Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters accross New York on Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City address. Analysis from:
- Tom Wrobleski, political editor at the Staten Island Advance;
- Peter Mastrosimone, editor-in-chief of the Queens Chronicle;
- Elaine Rivera, full-time faculty member at Lehman College's journalism communications and theater department and former WNYC political reporter;
- Ron Geberer, managing editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle;
- Edward-Isaac Dovere, editor of City Hall.
The mayor spent considerably more time on the outer boroughs than Manhattan, emphasizing development projects in each one. "If you don't invest in the future, the future hits the road," he philosophized.
Wrobleski said his readers were pleased that the mayor chose to give his speech in Staten Island, and in some ways it symbolized of the revitalization the St. George district. But reverberating most was Bloomberg's proposal to change the pension system for public employees. The State of Staten Island is complicated, Wrobleski said, considering its mix of Republican and Tea Party voters with a large population of uniformed public workers residing there.
Likewise, in Queens, Peter Mastrosimone said there is local tension concerning pension reform, which he supports, because the borough is home to many public workers. There's conflict too about middle class developments the mayor is pushing, like the project on Hunters Point South, because though there is a great need for more affordable housing, people are worried the city's infrastructure won't keep up with an influx of people.
Elaine Rivera, a former WNYC reporter, said the mayor proposed a number of good ideas in the Bronx, like transforming unused tennis courts in Van Cortlandt Park into an ice skating rink, but the overwhelming concern in the community is who will get the jobs.According to community activists and labor leaders in the borough, the good jobs are going to people commuting from Westchester and Rockland counties. Rivera called for a public review of employment data to get real numbers of how projects like Yankee stadium, the Gateway mall, and the Bronx Courthouse are affecting residents. According to Rivera, the big issue concerning the State of the Bronx is:
How do you undo 20 years, 30 years, of bad public policy in education and housing, and what do you do with disinvestment in a borough like the Bronx?
In Brooklyn, the best news from the speech was the livery car announcement. "This will be 100 percent a welcome development," Geberer said. The editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was surprised that the mayor didn't talk about residential and commercial development more, though he did hit on the Navy Yard, Coney Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Will Brooklynites get behind the Mayor's controversial proposal to lay off teachers according to merit rather than seniority? Geberer didn't know.
As for the city's most iconic borough, well, the mayor evaded talking about a number of controversial realities, like the disparity of wealth statistics (according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the top one percent now owns 44 percent of the wealth) and demographic changes—Manhattan's population is now majority non-Hispanic white for the first time since the 1970s. Dovere predicted the unions will use these very issues to push back against the mayor's pension reform and retirement age proposals, arguing that the reason pension costs have risen so much is because of irresponsible Wall Street behavior.
But Dovere said New Yorkers shouldn't think for a moment that this is all they're going to get from Bloomberg this year. He said Bloomberg approaches his State of the City address differently than a lot of governors and presidents do.
Mayor Bloomberg doesn't use it as the one time of the year to just throw everything out that he wants to have on the agenda. He's always taken the approach of when he has something to announce he announces it, knowing that he's the mayor of New York City, so it's going to be covered. This speech, like the nine State of the Cities before it, was full of some proposals that will have some effect and some guidance to where we're going, but I don't think this is the end document for all he's going to do between now and the next State of the City address next year.