The 5-Borough Take On State Of The City

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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:

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.


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Comments [22]

Carol from Bx, NY

Bloomberg needs to do further analysis of the municipal pension system before condemninf ALL municipal employees. Pensions cuts are rising because uniformed employees pad their salaries nearly 100% prior to retirement. Bloomberg needs to enact legislation to limit overtime to 5% or less of an employees' salary & make certain it's essential.

Jan. 20 2011 02:01 PM
Vegan Vicki from Vinegar Hill, Harlem, U.S.A.

Sanitation workers are uniformed, under similar conditions to police and fire guys. Continuing Amy's point, I see sanwork as the most dangerous job in the city.

Sure, police and fire guys have sensational,well-publicized deaths and disabling injuries. But those are rare and highly improbable. The overwhelming majority of police and fire guys retire in perfect health, capable of continuing to work or of enjoying quality golden years.

Sanworkers, however, are more like American football players. They have persistent stress on skeletal muscle, bones, that add up. They have concussions and fractures. At least half retire with chronic conditions that make it impossible to continue working or carry on a high quality of life.

Jan. 20 2011 10:59 AM
judy cooper from NYC

Forcing teachers to wait till 65 is a bad idea for two reasons. One, is that long termers are the most expensive and a school could get 2 newbies for the same price. The second, and more important reason, is that teaching requires a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, qualities that not every post 62er possesses.

Jan. 20 2011 10:54 AM
Lynne H from Manhattan

as regards teachers' retiring at 65 rather than 22, 2 years ago they offered all DOE pedagogical employees a lifelong buyout, if they signed up for it: 55/25 retirement plan: if you are age 55 or over & have worked 25 years or more; retire. People were urged to sign on even if they were in their first 10 years teaching or administratrating. It's touch talk backed by a historical buy-out. What a joke.

Jan. 20 2011 10:51 AM
spnyc from WaHi

Manhattan doesn't stop at 96th Street! Harlem, WaHi and Inwood are NOT SERVED by yellow cabs. Yellow cab drivers don't like coming up here, they turn around and head straight back downtown instead of finding other local passengers. And the minimum fare is $7. Yes, residents do hail limos in the street up here, we have to. A lot of the limo companies are fly-by-night organizations with half a dozen cars and if there isn't one in your neighborhood when you call, you're out of luck.

Jan. 20 2011 10:44 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Aren't yellow cabs legally required to pick up fares everywhere in the 5 boroughs? Isn't that the reason livery services aren't allowed to? If the yellow cabs aren't serving the outer boroughs &, as Vegan Vicki pointed out, in Harlem? Of course, people there can legally hail a cab...if they can find one....

Jan. 20 2011 10:42 AM
RA from CT

The article was written January 11th.

ReThinking the Public-Pension Punching Bag

Jan. 20 2011 10:41 AM

I'm in favor of defined contribution plans as well. But, this approach shifts the burden of savings onto the employee, and very few people realize HOW much they have to save in order to retire, and how carefully that money must be invested. Without education (and some behavioral economics incentives), these plans will leave people in dire straits at 65. See

Jan. 20 2011 10:40 AM

A Taxi Medallion costs over 600K, in no small part b/c they have a monopoly.

If livery cars will suddenly be competing with taxis, how will the city compensate to "make their monopoly fair again?"

Jan. 20 2011 10:40 AM
Anon from Brooklyn

I propose an exchange. If King Bloomburg wants to make working folks pay he should increase the municipal taxes on millionaires.

Jan. 20 2011 10:39 AM
RA from CT

Mayor Mike should read the article in his very own vanity publication, Bloomberg Businessweek, about Pension and 401k reform about reforming both types in a better way. The article was in last week's (or perhaps it is this week's issue)!

Jan. 20 2011 10:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Are sanitation workers included in "uniformed city employees"? That seems like a job it'd be hard to keep doing into your 60s.

Jan. 20 2011 10:36 AM
Michael from Manhattan

Dreadful dishonesty and hollow presentation by Mayor Mike. He read a list of place names like a raw schoolboy, places he will never see, even from a gold plated helicopter.

First, it was he who doubled the medallioned yellow cabs in 2004-5 to ensure taxis would cover the outer boroughs. He now admits that 95% of yellow cabs are in Manhattan-- that is a travesty and we Manhattanites must play roller derby elimination whenever we walk outside because of the reckless mass of unneeded taxis.

Second, why are the "uniformed" services untouchable in a conversation about pension reform. Many fireman quickly reach $80k annual salaries and have a viable shot at pensions that are just as high. Many have second jobs during their City careers. The police have no brakes on overtime and we see no evidence of any fair monitoring of Kelly's control and lavish budget. Add in the school chancellor mess, the sanitation mess ("heck'uva job, Brownie...") and the spike in homelessness, disparity of wealth, flood of tourists that trigger the lowest level of jobs, and housing crisis... I could go on. Bloomberg fatique is at flood level.

Jan. 20 2011 10:30 AM

Where is the ice rink going to be in VanC Park?!

Jan. 20 2011 10:22 AM

Given that lots of people commute into the city for work, do any of the surrounding counties contribute to large construction projects, like the new stadiums?

Jan. 20 2011 10:21 AM
John P MacKenzie from Long Island City

In Long Island City, where i've lived for 13 years, the yellow cabs are never more than a few blocks away ---- parked day and night where they come and go all day and night. Absurd that they don't patrol any parts of Queens and would rather dead-head to Manhattan.
There's been a slight uptick in yellow cab availability lately, but it needs stimulus and competition. Absurd that we are so poorly served when we need a taxi.

Jan. 20 2011 10:21 AM
Andrew Carlson from New York City

Dear Brian,
Yes, we ought to raise the retirement age to 65 for public employees in NYC. We poke fun of the French and their reform to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62..but we seem unable to do the right thing here in NYC! Thank you for a wonderful show.

Jan. 20 2011 10:18 AM
Robert Moore from Manhattan

On the cabs issue. Go one step further and talk to New Jersey about the nonsense of NJ cabs not being able to take fares BACK to Newark aiport and NY cabs not being able to pick up fares from EWR. Why not provide a special area in Manhattan where NJ cabns could pick up a fare for EWR and also have a separate area at EWR for NY cabs. The waste of resources and fuel of cabs 'empty legging' is ridiculous

Jan. 20 2011 10:17 AM
Vegan Vicki from Vinegar Hill, Harlem, U.S.A.

Hailing a cab on 42nd Street, Manhattan? Or Brooklyn? Or Queens?

What about 142nd Street, Manhattan? Go there, and you're in the sixth borough. Why can't we hail a cab legally up here too?

Jan. 20 2011 10:13 AM
Hal from Crown Heights

I wonder when trash and recycling pickup will return to normal, or art least tell us when they can pick up next.

Jan. 20 2011 10:12 AM
Chriss from Montcalir

The audio montage at the beginning of this segment was PRICELESS!!!!

Great work!!

Jan. 20 2011 10:08 AM
ge Taylor

Will anyone on this learned panel be addressing the pending (since 2008) investigation of City Council President Quinn's conspiracy, with other members of the city council, to embezzle city funds by allocating them to agencies and programs that did not exist?
Have any of their reports looked into the millions of dollars of city funds that these malefactors are being subsidized with for their lawyers in this matter?

Jan. 20 2011 10:04 AM

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