From "The Future of New York City" Hour 1

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A special live broadcast from the "Future of New York City" event, featuring interviews with business and policy leaders, including:
Mitchell Moss, professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU; Kevin Burke, CEO, chairman of the board, and president of Consolidated Edison; Sara Horowitz, executive director of Working Today Freelancers Union; Kevin Ryan, chief executive of Alley Corp; and Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels.


Kevin Burke, Sara Horowitz, Mitchell Moss, Kevin Ryan and Jonathan Tisch

Comments [64]

anna from new york

There is possibly yet another problem with FU.

I have no doubt that we must have universal health care (single payer), and I am afraid that FU with its pseudo-solutions is a distraction.

Feb. 03 2009 09:06 PM
Cindy from Queens

I could not agree more with Sammy more...

As a longstanding member, I never considered Freelancer's Union an actual union. To hear Sara Horowitz compare FU to real unions ("we are the fourth largest union in New York State") made my stomach ache the entire day.

Three months ago, Ms. Horowitz formed the Freelancer's Insurance Company. As Sammy states correctly, a for-profit insurance company. Every member, whether for years or days, was MADE to choose a plan under this new company or lose their coverage through FU for nine months. Never mind this new company offered plans which failed in comparison, both in price and benefit, to the plans previously offered through Blue Cross and before this HIP.

I have never heard of a union who behaves this way. No vote, no warning, no consolation with it's members.

I further need to reiterate Nathan's concerns that FU is supporter of WNYC. Brian -- if you are truly not biased -- let's hear one episode on NPR that at least calls in question Horowitz's practices. Please remember my membership dues to FU are paying for Sara's advertisement spots.

Feb. 03 2009 07:59 PM
PD from New York City

POSTED TWICE (on both hour 1 & 2 because I'm so livid!):

To Mr. Wagar (President of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield),

I must tell you that your statement about customer trust, in answer to Brian's question about why the commercial insurance industry should exist to take profits, blasted me out of my chair this morning.

I am self-employed and have paid you a crushing monthly premium for years - one that has seen constant increases - nearly 30% alone in 2008 and it just went up again in January 2009!

But the most outrageous aspect of your so-called "health coverage" is that no matter how much time I take from my work to try to straighten it out, I can't even get BCBS to acknowledge that I am a paying member let alone reimburse me the paltry amount "allowed" for a given bill submitted in a claim.

"...demonstrating a reason for trust...Leading customer satisfaction in this market..." I beg to disagree. I pay you to pay your stockholders and for it I get ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in exchange except for extra work I don't have the time for, frustration & boiling anger and the priviledge of having to personnally reimburse physicians out-of-pocket in full. That ain't customer satisfaction in my book!

Apparently I'd do better to be a stockholder. That way at least I would recover some of my money back from you and use it for paying doctors' bills.

Feb. 03 2009 06:48 PM
anna from new york

This Dimon (I misspelled him above) has a Ponzi scheme. They breach contracts with long time customers, order them to pay ... yesterday
and use their money (from those who can meet their demands) to lend (a little bit) to some other customers or the same old ones at a much, much, much higher interest.

Feb. 03 2009 04:59 PM
Jeff Putterman from Queens

Shame on you BRian Lehrer. Promoting a private, biased rag like Crain's.

I want my money back.

Feb. 03 2009 04:32 PM
Jeff from Xarlon-12

Sammy is right, FU is at times a big FU to the freelancer looking for stop-gap insurance, the people I have spoken to at customer service sounded like they were too baked to understand my questions, and only after repeated tries was I able to get on their rolls, only to be sent to the wrong doctors time and time again because their DB of participating physicians is so outdated!

Feb. 03 2009 03:35 PM
Jeff from Xarlon-12

Excited to hear these shows Brian, though the pop-out player continues to die when playing anything other than the live stream...I'm on huge pipes with a brand new PC, let your guys know.

Feb. 03 2009 03:33 PM
ann from nyc

Brian, why don't you do a show where you bring together a panel of laid off workers and have them discuss what they see as the source of the economic problems and have them offer their solutions.
That would be way more enlightening than hearing your guest CEO's, Business Editors and "experts" spin their "truth".

