Not sponsored by Bill

I came home today to find an email from the executive committee of the NYC blogger cabal threatening to break my links1 if I didn’t post something about The Gates soon. It seems that I am the only NYC-based blogger yet to post something about the orange invasion. I rushed up to Central Park to see the Gates get some photos.
I don’t get it as art. As a draw to the city, however, the Gates are a major success. On Sunday, the ‘rents drove in from the ‘burbs to walk around the park and experience the gates, but found it impossible to park anywhere near the park. Apparently, everyone in the NY metro area drove in from the suburbs to see the Gates on Sunday. Today, I was surprised to so many people walking around the park at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon. If nothing else, the Gates has drawn people into the city and businesses around Central Park are probably the primary beneficiaries.
Last year, the Republican National Convention was going to be the big draw into the city. Organizers expected that the event would boost tourism revenues for the city and have a positive economic impact. The city estimated the net economic impact of the convention at $255 million. The convention led to a gross gain of $341 million in economic activity, while the City experienced an $86 million loss due to disruptions caused by the convention.
Prior to the convention, the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University estimated the convention would lead to $163 million in net economic benefits ($212 million in spending at a cost of $46 million– $19 million in lost productivity and $42 million in lost tourism spending.)
While the effects of the convention may have been net positive, businesses that rely on locals, not tourists, suffered during the convention. It seemed like every native who could left the city. Entire offices closed as people took a late summer vacation or worked from home in order to avoid the security. CBS News’ Andy Rooney finds anecdotes to suggest that the Republican convention was an economic bust.
In contrast, The Gates seems to be generating only positive economic effects and publicity. Few, if any, locals have left the city while tourists are visiting from all over the world in order to see The Gates. Central Park is much busier on a weekday afternoon in February than it would be without The Gates.
Now, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Mayor Bloomberg are working feverishly to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to NYC. Will the Olympics benefit the city? Will they drive locals away?
The government of New South Wales evaluated the business and economic benefits of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and announced that “the Sydney Games were a remarkable success that delivered on the expectations of almost all of their stakeholders, public and private.” In addition to the equivalent of $6 billion of free publicity for the city, the Sydney metro area was able to procure improved sporting, transportation and hospitality infrastructure.
Perhaps procuring the Olympics will enable the city to obtain funding to complete necessary public transportation improvements such as the Second Ave. Subway and the 7-line extension. But, is building the West Side Jets stadium worthwhile?
In Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist find that stadia are not a source of local economic growth and employment and the cost of a new stadium far exceeds any economic benefit of that new stadium. Public financing of a stadium (or of the necessary infrastructure to build a stadium) has non-economic benefits, like prestige and civic pride.
Even though the Jets stadium will be privately financed, the public will foot the cost of a platform over the rail yards and adding a retractable roof to the stadium. The total amount of public financing for this privately-financed stadium will be comparable to the total cost of a complete stadium. If the stadium is tied with the Olympic bid, can the Olympics generate enough net economic gain to recoup the cost of stadium construction?
The Gates is a rare instance of a city directly benefitting from a public art project at minimal taxpayer expense and with minimal disruption of the normal flow of the city.
Finally, here are those photos of The Gates:
Satan’s Laundromat has the best series of Gates photographs: Snowy Gates photographed by millions
Space Imaging: The Gates from Space Panorama of The Gates

Posted in NYC.


After tomorrow, the campaign to win the election will be over and the campaign to win the post-election fiasco will be in full swing.
Via The Trademark Blog, here is a useful list of voting-related items:
Voting Information
To find out where to vote, check
Learn about e-voting (which we are far too low-tech to use here in Brooklyn) from some leading experts at evoting-experts and read their practical tips on how to cast a vote using a direct recording electronic voting system.
Learn about the various legal challenges to various voting procedures from Prof. Rick Hasen at the Election Law blog
Party or drink away your sorrows with Votergasm, The Election Party, or at another event, such as those in Citysearch’s list of election night events
And, to bring back some links from the last couple of weeks:
The New Yorker’s endorsement of John Kerry for President: The Choice

The Bush Administration has had success in carrying out its policies and implementing its intentions, aided by majorities—political and, apparently, ideological—in both Houses of Congress. Substantively, however, its record has been one of failure, arrogance, and—strikingly for a team that prided itself on crisp professionalism—incompetence.

