This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Maxwell Lehman, Deputy City Administrator, answers questions.
Marvin Sleeper hosts.
Panelists: Ruth Corsnick and Jim Farrell.
Questions cover air pollution, traffic, water supply, etc. in New York City and suburbs.
Work on uniform traffic regulations in the tri-state area. Lehman believes that New York's geographic boundaries are at their limits, but the city is in its prime.
25 year problems forecast. He sees a cooperative agency to deal with traffic congestion, and water and air pollution. He believes this must be a cooperative effort for the tri-state area. Solutions for the folding commuter lines. Discussion of recreation areas.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72041
Municipal archives id: LT7897
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Does the metropolitan area need a new unit of government is New York City becoming obsolete or the answers to these and other questions listen now to your city stations campus press conference each week at this time in this transcribed discussion editors of college newspapers question a newsworthy personality Marvins labor award winning reporter and columnist for The New York Journal American is the moderator of this series now to introduce the panel and tonight's guest here is Mr Slate the evening and welcome to another edition of campus press conference our guest tonight is Mr Maxwell Lehmann deputy city administrator. The city administrators office is actually the efficiency expert in New York City I missed a layman as one of the top experts in the department through was responsible for developing the city wide management reporting system that's been so important in streamlining the work of some thirty city departments at present is also serving as secretary of the Metropolitan regional conference this is a body that is trying to work out a more efficient operating technique for the entire metropolitan area including New York New Jersey and Connecticut so let's find out what ideas Mr Layman has to make New York City a better place for all of us to live and work in here to question Mr Lemon our Jim for all of the four lexigram and Ruth Corps neck of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and what about the first question from you Jim ferals from assignment to the current complexity of the problems facing our city proved our present governmental structure inadequate and does the metropolitan area need a new unit of government on the contrary Mr file one thing that it has proved is that our present structure of government is an exceptionally good one both that of New York City and of the surrounding communities and as a matter of fact we've learned that the best way that we can deal with the problems that are regional is by respecting the Home Rule of all of the communities around us there are ways of doing the job that has to be done to make government better in the metropolitan area without infringing on the rights of the people surrounding us our neighbors to live the way they wish to live well how did you get around working with elected officials of three different state to get them together and work together pretty interesting Mr sleeper The fact is that we were told when Mayor Wagner first introduced the idea of metropolitan regional cooperation that the hostility and the antagonism of the suburbs toward the big city were so intense that it would simply not be possible for him to get the surrounding communities to work together with them now it was. My job personally to get around and see the mayors and the county leaders of the surrounding communities in the three states I found just the reverse they've got so many problems that cannot be solved locally but which have to be solved in cooperation with their neighbors so that they were willing and eager to work together with New York City and they requested and urged that a metropolitan agency be set up through which they could work just as rapidly as possible now what are some of these the original problems that you attacked I know one of them was air pollution that's one of them that you started with originally and. While you've been working with them for a while what's come of it that's right let me take the two part of your question and I'll take the second part first what does come of air pollution is this we have set up it's a cylinder and it's beginning stages original air pollution warning system that will allow us to know far in advance so that we can do something about it and case the contamination of the air becomes so intense as to affect health severely we could then send out warnings so that the industries and the other sources of pollution could either shut down or take other measures to alleviate the pollution that they are throwing into the air this is one of the things that we are doing but perhaps even more important is the fact that for the first time we in New York City and the communities in the north Jersey here are getting together and jointly attacking the whole problem of air pollution Now the other part of your question should I take that all right and I didn't to air pollution the problems that the elected officials of the surrounding communities had in common with New York and which they asked us to help work out with them were for example traffic and transportation this obviously cannot be worked out singly by any community the suburbs. Which have the weekend roar of New York City traffic have no way by themselves of handling that situation now contrariwise we have daily the incoming loads of commuters and automobiles a million and a half a day come in below sixtieth Street in New York a million and a half cars and we have to work with the surrounding communities to do something about the problem of another problem is that of water supply still another water pollution recreation all of these matters can only be acted just upon jointly about some specific questions you're of course next yes with all these problems which seem to dealt with at the present foreign intrastate commission do you think that interstate commissions of the work hand like the proper way and the most adequate way of handling these problems or do you think that some sort of a massive Well some planners have been calling it gosh Magaluf. To include governments at the city level within the metropolitan area of New York which includes other states as well but what would require getting it right at the gubernatorial level and involving State Government Well that's a big long try to break down and see if I can give you a simple answer to it and the answer. Is No but you do not need a don't want to stop and they are. All well meaning agency to do all of the jobs intrastate commissions are OK for some jobs other devices are better for other kinds of jobs or some of these other well known interstate commission perhaps would work fairly well in the area of air pollution but in the field of housing. Which also has a certain regional aspect probably an interstate commission would not work well we would have to use other devices to deal with the housing problems and traffic and transportation the Port Authority does a job for us in that field the Triborough authority does another part of the job maybe we need another kind of device a commission probably would not work too well in that area either we haven't heard of a great number of commissions for what would you would you suggest then some sort of device which would include all of the units as counties which are included in the metropolitan area which have some problems do you think it's likely managed intercounty level what problems specifically well the ones that you feel can't be adequately dealt with by the interstate action what we are doing here is to try the voluntary approach we are working together if I can use the