, has hired a 31 year old "advocate for the poor" to be its first Coordinator of Food Policy. As the NY Times reports this morning, Benjamin Thomases will oversee a task force that will supervise a variety of city agencies in the effort to insure that poor folks get "nutritious food."

Mr. Thomases will also oversee the city's plan to expand its healthy bodega program, one that the Alliance has fully supported, to 1,000 grocery stores. However, the city is setting up its task force without the inclusion of any of the representatives of New York's food retailers or wholesalers in the mix. This is a huge mistake.

Just as we saw with the failure of the DOH's "outreach" to local restaurants on its trans fat initiative, city programs in the area of food distribution and retailing are doomed to fall on their face without the active participation of those who understand the economics of the system.

Even more ominous, is that the exclusion of the industry portends policy initiatives that will restrict the productivity of local business in the name of "health." Having even well-meaning and competent people who are not knowledgeable about the economics of the food business-and we're sure that Mr. Thomases is quite a competent person in many ways- make food policies, is a recipe for disaster.

AY Opponents Bank Shot

The attempt to delegitimize the Atlantic Yards project continues apace with today's story by the Daily News' Michael O'Keeke on the manufactured furor over the checkered history of Barclays Bank. And just as we said already, it's amusing how some folks take everything that is printed by certain media outlets as gospel.

Corporate histories are not always pristine. The advent of capitalism is often accompanied by events that in retrospect we find to be abhorrent-especially as perspectives mature and human right concerns become more central to our sensibilities. That being said, the current policies of Barclays bear little resemblance to the bank's past posture and to use the past to stigmatize the naming rights deal is a real rasping at straws; a grasping that glosses over the real good that the deal will bring to the athletic groups in Brooklyn.

Acorn's Bertha Lewis captures some of this when she tells the paper, "Today's civil rights agenda is about building affordable housing so black and Latino families can have a place to live in Brooklyn..." Atlantic Yards will be a major cause of resurgence in downtown Brooklyn and a fabulous boon to the boroughs young people.

Columbia's Tarnished Gem

In today's NY Daily News the paper's Errol Louis takes Columbia University to task for its, "my way or the highway" approach to the development of West Harlem. Louis, a big supporter of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, makes it clear that the attempt to steamroll property owners, like storage company owner Nick Sprayregen, is simply unnecessary.

As Louis points out, "In fact, it's not necessary for Columbia to strong-arm anybody. As developer Bruce Ratner proved with Atlantic Yards, an early round of talks with legitimate long-standing community leaders can calm fears and serve as an important gesture of good faith towards local residents." What this means is that, "Columbia should be engaged in active dialogue with Sprayregen..."

Instead, the university, along with the city planning department, is moving ahead to certify the Columbia expansion plan-initiating the hot-house Ulurp process atmosphere- before any real dialogue with the locals has taken place. "That means that neighborhood people will only have about nine months to arrive at whatever deal they can..."

On top of this, of course, is the fact that the Columbia plan does not include any affordable housing component, and instead will evict hundreds of current low-income tenants. The negotiations over a community benefits agreement need to be done prior to certification so that the full scope of the plan's benefits are understood and fully digested before the clock is started on ULURP.

If not, than the whole process becomes a bum's rush and ultimately, just as with the BTM deal in the Bronx, a charade. It's time for some of the local elected officials to step up top the plate and create the proper climate for negotiation.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bogus Barclay Brouhaha

We have just received some criticism over our enthusiastic response to the announced partnership between the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Bank. The criticism revolves around the bank's putative history. We say putative only because we don't accept on face value the statements of folks who have a vested interest in opposing anything FCRC does around Atlantic Yards.

Now the critics in question pointed to an article that was published by the virulently anti-Atlantic Yards Brooklyn Paper. The article's title speaks about "blood money" and the "fact" that Barclays was "founded on slave money." Now let's for arguments sake assume that at least some of the allegations are true. What do they mean for the bank's current mangement and corporate make-up?

There are many families, countries and corporations whose histories contain things that the current members or leaders would find abhorrent. We've read about the role that IBM played in the final solution; and, of course, there is the sordid history of Henry Ford and anti-Semitism. We have no doubt that the naming of the new arena, the Ford Arena, would have generated the same sanctimony from the arena's critics. With just as little justification.

The attempt, however, by the Brooklyn Paper to whip up a racial backlash in this matter is a new low even for this yellow journalistic enterprise. Its editorial in this regard, one that states that it is an insult for black Brooklynites to have to pass by this "slave founded business," is an exercise in demonization that is unfair to what the Barclays Bank stands for today.