Feb. 03 2009 03:15 PM
Sammy from Manhattan

The Freelancer's Union is now merely a for-profit insurance company hid behind a poor excuse for an advocacy organization. There is almost nothing "union" about it. I am tired of WNYC praising Sara Horowitz, while her members are left with health care plans which have next to no benefits and outrageous co-pays, an ungodly customer service reputation, and a history of making unilateral decisions against their members interests. She is correct that our government needs to address the freelance work force - but help us if they use Freelancer's Union as example

Feb. 03 2009 02:58 PM
Barbara Bour from South Orange, NJ

The dire predictions about the death of Financial Services in NYC, have been gravely exaggerated...There is simply way to much money in money. NYC is, and always will be, a money town.

The fix---transparency, less leverage, some law and order around consumer dept., and more cops on the beat --- period.

Feb. 03 2009 02:17 PM
anna from new york

"Well it's official ...
... the comments/commenters on this page are 900-1000 times more interesting/ insightful/ honest/ helpful than NYC's Lil'-est Thinktank, being covered."#49

Smidely, I am still in pain after two minutes of "Kathryn's" Orwellian garbage. How to you produce these "people" (not really)?

Feb. 03 2009 01:12 PM
F. from NYC

I work in a business where although I am in all substantial regards a freelancer (I must buy my own equipment, pay for service, business cards, promotion, etc.), I "must" be paid as an employee. It's the film business, where the insurance companies demand that all freelance contractors become 'term' employees because in the event of an accident, they can NOT sue, as they would be covered by workman's comp policy and not subject to liability coverage. Except when they don't. Never mind the degree to which any 'employee' is just accumulating a dossier in the comp system. Last I knew I cannot get health insurance through Freelancers Union.

So colour me a bit less than impressed on balance. It might be a good idea in principle, but some of us get shoved into a grey area of employment.

Feb. 03 2009 12:21 PM
Edward Stern from NYC

I find it hard to listen to all these bankers say, 'Oh no we can't nationalize the banks'. The main problem I have with these bankers is they caused the problem. they are not part of the solution. They need to realize that threats with talk about something worse that what they have already caused is ludicrous. we fell off a cliff and they pushed us over the edge with their greed.

Feb. 03 2009 12:12 PM
Edward from NJ

Quick survey: despite all the optimism Brian mentioned, did anyone listening actually feel better after the past two hours of radio or just angrier?

Feb. 03 2009 12:02 PM
Jaime from Passaic, NJ

Health Insurance companies continually site the rising cost of health care attributing to the rising cost of health care premiums. Your guest mentioned such things as the cost of New Technology and even Excesive Diagnostic Imaging being such attributes. I Myself work in the diagnostic imaging field, I have only seen our reimbursements on our services decline.. drastically in some cases.. as much as 50%( Medicare) on certain studies. So they complain about rising costs, Yet reimbursements continue to decline. Some Insurance providers also set standards on the type of equipment used for some radiological services.. which in idea is great.. forcing facilities to continually update and upgrade their equipment.. Problem is.. how are we going to afford upgrades and new equipment when again.. they cut reimbursements over and over again.. You should do a show on this.. honestly.. Its eye opening when you look at how little health care professionals are getting paid and yet how much more these insurance companies are charging for premiums.

Feb. 03 2009 11:57 AM

Well it's official ...

... the comments/commenters on this page are 900-1000 times more interesting/ insightful/ honest/ helpful than NYC's Lil'-est Thinktank, being covered.

Feb. 03 2009 11:52 AM
Brad from Brooklyn

Why is Bloomberg outright hostile to small manufacturing? This moment has proved it is a vital part of our local economy.

Feb. 03 2009 11:39 AM
Nick Lento from NJ

You are giving up your show today to be a PR instrument of the "Financial Services" and "Insurance" industries that have gotten us into this mess through their dishonesty and their incompetence.

You need to give equal time to consumer and taxpayer advocates.

This is indeed a CON-ference.

Nationalization and single payer are part of the solution.

We also need forced disgorgement and higher taxes on the people who have absconded with our money.

We need a wealth tax. People worth 100 million dollars (a years "pay" for some) won't kill themselves if half of that were taken back in taxes by the people they screwed to make that money. They will STILL be very rich.

Legalized theft is not a good economic model. We can do better.

