Week of June 9, 2003

If It’s Broke, Fix It
As a former New Yorker, I read with interest “The Cash Crunch” [May 12–19], in which you asked a “quorum of prominent New Yorkers” to contribute ideas on how to make things right. One idea, however, was somehow not mentioned: to work hard to get a new president elected in 2004 who can turn around the economy both of the city and the nation. I remember the last time the city’s economy was in tatters. I was living in New York then, and the president was Ronald Reagan. As the economy trickled down to nothing, many of us lost our jobs, and we all wondered if we and the city would survive.
-Claude M. Gruener, Austin, Tex.

I was reassured to find my views about the need for building a national coalition of mayors seconded by none other than Felix Rohatyn (an idea that, I might add, both of us learned from John Lindsay). Unfortunately, left on the editing floor was the equally important point as to what the goal of a national effort directed at Washington should be: a major federally funded public employment program. In each of the prior fiscal emergencies—the Great Depression and the seventies’ fiscal crisis—federal public employment programs were critical to the city’s survival and recovery. The federal WPA and the CETA program of the seventies employed hundreds of thousands, moderated the impact of city layoffs, and helped maintain and rebuild our city.
-Gordon J. Davis, Manhattan

I am surprised no one mentioned that the city now spends approximately $500 million in additional waste-disposal fees following the closing of the Staten Island landfill. Rather than reopening it for a few more years until better economic times, the city now must transport its garbage to other places. The current administration is fearful of losing Staten Island voters. They should wake up to the fact they will lose them anyway given the direction the city is heading. So much for businesspeople running the government.
-Steven M. Friedman, Manhattan

Barbara Corcoran’s tongue-in-cheek approach to New York’s cash crisis—selling Gracie Mansion—would be funny if her numbers added up, but she left out one key element. After determining the land and sale values of the condos built on that site, she omits the cost of building and marketing those condos, which would cut considerably into the margins of her Swiftian solution.
-Richard S. Zimmerman, Manhattan

Does Mayor Bloomberg realize many wealthy New Yorkers have out-of-state residences where they send their luxury purchases to avoid paying New York State sales tax? Forget about soaking the rich—how about just making them pay their share?
-Garry Merzlyak, Manhattan

Secondhand Socializing
Witnessed on Amsterdam Avenue one evening last week: African-American smokers from the Shark Bar, gay smokers from the adjacent Candle Bar, and diverse smokers from the adjacent Gabriela’s Kitchen all sharing a smoke and conversation convivially together on the sidewalk. A happy and very New York, if unintended, consequence of Mayor Bloomberg’s smoking ban [“Gotham: Smoke Out,” by Ethan Brown, May 12–19].
-Alan Lubliner, Manhattan

Hail to the Fief
Are Koch and D’Amato joking? Does it really not matter why a nation goes to war [“Gotham: I’m Right, You’re Wrong,” May 12–19]? Is it okay to fabricate reasons so long as we win? Given $100 billion and the best-equipped military in the history of the world, my grandmother could have won Operation Iraqi Fiefdom. But that don’t make it right.
-John Granger, Jr., Manhattan

Maher’s Attacked
I usually like Bill Maher, but your recent Q&A with him was the last straw in celebrity whining [“Gotham: Silly Billy,” by Ada Calhoun, May 12–19]. He says he’s the “first one to be Dixie Chicked”? Give me a break. Why do celebrities think they should be immune to public opinion when they use their soapboxes to take a stand on a controversial issue? Politicians know they’re going to be held accountable to public opinion whenever they take a stand. If people don’t like what you say, they won’t vote for you, buy your records, or watch your TV show. The “little guys” may even use their right to free speech to announce a boycott. That’s why we call it a free country. These celebrities really need to get over it.
Leslee Borger, Manhattan

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Week of June 9, 2003