If it were up to these folks, Barclays would be tarred and feathered for its past (assuming that all of the allegations hold up) and be ostracized from polite company. Overlooked is the bank's current corporate policies and its huge financial commitment to the kids of the borough. The only real question here is what this deal means for all of the young people who will benefit from the work of the Brooklyn Sports Alliance. Everything else is simply a bad faith smokescreen.

Columbia Comes to the Table

In today's NY Sun the paper reports on the beginning of negotiations between Columbia and a local LDC that has been established to work out a community benefits agreement with the university. Columbia's public statement indicated a desire to work with the community but as is always the case in these kinds of things, the devil is most certainly in the details.

The key lightening rod here it seems to us is the fact that the 18 acre expansion plan does not include any affordable housing, and in fact calls for the eviction of hundreds of low-income tenants. Another problematic feature here is the inclusion of attorney Jesse Masyr as the "pro bono" legal representative for the LDC. In a curious retainer letter with the group Masyr reserves the right to get paid at a later date by "unknown third parties." It would appear that the LDC will do as well with Masyr as the British did with Nevil Chamberlain.

Brooklyn Kids Triumph in Barclays Deal

Over the past two years we have been describing the efforts of FCRC to find the right ways to create a partnership with the amateur sports groups in the borough. The creation of The Brooklyn Sports Alliance, our own concept the was adopted by Forest City, was designed to promote amateur sports in the borough and has been doing so over the past year and a half.

The Alliance now has a chance to really make an impact thanks to the just concluded deal with Barclays Bank. As the NY Post reports this morning, "Barclays will invest another $2.5 million over the next few years in partnership with the Nets on a nonprofit organization aimed at assisting Brooklyn's youth."

The "Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance" (it is their money after all) will be doing a number of proactive things on behalf of Brooklyn youth, including the running of sports clinics and the renovation of athletic facilities. We also anticipate that the Alliance will be adopting a number of the educational initiatives that we have been suggesting. All in all, this is becoming even more of a slam dunk for the kids of Brooklyn and is seriously putting some of the critical no-nothings to shame for their opposition to the arena,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Watering Down Disposers

Crain's In$ider reported yesterday that the DEP had issued its RFP for a consultant to "study" whether a pilot program for commercial waste disposers should be implemented. As we have commented before, this entire exercise is an elaborate charade. You don't need a two year study conducted by an agency devoid of any fiscal acumen or honesty to determine whether a pilot program-whose ultimate purpose is to evaluate the efficacy of such a methodology-should be implemented in the first place.

It is an example of bad faith and it is just one of the policy decisions that will come back to bite council leadership on the ass when the ultimate failure to reduce waste becomes apparent (and as export costs escalate). At a time when the rat epidemic is spiraling out of control, along with the commercial cost of garbage disposal, the use of food waste disposers is the kind of low-tech innovation that could do a lot of good-if only people could remove the ideological blinders placed on them by ignorant self-appointed environmental experts.

NY Times Doesn't Shock Us on Taxes

You begin to realize that you've been around the NY Times too long when the editorials that you craft in your head on a topic-anticipating the paper's position-end up being published the next day. So it is with the mayor's proposal to-Oh my God!-cut taxes and return the money to the citizens of the city.

When we did the post on the cuts yesterday we ended our remarks by musing that "We eagerly await the Times' comments...," knowing full well that the paper has never met a tax cut that it approves of. So-Volia!-in today's editorial on the subject the salons of the paper came forth with this predictable observation on the mayor's clarion call to give the people's money back: "It was an undeniable moment of political triumph, but it was less clear that it was a triumph for prudent government."

Why, you might ask? Well because "fiscal responsibility" in Times jargon means to never cut any government excess (an alien concept at 43rd Street) when a tax increase is available; just in case a deficit may lurk around the corner. At the end of the editorial the paper does grudgingly admit the possibility that; "The tax cuts could end up helping the city's fiscal outlook by improving its competitiveness, especially for small business..." As long as it doesn't come at the expense of "fiscal responsibility." Only in the Timesworld do the two ideas appear to be mutually exclusive.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is Wal-Mart Kosher in Monsey?

In this past week's Financial Times, Jonathan Birchall takes a look at the proposed Wal-Mart store in Monsey with a particular eye for the retailer's impact on the area's Orthodox Jewish community. Birchall captures the concern of the Jewish retailers who, in the words of Mordechai Grunsweig, owner of Monsey Kosher Plaza, "...are the people who help support the local organisations...So if it hurts the merchants it will hurt the community."

This is exactly the position of the Alliance and it is especially resonant in Monsey where retailers are intimately connected with the communal institutions. The importance of the retailers is, however, only part of the picture. The Monsey community is also concerned about the impact that traffic and transiency will have on the mostly walk-to-shop neighborhoods of Monsey.

