The folks at Crain's New York Business steered fearlessly into a sea of gloom this morning at the paper's humbly named "Future of New York" conference. Dick Ravitch, the once- and would-be-future MTA savior, was answering questions at a panel discussion on how real estate and infrastructure could grow out of the crisis. "The conditions in 1975 were very different," he declared, seemingly about to invoke old bugaboos like graffiti and municipal graft. Instead, he explained that key institutions propping up the city in its bad old days are worse off now: "The financial institutions were solvent and were very invested in public bonds. So involvement of the business community served a useful purpose to the government. Today financial institutions don't have the same stake and their problems are far greater." (He briefly gave credit to health care, university, and labor leaders, but who's counting on them for anything?)
Things only got bleaker when everyone voted on handheld gizmos to choose a priority for reform. In choosing, the deputy mayor couldn't tell the audience what the acronym for a type of government review stands for (ULURP, sir, derives from Uniform Land Use Review Procedure; say "you-lurp"), and the staff forgot to include Ravitch's current proposal for fixing the MTA among the choices.