Category Archives: Opinion

The Evolution of Economic Development in the Outer Boroughs

One day in the mid-1980s while I was walking down 42nd Street near 5th Avenue I saw that someone had painted “New York City is a Marxist, Leninist Hell” on a piece of plywood outside a construction site.

I laughed out loud. I had recently arrived here, one of the thousands of young professionals elbowing their way into New York City every year like waves of soldiers storming the Normandy beaches.

What I found in my adopted city was a healthy dose of free market love on the corporate level, but a peculiar bias against free markets among all social classes on the local level.

For example, a highly compensated executive I knew lived with his professional wife in a rent stabilized penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side around 72nd Street that featured two bedrooms, two baths, and a wraparound deck with breathtaking views of Manhattan; all for a whopping $800! With the money he saved on rent, he invested in a country house in Connecticut where he retreated on weekends and holidays.

After growing up in a state where land and private property are revered, and only people with low incomes qualify for subsidized housing, I found the City’s rent control laws mystifying and extremely unfair, particularly to newcomers and young people. 

With a salary of less than $30,000, my housing options were limited so I headed to the outer boroughs. For around $850, which included rent and electric heat, I landed a tiny apartment in the attic of a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Continue reading

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We Can Dream Again

There was something so poignant about watching the Yankees win the World Series this year. After more than a year of economic gloom, the Yankees reminded us, as they always do, that if you work hard, stay focused, believe in yourself, keep showing up, maintain your grace, dignity, and faith, someday you’ll be back on top.

I’ve watched Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada play for so long that seeing them together in another World Series felt like having all the kids home for the holidays. Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were all in their 20s?

jack

Jack, 6, after attending a Yankees game.

When the core four joined the Yankees, my son, Jack, was just starting his Little League career and New York City was pulling itself out of a recession. Real estate prices had fallen so far that they didn’t return to their 1988 levels until 1998. Later we survived the Dot-com bust and then there was the tragedy of 9-11. 

 The night the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series Jack, who was 11 at the time, broke down and cried. After all the City had gone through in the weeks following September 11, he felt we deserved that victory, that we needed to win more than any other city because we had suffered the most.  He was heartbroken when it didn’t happen.

I’ve often thought that Jack had bottled up the horror of 9-11 until that night and with the Yankees defeat it all came pouring out–the classmate’s dad who died; the 12 missing firefighters who worked out of the firehouse he walked by to and from school every day; the eerie buzz of dozens of airliners streaming over his touch football game in Prospect Park the day the airports reopened; endless memorial services; the smell of death that hung over the City for months.

That heartbroken little boy from 2001 grew up and is away at college. Now we’re in the middle of a different kind of national crisis, the Great Recession. But the Yankees victory this week gave us hope for better days when we won’t be dwelling on office vacancy rates, falling condo prices, distressed properties, or the credit crunch.

Andy, Derek, Mariano, and Jorge, we’ve been through a lot together over the years.  Thanks for reminding us that we can dream again.