AS Joseph Kizelnick, owner of Auction Mart, told an October meeting called by the Alliance, "Wal-Mart...would be bad for the traffic on the area's main road, where, just a few week's before, a mother was killed as she walked back from visiting sick members of the community." Kizelnick also warned about the increase in crime that Wal-Mart's six million visitors would bring to the quiet Monsey community.

The FT article also outlines what the Alliance's Richard Lipsky call the "two levels" of politics-focusing on the fact that Supervisor St. Lawrence, the key decision-maker in the land use process, depends on the Orthodox vote for his political survival (He's up for re-election this November).

This being the case, it is instructive that the article cites the position of Rabbi Horowitz, "an important community leader, running am association of 42 Jewish private schools and helping the poor secure access to social services..." Horowitz, also described as "a public conduit to the more reclusive rabbinical leadership...," tells the FT, "Wal-Mart should understand that we think the concept is no good."

Still more work is needed so that St.Lawrence gets a clear picture of the consequences of his silence on this crucial development issue. It is our belief that the supervisor will react accordingly once he sees the handwriting on the wall.

Kudos to Mayor Mike

We have to admit it, we never really thought that Mayor Mike would lower taxes. We thought that he was congenitally predisposed to a permanent big government. We are glad to say that, in this case, we were wrong. As all of the papers are reporting this morning, Bloomberg will be proposing a $1 billion tax decrease! Kudos to Mike!

As the Post reports the key element in the plan is a $750 million property tax cut, which helps to mitigate the 18.5% hike that was levied in 2002 (although higher assessments will offset any real relief that homeowners will feel from this reduction). The real significance here is symbolic; "It's the first cut in the property-tax rate since before 1983, city officials said."

The mayors office's clear statement of principle here also needs to be applauded: "As opposed to increasing the size of government, the mayor believes that a good portion of surplus revenues should go back into the hands of the taxpayers of New York City." In addition, the city was informed that the legislature would not approve another round of gimmick rebates that didn't also include an "across-the-board reduction."

We agree with the NY Post's editorial position on this move-that the mayor has made a "huge step forward" in a city that enacts a tax cut about every millennium. We eagerly await the NY Times' comments and, of course, the Speaker's as well.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New York's Burden

In today's NY Times the inimitable Diane Cardwell profiles the work of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. The lengthy piece doesn't do real justice to Amanda's essence as a city planner: a complete lack of any concern for the real world of people. The article's opening, though, does manage to give us a glimpse of where her concerns lie: Talking about the steps leading into Paley Park (Paley was her stepfather) she rhapsodizes, "Those steps 'are just perfect'...It makes you want to skip into the park.'"

Now we have had our own run-ins with Burden over the BJs project in the Bronx and the Gateway Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market. Her patrician haughtiness actually worked in our favor when she inappropriately closed a hearing on us and we parlayed her peremptory demeanor into a City Council vote against BJs on Brush Avenue. What strikes us most is that her obsession with aesthetic detail is in inverse proportion to any awareness or concern for the fate of businesses and residents in the path of development.

This is captured by Cardwell when she quotes someone from a Brooklyn civic group who describes Burden as the "Wicked Witch of the West" for her blithe lack of concern for "residents who have been displaced, {and} viable manufacturing jobs {that} have been lost." Her concern for city planning issues remain on an abstract level and you get the impression that for this Amanda, people are a real burden.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fiscal Responsibility-According to the NY Times

In today's NY Times the paper editorializes about the city's budget surplus and, surprisingly, counsels "fiscal restraint." As they say, "Fighting the urge to spend will be a real and pivotal test for the city's elected officials." We say surprisingly because we have never seen a tax increase that the Times didn't immediately fall in love with.

The surprise is, however, only apparent. In the entire editorial the paper doesn't even deign to mention the property tax decrease that was called for this week by a number of council members. Not even mentioned to shoot down? Oh well, with the Times we need to be satisfied with half a loaf, given the paper's history on the topic. As Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said about the dancing dog: "It's not that it dances well, it's that it dances at all."

Chaining the Neighborhoods

In today's NY Times there is a front page story on the proliferation of chain stores into city neighborhoods. As the piece points out, however, not everyone is happy with the phenomenon because there is a perception that it will force out locally-owned businesses through an inexorable rent escalation. As the Times indicates, "The rapid gentrification of certain neighborhoods outside of Manhattan has accelerated the spread of the chain stores and renewed fears that the pockets of flavor that define the city will dry up..."

As one urban planner points out, "The boroughs are all going down like bowling pins..." There are now 220 Duane Reade Drugstores and 217 Rite Aids. The independent pharmacist has become an endangered species in New York as a result of what the Municipal Arts Society calls "chain store creep."

