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Citizens Union

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Announces Housing Plan For New York City's 21st Century Neighborhoods

 Remarks By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
"Housing Plan For New York City's 21st Century Neighborhoods"
New York Housing Conference/National Housing Conference 29th Annual Luncheon
Sheraton New York Hotel

I was talking to Katie Couric on the Today Show this morning. She asked me, "what's new in New York?" I said, "not much. A big budget deficit. Service cuts. A possible transit strike. My approval ratings plummeting. The Knicks in the NBA cellar. Same old stuff. "

All this must sound like déjà vu all over again to Mayor Koch. In fact, yesterday I was watching film of him from the 1980 transit strike. Ed-you didn't look a day younger.

But seriously, I'll be happy if, at the end of the day, New Yorkers remember me for the same reason they remember and love Ed Koch: for his tremendous record of achievement in areas like housing.

I also join Ed and all of you in honoring the memory of another giant: the former chair of the New York City Housing Authority, the late Albert Walsh.

Housing was a passionate concern of Albert's. So what's its future?

In this economic climate? There's been a lot of speculation in the news media recently about whether New York might return to the bad old days of the 1970s-when services fell apart and progress stopped.

There's a short answer to that question. Not a chance.

One big reason why: you, the National Housing Conference and New York Housing Conference, and what you have helped us achieve in communities throughout the city.

As exhibit "A," consider the example of our own Harlem. Every person in this room can remember thirty years ago, when Harlem was a community with a rich past, but an ominous future--

When it was a neighborhood with block after block of vacant lots and derelict apartment buildings-

When it was a community that seemed to be locked into a downward spiral of abandonment and decay.

Take a look at Harlem today. It has become one of the hottest residential neighborhoods in the five boroughs. Families are snapping up its magnificent 19th Century townhouses. Harlem's population, which was shrinking just fifteen years ago, is growing again.

Yogi Berra once said that you should never make predictions-especially about the future. But I'll ignore that advice and predict that Harlem has reached a turning point.

In the seventies, the word on Harlem was that it was a bad risk for private housing lending. Those days are long gone. It has not only stabilized-it's soaring. Now people want to put private housing money into Harlem.

That's a story that all of you know-because many of you have helped write it in communities throughout the city-in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, as well as in Harlem.

These turnarounds didn't just happen by chance. They have been the product of sustained and coordinated public policy and public investment that catalyzed a revived private market.

They are stories of community renewal that are far from over-and that are entering an important new phase.

Now we have to repeat those stories-albeit in difficult times. Today's challenge, as we work on other parts of the City, is to make scarce city dollars go farther in an era when deep cuts to capital spending for housing are unavoidable.

The solution is doing the kind of strategic investment and groundwork that turns dreams into realities by using limited public funding to encourage private investment.

We need to target our financial resources and policy initiatives to make more Harlem miracles-catalyzing private housing development in neighborhoods throughout the city.

We're the world's second home-a magnet for people who want to build better lives for themselves and their families.

That new generation of ambitious and hard-working New Yorkers, want just what my parents struggled to achieve, and what all parents want for their kids: the security that only good living accommodations in safe and stable neighborhoods can provide.

Without these homes and neighborhoods, New York will lose these people-and lose its future. That's why affordable housing is fundamental to our long-term economic prosperity.

Today I want to describe my administration's housing strategy for securing that future.

It's a strategy with two principal elements.

The first is innovative financing-a process of facilitating private housing investment with creative use of public financial resources.

Over the next five years, we will implement new strategies that will, combined with existing programs, create more than $3 billion in public spending on housing. That money will finance some 27,000 new units and preserve 38,000 more, for a total of 65,000 units.

This public spending will increase production of new units by 25% compared to the last five years. And it will, in turn, stimulate the private sector to make major new investments in our city.

Here's how the money breaks down. The City's Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will leverage a new pool of $500 million to finance construction of 17,000 units.

In addition to that, some $555 million will be redirected by the City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) from housing maintenance to new investment in some 8,000 units.

And the remaining $2 billion is the continuing maintenance of effort by HPD in the City's housing capital and expense budgets-ensuring creation and preservation of some 40,000 units.

The second principal element is a combination of legislative and administrative change.

Here, the City will coordinate a variety of initiatives, including brownfield clean-ups, rezoning, land disposition policy and regulatory reform.

This will cut building and land acquisition costs, and lay the groundwork to attract more private construction.

Let me describe these initiatives in a bit more detail, starting with our financial strategy.

Between now and fiscal year 2008, HDC will make twice as much money available for affordable housing as it has over the last five years.

That public investment will be created by aggressively and creatively pushing the financial envelope on HDC's equity. To create these funds, we're going to put HDC's cash assets to work, and borrow against the mortgages that HDC holds.

The half-billion dollar pool this generates is expected to leverage four times as much money-or $2 billion-as private financing will accompany the public's initial investment.

This will be in addition to funds raised through HDC's traditional tax-exempt bond financing, which will come to some $750 million over the next five years.

This pool will finance the construction and rehab of more than 17,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing in targeted communities.

And for the first time, HDC will also commit a portion of these funds to middle-income housing. HDC's so-called "New-Hop" program will be expanded to include housing for middle class New Yorkers with incomes between about $38,000 and $63,000 a year.

These include teachers, police officers, firefighters, health care workers-the kind of people who make communities stronger.

To complement that pool of HDC funds, HPD also is performing a little financial magic of its own.

Over the next five years, HPD will redirect more than $555 million in planned city and federal funding to targeted neighborhood renewal.

Much of this money was originally intended for the rehabilitation and disposition of the City's in rem housing stock. But as you know, most of that housing has now passed to new private owners.

That's wonderful news. Private ownership is our ultimate goal. And for an added bonus, it will give us the opportunity to redirect those funds to targeted housing investments over the next five years.

Part of this re-directed funding includes equity we'll raise against the low income housing tax credit program - to achieve these goals.

HPD will, for example, provide low-interest loans to acquire and clean up brownfields for housing development. The bottom line is that all of these new and existing funds will preserve and create 65,000 units citywide between now and 2008.

This commitment demonstrates that, even in these difficult budget times, the city is not walking away from the job of funding affordable housing.

Today, we're distributing a plan called "new marketplace: creating housing for the next generation." It details how our commitment to housing will also extend to:

  • Providing low-cost loans to renovate and lease apartments that have long been vacant and off the market...
  • Doing what our conscience demands to help homeless families with special needs and youngsters aging out of foster care...
  • And helping new homeowners make their first down payments, while also encouraging private employers to do the same.

The public dollars in these programs represent an important part-but only a part-of the city's housing strategy.

Just as important is the second part of our plan-that is, to jump-start private investment in targeted communities by removing barriers to development and reducing costs of construction.

And we'll use a range of policy tools toward that end.

I mentioned HPD's capital program for acquiring and cleaning brownfields. Under the leadership of the Department of Environmental Protection, the city is conducting a comprehensive assessment of potential brownfields throughout the city with an eye toward beneficial reuse.

Complementing that effort in many neighborhoods, will be targeted rezoning of abandoned waterfronts and underutilized manufacturing areas for mixed residential and commercial use.

