Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sustaining the Permanent Government

In their path breaking book on New York City government, The Abuse of Power, Jack Newfield and Paul Du Brul coined the phrase "permanent government." The term, devolved from the C. Wright Mills power elite concept, referred to the fact that this city's power elite was an intersection of government officials, lobbyists and real estate interests. While these authors may have gone a bit overboard in their denunciatory rhetoric, the permanent government concept retains its usefulness as an analytical tool.

We can get a glimpse of this power nexus in operation when we take a look at the proposed development of Willets Point.The development in question is analyzed by Tom Angotti in a post on the Gotham Gazette's website. In the Angotti discussion, he questions the concept of "sustainable development" when applied to the Iron Triangle project.

The problem here is that, in Angotti's words, "Sustainability should mean sustaining the economic livelihoods of people as well as preserving the environment. But under this plan, the thriving local economy in some immigrant communities in Queens could be overwhelmed by megaprojects and their corporate tenants."

Which gets us to the very heart of the Bloomberg notion of sustainability: sustaining the real estate interests that he sees as the economic backbone of his city. There is absolutely no idea here of sustaining, let alone nurturing, the small business entrepreneurs that make up the bulk of enterprise at the Point.

And then there is the congestion issue that Kermit the Mayor is wearing like a regular Johnny Appleseed. He envisions over 5,000 units of housing, and there's simply no way for the already overcrowded 7 line to accommodate these folks. Which means, at least until all of the transit improvements are actually in place, that the new Willets Point residents will take to the road.

This has been exactly our point about the mayor's congestion pricing plan. This enviro-chic proposal completely ignores the auto dependent development that the mayor continues to push in the outer boroughs. Angotti's end quote is worth reading: "Are megaprojects, like the one planned for Willets Point, consistent with the vision of sustainable development. Or would more modest efforts, aimed at nurturing existing neighborhoods like Corona, be more sustainable and cost-effective?"