Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bobbsey Twins Hit a Roadblock

In today's NY Times the intrepid Charles Bagli details the impasse that has been reached with the development of the new Moynihan Station: "Critics say the heart of the original plan — an elegant station — has become almost an afterthought. The developers, Stephen M. Ross of the Related Companies and Steven Roth of Vornado Realty Trust, have proposed building 1.1 million square feet of shops and department stores in the new Penn Station, more than eight times the amount of retail space at Grand Central Terminal."

Maybe since the projects prospects, according to the NY Post, look "slimmer" every day, we should get new developers; and not the two favored nations that have glommed on to almost all of the lucrative public projects in the city over the past six years. Isn't it amazing that Related and Vornado have been able to be so successful in a climate that has eliminated all evidence of special interest favoritism?

And what of the great public benefits that these two public spirited entities will bring forth if they are able to somehow resurrect Moynihan? As Professor Eliot Sclar puts it: “Public-private partnerships are now one-sided arrangements in which the public actors no longer plan public spaces in the public interest,” said Elliott Sclar, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University. “Instead they facilitate private-sector developments of these spaces in exchange for slight public amenities. In this case, the public gets the chance to catch a train in the basement of a vertical shopping mall.”

Maybe it's time for the Bloombergistas to start to do some actual planning rather than turn the city over to the two box store kings. That would require, however, a conception of the public good that is foreign to our philosopher king mayor, someone whose world view doesn't extend much past the private clubs that he is feted at as the fourth richest man in NYC.