I have asked our city planning commission to move forward aggressively with rezoning plans in communities throughout the City, including: East Harlem, Jamaica, Long Island City, Port Morris, Morrisania, Park Slope, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. We'll work with the city council to enact these zoning changes.

I also have asked Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Dan Doctoroff to coordinate the disposition of City-owned land appropriate for residential development. This will ensure that we use our scarce land resources as effectively as possible.

For example, over the next five years, HPD will continue to make vacant, city-owned land available for the development of more than 7,000 new residential units.

HPD and the City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will collaborate to develop affordable housing on NYCHA's underused and vacant property.

And I've directed HPD and the Department of Buildings (DOB) to streamline the approvals needed to develop and rehab housing.

This must include working with the City Council to assess the feasibility of adopting a model building code.

That's the strategy: to make creative use of all the tools at our disposal-in the neighborhoods where they will have the most impact-to jump-start and complement private sector investment.

The success of that strategy is crucial to our city's long-range economic future. Keeping housing affordable-like improving the public schools-is vital to attracting and keeping talented and productive people in New York.

Housing will, for example, be key to bringing people and jobs back downtown. On Thursday, I'll outline my vision for transforming lower Manhattan into a true 24-7 residential and commercial community. New housing development is a critical part of that vision.

To help guide the housing initiatives we've outlined today, we have named a neighborhood investment advisory panel. It includes key partners from the finance, development, academic, and philanthropic communities.

To the members of it who are present today: thank you in advance for your time and talent.

Your work-and the continued work of the New York housing conference-will play a crucial role in neighborhoods throughout the city.

The British journalist Alistair Cook once described New York "as the biggest collection of villages in the world."

He was on to something.

We are a city of more than 300 neighborhoods. They're the places we call home...where our children go to school, shopkeepers serve their customers, and New Yorkers enjoy family life.

Our neighborhoods are what makes New York tick. Wall Street or Canarsie, Lincoln Center or Tottenville, Madison Square or Rego Park, 5th Avenue or Arthur Avenue. We believe in our neighborhoods passionately and we must nurture them.

And with this housing plan-and with your continued hard work-we'll make New York the biggest, greatest, most diverse and vibrant collection of villages in the world.

Thank you and happy holidays.


The Bloomberg Budget - In His Own Words

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Budget Mid-Year Plan

On November 14, 2002 Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his mid-year budget plan to close a $1.1 billion deficit in the current fiscal year and a $6.4 billion budget gap next year. The mayor is calling for nearly $844 million in service cuts and a 25 percent increase in the city property tax rates. He is also asking the State Legislature to extend the city's personal income tax to anyone who works in the city regardless of where they live. The city is also looking to employees to save $600 million by working more productively, possibly through a longer workweek. Under the mayor's plan, the municipal workforce would be cut by 8,000 employees by 2004, mainly through buyouts and attrition.

An excerpted, edited transcript of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's remarks.


The first question is what have we done in the first nine months. Did we act appropriately? I think the answer to that is that we did.

In the last nine months, we borrowed $1.5 billion and we did not raise taxes materially. With the cigarette tax and some fees, we basically said we were going to make it through by cutting services by $1.5 billion and borrowing a $1.5 billion.

Why did we not raise taxes earlier? The truth of the matter is that we were coming out of 9/11, and everybody was worried that people, residents, and companies would leave the city. Today we are 14 months after 9/11. People have come to realize that although we do live in a more dangerous world than we thought we did, but New York remains the safest big city, our police department, as much as any institution possible could, has developed the tools to keep terrorism away.

Now, we fundamentally have a problem in that our tax revenues have declined more than we expected. There is no way out of it but to raise taxes.


We are cutting services to the point where I think we can still provide public safety, clean streets, a better education for our children, comply with all of the court ordered mandates to provide housing and social services. This city is not going to cut its expenses below where the quality of life would deteriorate.

What I have tried to do is have every single commissioner look me in the eye and say, "I'm not happy, it's going to hurt, but I can still keep the quality of life in the city."

I've have learned that protests are part of the job. People have a right to protest and I encourage them to speak their mind. But the truth of the matter is, we have to close the budget deficit. If we don't, the financial control review board will come in. And last time the came in the fired 20 percent of the fire fighters, 20 percent of the police, and 20 percent of the teachers. That is not a pretty sight and we will not let it happen again.

Cutting $200 million from the education budget
We will not cut anything in the classroom.

Joe Klein has started rationalizing the system, looking at what worked in the past and what did not. He announced the downsizing the School Construction Authority to make it more manageable. We believe we can provide better services and dramatically reduce the costs of building schools. If we had done that 10 or 15 years ago, we would have double the number of classrooms we have today for the same amount of money.

We will clearly have to go without some programs that we like. And unfortunately in the case of education, there are probably a lot of bureaucrats that we don't have a need for. We will try to find them other jobs. My hope is that economy recovers so they can. But we are not going to cut teachers in the classroom.

Reducing the police force by 1,900 police officers
The police commissioner's judgement is, that with the cuts we have proposed, he can continue to keep the streets safe. I think we can be pleased with the job that the police department has done. When I came into office, conventional wisdom was that the economy is going down, we have had a dramatic reduction in crime, and therefore the great challenge was not letting crime go up too much. In fact, we have kept crime coming down dramatically. We are on target to have the lowest number of murders since we started keeping statistics. We have said it before. Crime is not coming back in this city. Period.

Eliminating 2,500 daycare slots and 2,000 spaces in programs that work to prevent abuse
There is no argument not to do more for children. But we just don't have the money.

Closing 32 out 340 senior citizen centers

Clearly in the case of seniors, people will be inconvenienced and won't get the services we would like to give them. We have to find some ways to balance and make sure that we do the best job we can. If it means closing two centers, we have to make sure there is another center nearby to pick up the slack. People will be inconvenienced, but we are not going to let anybody suffer.


Right now, New York State charges you New York State taxes regardless of where you live. All we are asking Albany to do is to conform New York City's tax collection policy to the state's. People who say they are not taxed as commuters, don't look at their tax bills.

It the general policy throughout this country, for municipalities that have income taxes to charge non-residents. Not just at the state level, but at the city level. Cities like Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Daytona, St. Louis, Newark, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Yonkers Ð all tax non-residents. Taxing non-residents isn't new. New York State does it every single day and so do many cities.

This is not a commuter tax that I have called for. I've simply called for the city taxes to conform to the state tax. I worry very much about the people in the suburbs who work in the city. I am committed to providing them with the services that make this the city that they want to come into everyday. Everybody has to pay. And I'm going to have to make it as fair as possible.


Nobody can guarantee the future, but I don't think it is realistic today to say that people are so worried they are leaving the city.

The vacancy rate on commercial rate in this city is half of what it is in virtually other major city. And real estate prices remain very strong. These two factors and the fact that I know of no major company that is even suggesting they would move their headquarters out of the city, gives us comfort to say now we can address the problems we have differently.

If we stand up and take the necessary steps no matter how painful those may be, people will not just stay here, they will come to New York.

Everybody understands that there are costs for services. Those municipalities that address their problems openly and prospectively are the places where you want to have your business and raise your family. Those are the cities that will be the great cities of the future. And we are determined to make sure that New York remains one of them.