Ron Suskind, in the NY Times Magazine: Without a Doubt

The [senior White House] aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued.

Lawrence Lessig: enblogment: For Kerry

The Price of Loyalty tells a story about a terrifying White House. The terror is the role of politics in this White House. No doubt, every White House has a political director. But at its core, policy should be the driver. Politics might wrap the policy; politics might guide its execution. But if a Presidency is to be more than a machine to assure reelection, then commitment must be to something more than the machine to assure reelection.

Subway Centennial

One hundred years ago, New Yorkers started riding in a hole in the ground. Today, we still are.
Newsweek: Take the A Train (or the F, the Q, the 1, the 7 … ): “If anything truly revolutionized the way New Yorkers live, work and play, it’s the subway. On any given weekday, 4.5 million people travel on the 6,400 cars that run along 722 miles of track beneath the city’s five teeming boroughs. For all their complaints about it—the dirt! the crowding! the noise!—the subway remains nothing short of the miracle it was when the subway opened in 1904.”
PA270014.jpg Development of the subway essentially halted while Robert Moses diverted transportation funding away from the subway to indulge his automobile fetish. Instead of building the long-planned Second Avenue subway and expanding the system in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, a funding shortfall forced the transit authority to defer maintenance. As a result, became decrepit and dangerous.
New cars and station upgrades are bringing the New York subway into the modern era, slowly. While the subway is the best rapid transit system in the US, it still lacks features common to other leading subway systems, such as a modern signal system which lets commuters know when trains are expected to arrive (as in London or DC). Slowly, the MTA is rehabilitating the system, while trains continue to run 24/7 (more or less.)
Now, the MTA is contemplating another fare hike. As debt service payments from the MTA’s last capital program are now becoming due, while the state and city governments have cut their funding of the subway to unprecedented minimum levels.
The NY Times reports that the MTA is in trouble In Transit Crisis, a Cash Bind Many Foresaw.
The Straphangers Campaign finds that the MTA has real financial problems:

Why all the borrowing? Because the State under Governor Pataki’s leadership has forced the MTA to rely more and more heavily on operating budget-backed bonding to meet its essential rebuilding needs. At the same time, Mayor Bloomberg has cut $90 million in city aid to the current MTA five-year rebuilding plan. The city is now making the smallest contribution to fixing the subways in at least 25 years. The Mayor also wants the MTA to hand over the valuable land the MTA owns on Manhattan’s West Side at a bargain basement price, money that could fund capital repairs.

While it may be in trouble, the subway took some time out today to celebrate. Old subway cars will be running and Moving Pretty Well for an 87-Year-Old. City Hall station was briefly open to the public today. The Transit Museum offered free entrance today. I walked over between classes and took these photos.
PA270026.jpg is probably the web’s best site about the subway and looks back at the development of the IRT. The MTA details its Centennial Celebration. The NY Times looks at A Day in the Subway, as It Rolls Up a Century and offers up Interactive Features.

Are you ready for some jazz?

Last night, I caught Chris Potter playing at 55 Bar, with Craig Taborn, Craig Taborn, Wayne Krantz and Nate Smith. Except for getting home after 2 AM on a Monday night, it was excellent.
Potter is one of the leading sax players on the NY scene and perhaps my favorite to listen to. He plays with a distinctive tone– warm and rich with a bit of edge. What sets Chris apart is not his technical playing (which is excellent), but how artfully he shapes his solos to build gradually in intensity and avoids unnecessary repetition.
Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard is Potter’s latest album (with a different band) and excellent.
Randomly, I ran into a high school classmate at the show, after I walked in and we ended up sitting across the table from each other.
Previously, I caught Chris lead a different band at 55 Bar last year and play as a sideman with David Binney last month.

