downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 33 | Dec. 29, 2006 - Jan. 4, 2007

Editorial

Some wishes for the new year

With the end of the year fast approaching, our thoughts naturally turn to the ongoing and unmitigated tragedy that the Iraq war has become for the Iraqi people, the Middle East, America and the rest of the world.  This misbegotten adventure of the Bush administration will have no easy ending and no moral high road or victory. Our soldiers are now mired in the middle of a brutal civil war between rapidly shifting political and religious factions, and the worst is probably yet to come.  We hope to see political processes that lead to the end of killing of civilians and soldiers — a tall order — and a substantial reduction of U.S. troops.

On the local front — such a world away — we are at peace, which permits us the luxury of turning to such mundane problems as traffic in the big city and rebuilding delays.

Our wish would be that 2007 would see the beginning of studies to reveal all of the benefits of making drivers pay to clog our streets. Traffic is on our minds because it’s always bad during the Christmas season. This year it seemed even worse. We have long backed East River bridge tolls, politically, a difficult policy change. Lately, there’s been more talk of congestion pricing, that is charging drivers the costs of using some of the city’s scarcest resources — street space in Midtown and Lower Manhattan during the day. Congestion pricing could include bridge tolls. A recent Manhattan Institute study suggests ways to sell congestion pricing politically, and a study by the Partnership for New York City — an organization of the city’s most powerful business leaders — estimated traffic delays cost businesses $13 billion a year. These pro-business groups are welcome additions to the fight for cleaner air and less crowded streets, and hopefully their pressure will help move City Hall, which — like the gridlock itself — is stalled on this issue.

On stalled or delayed World Trade Center-related projects, especially the construction of the Church St. bathtub and the demolition of the damaged Deutsche and Fiterman buildings, we hope to see substantial progress made. We hope the last remnant of a possible “cultural center” at the W.T.C., the Performing Arts Center to be designed by Frank Gehry, moves to the front burner at last.

We’d like to see Congress follow the lead of Sen. Hillary Clinton and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and pass legislation to provide Medicare coverage for any resident, first responder or other worker whose health is suffering because of the 9/11 attack.

City planners should consider the population projections in the fastest-growing section of the city, Lower Manhattan, and begin figuring out how much additional classroom space will be needed. P.S. 234 and P.S. 89 are in need of short-term help as well.

While they’re in a Downtown state of mind, planners should recognize that the many businesses south of the W.T.C. are struggling to survive and need help now, while long-term ideas to improve the Greenwich Street South area hopefully will move closer to implementation next year.

And last, we welcome Eliot Spitzer as governor and wish him the best as he tries to reform Albany, making Downtown Manhattan and all of New York a better place.

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