This chain store proliferation has goaded one city into action. In San Francisco a proposition passed, with 60% of the vote, that requires a review of all new chain store applications. These restrictions have generally been upheld by the courts because they are germane to the "community character" aspects of the zoning code.

While we don't automatically support this kind of zoning restriction we are concerned with maintaining some kind of balance between chains and local businesses (businesses that we believe contribute more to the local economy). One final point. Last spring Councilman Rivera proposed a fast food zoning restriction based on a health premise. The San Fransisco precedent might make this kind of initiative pass legal muster as well. All of which means that we need to see some sort of collaboration here so that all kinds of businesses can flourish and the health of New Yorkers can be enhanced.

The Politics of Eminent Domain

In today's NY Post there is a guest editorial from Bart Dridden, one of the property owners in Port Chester who had is land "transferred" to another property holder, under the exercise of the village's right of eminent domain. The property was taken after the original owner had turned down a ridiculously low offer from the village's designated developer. As Dridden writes, "The very next day, Port Chester condemned our property."

Adding insult to injury the favored developer proceeded to build a retail space for a drugstore, the same plan that Dridden and his partners had been advancing-to the point that the project even had the village's approval.. As Dridden writes, however, the courts are extremely hesitant to intervene after the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. This is precisely why a political solution is needed.

No, we don't believe that the right eminent domain should be abrogated. We do think that a great deal more fairness and transparency needs to be brought to the process, particularly when the development is in the hands of a private entity. There needs to be a process also that protects the business interests of property owners and tenants who are threatened with expulsion. To compensate a business for the value of its property does not address the fact that this is inadequate compensation for the value of the business!

In addition, there needs to be a greater sensitivity to creating conditions where local property owners can participate in the new development scheme; shared equity is not a bad idea along with co-development rights. With this in mind we can see some different ways to deal with the plans being put forward on Willets Point and West Harlem.

In the situation in Manahatan, where we have been retained to represent Nick Sprayregen, it is clear to us that the city is going to modify the Columbia plan to include some affordable housing component. This then becomes the city's plan and as such there is no reason why Sprayregen and some of the other owners can't be partners in the redevelopment process. Which is exactly what we are going to seek from the elected officials.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tax Relief on the Way?

As we have already pointed out, there are members of the City Council who have begun to clamor for the next city budget, one that has a projected $2.2 billion surplus, to include a tax cut. One council member, Mike McMahon of Staten Island has proposed a 10% across the board property tax reduction and he is supported by Finance Chair David Weprin and a number of other law makers who represent predominately homeowner districts.

Now in today's NY Sun the paper editorializes in favor of the cut in order to "stimulate New Yorkers to work more, but more, and invest more..." AS Simcha Felder tells the NY Post this morning, reminding everyone that the 2002 tax hike wasn't meant to be permanent, "A 400 rebate is nice...But, in principle, it's not doing what we committed to do, which is giving them {tax payers} a tax cut."

Mayor Mike, however, reverting to his big government philosophy, is not committing to any reduction and tells the Post, "Down the road,we know are expenses are going to be higher than they are now." Of course they are.

The situation couldn't be any different because the mayor has never been a tax cutting-reduce government spending kind of guy. Which is exactly what the next mayor should be doing as a first priority. It is an important way to make business more productive and living easier in New York.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kelo and Columbia

Today's NY Sun has an editorial about the use of eminent domain in the town of Port Chester. Now we had been involved about five years ago when a local manufacturer, who was not only the largest private employer in the village but was had also been induced to move downtown through a locally funded IDA bond, was informed that his property was now in the urban development zone and would be forfeit.

Now another property owner in the area had been in the process of building a retail facility with a CVS drugstore as an anchor tenant. The property owner was approached by G&S, the village designated developer, with an offer that the Sun rightfully describes as "government-backed extortion." When the owners refused to sell or make G&S full partners in the deal the village proceeded to condemn the property; "Adding insult to injury, G&S announced plans to build on the .76 acre lot a pharmacy named Walgreen's."

Here is how the use of eminent domain gets abused and the local property owners screwed. A well-connected developer in a jurisdiction known for shady dealing (the aforementioned factory owner had to go because he employed too many Hispanics and this destroyed the ambiance the village was trying to create on its waterfront) is able to put a gun to the owners head because he has the power of the state behind him.

Which is exactly the situation that is brewing with the expansion of Columbia. In this case the university isn't even bothering to try to be fair with local property owners (and overpay like Ratner did in Brooklyn), and is leaving condemnation to ESDC. But what if the city decides to build affordable housing and amends the Columbia plan accordingly? This is precisely what local owner Nick Sprayregen has proposed for his property that is within the confines of the university's footprint.

