As I write, the regional planning honchos are joining together at a conference in Lower Manhattan to debate the future of our local airports–to be specific, JFK…and Jamaica Bay. A foot of snow may have delayed the breakfast portion of the day, but it will never stop the fleet of limousines whisking Manhattanites on their appointed rounds to decide the fate of the rest of us–the ones stuck in our driveways under the drifts.
In case you haven’t heard (as in, I was too busy with Christmas shopping, and then trying to keep my New Year’s resolutions, and then shoveling snow for three weeks), a report came out in mid-December about the pressing need for expansion of the airports in the NYC metro area. Since the only way they can expand LaGuardia is by knocking down houses in Astoria or relocating Riker’s Island, guess which neighborhoods are in the cross-hairs for an even cozier relationship with jet exhaust and aircraft noise? You guessed it–Newark and the “below the Belt” neighborhoods of Southeast Queens that ring JFK Airport. Yes, the Sixth Borough is about to be “community-engaged” ad nauseum on yet another big dream to fill the coffers of the lobbyists. The people who brought you LNG, MGP and windmills, will be at it again. You can read about it in today’s New York Times and in Crain’s New York Business.
Now that tourism has replaced the finance industry as the engine of economic growth in NYC, I guess we’ll just have to get Congress to change that legislation (passed in the 1970’s when Gateway National Recreation Area was created), that prevents any further expansion of JFK’s runways into Jamaica Bay.
The big-shot blue ribbon panel appointed to make recommendations about Floyd Bennett Field is starting to make more sense to me, now. The timing of the impressive visit to the peninsula by Mayor Bloomberg and his bevy of commissioners on Monday now adds up, as well. Bloomberg must have been thinking–wow, if these people don’t like bike lanes, wait until we start routing the planes back over their heads again!
The tone (and trappings) of President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (and the way it was covered by the major networks) convince me that business expansion is all the rage at the moment. Protecting the environment and maintaining the quality of life (or god forbid, actually creating good jobs) in the neighborhoods where the “little” people live is secondary. Let’s not forget about the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico so quickly.
It was gratifying to hear Obama bash big oil a bit in his speech, but with the cost of living what it is in NYC, don’t expect to see green jobs here anytime soon. Seems we can barely keep jobs in the U.S., even in low-wage states like Alabama and Mississippi. The catch-22 is that good jobs require an educated workforce, but more educated workers tend to insist on better wages and benefits. Mayor Bloomberg repeated this line more than once to the audience in Rockaway: “there are no easy solutions.” He got that one right.
I’m sad to see Paul Volcker depart from Obama’s team, and flabbergasted to see a G.E. executive calling the shots for a president who calls himself a Democrat. G.E. has a long pedigree that shouldn’t be forgetten. They wrote the playbook on how to oppose labor unions to the limits of the law, and simultaneously held the laboring oar, over many decades, in the creation of the largest PCB-contaminated Superfund site in the U.S., the lower Hudson River. Soon to be “cleaned up,” but not dredged, as environmental groups had hoped. I keep reminding myself of the slogan that G.E. “Brings Good Things to Life.”
Of all the fashionable political trends, delivering very convincing lip service may be the trendiest.