Personal safety and economic health in New York City
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg often makes the point that the city’s economic health depends on steadily reducing crime rates. Speaking late last week at at a conference organized by the Regional Plan Association, a group that tries to improve the quality of life in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, Bloomberg said:
A woman can walk in every neighborhood I know in the day without looking over her shoulder. There are some areas where I wouldn’t recommend it at night.
The way people manage car safety has also improved, Bloomberg added.
When was the last time you saw a sign saying ‘No radio inside’?
The metal bar locks that once straddled steering wheels also have disappeared, he said. Since the mayor took office in 2002, the number of major felony offenses – murder to grand larceny – has fallen to just under 107,000 in 2011 from almost 155,000, according to New York City Police Department data.
The mayor spoke just two days after the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s buses, subways, commuter railroads, and some major bridges and tunnels, was repeatedly questioned by reporters about a spike in crime on the subways.
Thefts of cell phones have climbed, leading the MTA to begin “advertising to people to be very careful how they use their tablet devices,” Chairman Joseph Lhota said, after a board meeting. “The bad guys have figured out there’s a secondary market for it (cell phones),” he said.
It is not uncommon for Lhota to be asked his views on subway etiquette; most recently he cleared the way for people to continue eating on trains. This time, asked about the potential hazards of falling asleep, and becoming vulnerable to a cell phone thief, he said: “We are not specifically telling people not to nap on the train.”
The number of major felonies on subways from January to March rose 21 percent versus a year-ago, according to New York City Police Department data included in an MTA report. For the month of March, however, the number of felonies slipped 1.5 percent from March 2011.
Praising the New York Policy Department, Lhota said:
It’s down significantly from where it was three months ago; it continues to decline. We have seen a significant increase of patrolmen as well as officers out of uniform and we’re appreciative of that.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART INCORPORATES
Bloomberg said safe streets, improving public schools, one of the most diverse populations in the world, and the city’s “culturals,” from its museums to the theatre, draw the intellectual capital that lures companies – including the mayor’s own.
The mayor’s eponymous news and data company made him a billionaire and he said : “I do not think my company would have been remotely as successful” elsewhere. “Nobody else has the concentration and diversity that New York does, the kind of culture and intellectual pipeline,” he said. This gives the city the “best quality of life, creating the climate for economic growth,” he said.
Instead of trying to revive manufacturing, which has been declining for decades in New York City, Bloomberg said he was trying to identify which creative industries could thrive in “the place where you’re going to get exposure to all the people in the world.”
His list includes fashion and design, film and television production, technology, commercial bio sciences and new partnerships: New York University’s deal to turn a nearly vacant MTA building in Brooklyn into an applied science center, and Cornell University’s agreement with Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to build a $2 billion campus on Roosevelt Island.
“MONEY THROWN AWAY”
The Transit Workers Union, which represents MTA bus and subway workers, on Wednesday protested the agreement with NYU at the board meeting. The union coined a caustic chant using the MTA’s initials: “Money Thrown Away.”
The MTA should not give up the Brooklyn building, called 370 Jay Street, TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen said, because the MTA only pays the city $1 a year to rent it. The MTA should use the Brooklyn building as its new headquarters instead of the 2 Broadway location in downtown Manhattan that it is moving to from midtown Manhattan, he said. The new Broadway headquarters will rent for more than $50 million a year, Samuelsen said. That rent money should instead be spent restoring harsh service cuts, said Samuelsen, who is negotiating a new contract for his union.
Lhota said: “There is a lot to be gained by having everyone together” at one location. The MTA will “reduce our rent expense as much as we can,” he added. The MTA and union disagree about how much it would cost to renovate 370 Jay Street.
Bloomberg’s critics say his plan for economic growth relies too heavily on real estate development, citing the vast complexes planned in Brooklyn, around the new Nets basketball arena that opens this autumn, and west midtown Manhattan’s Hudson Yards complex. The new basketball arena is years ahead of the rest of the huge residential and office projects planned at the site, which have been stalled by the real estate downturn. The Hudson Yards development also has paused though luxury retailer Coach Inc last November said it planned to buy 600,000 square feet in a tower being built by the developer, The Related Companies.
The mayor said that east midtown now will be rezoned for new and taller office buildings.
This summer the city planning commissioner is expected to propose plans that will capitalize on the area’s transit infrastructure and unique architecture.
The new zoning rules, if approved, might benefit the MTA. It plans to soon start the process of putting its east midtown Madison Avenue headquarters on the market. The MTA owns three pre-war buildings, located next to each other between 44th and 45th streets. The location is highly desirable because it is just two blocks west of Grand Central Terminal. The MTA is likely to sign a long-term lease for the site, and a developer could get air rights transferred to the location, allowing a taller building to go up.