Will the city take the Sprayregen property so that Columbia will build the same housing on his land that the current owner wants to do anyway? This is precisely why any development deal that employs eminent domain needs the old standby disinfectant--sunlight. Elected officials need to stop genuflecting over a university that has never been known as Fred Rogers, and whose interactions with the local community have always been exclusively on a noblesse oblige basis.

The bottom line is that local property owners, just like the ones in Willets Point who are threatened with eviction in the same manner, need to be incorporated into the development plan, especially when it is clear that the inclusion will only serve the public interest and preserve basic property rights. Columbia doesn't need to be afforded this kind of policy power when there are ways that its development can proceed in partnership with local entrepreneurs who have served the community for years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tax Relief?

In what amounts to a rare display of fiscal conservativism, a number of members of the City Council, in the face of a large budget surplus, are calling for property tax cuts in the upcoming negotiations with the mayor. Finance Chair, David Weprin told the NY Post in today's story that. "A potentail tax cut is on the table...That's all I can say at this point."

We should all remember that the city increased property taxes in 2002 by a whopping 18.5 percent, and that the commercial real estate tax increases led to an acrooss the board rent hike for city stores of close to 25%. This increase, when combined with the higher property taxc assessments have really hurt homeowners, especially those that are older and on fixed incomes.

All of this speculation is being fueled by the IBO estimates that say that the mayor's projections for a surplus are $1 billion too conservative. This presents a challenge to Speaker Quinn, who up until now has never been known to harbor any concern for tax paying homeowners or strapped neighborhood businesses. The pressure on her will increae because of all of the ambitions motivating the members of the council as the term limited year of 2009 approaches.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Whither Personal Responsibility?

David White has an interesting post today on the conservative Frontpage website that deals with cigarettes and twinkies. The piece, originally published in The American, a magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute, questions how far the public health community will go to regulate peoples' lives in the name of health.

The article points out that when the cigarette companies began to fight against confiscatory taxes, they posed the question of whether this would lead to the taxing of fatty snacks. At the time, in the mid-nineties, this assertion was treated with ridicule but, as we have seen, it was prophetic. It has led, in the author's words, to the creation of "the regime of compulsory nutrition."

The trans fat bans (what the author calls part of a general belief "in government-knows-best social engineering"): and the menu labeling propositions are part of this push towards compelling people to be healthy-or else. It reminds us of Rousseau's dictum that sometimes you need to "force people to be free." White's money quote: "People are stupid, the theory goes, and easily manipulated into consuming whatever's on the menu at Jim-Bob's local barbeque. Therefore the government has the responsibility to discourage-or even prohibit-unhealthy behavior."

All of this is ,justified of course by the level of public expenditure for health care-a $90 billion a year cost (half Medicaid and half Medicare) attributed to the diseases associated with obesity. But this cost is only borne if the government picks up the bill. So that the circumscription of our personal freedom is directly tied to the increases in the country's beneficiary class.

This is, however, a terrible slippery slope since, "So many behaviors affect health care that eventually, in the interest of cutting costs, the government will seek to micromanage each individuals personal decisions. No longer will one be able to eat junk food, have unprotected sex, sleep less than six hours a night, or skip flossing."

As White says, why not mandate exercise? And before you laugh this off remember the guffaws that accompanied the suggestion of a "twinkie tax." There is a real danger here that people will, using this ideological perspective, elevate a reified concept of "health" and juxtapose it against the less important ideal of individual liberty. If so, there is no end to the danger that this approach could lead us into.

Columbia Contrast

Unlike the situation in Brooklyn where small businesses are poised to take advantage of the incredible residential boom that will be initiated by the AY development, the impact of the proposed Columbia expansion in West Harlem is a horse of an entirely different color. In today's NY Daily News, Columbia's president Lee Bollinger offers a glowing vision of all that the university (and he manges to include all of the other institutions of higher learning as well in an attempt to gild the lily) contributes economically to the city.

Bollinger, as is usual from cheerleaders in these kinds of situations, talks only of the collateral benefits of Columbia' expansion, waxing eloquent about the 6,00 jobs (projected) that wil be created by the development scheme. Nowhere does he talk of the jobs that will be lost or the small businesses replaced through the seizure of their property.

In particular, neighborhood businesses such as the C-Town on 135Th Street that is owned by the Collardo family and the similarly Dominican-owned Floridita restaurant on 126Th Street, will be expunged in the university's expansion plan. There is no question that an expansion of the university can be of great benefit to the community but that does not mean that Columbia should be given carte blanche to develop in any way it chooses.

