Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bloomberg's Real Legacy

In today's NY Post, Mayor Mike Bloomberg pronounces the possibility of budgetary gloom and doom next year: "The budget cuts made this year to nonprofit groups are going to "look like child's play" if gloomy forecasts are on target and the economy tanks, Mayor Bloomberg warned yesterday. The mayor said he'd be thrilled to restore tens of millions of dollars to the nonprofit sector if the predictions turn out to be wrong and revenues go up, instead of down. But he indicated that's highly unlikely."

And while he's probably right, what's missing here is all of the opportunities the mayor has missed to be a true government reformer and not the expansive program supporter that has characterized his lackluster reign. With all of his money, and his latent potential to sell New Yorkers on a different approach to the delivery of government services, the mayor has missed a golden opportunity to be truly a voice for change.

In the process, wasteful big government approaches to all manner of programs have been left in place while Bloomberg has raised the cost of living and doing business in the city. Higher taxes and fees, and not just calorie counts, are inevitably on next year's Bloomberg menu. On top of this lost opportunity, he's allowed his acolyte Doctoroff to deed the development rights of the city to a small group of billionaires who have no idea how to develop with any sense of fairness or vision.

The Gateway Mall and Yankee Stadium projects will be seen as Bloomberg's true legacy-sweetheart deals with parks destroyed and small business evicted and scattered to the four winds. The fact that land swapped by the Related Company up in the Bronx was contaminated is the ultimate symbol of the mayor's development legacy. We'll give Patrick Arden of Metro the last word here:
"“Sweetheart deal” was the label critics attached to the $400 million Gateway Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market. How else to explain the tax breaks, cash grants, cheap rent and money-back guarantees that went to handpicked developer Stephen Ross of the Related Companies, a onetime business partner of former deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff? Now, add millions more to the tab: Taxpayers are on the hook to clean up land that was originally part of the project... In 2004, Related was supposed to pay for a 2-acre Harlem River park, but it later agreed to transfer 7.5 acres of waterfront property to the city in exchange for a $2.5 million rent credit. The city needed part of this land to replace parks lost to the new Yankee Stadium, a Parks rep said. Last week, Parks officials said all the acreage is heavily polluted, pushing the cost of the new parks from $14 million to $56 million."