OHNY: Jazz at the Time-Warner Center

Jazz at the Time-Warner Lincoln Center has an impressive new space featuring three snazzy performance venues, a recording studio and educational facilities. It was open to the public as part of Open House NY:
The amount of care and attention to detail spent in designing the performance halls is impressive. The Rose Theater is physically isolated from the rest of the Time Warner Center and acoustically designed to accommodate acoustic or amplified music. In the Allen Room, a wall of windows behind the stage looks out on Columbus Circle and Central Park. Newsweek: Wynton Marsalis and the Temple of Jazz
The biggest question about Jazz at Lincoln Center is not whether New Yorkers will go to a concert hall in a mall. Rather, will Jazz at Lincoln Center continue to put forth a narrow, reactionary vision of jazz or will it use its new space to embrace innovative music?
There is no shortage of criticism of Wynton’s neo-trad programming. Pianist D.D. Jackson notes that jazz may not fit comfortably into an institutional performing arts model: Musings on Wynton after the Jazz at Lincoln Center press conference: “Jazz, in fact, has always been as much – if not more – about the future than the past.” Saxophonist Dave Liebman, contrasts the neo-trad vision of jazz, with the reality in his Reaction to Ken Burns “Jazz”: “Jazz is a living, breathing music and in every major city there are serious, hardworking musicians trying to move this music forward.”

Posted in NYC.

OHNY: Remove the Stone of Shame

This weekend, Open House New York opened up to the public many interesting buildings that are otherwise inaccessible, such as the Grand Lodge of the Masons:
Note that if you ever wait on line for an open house event at a secret society with a Simpsons geek (like, well, me), you will be subjected to incessant quoting of lines from Homer the Great (the Stonecutters episode.)
More photos are in the extended entry….


Posted in NYC.

Power Broker Week

I finally finished reading The Power Broker (TPB), Robert Caro’s excellent (and long) biography of Robert Moses. Two and a half months ago, when I contemplated again starting to read this book, Hani suggested allotting four months. For those of us not chauffeured around in limousines, one impediment to reading this book is the reticence to carry a 1300-page volume for casual reading on the subway. TPB is a heftier tome than my casebook for Tax.
Not only is TPB a biography about the life of Robert Moses, but it is a biography of a city and documents the rise of urban decay in New York. Finally, TPB also offers prescriptive lessons about the separation of powers among different levels and branches of government and the importance of effective legislative oversight.
In following posts, I will look at these two other themes: how New York City has dealt with the problems of Moses’s approach towards urban development and how the Bush Adminstration has effectively adopted many of Moses’s strategies for creating and exploiting political power.
Today will feature some photographs I shot on Sunday of some of the things Moses “got done”:
“Robert Moses, Master Builder” at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (with Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the background)
Damsrosch Park and Lincoln Center
Elevated section of the West Side Highway
Riverside Park. Those are the Parks Department and state flags below the US flag.
West Side Highway and Riverside Park
To be a comprehensive look at Moses’s projects wihin the city, a photo shoot would also have to include the Triborough, Bronx-Whitestone, Henry Hudson, Throgs Neck and Marine Parkway bridges, the Belt Parkway, Gowanus Expressway, Cross Bronx, Van Wyck, Grand Central, hundreds of parks and playgrounds, massive housing projects, and Shea Stadium. A photographer would have to travel to Long Island to visit its parks, which include Jones Beach and Bethpage, as well as the Long Island Expressway and Northern and Southern State Parkways. Upstate, Moses developed even more parks, parkways and hydroelectric power dams.
Discounting the ultimate effectiveness of these public works (which I will explore tomorrow), it certainly is an impressive resume.

Posted in NYC.