Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Traffic Remedy for Staten Island?

In his unveiling of a "comprehensive" plan to alleviate Staten Island's traffic problem Mayor Bloomberg takes a page out of Murray Edelman's classic book, The Symbolic Uses of Politics. As Edelman points out, politics proceeds on a symbolic level (as opposed to a tangible one where folks actually get something concrete) when public pronouncements are used to relieve anxiety, allay uncertainty and, thereby, promote quiescence.

The use of symbolic rewards (such as press conferences announcing "comprehensive"plans to address intractable problems), creates the impression that action is being taken when nothing is really being done that would deal fundamentally with the problem at hand.

This is precisely the case with The StatenIsland Transportation Task Force. As the NY Times reports,"The announcement gave Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican who received significant support from Staten Island voters during his mayoral campaigns, an opportunity to surround himself with other Republican politicians..." In other words, as Otto Schindler said, "I'm here for the presentation."

All of which is better underscored in yesterday's StatenIsland Advance. As the paper reports, "The bulk of the proposed long-term projects that could make the most difference-such as road widenings and the replacement of the Goethals Bridge-will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and are in the out, out capital years." Precisely so; long after Bloomberg goes back to giving away his considerable fortune.

The Advance captures the point we're making about the two levels of politics when it indicates, "All that raises the question of how much the transportation task force will be able to accomplish." And the area that has been designated by Borough President Molinaro as a "traffic nightmare" along Page Avenue (where the Walmonster wants to go) has a "to be determined" time frame when it comes to road improvements.

This means that the proposed Wal-Mart for Richmond Valley Road and Page Avenue will potentially create-What transcends a "traffic nightmare"? As Amanda, The Dollar-a-Year Burden points out, "she did not know if those developers {including the Stop-N-Shop builders} could be forced beyond the legal requirement to improve local roadways if and when they seek approval from the city if and when they seek to build in those areas."

When, however, a project will exacerbate an already nightmarish traffic situation the city can simply say no to the developer's plans. This, we will argue, is exactly what should be done when Wal-Mart comes begging later this year.