Feb. 03 2009 11:38 AM
anna from new york

Enough is enough.
I listened to Diamond and "Kathryn" clips and I am boiling.
Diamond is naive if he believes that his customers/victims will allow him to "pull it."
No, dear Jamie, we won't allow you to use taxpayers' money, including Chase's customers taxpayers money, to fight countless class action suits for breaching contracts, among many other things. You can't "make it" on their (and your employees) backs. Forget about
"Kathryn" (sp?):
Financial sector plays such an important role in New York, because ... guess what? Wall Street helped kill everything else in a variety of ways:
- by promoting politicians who foster its interests at the expense of citizens of this country and the world
- by imposing utterly barbaric morality/ideology on the population (financing "friendly" politicians, institutes of propaganda, radio hosts, etc.)
- by destroying/corrupting non-profit sector and eliminating any person of integrity etc.
Yes, Brian, don't expect union people be there.

Feb. 03 2009 11:35 AM
B. from Manhattan

Might have used a version that gave the complete thought.

Feb. 03 2009 11:34 AM
George from NYC

Brian, How much money did they make last year

Feb. 03 2009 11:33 AM
Shelly from Manhattan

Why can't there be a sliding scale based on income for small biz? My employees can't afford $450/mo for healthcare.

Feb. 03 2009 11:31 AM
Shelly from Manhattan

Why do the executives retire with $7m/year pensions? Isn't that really what we are paying for?

Feb. 03 2009 11:30 AM
B. from Manhattna

I need a little political theatre. Or just better political theatre. In order to keep it current, I say that we need to let loose a hoard of woodchucks in the same room with this lot. That's about as close as we have gotten of late to social justice.

"... I'm sure the program's intentions are good, but I surely hope that contributions to WNYC aren't dictating content."

Ain't that exactly the point when they solict money during programme hours? Otherwise we'd

Feb. 03 2009 11:07 AM
KC from NYC

hjs: I see your point about recycling, although that gets into another gigantic issue about recycling in general--the relative energy used for, and waste generated by, recycling and what have you. I'm glad people want to recycle, but, you know, I look at it kind of like religious faith; it's a nice thing to aspire to, societally productive to think about, everybody please keep doing it, but...well, with recycling in the popular imagination, when and if we actually put together a viable recycling program, we will be more amenable to it, hopefully.

I haven't seen any fluorescent light I like, but I understand other people accepting it; the way light falls is more of an obsession/profession for me than for most people. I'll probably always lose that fight with the vox populi.

Feb. 03 2009 11:05 AM
Shelly from Manhattan

I am a small biz owner who just signed up with Empire employees only make on avg $450/week. How can they possibly afford a decent healthplan??? Why can't there be a sliding scale based on income within the same plan???

Feb. 03 2009 11:04 AM
Nathan from NYC

Was that a commercial break for the Freelancers Union? The same union that Brian's guest on today's show is from?

I'm sure the program's intentions are good, but I surely hope that contributions to WNYC aren't dictating content.

[[Thanks very much for your comments. WNYC programming staff, including the Lehrer show staff, never book—or unbook—guests based on underwriting clients. Nor do underwriting staff receive advance notice of guest bookings. What you heard today was a coincidence, and I regret any confusion it’s caused. Our editorial process is definitely not influenced by underwriting sales.

-The BL Show Team and Chris Bannon, WNYC Programming Director-]]

Feb. 03 2009 11:03 AM
hjs from 11211

they make bulbs with good light (i know this cause after using a good one my roommate bought one with a blueish color, which i find hard to get use to) and they aren't just as bad for the planet. more mercury is generated using regular bulbs at the power plant we just have to recycle them properly. some retailers like home depot take them back

Feb. 03 2009 10:51 AM
snoop from brooklyn

As a child, my father kept trying to lower the energy usage of our household. First generation compact florescent bulbs, DC converters, whatever. The family rebelled. The light produced was ugly and dim.

Now, I've started replacing the incandescent bulbs in my house with CF. The light is great, they are bright... even brighter if you like because you get a LOT more light for the same amount of power.

The problems of disposal aside, I have found that CF bulbs have developed to the point where there is little difference between them and incandescent bulbs.

Feb. 03 2009 10:49 AM
Gregory Schnese from East Village

I started my own startup company, - Find a NYC Happy Hour. Coovents lists out happy hours that are going on now, by location.

This project has been totally bootstrapped; just me and my co-founder working at night.

We are presenting at the NY Tech Meetup tonight!

Check out or follow us on Twitter @Coovents.