Every hotel in New York City is back to pre 9/11 capacity. Most hotels are full. The bad news is that they are full of American tourists as opposed to European tourists. The reason that makes a difference is that European tourists tend spend four times as much as domestic visitor. The disappointing lack of return of European tourists has more do with people not flying than with people not liking New York. There is no European city that isn't complaining about the same thing.


The crime rate is continuing to come down. It is quite amazing when you realize what has happened to the economy and every sociologist would tell you that it would have gone up. The welfare rolls are continuing to come down.

We had a big group of restaurant owners in here. They all will tell you that the police are doing an excellent job, particularly in the last month when we focused on some people who were loitering in the streets, panhandling, and the squeegee guys.

Squeegee guys are not going to come back in this city.


People who want to reduce the size of the workforce overnight just don't understand how government works.

We can go and cut people and the overtime we would need to maintain the services would wipe out economic benefits of those cuts. What is more, you don't build a workforce that is flexible and works hard by laying off.

I said in the beginning that layoffs would be my last act. And I will only layoff if we can not get through this any other way. But with cooperation with labor, and with early retirements and buyout, I believe we can continue to downsize the labor force without layoffs.

If we can't, nobody will stand up and say we are not going to do it. We will layoff people. But my hope is, and my expectation is, that with enough cooperation from everybody, we will not have to do it.


For all municipal unions, we are going to be able to pay our labor force more only if we get productivity enhancements. There just isn't any money. Our budget requires $600 million in productivity enhancements. That means more flexibility, longer hours. That's just to balance the budget so we don't have layoffs.

And going forward, we are not going to wait two years for a contract to expire and then negotiate. We are going to have to say, "You don't get raises for a period that has already passed." We don't have a way to raise that kind of money.


I can not find corruption in this city. Yes, there is a handful; we have lot of employees and nobody's perfect. I can't tell you there is a lot of waste in this city. Sure there are some things that we shouldn't be doing that we do. But they both tend to be very small. And I can't find a program in this city that doesn't really benefit people. The fact of the matter is this city and the previous mayors have all done a pretty good job.

You can't just say let's go cut corruption, waste, and meaningless programs. Fundamentally, they don't exist.


In the 1970's, the city lost control. We cut back services in this city by firing police officers, teachers, firefighters and every other type of municipal worker. So much so, that crime went out of control, trash wasn't picked up, the schools got worse, the fires didn't get put out. We can not ever let that happen again in this city.

The other thing that happened in the 1970's was that we borrowed and encumbered our children with the responsibility for the mistakes that we were then making. Just think about the following: this year, and the next, and the year after that, and the year after that, this city will pay approximately $500 million in interest and principal on loans that were taken out back in the 70's.

There are reasons to think that the city is in far better shape. Today, unlike then, we have the financial controls in place and a law that requires us to balance the budget. In the 70's, we got out of control because we spent too much. Right now, we have a problem because our revenues have declined.

Download a summary(in PDF format) of the First Quarter Budget Update and Financial Plan

Fighting Domestic Violence With Technology

The fight against domestic violence is going digital, with digital 911 calls and digital photography, digital phones and even a digital courtroom.

Digital technology is better than analog because digital recordings are relatively immune to distortion and can be transmitted electronically using less bandwidth than analog media without affecting the quality. Clocks, tapes and records are examples of analog technologies while digital watches, computers and compact disks are digital.

The New York Police Department recently announced they have begun to use high-quality digital recordings in 911 calls about domestic violence. Recording 911 calls digitally will allow the police to supply the district attorneys quickly with the evidence needed to prosecute domestic violence cases.

In 2000, there were 11.5 million calls to 911 in New York. Calls to 911 are answered by two Public Safety Answering Centers. The centers use digital telephone systems which display the caller's telephone number and location automatically.

There are 90,000 domestic violence cases in New York City each year; the police respond to 600 incidents each day. Only one third of all cases reportedly lead to arrest and court hearings.

"This is another example of applying technology to make government more efficient," said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Gino Menchini. "Digital audio will make it much easier and faster to pass along vital information from the police to prosecutors in a timely and efficient manner that will help save lives."

In the past, 911 calls were recorded on tape but it took an average of three months to manually retrieve recordings of 911 calls. Now, digital recordings can be provided to prosecutors within hours of their recording. In addition, they can be stored, searched and retrieved quickly from a database.

The upgrade to digital recording technology was implemented jointly by the New York Police Department and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The new system cost the city about $4 million, which is an amount that can be easily justified by the saved labor costs and greatly increased ability to prosecute defendants using the 911 calls as evidence.

District attorneys from Kings County, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens all strongly supported the city's investment in the new technology. Currently, the digital 911 recording is being demonstrated in Kings County for three months before its implementation in all five boroughs and expanded to include all 911 calls, not only those about domestic violence.

"Technology has immeasurable potential to improve people's lives and there is no better use than to protect the vulnerable and punish those who abuse them," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Digitizing 911 calls will help our district attorneys bring those who abuse children, their partners or their parents to justice and even help protect those victims as the criminal justice system takes its course."

In addition to digital recordings of 911 calls, the police department is also using digital cameras to document domestic violence abuse. Similar to high-quality digital recordings, digital photographs are much more clear and can be provided to district attorneys almost instantly. In the past, the police used blurry Polaroid pictures to document abuses.

In Queens, domestic violence convictions rose almost ten percent in the first six months of the introduction of digital photography. New York is the first major city to use digital photography in the police department.

However, there are a number of concerns about the use of digital technology for documenting crimes particularly with respect to sensitive domestic violence cases. Some critics including the Legal Aid Society worry that the digital files might be altered or manipulated.

In addition, digital evidence may make it easier to prosecute defendants in domestic violence even when the victim of the abuse does not intend to send them to jail. Many victims of domestic violence choose not to testify against their abuser due to fear, severe injury or the desire to keep their relationship intact despite the violence. Critics worry that digital technology may drive some domestic violence underground because of fear of swift punishment for abusers.

As part of the city's campaign against domestic violence, Verizon Wireless donated 250 cell phones and started a recycling program to collect old wireless phones for victims. The phones were reprogrammed to dial 911 and the city's domestic violence hotline in an emergency. In total, the company has collected 790,000 used phones, 50,000 of which have been distributed in the New York area. Verizon also sponsors HopeLine, which provides free voicemail to victims of domestic violence.

Another example of using technology to fight domestic violence is the Center for Court Innovation's Domestic Violence Court Technology Application, which improves the communication between courts, police and social service organizations by putting computers in the courtroom and in the social service agencies at the same time. In this way, court orders can be called up electronically. Communication is improved; efficiency and consistency is increased.

The problem of domestic violence may be as complex as human nature. But those charged with handling it are turning to technology to make things easier.

Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.

Reach Out And Slap Someone

When Emily Post wrote her landmark book on etiquette in 1922, she advised people not to let small children answer the phone, and thought a businessman committed an appalling breach of etiquette when he told his secretary to place a phone call and then was not available to take it. Now, Post's granddaughter, Cindy Post Senning, executive director of the Emily Post Institute, has a whole new world of phone issues to confront: cell phones and the frequently infuriating behavior of those who use them.

