Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NYC good news roundup

There have been several bits of news about NYC in the last couple of days that make me happy.

First is another hint of actual putting-bricks-together at the trade center site. They'd started regular work on the foundation of the Freedom Tower building a couple of months ago (after laying a cornerstone, now safely off-site, about a year ago), and now as the New York Times reports, the first steel I-beam is about to be installed:
Scores of relatives signed their names, wrote messages and taped photographs on the beam, more than 30 feet long, which was available to be signed for five hours yesterday in a vacant lot in Battery Park City. Gov. George E. Pataki, who leaves office at the end of the month, wrote on the beam, as did Daniel Libeskind, the architect overseeing the master plan for the ground zero site.
(Speaking of skyscrapers and the Times, the new Times building on 8th Ave. is substantially complete... And it's ugly. Drat.)

Second, New York City is still the safest big city in the nation, with another 7.2% drop in crime in the first half of this year. The murder rate is up a little, though, as it is nationwide.

Third, the mayor's office announced a new Third Way plan to reduce poverty in the city.
The city is planning to spend an extra $150 million a year in public and private money on the core priority of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s second term: combating poverty that is hidden beneath New York’s vast wealth.

The effort would involve the creation of a new city office that would operate in part like a philanthropic foundation and in part like a venture capital company. The program, called the Center for Economic Opportunity, would administer a $100 million fund to support experimental programs, like giving cash rewards to encourage poor people to stay in school or receive preventive medical care, or matching their monthly bank deposits to foster greater savings.

The office would also oversee a program giving tax credits to impoverished families to offset child care costs. Programs are to be constantly evaluated, and those that cannot show success will be terminated.

Interesting. I do think that Bloomberg and centerist Democrats like Bill Clinton have a lot in common, in that both believe in active government action in social justice and equality, but tend to prefer more innovative free-market approaches than do traditional liberals. It'll be interesting to see if this new program can show results. Say what you like about Bloomberg, but he does believe in measurement, evaluation, and statistics...

And lastly, the Federal government yesterday pledged $2.6 billion in transportation money to finish the East Side Access project, which will extend the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Station on the East side of town. My subway commute to work every day goes right over the construction zone for that project, which started up again about six months ago, well before most of the money had been found. So far they've just been preparing the site and pushing dirt around; in coming months they'll be digging a big ramp to connect the existing rail yard with the existing tunnel under the river. And speaking of subways, the Feds also pledged nearly $700 million for the Second Avenue Subway which will relieve congestion on the East Side (congestion that would be made worse by the completion of the East Side Access project).

As I've said before, NYC is growing rapidly (aided by the low crime rate), and the infrastructure
needs to grow with it. I'm looking forward to seeing real progress soon...

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