Feb. 03 2009 10:47 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Doesn't anyone see the shift toward more freelancing as a bad thing? The Freelancer's Union will grow and profit only as workers' situations worsen on the whole.

Feb. 03 2009 10:46 AM
xti from Manhattan

I think that all banks, drug stores, basically anything that adds to the ugliness of New York should be required to devote one third of their window space to exhibit the work of local artists.

Feb. 03 2009 10:43 AM
KC from NYC

Janet: Yup. In addition to casting lousy light, they also are just as bad (or worse) for the environment than incandescent bulbs.

But hey, that's the invisible hand of capitalism, "solving" problems...

Feb. 03 2009 10:42 AM
snoop from brooklyn

Just keep in mind that the Freelancers Union only provides health insurance for a limited number of freelance occupations. While the organization is a good idea, it is NOT a solution... or at least is a very limited one.

Feb. 03 2009 10:41 AM
hjs from 11211

it's true they should be recycled because of the mercury, but i've heard the power plant generates mercury also so using a regular bulb u make more mercury than if u used flourescent bulb.

Feb. 03 2009 10:41 AM
Daniel from WAY Upper West Manhattan

For Independent Contractors (freelancers)

go to

Excellent corp-to-corp relationships.

You get ALL+ employee benefits including unemployment insurance.

For gosh sakes, GO FOR IT!


Feb. 03 2009 10:40 AM
Daniel from WAY Upper West Manhattan

For Independent Contractors (freelancers)

go to

Excellent corp-to-corp relationships.

You get ALL+ employee benefits including unemployment insurance.

For gosh sakes, GO FOR IT!


Feb. 03 2009 10:40 AM
Janet Berger from Livingston, NJ

Please post information about how to RECYCLE that flourescent bulb you just received after you use it. B/c of the dangerous mercury content, I've read that this is an unintended consequence of encouraging their use. I've searched for information about recycling these bulbs, but those opportunities seem almost non-existent. This seems like a serious drawback.

Feb. 03 2009 10:38 AM
Koroush from brooklyn

Good point Nicole^

Don't you love how Mr.ConEd did not deny their monopoly on power delivery in NYC.

Feb. 03 2009 10:33 AM
KC from NYC

I'm glad to get health insurance through the Freelancers' Union, but wow, I've had three different health insurance providers through them in as many years. What a mess.

Feb. 03 2009 10:33 AM
Matt in Ridgewood

He just implied that if you have solar panels, and you make more than you use, they'll pay you for the extra. I have solar panels, and believe me, they always find a way around that: they never actually send a check.

Feb. 03 2009 10:33 AM
Suzanne from Manhattan

Would you please find out how Con Ed consumers can compare the various rates of Con Ed suppliers, other than calling one by one. I can't find any comparison tool on the Con Ed website. Thanks.

Feb. 03 2009 10:31 AM
hjs from 11211

or the SEC did it's job
the bush team wanted laissez-faire economics and they got it. so now we have proof the free market does not work
you get what you pay for.

Feb. 03 2009 10:31 AM
Suzanne from Manhattan

Would you please find out exactly how consumers can compare the different rates from Con Ed suppliers, other than calling each supplier individually? I couldn't find any comparison tools on the Con Ed website. Thanks!

Feb. 03 2009 10:30 AM
Larry Josephson from Manhattan

please ask mr. burke why ConEd continues to levy a fuel surcharge when the price of oil is way down.

Feb. 03 2009 10:30 AM
Leo from Queens

#6 KC from NYC: "point was to put people with shaky finances into houses."
Freddy Mac was not created to put people with shaky finances into houses. It was craeted to encourage mortgage lending to responsible lenders in order to increase housing ownership.

Housing programs for the poor ALWAYS try to help poorer families who are responsible and are working become homeowners. This all got distorted starting in 2002

Feb. 03 2009 10:29 AM
Harlan from Inwood

Question for Kevin Burke: Why does the MTA have its own power stations for the subway? Couldn't coned do this more efficiently?

Feb. 03 2009 10:29 AM
Judith Targove from Highland Park, NJ

"Culture shift is much to be desired, but it doesn't happen overnight. What happens in the financial segment -- no matter how much it shrinks -- still drives money growth and is where culture change must happen first. It's unrealistic to expect an overnight chnge, as the fellow fron NYU seems to expect.