Take the man at the crowded gate at LaGuardia airport, who "was doing major business discussions with dollar amounts," Post Senning says. "Everybody around him had to hear every detail. It was uncomfortable." Because of countless rude intrusions such as this, Post Senning says, "We use cell phone 'etiquette' as an example of what happens when there are no rules."

Convenient and relatively inexpensive, cell phones have become part of the fabric of culture and society. In congested New York, where people pride themselves on being constantly on the run, cell phones are a fact of life. But there are probably as many gripes here as there are phones.

Even incessant cell phone users complain about loud one-sided conversations on trains and buses; about ringing phones interrupting theater performances, sermons and even funerals; about bumping, oblivious chatting pedestrians and the rude airing in public of the most intimate details of a person's life.

Such complaints are winding up at City Hall, where legislators such as Councilmember Phil Reed -- who has introduced two separate bills about cell phones -- are busy trying to address the real risks as well as the nuisances of this rapidly growing phenomenon.

"The majority of people are fed up with the proliferation of chatter," says Reed, "and I feel like somebody needs to legislate etiquette, or just help New Yorkers get some peace of mind."


Last year, some 128 million Americans subscribed to a cell phone service, says the national environmental research organization INFORM. And a recent survey found that more than 60 percent of New York City adults owned cell phone last year.

Not surprisingly, some of those people are rude. "Cell phones don't cause rudeness, people do," says Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert with the Protocol School of Palm Beach. Most Americans think those people are other people. In a survey conducted by the Metro North commuter rail, 87 percent of the riders said they were bothered by cell phones -- even though 76 percent said they used them. In a "Rudeness in America" study earlier this year, Public Agenda received hundreds of complaints about cell phone abuse. Forty-nine percent of respondents said that they often encounter people using their cell phones in a loud and abrasive manner, and 40 percent claim to be very bothered by it. While the survey does not have statistics for New York City, it found the problem to be more serious in urban areas than in rural ones.

A web site promoting good cell phone manners, devotes an entire section to New York City. A person who calls himself Spanker the cell phone spy -- he will not reveal his identity -- seeks out and reports flagrant abuses, such as overhearing a woman on line at the Port Authority bus terminal tell her boyfriend what underwear she had on. "I'm no prude, but some stuff ought to remain private."


Councilmember Phil Reed has been trying to regulate cell phones since 1999, when he introduced a bill that would have banned them on buses and subways. "People all ride the buses at some point," he said, and having to listen to other passengers talking on cell phones "just drives you out of your mind." But the bill died before being seriously considered."I think that the previous leadership just didn't get it." Reed believes that now the time is right. This summer, the council enacted a monthly 35 cent surcharge on all wireless devices in New York City. Reed now wants to go beyond simply cashing in on cell phones. He wants to reel them in as well.

He has re-introduced his bus and subway bill, and he has proposed another bill, for which he is conducting a hearing this week in the City Council's consumer affairs committee, that would prohibit the use of cell phones in performance places such as movie houses and Broadway theaters, but not outdoor locations such as sporting events. The proposed fine is $50. "The misuse of cell phones has made it more difficult to enjoy the arts in New York."

Cell Phone Etiquette

Here are some tips on how to use your phone courteously.

--Make it silent. Turn off your phone, or at least set it to vibrate, at movies, plays, religious services, meetings or other places where the noise would irritate people.

--Turn it off. When an establishment, such as an airline or hospital, asks you to turn off the phone, do so. Ignoring that rule, in a hospital or plane, for example, can endanger others.

--Speak softly. Respect your privacy and that of others. Don't speak loudly into the phone while in a crowded public space. Strangers do not want to hear who you're meeting for lunch or what you got paid for the trinket you just sold on e-bay. And make sure the phone ring is quiet as well. New York is noisy enough without phones adding to the cacophony.

--Make it short. In public places, keep your conversations as brief as possible.

--Be alert. Don't become so distracted by your conversation that you bump into others or ignore people who are talking to you.

--Obey the law. Don't use a cell phone while driving unless you have a hands-free model. If you get an important call while driving, pull over.

(Compiled from various web sites on cell phone etiquette, including LetsTalk.com.)

At a recent hearing, theater lovers hailed the measure. When a cell phone rings during a performance, "the damage to the art created on stage is palpable,"said Barbara Janowitz, speaking on behalf of the League of American Theatres and Producers. "The mood is broken. The audience abruptly loses the thread of the play or musical, forgetting that they have been transported to 1920s New York City, or Paris in the 1800s, or the Oklahoma territory. The actors lose their link to their characters, and have to fight to remember their place in the script and regain the special bond they have forged with the audience."

Greg Elmer of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers agreed. "You can not stop a jerk from being a jerk. They are self-centered, nobody else on the face of the earth matters," said Elmer, his voice and even his hands quivering with rage. "The only way you are going to curb them is a law.'

Some council members, however, questioned whether a law would help. "As much as we'd like to, I think that it is very difficult to legislate against inconsiderate jerks," said John Liu. "And this is New York, and unfortunately, we have our share of inconsiderate jerks."

Robert Sunshine, executive director of the Association of Theater Owners of New York State, thinks such a law would be difficult to enforce and could create confrontations between theater employees and belligerent cell phone users. "The interaction of ushers and management with sometimes unstable patrons of theatres can create terrible, terrible scenes," he said.

But some politicians argue the bill could reduce those simmering tensions. "If we don't get in control of this, then the patrons will," said Councilmember Charles Barron. "I've seen potential conflicts where people try to [stop others from talking on cell phones] because they are annoyed and aggravated by it. That's what my main concern is -- that the movie goers who are opposed to the cell phones will yell out, "Hey, turn off the phone." And you're going to get serious conflict occurring."


Councilmember Reed has mounted a challenge to the wireless phones on another front: the subway system. For now at least cell phones remain silent on much of the system because the devices do not work underground. But one wireless service provider, Sprint, is talking with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about wiring some high-traffic subway stations and long underground stretches for cell phone use. Customers have been "coming to us and wanting to be connected underground," says Steve Bugg, director of marketing sales and operations for Sprint.

Reed wants to make sure that does not happen --- and hopes to bar cell phones from buses as well. "People are trying to find some space where there's some quiet," he says.

In an informal poll on the Straphanger's Campaign web site last February, 45.2 percent were in favor of wiring the subway system for cell phones, and 54.8 percent were opposed. "Many people view the subway as a sanctuary," the campaign's Neysa Pranger says. "I don't know if anyone should go messing with that culture."

Amtrak has instituted a "Quiet Car" on almost all trains that run in the Northeast Corridor (between Washington, New York and Boston). In the Quiet Cars, cellular phones, pagers and loud conversations are banned. "The company's trains will be a place where all people can live in harmony -- regardless of their feelings for portable communication," says Stan Bagley, president of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

Metro North has said implementing such a policy on its trains would be difficult because, during the crowded rush hour, commuters dash for whatever space is available and would not be able to determine whether cell phone use is banned or approved in their car. Instead, the train line urges people to speak softly and move to car vestibules for long conversations. Similarly, the Long Island Rail Road urges its passengers using "cutting edge technology" to "show cutting-edge courtesy."