As we have said elsewhere, when eminent domain is being used to displace existing businesses there should be a great effort to either overcompensate these stores and property owners (as some in the AY footprint were), or they should be made integral to the new development. There is nothing that says that Columbia, and Columbia alone, should determine the entire scope of this project.

In addition, there is another glaring omission in the Columbia expansion: the lack of affordable housing-the very thing that became the linchpin of the Atlantic Yards development. Not only is there no affordable housing in the Columbia plan the university, adding injury to insult to injury, is actually planning to evict hundreds of low-income tenants through the use of eminent domain.

This entire development needs to be thoroughly scrutinized, re-evaluated, and brought into alignment with the existing constituencies-businesses and tenants-of West Harlem. We need a win-win, not a "Hail Columbia" rhapsody that ignores the needs of folks that have a stake in the community.

Development in Brooklyn

In an interesting piece in the NY Sun, the paper focuses on the rising level of development along Fourth Avenue in an area that abuts Park Slope. The development is characterized by a large number of food and drink retailers who are being spurred, not only by the gentrification of the Slope, but also by the prospects of Atlantic Yards.

The situation in the avenue is similar to that of Amsterdam Avenue on the West Side in the 80's, where shops were boarded up and stores were going out of business. Once the AY project really begins to take hold it will inevitably boost, as we have predicted, the area's small neighborhood businesses and enhance property values all over the Slope's southern boundaries.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Yorkers Must Get Moving

In a recently released report from the Public Health Association of New York the health group details the fact that New Yorkers have become too sedentary, and offers some prescriptions needed to get the city's citizens moving. One such suggestion that intrigued us was the need to insure that all of New York's school kids get the physical education that has too often been eliminated from the curriculum.

The health advocates point out that the access to greater exercise opportunities is especially important for kids and teens, and opines that for these groups, "Physical activity reduces risk of obesity, improves health, enhances academic motivation and achievement, social development and self-esteem, and self-discipline."

All of which points to the need to encourage programs such as Health Corps where the impetus for greater physical activity is the essence of the philosophy behind the initiative. The program is particularly needed in the city's low-income communities where an obesity epidemic is creating a health crisis.

The city and the state is badly in need of a reformulation of its health policies. We need to move away from reliance on hospitals and acute care and towards preventative policies that encourage lifestyle changes that move New Yorkers towards healthier lives.

Posting Up Underage Fraud

In today's NY Post, the paper launches a frontal assault on the underage drinking chicanery. In an article titled "Teenage Card Tricks" the paper documents just how easy it is to game the NYS DMV and get a phony driver's license: "They log on to the state Department of Motor Vehicles Web site and, for $15, order a duplicate of a driver's license belonging to an of-age relative or buddy."

Hello Homeland Security! This is an absolute outrage and just what is the state going to do about this? "A DMV spokesman said there is no plan to stop the program or make it more secure." The easy ways in which the state can be defrauded also outraged the Mothers Against Drunk Driving since the method could be used by drunk felons who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.

All of this fraudulent behavior has, of course been the focus of the counterattack that was launched by NYNA in its effort to get elected officials to get to the root of the under aged drinking epidemic: the fraudulent behavior of the under aged themselves (and not the clubs that have been victimized by this behavior).

As it turns out, the NYPD has been getting the message. As the Post also reports, "Police are cracking down on teens using fake IDs to get into nightclubs, arresting 106 kids in Chelsea's clubland since August." Even more encouraging is the fact that the police are actually arresting youngsters and holding them overnight in jail! As NYNA's Rob Bookman says, "That's a good start...For about a quarter of a century, there's been a complete ignoring of the rules."

The Post also focused a spotlight today on stores that sell phony IDs. On tattoo parlor provided a reporter with a realistic "perfect" Delaware ID for $150. Cops had been stymied in September when the store was apparently alerted to their operation, and refused to sell to the undercover officer. Still, all of this indicates that the police are taking this situation seriously and if state bureaucrats at the DMV can be made to comply with the effort, a reasonably good start will have been made in the campaign to curb underage drinking at city clubs.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bottle Bill Battle

Crain's In$ider is reporting today on the effort by the Food Industry Alliance to derail the "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill." The FIA, which represents the state's food retailers is trying to totally eliminate all container deposits in exchange for expanded support for an enlarged curbside recycling program, "by adding valuable aluminum and plastic to the waste stream."

Crain's, however, is less than sanguine about the chances for this measure to pass since the investigation of Senator Bruno will leave the majority leader weakened and unable to fight the governor and the assembly on this issue. We agree and would add to this the fact that total repeal of the bottle bill is a non-starter.