phrase as a team of these cities the towns and the counties of the area we are meeting regularly We are taking up these problems one by one and trying to solve them on a voluntary basis let me give you an example of that in the field of traffic and transportation we have been able to set up a regional traffic communications system now this means that for the first time all of the traffic agencies the police departments of the various communities within the region are able to know exactly what the traffic load is in every other part of the region and in times of high load. The fifth traffic can be sent through by passes now this is probably best done by voluntary arrangement we're beginning to work now on the uniform traffic regulations uniform traffic rules for the metropolitan area as a matter of fact there will be an announcement of this. This week at the meeting of the executive board of the Metropolitan regional conference in New York the fact that we are beginning to work on uniform traffic regulations on a voluntary basis well how would this work out within three states what would be give us a sense of civic example of what more of these regulations would be that would be in each state uniform with my for example have the same kind of signs and the same kind of signaling devices in the entire metropolitan area you might arrange the system of top mileage thanks so that it is the same and all kinds of areas so that if you are driving your car in Connecticut and drove through New York and into New Jersey you would pretty well know if you were exceeding the speed limit or not. Well wouldn't that mean possibly increasing the speed limits in New York very possibly. To the one is to me for Connecticut standards very possibly this would this would require of course uniformity of standards we don't know yet which of those standards of the present standards would be best for the entire area Jim Fassel those forests are you cited as an achievement some advancement in the field of air pollution I imagine listen to difficult to get certain agreements against poisoning or how successful have you been in other fields thus far not just in the beginning stages but what has been accomplished in these other areas. First. We are only at the beginning stages of the Metropolitan regional conference in this area is only a year and a half old but already it has acted on a number of issues in the field of traffic again it has undertaken to study the helicopter commutation possibilities in the area in addition to those matters that I mentioned to you before it is also undertaking a study of the feasibility of some kind of tri state agency to handle traffic transit and the transportation of goods now in the field of of water supply we in New York City. I have done a job that means we are secure so far as our water is concerned until the year two thousand and this is not true of the surrounding communities as a matter of fact we are helping many of the surrounding communities to do something about their water shortages now in North Jersey the problem has become desperate in some of the communities in Connecticut as industrialization grows so they are beginning to have water shortages doesn't it make sense for the whole area to act as a unit to do something about water supply now we are beginning to deal with water supply as a unit for the first time now in the field of of recreation here too. Can we. Act simply as a city can we say that the recreational facilities for New York or shall be only within New York City can we in the city sit by idly while surrounding communities cut off sources of recreation for our people Congress really can the surrounding communities sit by idly while the recreation areas which they have set up in which they have paid for are as they put it being over flooded by New York City residents now this is a problem which never before has been met head on no we are beginning to meet it head off the record and there seems to be a bit of receptacle obligation I guess because of you you mentioned the hotline counties which are providing recreation for people who live in the metropolitan areas and conversely there are the problem of the metropolitan area supplying employment for so many people who live in suburban areas you think will ever be feasible for all these people to get together since there is such a great interdependence. I know this is I suppose this is political heresy but in a in a tax paying arrangement where they would all have some financial contribution to make to unit which would deal. If the problem is. About suburban and urban dwellers Oh this is not impossible there are today units to which the taxpayers contribute these commissions of which you spoke before indirectly get their funds from the monies that are contributed by the taxpayers of the entire area. But we have taken the position that we oppose annexation of any unit outside the city we oppose consolidation we think that the idea of neighborhoods communities living as they want to live have inherent advantages that are very great and. It is our policy within the city and a policy which is written within the rules and regulations of the Metropolitan conference that. No community will seem to infringe on the sovereignty of its name if you think then that New York City as it now stands is bound socially and politically largest at the largest desirable as well we think that it's geographic boundaries there are limits you would oppose any repetition of the century have century old creating NEW YORK Yes. Well talking about just New York City now and getting back to that to support its roots that. Do you think New York City is becoming obsolete you know this is a question that theorists. Throw at us very frequently as a matter of fact far from becoming obsolete New York City is the most brilliant fight in its entire history of. All you have to do is walk down Park Avenue and nod downtown lower New York and see what is happening more office space has gone up in the past three years and is now in the building than the entire quantity of office space in the next three largest cities in the United States this is certainly no sign that the city is becoming obsolete where I live where energetic we're growing we are the greatest center in the world of commerce and industry and. We are growing even in that way Jim for OSA or every other city or civilizations big bull Motors pretty big bus driver that was preceded by a big boom do you think that New York is in danger of strangling from its own greatness without a fight particularly our traffic problems and the relationship with the suburban areas you know marijuana is often put it this way but he'd rather worry about too many autos and too few the sign of economic strangulation is too few autos know we're not worried about that our problem is not too many cars our problem is how do we handle best in terms of the convenience of all the people and in the most economic manner the tremendous flow of traffic and transit within and around the city and are approaching the point where handling such traffic will be impossible and as one theory has put it there will be that last car placed on the streets that will bring everything to a dead stop Well if that's the theorist and we can go along with what he said we see no sign that things are coming to a dead stop Well our traffic department seems to think that whatever they do is not going to really is going to improve and get traffic moving a little faster. But that there is no over cure all for New York's traffic problems that it never will be a city where traffic really move smoothly. Can you project this say twenty five years from now everyone this week is projecting what's going to happen the next year starting with a traffic problem could you project us twenty five years into the future and give us a