Feb. 03 2009 10:29 AM
Nicole from Brooklyn

Cond Ed's Prez just admitted that it's cheaper for the city to use less energy than revamp their aging and outgrown system. Mmmm...

Feb. 03 2009 10:27 AM
Ed from East Village

The banks are about to consolidate. What happens to the NYC commercial landlords when they're not getting inflated rent from the over extended banks? There's a bank on every corner and more people access internet banking. I see a collapse in the making.

Feb. 03 2009 10:25 AM
KC from NYC

Free compact fluorescent bulbs for all! ...And that, folks, is why I'm not optimistic about these people getting us out of this hole.

Feb. 03 2009 10:25 AM
hjs from 11211

mike that's a real fear.
and i'm half hoping for it so the real estate prices go down!

Feb. 03 2009 10:25 AM
jkl from manhattan

When you speak with Kevin Burke, please ask him what is in store with their plant on 14th street? Is it ever going to be sold or turned into something else?

BTW, it makes horrible noises all the time and I keep waiting for it to blow up.

Feb. 03 2009 10:22 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

What is Jamie Diamond for the common folk? Reduce all those unregulated bank fees?

Feb. 03 2009 10:20 AM
hjs from 11211

wall street will be back it's driven by status and ego

Feb. 03 2009 10:20 AM
Jennifer Flynn from Brooklyn, NY

Personally, I am outraged that WNYC would give the platform to CEO's who try to convince the rest of us that everything is fine so that they can continue to receive HUGE bonuses while the rest of us make sacrifices.

Last Thursday, economist Jeff Sachs announced that the bonuses at Merrill Lynch alone could fill in the funding crisis that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is currently facing. This is a multi-lateral program that provides treatment and prevention for three to the worlds deadliest diseases. That's just one example!

Personally, I don't mind making sacrifices IF the money is going to save lives. You know it's a crisis when we we see CLEARLY that this is a fight between profits vs. people, greed vs. cooperation.

I hope that we can hear from the people who ALWAYS struggle. I would love to have a show where a Merrill Lynch employee who just received a bonus over $50,000 sits with someone from rural GA or rural Kenya and each of them gets to talk about their lives and what they would do with that money. Buy a plane? Or save a life?

Feb. 03 2009 10:19 AM
Leo from Queens

"The SEC didn't do it's job"
The reason that SEC did not do it's job is because the SEC follows the regulations and laws set up by the SAME people who lead the banks and financial institutions on Wall Street. (Rubin, all Goldman Sachs executives, etc.)
it will be difficult to have meaningful regulation that would weed out criminal activity and organized crime from the financial markets.

Feb. 03 2009 10:19 AM
Mike from Bellport

When crime goes up and services go down, what's going to stop people from flooding out of the cities into cheaper neighborhoods (made cheaper by the collapse of real estate prices) out of town? It's only going to take a few robberies gone wrong to put fear into the city in this day and age.

Feb. 03 2009 10:19 AM
Jeff Putterman from Queens

I have a choice: listen to these "experts" pontificate about things they really don't know, or listen to a cd of Hank Jones.


Feb. 03 2009 10:18 AM
KC from NYC

Um...but Freddy Mac was essentially the quasi-privatization of housing for lower-class Americans after the government stopped building housing projects. The whole point was to put people with shaky finances into houses. The point wasn't to become millionaires by doing it; that was a later invention. It's annoying to hear "smart" people intentionally conflate those two distinct developments.

Feb. 03 2009 10:18 AM

Brian, the biggest problem with retail is that they put things on sale that dont sell, the thing people want are never put on sale. I went to the gap to buy a pair of jeans they, wanted $50.00. What average working person in this economy has $50.00 to spend on a jeans, give us a break, if the retail industry wants to survive dont be so damn greedy.

Feb. 03 2009 10:16 AM
Jeff Putterman from Queens

Greg David is either a real fool, or a disingenuous liar.

And Jamie Dimon is a little Sandy Weill. He runs the world's scummiest bank. The one that charges fees on fees. Stuff them both.

Feb. 03 2009 10:16 AM
Michael from Staten Island

I have an excellent rate on a 30 year mortgage that CitiBank purchased.

Should I look to refiance with a bank that is better shape finacially?

Feb. 03 2009 10:14 AM
Truly innovative

What does Greg David think?

Feb. 03 2009 10:12 AM

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