While cell phones on trains can enrage people, cell phones in cars may injure or even kill them. Motorists talking on cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into accidents than their silent counterparts, according to a study published in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded.

In response, last year New York became the first state to ban the use of cell phones, except for the hands-free models, while driving. Violation of the law carries a $100 fine. Other states have since followed suit, instituting a range of acceptable driving-while-gabbing guidelines. The bill was signed into law in June 2001. Ticketing for the offense began last November, though, between December and March, violators could have their tickets waived if they purchased a hands-free device.

The law has been a boon to manufacturers of hands-free technology. California-based Plantronics, which made the headset Neil Armstrong wore on the moon, saw a dramatic rise in sales after the New York law passed. This phenomenon may be responsible for the rise in New York pedestrians who walk down the street talking into tiny headsets, prompting others to wonder why so many more people are suddenly talking to themselves. (It has also inspired at least one wag to update an old Lily Tomlin joke, and suggest that the city should start a beautification campaign by handing out cell phones to every street person who really IS talking to himself, so that it looks as if he is talking on the phone.)

Another company, TDK Systems has developed technology that allows motorists to connect their mobile phones to their vehicle's electrical system, so that the phone sound comes out through the radio.


But is phoning while driving the only risk? In 1992, a Florida man filed a lawsuit alleging that cell phones caused his wife's fatal brain cancer. The court dismissed his suit, but since then a number of researchers have investigated whether the radiation from cell phone use causes brain cancer. Most of the studies have not found such a link, two experts, Kenneth R. Foster and John E Moulder concluded in an article in IEEE Spectrum, although they called for additional research. They said people concerned about possible hazards might want to use an external earpiece that keeps the phone away from their heads and use their phones less. "Neither of us would recommend such measures on health grounds," they wrote, "but people can decide for themselves whether to take such precautions."

But more studies are emerging that raise new doubts about the safety of cell phones, David Kirkpatrick reports in Fortune "Anybody who tells you that cell phones are either safe or unsafe doesn't know what they're talking about," Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, told him. "It remains an open question."

For some people, including those who drive in isolated or unsafe areas, cell phones represent a kind of life line, a way to call for help. The New York City Department of Education officially banned cell phones in the schools. But after the September 11 attacks, when parents and students were desperately trying to get in touch with one another, many schools began to allow cell phones as long as students keep them turned off during class.

Interestingly, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein proposed a plan last week that might encourage cell phone use. He suggests that schools rent roof space for cell phone antenna. In return, the schools would get much needed money and free or discounted cell phones and connections to the Internet. Companies must submit bids for the space by November 13. Suburban school districts have floated similar proposals, but parents have balked, citing fears that the tower would emit harmful microwaves.


While governments debate what to do about cell phones, some in the private sector have already taken action. Sunrise Express, a bus line that runs between Long Island and New York City, banned cell phones over a year ago, after customer complaints (the phones also interfered with the driver's on-board radio). Customers can only use their phones for emergencies, or to arrange rides home from the station. Although there is no mandated punishment for breaking the rule, company representatives report that people "usually cooperate."

Restaurants have become another battleground. If patrons can afford to eat at Aureole, a chichi spot on the Upper East Side, they can buy themselves an evening of relative freedom from electronic devices and concentrate on their mustard-crusted dayboat scallops or caramelized guinea hens. But at Dojo, a popular stop for bargain eats in the Village, no such controls apply. "This is not a quiet environment," the host explains.

Faced with public irritation, wireless companies themselves have jumped on the polite bandwagon. Cingular Wireless's "Be Sensible," campaign tries to educate users about how to use their phones in a safe and courteous manner.

Such advice really boils down to common sense, says etiquette maven Cindy Post Senning -- or at least, it should. When you're in a public place, keep it "quick and short," she says. In a more social setting, "just turn them off," unless you're expecting an important call, in which case, take advantage of vibrate mode. "Think about the person next to you," Post Senning urges.


But to some, such discretion misses the point. Cell phones represent freedom, says Mark Montano, a Lower East Side designer. In his recent Fashion Week show, Montano sent models down the runway with Sprint PCS "Vision Phones." "We can go wherever, and do whatever we want," he enthuses, and cell phones are part of that.

The cell phone don'ts for Montano have nothing to do with modulated voices or brief conversations. Never, ever carry a klunky big phone hanging off a belt. "People really do have those," Montano says with disbelief. He suggests carrying a small phone in a "little teeny disco bag or chain purse" or painting the phone with Sally Hansen chrome nail polish.

Montano's attitude does not surprise Sam Binkley, who teaches a class at New School University entitled "Consuming New York." People in New York "are constantly being looked at by strangers" and want to make an impression, he says. One way to do that is to walk down the street, using a trendy cell phone, conveying both fashion sense and popularity --- after all, they have someone to talk to. And so, says Binkley, wireless culture "turns the sidewalks even more into high school" than they already are. No wonder so many people find them irritating.


A Failure On 9/11, Life-Saving Innovations Afterwards

 It would be easy to see technology as the bad guy in the events of September 11th. The terrorists, after all, used our own technology our airplanes against us. Rescue workers, several reports have concluded, were forced to rely on Inadequate communication technology. And the breakdown of technological infrastructure in the city -- electric, gas, broadcasting and telecommunication networks -- caused so many people so much frustration and anxiety. The city government itself was hit hard, according to New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer, head of the council's Committee on Technology: "Over 50,000 government phone lines were disabled; 26 municipal buildings were shut down; Internet capability was severely disrupted," she said. "We nearly lost the city's Web site, NYC.gov. And we had to build many Information Technology systems from scratch."

In a recent City Council report on 9/11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was sharply criticized for not reimbursing the city for over $30 million in damage to information technology (IT) equipment that resulted from the attacks. As of July 2002, the payment was still pending approval and FEMA had cut its 9/11 recovery aid from 15 percent to only five percent.

But there is a flip side. The fast and efficient restoration of New York's electricity and communication networks was vital to the recovery effort. This is because each of these networks relies on the smooth functioning of the other. The city's electricity and telecommunications providers, Con Edison and Verizon, worked tirelessly around the clock to restore services despite having suffered extreme damage at their facilities.

And 9/11 sparked innovative uses of technology by city agencies in the emergency management efforts. Many new technologies such as high-tech maps, databases, and small electronic tracking devices were used during the recovery effort. These applications can be seen everywhere from the Chief Medical Examiner's Office to the Health Department and Housing Authority.

The rebuilding and recovery effort taught us many important lessons about the functioning of technological systems during times of crisis. The Internet emerged as one of 9/11's technological heroes because of its reliability as a back-up communication network when wired and wireless telecommunication networks were overloaded. In addition, the Internet was also used to store data because of its easy accessibility and decentralized nature. The city's website was used to relay vital emergency information.

High-tech maps of the city proved to be a vital resource during the crisis. Now, the same type of high-tech maps that were used during the recovery effort are being used by community boards to identify problems in their neighborhoods.

Databases were also important. But, since the city has no common database system, IBM created one that allowed the data to be entered electronically and transmitted to different agencies. This avoided having to ask families of victims to fill out the same form many times over.