That's why we have been arguing for a different kind of bottle bill structure, one that allows for the containers to be taken out of the stores and returned to state licensed redemption centers. Otherwise the redemption-and regulatory-burden will fall on food stores (and not the box stores and drug outlets that refuse to redeem with impunity).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Carting Disaster

Crain's In$ider is reporting that the city's EDC is issuing a new RFP for a consultant to evaluate whether the carting industry can raise its garbage removal rates. The consultant will be hired in February and it is expected that the study will take nine months to complete. All of which leaves carting reps with their knickers in a knot.

As lobbyist David Biderman told Crain's, the delayed schedule will mean that carters will have, "Another year operating under this unfair and obsolete cap..." What Biderman fails to mention is that the cap is the legacy of the national carting companies that he has long represented. When Local Law 42 was passed and the Trade Waste Commission established, the national garbage companies initially endorsed the rate ceiling.

They did this in spite of the fact that, aside from knowing that the rate was too low, the smaller independents were vocally opposing the rate cap as wholly inadequate. Their motive was to cultivate political support from Rudy Guiliani but, in addition, they were too busy engaged in using predatory pricing to establish market share to see the long term harm that their support of rate caps would generate.

Which leaves us with the reality of the carter's "plight." If, as Biderman argues, carters are really hurting than where does this leave their customers? They are also hurting with the 2003 approved rate hike on so-called wet waste. Clearly any EDC consultant needs to examine both the carters' rising costs as well as the impact that any increases would have on carting customers.

One solution, of course, is for the city to approve the use of commercial food waste disposers. If approved, disposers would remove heavy-and expensive-organic waste, and would mitigate any rate increase on the remaining dry waste. We can't wait to see the carters joining with us in support of Intro 133.

Public Health Flim Flam

In the February edition of Reason the magazine's Jacob Sallum reports on the phony furor over second hand smoke, the urban legend kind of science that is disseminated by all of the well-meaning folks who believe that lying is alright as long as it's for a good cause. You might recall that last summer the Surgeon General, one Richard Carmona, claimed that , "even brief exposure to second hand smoke" adversely affected the cardiovascular system.

Since then the anti-smoking crusaders have competed to outdo each other in the effort to quantify just how brief an exposure is actually dangerous. "One of these groups, SmokeFreeOhio, was also claiming that merely twenty minutes of exposure causes a nonsmoker's platelets to become 'as sticky as a smoker's,' increasing the chance of a heart attack."

Topping all of the others for sheer arrogant stupidity is a group in Minnesota that alleged, "just thirty seconds of exposure to secondhand smoke can make coronary artery function of nonsmokers indistinguishable from that of smokers." Of course neither Carmona nor any of these crusader groups offer up even a scintilla of scientific evidence to support claims, that if true, would in Sallum's observation defy, "the rules of toxicology" (Since the effects of smoking takes years to impact smokers and these addicts are, unlike nonsmokers, absorbing much larger amounts of smoke directly into their lungs).

All of which points out just how "good government" or "public health" groups are given a media pass by reporters who generally support the ideologies of these advocates. While they examine carefully the assertions of "special interests" they leave unexamined the ravings of fanatics who are increasingly emboldened by the lack of public scrutiny. In the process science is corrupted for partisan political purposes.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


In today's news we here about the efforts of self-appointed good government groups to get Governor Spitzer to adopt a wide range of government ethics reforms. NYPIRG, a self-styled public interest group, goes beyond this ambitious agenda to include 50 separate "Good Government" suggestions for the new chief executive.

One of these initiatives is for the governor to include the "revenue" from the "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill" in his first budget message. Now the Alliance has opposed the expansion of the bottle law because of its impact on New York City's food retailers. What we'd like to see is the governor adopt an amended bottle law that, while expanding the number of containers included under the law, would look to remove the returned containers from food stores into free standing redemption centers.

All of which falls on deaf ears with the good government folks at NYPIRG who have never, to our knowledge, promoted any pro-business policy (except perhaps by coincidence) in the thirty years that we have been following their activities. Just ask yourself, how does a group call itself a public interest group (in a country whose abundance and democratic freedoms derive precisely from its free market economic system) when it almost never supports pro-business policies?

This is especially glaring when we consider just how the tax and regulatory burdens in New York State makes it difficult for firms to do business here. Nowhere do we see that NYPIRG ever understands these kinds of issues. Hey Blair Horner (and Rachel Leon), how about a tax cut? What about regulatory reform? Support for entrepreneurism? None of these things is ever in the vocabulary of the self-appointed guardians of the public interest.

What we have from these groups is an unreflected liberalism- with a thinly disguised hostility to the economic principles that make America uniquely prosperous. Any business (even those that may employ thousands of New Yorkers), is pejoratively labeled a "special interest," and is de-legitimized in this jaundiced worldview.

