Wall Street Journal Goes Inside the Washington Square Arch!

The Door (Easy to Miss)

Well that’s the Washington Arch to you (and me). A reporter from the Wall Street Journal gains access to inside – and top of – the Arch.

Inside the Washington Arch:

“We don’t allow people up here,” the [NYC] historic preservationist explained. “The stairway is quite dangerous and the roof is quite fragile. If we allowed the public up here, the roof would fail quite quickly.”

That’s a pity because the view from the top of the arch is unparalleled, quite literally at a crossroads of the city’s history.

Looking north, you get a clear shot all the way up Fifth Avenue. The skyscrapers of Wall Street rise to the south, the construction of the Freedom Tower proceeding apace and now clearly visible. Just below you is the park itself, brittle and beautiful in the winter morning light, and the genteel Greek Revival townhouses of Washington Square North.

Mr. Krawchuk [Parks Department] said that in 1917 a group of “Bohemians” led by the artists Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan and the poet Gertrude Drick broke into the arch and climbed to the roof. “They had a picnic and a party and drank tea late into the night,” he said, though one suspects stronger beverages might also have been involved. “Gertrude Drick read a proclamation declaring the free and independent state of Greenwich Village. Sloan did an etching of them all huddled here in the early morning hours.”

I’ve always secretly wanted to go to the top of the Arch. One Christmas Eve, a few years back, the door was left ajar and I stepped in the entryway and peeked up the stairs. I was tempted. I could almost see as much as the pictures that accompany the article show (Parks Department must have put restrictions as such). The view from the top does sound quite impressive; as for now, I can only imagine.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman

Is Yankee Stadium’s Rough Start Bad Karma?

Today’s Wall Street Journal takes an intense look at the new Yankee Stadium with an article entitled, “Yankee Stadium’s Ugly Start : Cheap Home Runs, Empty Seats and Lopsided Losses Have Some Asking, ‘Can a Stadium Fail?‘” It’s a well done piece which looks closely at what (overall) make a stadium succeed. However, the article does not mention the destruction of one and a half Parks in the green-space challenged South Bronx or the axing of the 400 trees in the creation of the new Yankee Stadium. Or the fact that the team could have just played elsewhere for a year and then rebuilt on the site of the former Stadium (as had been done in the past) but that would not happen in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York because corporations are not supposed to encounter any difficulty or inconvenience. Just every day people.

From the article:

The new Yankee Stadium has seemed cursed from the beginning, as if Babe Ruth disapproved of the abandonment of the house he built. That it opened during a recession, with a major-league-high $72.97 average price for a nonpremium ticket (up 76% over 2008, according to Team Marketing Report) has created contempt among fans who otherwise love the team. “They don’t have a good enough team to charge those prices,” says 35-year-old fan Jeff Burrows of Brooklyn, who toured the park recently with his father. “They’ve made almost every mistake you can make,” says Roger Noll, a professor of economics emeritus at Stanford. “There’s nothing that’s been as unpopular as this.”

And then… who pops up at the end of the article? NYU President John Sexton, no stranger to destruction of old, charming and neighborhood-oriented New York.

Some Yankee fans are optimistic. John Sexton, president of New York University and a longtime season-ticket holder, says the park isn’t perfect — he wishes Monument Park weren’t so hidden from view. Still, he says, “In five years we may be looking back on this and saying we’re glad we did it.”

Previous WSP Blog Entry: Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks

Wall Street Journal Article Disputes Mayor Bloomberg’s Financial Wizardry; Declares “New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg”

Jason Riley wrote a compelling piece – the first I’ve seen of its kind – analyzing Mayor Bloomberg’s “financial acumen” in the Wall Street Journal: “New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg.” He states, “The mayor never bothered to prepare the city for any lean years” and outlines how our CEO Mayor might actually have handled the city’s finances correctly and wisely.

With the editorial boards of the New York dailies, heads of NYU and Time Warner, other billionaires, and every politician who it serves to have Mr. Bloomberg in office insisting that we might not survive changing the captain at the helm because the captain is that financially astute, I was curious to read what Mr. Riley had to say, coming from the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Riley does not mince words and pops a gigantic pin into the illusion of Mayor Bloomberg’s economic brilliance. He writes: “Obviously the mayor believes that he’s indispensable to Gotham’s well-being, which will come as no surprise to any journalist who’s met with him. What’s passing strange is that so much of the local press seems to share the mayor’s inflated view of himself.”

It’s probable that the composition of the Times/Post/Daily News editorial boards are not economists but those who are emboldened by the gains they’ve made with our Mayor, which are economic. The New York Times after all took over a building that was functioning quite fine in Times Square via eminent domain and didn’t hear a negative word from the Bloomberg Administration. In fact, I would surmise that they supported the move.

Mr. Riley continues:

But the argument for extending the two-term limit for Mr. Bloomberg — a self-made billionaire who got his start on Wall Street — is that the city needs someone with his financial acumen to help weather the fallout from the banking crisis. The biggest problem with that argument is that Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t been very adept at managing the city’s finances, even though he’s had record revenues to work with.

Between 2000 and 2007, New York’s tax receipts grew by 41% after inflation. … This windfall had everything to do with the Wall Street bull market, and everyone knew that the rate of growth was unsustainable. Instead of using the flush-year surpluses to put New York’s fiscal house in order, however, Mr. Bloomberg mostly squandered them.

Instead of cutting other parts of the budget and using the city’s swollen coffers to service debt and pay for capital projects out of operating spending, Mr. Bloomberg chose to increase borrowing. … By increasing the city’s debt obligations while doing nothing to decrease the city’s overdependence on income tax revenue from Wall Street wages and bonuses, Mr. Bloomberg has exacerbated a bad situation.

In addition, Mayor Bloomberg’s 2008 City budget is “50% larger than the one he inherited from Mr. Giuliani in 2001. That far outpaces inflation, which rose 21% over the same period.”

In conclusion, Mr. Riley writes: “There is something deeply undemocratic about legislatively overturning the will of the people without giving voters a say in the matter. And there’s something deeply disturbing about a local press corps that lets the political class get away with it.”