Small tracking devices or Global Positioning Systems from PowerLoc Technologies, Inc. were key in helping to remove debris from Ground Zero. The technology allowed the city to document the exact location and amount of debris efficiently and flexibly. Similarly, personal items and evidence found among the debris were tracked and recorded with a small scanning device using GPS technology from LinksPoint.

Now, with these lessons in mind, the city is rebuilding its technological infrastructure. Some of the interesting technological opportunities recommended in the City Council report include making better use of existing technologies such as the Internet and text-messaging, redundant telecommunications networks, aerial photography, high-tech maps and NYC.gov. In addition, completely new initiatives such as a web-based emergency portal and a local Emergency Technology Corps are envisioned.

Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.

9/11/01-02: Altering The Political Landscape

Most people have probably forgotten that September 11, 2001, started out as a day when New York City held primary elections. That memory may resurface for many as they head to the polls on the eve of the anniversary, September 10th, for this year's primary.

This year's primary election is not just a calendar year away from the attacks, but it comes at the end of a year when the political fortunes of many candidates have been deeply affected by the implications of the tragedy. The attacks were the background of political life in New York starting with last year's mayoral race and continuing through this year's race for governor.


On September 11th, the primary was canceled by noon. Like other New Yorkers, the candidates for political office not just the race for mayor, but some 400 candidates for other local races stopped what they were doing. For a while, many considered it in bad taste to campaign.

But the primary was rescheduled, there was then a Democratic mayoral run-off, and within a month, the contest was between Democratic Mark Green and Republican Michael Bloomberg.

Mark Green was the Public Advocate, someone with years of political experience. Mike Bloomberg was a businessman who had never run for political office before. The city's response to the attacks became an issue almost immediately.

Sitting Mayor Rudy Giuliani had become a symbol of strong leadership in a time of crisis: his confidence and compassion had brought assurance and inspiration to a city badly in need of both. Although the new term limits law meant he was unable to run for a third term as mayor, New Yorkers of every political persuasion were grateful to him for his role in the days and weeks following the attacks.

Against this backdrop, Mark Green choose to make a public comment critical of the mayor's recent job performance. His remarks suggested he would have or could have done as good a job if he himself had been mayor. Whether or not this statement was accurate, it was considered highly inappropriate and mean-spirited, and Green was widely criticized for making it.

At about the same time, Giuliani endorsed Bloomberg. Although Bloomberg was running as a Republican, the same party Giuliani belonged to, the two men came from very different backgrounds and were not natural political allies. But the fact that Giuliani made the decision under these unusual circumstances only made the endorsement more compelling. Giuliani's decision to make Bloomberg his public choice had a profound and immediate impact on the race.

Endorsements have long been seen as a way to increase a candidate's stature, or to deliver one small, loyal block of voters, or to decorate a campaign with a well-known name. Never before has an endorsement had the effect of changing the dynamics of a campaign the way this endorsement did.


It would seem almost impossible that a candidate running for high office in New York could fail to learn from another candidate's mistake just five months earlier. But it happened, this time in the governor's race.

Andrew Cuomo, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, was leading in the polls in early 2002. Then he criticized George Pataki's performance in the aftermath of September 11th as inept and ineffective; the governor, Cuomo said, had simply been holding Giuliani's coat.

Whether or not the remark cost him the nomination, he lost his lead in the polls not long afterwards. When he dropped out of the race a week before the primary, conceding to his primary opponent, H. Carl McCall, one newspaper ran the headline: "Cuomo Folds, Plans to Hold McCall's Coat."


New York City's rebuilding efforts will be a statewide, as well as a nationwide. focus for years to come. The question of how to best rebuild and revitalize lower Manhattan was a main theme for each of the major candidates for governor throughout the campaign.

Carl McCall has put an emphasis on economic recovery, with a plan to create 100,000 new jobs in the areas of financial services, biotechnology, information technology and business services. He also proposed an International Center for Commerce and Culture, designed to attract international business headquarters and make New York City the true financial capital of the world.

Although Andrew Cuomo ultimately dropped out of the race, his rebuilding plans were some of the most creative of any of the major candidates. He saw the rebuilt downtown area as a sort of high-tech capitalist utopia: New York City cultural landmarks, a relocated World Bank, an integrated transportation system, a developed waterfront with a harbor economy, and a newly commissioned World Institute of Health, doing valuable research while also creating a biotechnology economy.

Meanwhile Governor George Pataki is said to be the beneficiary of what one Democrat calls the "Ground Zero effect." Pataki has promised the victims' families that nothing would be built in the "footsteps" of the twin towers, the actual ground space once occupied by the buildings themselves.

The legacy of last fall's terror attacks will continue to be felt. The political implications are only just now emerging.

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.

Cuomo Walks

"Have you ever walked out of a movie?"

I was asked this seemingly innocuous question once, as part of a course in political strategy. The idea was to illustrate a powerful law in political campaigns: The Law of Sunk Investments.

Walking out of a movie, a bad movie, a movie that is so awful that you know you would be better off at home balancing your checkbook, may seem like a no-brainer. But it turns out that most people have a hard time giving up on their investment: the price of the ticket, the time already spent getting to the theater and finding a seat and sitting through the first half. And then, there is the emotional turmoil: letting go of the idea that you were going to have fun tonight, that the movie will somehow redeem itself in the end and turn out to be something worth seeing.

The Law of Sunk Investments states that however much time or money or energy you have expended, it can't justify spending even one more cent or one more minute or one more ounce of effort, if what you are doing just isn't working.

Andrew Cuomo realized this truth, and on September 3, 2002, dropped out of the Democratic primary race for governor.

It came as a shock, despite the fact that Cuomo was facing a double-digit deficit in his efforts to overtake his primary opponent, State Comptroller H. Carl McCall. There was much talk about a poll released the same day that Cuomo made his announcement, but the truth is, the survey results could not possibly have come as a surprise to either camp. Both Cuomo and McCall would have known their numbers based on their own internal polling.

It came as a surprise, not because anyone necessarily expected Cuomo to come from behind and win the primary, but because of the nature of campaigning. You enter a campaign knowing that one of two things will happen. You will win, or you will lose. You prefer winning. If you lose, it will be because you tried to win, tried everything within your power, but ultimately came up short. It is the adversarial nature of electoral politics, and it is a system that we believe produces the best candidates. Deciding a week before the two-way primary election that you don't want your votes to be counted after all is not unheard of, but it is unusual.

It means giving up on the goal that has kept you going for months, putting aside the money that has been spent, dismissing the effort that has been made by campaign staff and volunteers, and letting go of the hard-won support you have earned. It means walking away from a year of your life, and disappointing all of those family members and supporters and donors and staff who are counting on you to win.

At a press conference, Cuomo explained his reasons for ending his campaign a week early. He said his advisors told him he would have to go on the air with negative advertising to give him any chance of winning. Whatever these advisors actually told him, this would have been sound political advice. His only chance of winning would have been to attack McCall with consistent negative messages, and under the circumstances, this is what I would have expected to see during the last ten days of campaigning.