Post Toasts Club Initiative's "Balance"

In today's NY Post, the paper that played the most prominent role in the focusing of public attention on the safety issues pertaining to New York City nightlife, editorializes in support of Speaker Quinn's assortment of initiatives for safety in the industry. As the editors express it; "The trick, though, as this paper has argued for months, is to find an effective way to ensure a safe night-time atmosphere without jeopardizing the enormous economic-and social-contribution of Gotham's bars and dance halls."

Just right! The Post captures the essence of the argument that we have made for the past five months about the importance of the industry as not only an economic engine for New York, but for its spiritual foundation as well. It is what makes this city what it is-a place where there is a vibrancy that continues to attract the talented young from all over the country and the world.

The Post also, taking a page from NYNA's lobbying playbook, takes direct aim at the use of fraudulent IDs by underage drinkers. It blames these lawbreakers and not club owners for the problems attendant to underage drinking abuse: "These kids, after all, are the ones committing fraud, not the bar staffs."

At the end of the editorial the paper sums up the nightlife situation with the most important one word analysis-"Balance." "Safety must improve, but without sacrificing New York's reputation as the Capitol of Nightlife."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Farmer's Markets in NYC

As we perused the New York City Council website we came across the Speaker's "Farmer's Market Initiative," a list of greenmarkets in neighborhoods all over the city. There are, according to the Council's list currently 78 of these vendor locations. Quite often, they are allowed to violate city zoning laws and locate directly in residential neighborhoods; in spite of the fact that they are bonafide commercial businesses.

Now you may recall that we had questioned the Speaker's desire to expand these operations and, in addition, subsidize them with the machinery to accept food stamps. This initiative is being honchoed by Marcel Von Ooyen, until recently the policy chief to the former speaker Gifford Miller. As if Marcel didn't have enough on his plate with his new mandate to spearhead the Office of Recycling.

The problem here is that Marcel, who hasn't worked a day in any part of the food business, has no real understanding of the economics of food wholesaling and retailing. He calls certain areas of the city "food deserts" and thinks that by subsidizing greenmarkets in these areas he's doing poor folks a favor.

Quite the opposite. By undermining the existing retail food outlets through subsidized competition this kind of a policy makes it more unlikely that the targeted neighborhoods will be serviced by quality supermarkets. Every time you question mavens like Marcel, however, they simply deny that this is unfair competition.

What this is without question is an assault on small businesses who are never the focus of any positive attention from council policy makers. There is simply zero understanding that city tax and regulatory policy is making it difficult for local food stores to prosper. And when it is suggested that the local stores get a break to enhance their productivity-such as with the installation of food waste disposers-the cry of, "Why should we subsidize the private sector?" rings loudly throughout City Hall.

Greenmarkets and peddlers are the same phenomenon with different costumes. When the glaring unfairness of this romanticizing of upstate farmers is put to an end maybe then we can craft an equitable policy to get better access to healthier foods in the city's poorer neighborhoods.

Commercial Garbage, Rotten Politics

Another glaring weakness in the city's SWMP is the total lack of any realism when it comes to the commercial waste sector. The city's plan calls for the opening up of a commercial waste transfer station on 59Th Street and the Hudson River. What's missing is any cogent plan to get the private carters to actually dump their waste at the facility.

Under the current concept the city will issue an RFP for the development of the 59th Street site and, assuming there isn't any lawsuit about the use of the facility (a big assumption indeed), it will report on progress with the development in 2008! In 2009 the Sanitation folks will be back at the council for "modifications" under this scenario if the progress on utilizing the designated transfer point stalls (as it undoubtedly will).

What we have here is the old Machiavellian adage about appearing good rather than actually being good. The city has no plan-as the council clearly knows-on how to distribute commercial waste more fairly. The real fairness would lie in reducing commercial waste so that all of those transfer stations in Williamsburgh, Jamaica, the South Bronx and Greenpoint could be slowly phased out.

The only effective method for accomplishing this goal would be the gradual implementation of commercial FWDS in the city's food stores and restaurants, something that the council leadership disposed of in its deal with the mayor on the SWMP. We are not going to sit around saying "We told you so," when this SWMP comes apart at the bloated seams.

We are going to continue to push Intro 133 because it is in the best interest of the city-from both an economic as well as an environmental standpoint. The craven deal that was struck- with a totally inept city agency placed in charge of the evaluation process-simply cannot stand any fair scrutiny. And the leaders of the council are going to after examine what amounts to a consistently ant-small business policy. The billionaire Bloomberg can get away with it but in 2009 a number of less well-healed folks are bound to get hoisted.