Friday, January 29, 2010

Money for Nothing: Wither Willets?

The mayor unveiled his $63 billion budget, and the NY Times describes the picture as, "grim." Many sacred cows are on the chopping block: "Declaring grimly that the city’s finances were “between a rock and a hard place,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled a $63 billion budget proposal Thursday that would eliminate 20 fire companies, increase the cost of truck parking on Manhattan streets by 25 percent and close swimming pools and a 24-hour center for the homeless. The budget would also slash funding to libraries, reduce the number of caseworkers who deal with H.I.V. and AIDS, and eliminate nurses in elementary schools with fewer than 300 students."

And, as we pointed out yesterday, the teachers are in the mayor's cross hairs: "Mr. Bloomberg is proposing that city teachers agree to a much smaller raise in their next contract or face the possibility of 2,500 job cuts. And when asked Thursday whether his position signaled a new era of hard-line bargaining with all unions, Mr. Bloomberg sounded almost exasperated."

Dire is the operative word here-but things good get even worse if the state budget cuts put forward by the governor come to pass: "Still, as dire as his proposal already was, Mr. Bloomberg did not mince words about how much worse the city’s fiscal outlook could become if Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed state budget is enacted."

The mayor, never one for a way with words, nevertheless captured the proper spirit of the moment in his own laconic manner: “The bottom line is we don’t have any money,” he said." Which brings us to the question of the proposed development of Willets Point-and an issue we have raised in the past.

If the city is flat broke, and is willing to jeopardize public safety by closing twenty firehouses, than how can its chief executive contemplate the expense of a speculative condemnation of the businesses at Willets Point? Bloomberg needs to be forced to confront the fiscal realities that the city faces. Every responsible elected official, when confronted with the question of moving forward at Willets Point-and especially those who have signed on as enthusiastic supporters-needs to respond to the Cuba Gooding demand of: "Show me the money."

And Bloomberg needs to tell the public-that will soon be clamoring for the restoration of services that it holds dear-how much this project will cost, and where will the money come from to pay for it. These hard economic times demand that the city scale back some of its grandiose development dreams. A moratorium on the Willets Point project now makes more sense than ever.