His reluctance to engage in this negative campaigning was the reason he gave for deciding to concede the race. This had the double benefit of sounding good, and in all likelihood, being the truth. Knowing he would have to create a firestorm of controversy just to give himself a shot at the nomination, and damage both himself and his opponent in the process, without a guarantee that he would ultimately win, he most likely decided the risk was too great. Knowing he had no other options, he decided to abandon a losing effort. He made a strategic decision to give up his dream of being the next governor but maintain his political integrity, and live to fight another day.

Whatever personal struggles Andrew Cuomo may have had before coming to this decision, there is little doubt that externals pressures were active as well. The fingerprints of the New York Democratic Party machine could be seen everywhere in the days leading up to the announcement.

Every political party is ultimately going to support the nominee, but even before the nominee is chosen, public or private efforts will be made to close ranks and mobilize support around one candidate. Party leaders were anxious to avoid a messy primary like the mayoral run-off between Mark Green and Freddie Ferrer last fall. None-too-subtle hints were handed down: Senator Hillary Clinton who had claimed neutrality in the contest "happened" to march next to Carl McCall in a parade before key constituents the weekend before.

The Dean of the New York Democratic Congressional delegation, Charles Rangel, spoke for Andrew Cuomo at his press conference. His grandfatherly tone and kind words were genuinely touching, but there was a subtext to his remarks: he was thanking Cuomo for taking a hit for the good of the party, for letting this one go, for being a team player. The speculation was that someone had exercised some party discipline, and Cuomo had acquiesced.

The result of this surprising turn of events is that Carl McCall now has a straight shot at the Democratic nomination. He can hold valuable resources in reserve for the general election; he can take it easy, rest, prepare, and represent a unified Democratic front in the November election. And all of this is good news. But there is a down side. No one wants to win by default, even if the outcome is all but pre-determined. The coverage he would have received and the "bump" in support he might have anticipated upon winning the primary are no longer expected.

And there's something else, something that's hard to define but a genuine phenomenon in electoral politics. The minute a candidate drops out of a campaign, he experiences an immediate image makeover. According to the new wisdom, Cuomo isn't an opponent anymore, he's a statesman of New York politics who had the grace to selflessly bow out of the race for the good of the state and the Democratic Party. Now he's one of the Good Guys. McCall doesn't get the satisfaction of beating Cuomo, he has to settle for shaking hands and accepting his support with humility and gratitude. It puts McCall squarely in the role of Powerful Political Insider, a role he has tried hard to avoid.

McCall likes to describe himself as the underdog, and why not? Everyone loves an underdog. Even when he was twenty points in the lead, he insisted he was the underdog. He's not the underdog in the primary anymore, now he's the presumptive nominee. And now that he's the nominee, he's running in the general election against two-term governor George Pataki.

That makes him the legitimate underdog at least for now, and this time, we can be sure that both candidates will be sticking around to see how the story ends.

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.

The Arts and Albany

In the new state budget, state lawmakers gave the New York State Council for the Arts the same amount of money as last year -- $44 million to give as grants for artists and institutions. In a total budget of $89.6 billion, this amounts to one half of a tenth of one percent. But everything is relative, and in a year of a severe economic problems and low expectations, this can be greeted as a success.

Before this year, the state arts budget has grown annually since 1997, thanks to the advocacy of the New York City Arts Coalition and other city groups. Each spring, teams head to the state capital for "Arts Day," armed with stories about what's happening in the city's sprawling cultural scene. While most are arts professionals, occasionally an audience member or other non-professional will make the trip. Once, the mother of a young man who had joined TADA„a city group that involves children and teens, many from low-income communities, in musical theater„went to Albany to tell lawmakers how culture had not only made a difference in the life of her son, but in her own life, as well.

It is this kind of personal testimony, says Norma Munn, chairperson of NYC Arts Coalition, that gets the ear of Albany lawmakers. Her organization recruits people to fill buses, arms them with briefing materials, and shapes the teams' overall message. This year's message„about the need for stability in funding„seems to have been heard. Although many argue that power in Albany lies in the hands of the governor, the speaker of the assembly, and the leader of the senate, at least for arts advocates, going directly to individual legislators has produced results. (About 75 percent of the time, Munn estimates, advocates are paired with the legislators who represent their organization's district, and can thus provide specific information tailored to the audience.)

And yet, state budget increases for the arts haven't kept pace with inflation, and there are now many more arts organizations competing for limited funds. As a benchmark for Albany, many arts advocates recall the "glory days" of Nelson Rockefeller, who, in 1960 as governor, created the New York State Council on the Arts before there was even an National Endowment of the Arts, and proceeded to fund culture at levels not seen before or since.

The November Elections

The arts spend most of the time under the political radar, emerging occasionally over a first amendment issue, and then just as quickly dropping out of sight. (When Giuliani threatened to create a "decency commission" to vet city-funded art, then-city comptroller and now gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall scored points with many New Yorkers when he quipped that the proposed commission on decency "ought to look at all political operations at City Hall."

Even for many arts professionals, culture is not a make-or-break issue. Norma Munn points to the state senate race in Manhattan's 26th district as a litmus test for the arts community. Democratic incumbent state senator Liz Krueger faces Republican challenger Andrew Eristoff, a former Upper East Side council member and commissioner of finance who is now the Republican Party Chairman. Krueger has a long and impressive record on housing rights and consumer protections„typical Democratic issues, which appeal to the many liberally minded in the arts community. Eristoff, on the other hand, is cut from Bloomberg's cloth; he is a fiscal conservative who has been a loyal and high-profile patron of the arts, particularly dance. It is tough to say how most arts professionals would vote. (Fortunately, as Munn points out, few live on the Upper East Side.)

Albany and Rebuilding

An issue of great concern to the arts community is the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. "Creative Downtown," a report on the potential role of culture in rebuilding that was released in late July, and based on public discussions organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Arts Coalition, makes clear that artists care about more than just a memorial. Many believe that rebuilding creates an opportunity for an economic and social transformation of Lower Manhattan. The goals described„creating a 24/7 community, preserving affordable residential and work space„mesh with the goals of many civic planners and community leaders.

Recommendations focus, not surprisingly, on real estate. To prevent the crowd-out of artists that began before 9/11 and that, many fear, will be exacerbated by commercial rebuilding, the report calls on legislators to: establish an arts and cultural land trust; construct affordable performance spaces; and issue "arts bonds" for capital projects, among other proposals.


New York City Goes Wireless

Bryant Park is Manhattan's newest Internet cafe, and it is only the most recent addition to a growing list of free places to surf the Net in New York City. Currently, there are 70 "hotspots" including bars, street corners, parks and other public spaces in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx where New Yorkers can get online. Check the map by NYCwireless, a volunteer community group of computer wizards that is partnering with Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and other public organizations, as well as sponsors like Intel, to build these access points.

New Yorkers thrive on mobility, and this now includes the ability to socialize and conduct business while on the move. We have seen the way that cell phones have transformed our conversations and our schedules, which is why one of the first questions typically asked on the phone now is: Where are you?

Now, add the potential to write wireless e-mail and download Web sites and data from your local park using a variety of small portable devices. According to research by New York University's Taub Urban Research Center supported by the National Science Foundation, wireless technologies will have an inevitably greater impact on our lives than the deskbound Internet. With wireless access, our parks could be turned into giant chatrooms or boardrooms.

The wireless network in Bryant Park--which uses radio waves to transmit data to a wireless network card in your laptop--can support 500 users writing e-mails and downloading Internet pages. However, heavy use such as downloading audio or video files could slow down the network. The system uses T1 (high-speed Internet) lines and costs $10,000 to install and $1,000 per month to maintain.

In order to use the Internet from the park, you need a laptop computer and a wireless access card, a card that slides into your computer and communicates with the wireless network. Other small portable devices in addition to laptops such as personal digital assistants and Blackberry's can also be connected to the Internet using wireless networks.

Unlike the rest of the amenities in the park, of course, this is not open to every New Yorker; you still need a laptop. The wireless networks have not crossed the digital divide.

But it is a start Ăś and according to Anthony Townsend of the Taub Center, an important one. "Unwiring our cities will be as important as electrification was at the end of the 19th century," he says. "Cities that provide this amenity will thrive. Others will just get left behind. "

And, government can benefit from the ability to deliver timely, personal and useful information and services. For example, citizens could access emergency or traffic information instantly or send instant messages to report broken parking meters or dangerous situations. In addition, e-government services targeted at education, health and housing could be accessed anywhere.

Currently, New York's free, high-speed wireless network is limited to 70 hotspots. However, the hope is that as these networks are connected together, all of New York City could be linked wirelessly. Of course, some nodes in the network will not be free as private sector service providers charge fees for a certain type or quality of service.

Strong action is needed by government to ensure that wireless access becomes embedded in the fabric of New York. Just as the city maintains air quality, drinking water and public parks, wireless networks may be the public utility of the future. And indeed, citizens will come to expect wireless access to government information and services.

Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.

How You Can Tell How They're Doing

The signs are everywhere: candidates on television in commercials touting experience and credentials, volunteers at subway stops and street corners handing out brochures, mailboxes stuffed with campaign flyers and reminders to get out and vote.

And then, of course, there are the literal signs -- brightly colored placards and banners and posters and billboards, all of them an effort to keep candidate names in New York voters' minds.

It's that time of year: New York State is about to hold a primary election, an election that will decide party nominees for races up and down the ballot, but the most hotly contested will be the race for governor.

This year, the Democratic primary campaign is the race to watch; the winner of this battle will be the one to face two-term Republican governor George Pataki in the November general election.

During this past year, the two major Democratic candidates, Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo, have tried to gain and keep the momentum among Democratic primary voters. Although turnout in any primary tends to be a small percentage of registered voters, it traditionally includes the most loyal, involved, partisan, and active party members, those who pay the most attention and have the most informed opinions. The battle for the involvement, support and votes of these rank and file party members has been politically and emotionally charged.

Every campaign has its gaffes and missteps and snags and surprises, and this one has certainly been no exception. But as the campaign heads into the final stretch, in the days leading up to the September 10th primary, voters will be forced to make their choices. Campaigns can go on for months or even years, but any campaign strategist knows that the last two weeks before the election are the crucial days when candidates finally have what they want the most: voters' attention.

During this short window, the two Democratic candidates will make their case to the voters one last time and hope that theirs is the winning message. As they gear up for this frenetic pace, for the blur of handshaking and press events and jumping in and out of cars and on and off of charter planes, criss-crossing the state, bleary eyed but smiling, there is one question that they most want answered but secretly dread being asked:

"So how do you think the campaign is going?"

They will be asked this question over and over, by reporters, by well-meaning supporters, by contributors and family members and at the end of each day, they will ask it of themselves. It's a good question; in addition to knowing what a candidate stands for and what he wants to do once elected, knowing how effective he has been at communicating that message is a useful piece of information. The final answer, of course, won't come until the votes are counted, but until then there are a number of ways to gauge "how the campaign is going."

Television Spots

Television is a powerful tool. It reaches us where we live, where we are relaxed and unguarded, it entertains us and informs us and keeps us in touch with a world that is constantly changing. Candidate ads may not be anyone's favorite thing to watch, but they are still the most effective means of communicating a message to a mass audience.

You can tell a lot about a campaign by watching the commercials. Every candidate strives to stay "on message", that is, to communicate the same carefully crafted, consistent message over and over and over again without interruption or distraction. The idea is that by election day, the repetition will remain with voters so when they see that name on the ballot, they will know who he is and what he stands for.

A campaign that is running the same few commercials with the same basic message over and over again may seem boring, but chances are they are sticking to a strategy because that strategy appears to be working.

Conversely, a campaign that runs new ads every week may be trying different themes in a effort to gain traction.

And then there is the tone of the ads. The rule of thumb is that candidates who are safely in the lead don't go negative, not out of a sense of politeness or fair play, but because they don't want to take the risk. Negative ads can increase your opponent's "negative" numbers and drive voters away from him, but at a cost: they can increase your own negative perception as well.

When candidates go on the attack on the air, chances are it is a strategy to take the lead, not hang onto it.


Candidate endorsements have always been a part of campaign, particularly in New York, where political clubs, party leaders, organized labor and community activists make up such a big part of political life. While endorsements in and of themselves will not (typically) affect the outcome of the race, they can be a telling indication of a campaign's strength.

There have been several endorsements in this Democratic primary, including the endorsement of Carl McCall by New York's senior U.S. Senator, Chuck Schumer. However, the two biggest potential endorsements of the campaign have never happened: those of former President Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton. As Clinton's HUD Secretary, Andrew Cuomo may have been anticipating the public support of his former boss and the boss's wife. An expected endorsement that never happens can be as damaging as it would have been helpful.

Not every party leader and elected official makes an endorsement in every campaign; some elected officials actually feel it is unwise and unstatesmanlike to take sides in party primaries. But many others who have no such qualms will want to support, and be seen supporting, the candidate who is ultimately going to win. The rush of endorsements toward one candidate at the end of a campaign is a result of that campaign's momentum, and not a cause of it.


Although many people get excited about published polling numbers, pollsters chief among them, they are not necessarily the best indication of how a campaign is going. The science of tracking public opinion can be complicated, and even at its best it is inexact. The most reliable polling numbers are those commissioned by each campaign. Because they are a closely guarded secret, no one ever knows exactly what they show (although if they are done well, both campaigns should have the exact same numbers).

The published polls are usually those commissioned by news organizations. While they may be completely accurate, they are usually very simple, one or two question "flash polls": If the election were held today, for whom would you vote?

The answers that 500 people gave to this question are interesting on one level, but as a predictive value they may be more or less meaningless. To be useful, a poll has to be representative, meaning the people who participated are a cross-section of those who will actually be voting on primary day. It has to be a measurement of voter opinion in time, meaning it must be comparable to a similar measurement taken before and after.

And it has to be statistically significant. This means that if a survey shows one candidate with a four-point lead and the margin of error is +/-5, the results are meaningless.

Even if a published survey has all these requirements, the result is merely a snapshot, and like a snapshot it can't tell you who is moving, or which direction they are moving, or why.

Knowing all of this, using the power of observation to mark a candidate's chances is not a substitute for finding out who she is and what she stands for. But it can be an important part of sorting through the white noise of election season and making an informed choice in the final days before the September 10th primary.

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.

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