Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Looking Ahead to the New Year


Who would have guessed that our former governor would be caught up in a prostitution scandal or that Wall Street would have crumbled so dramatically?

The prominent New Yorkers we asked to predict what 2008 would bring certainly didn't. They saw the state's junior senator as president, not as secretary of state. They thought we would have congestion pricing.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel predicted we would invest in affordable housing -- not that he would be at the center of a housing scandal.

Knowing that sometimes people swing blindly the first time, we here at Gotham Gazette decided to give them another chance.

This year, some think the economy will recover, the mayor's race will be competitive and the state will bail out our transit system. See what some New Yorkers think is in store for 2009.

Gotham Gazette image by Ya-Hsuan Huang

City Councilmember Simcha Felder

The mayor and the City Council put a hiring freeze on new elected officials.

Randi Weingarten, president, United Federation of Teachers

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will teach a class at the UFT Secondary Charter School and become a key advocate for teacher due process (tenure) and lowering class size.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will abandon his bid for a third term and instead take over the New York Stock Exchange, where he will implement accountability and data initiatives. Traders and hedge fund managers form a union.

The debate over whether to continue mayoral control of New York City schools will come down to a final-hours coin flip on State Street.

Gov. David Paterson will appear on Saturday Night Live, and realizing his true calling, join the cast.

And in all seriousness, the Administration for Children's Services will pay 28,000 home day care providers the money they are owed by state law.

President-elect Barack Obama and new Education Secretary Arne Duncan will work collaboratively with teachers and their unions, and as a result begin to make substantial progress in advancing student achievement. Their philosophy will show naysayers that successful education reform is done with teachers, not done to teachers.

In the midst of this challenging time, New Yorkers are resilient and charitable. This is the time to work together and fight for educational opportunity for our students and economic security for all New Yorkers.

Azi Paybarah, reporter, New York Observer

Michael Bloomberg announces unpopular budget cuts, but spends lavishly on his campaign.

Bill Thompson and Anthony Weiner complain about Bloomberg's budget cuts and lavish campaign spending.

Democrats for Bloomberg make an earlier than expected appearance. David Paterson doesn't officially join that group, but reporters suspect he's a card-carrying member.

Paychex Founder Tom Golisano holds secret meetings with everyone running for mayor; "aides to Golisano" confirm the meetings but don't share any details. Then, Golisano holds a press conference and gets some ink from New York City reporters about his thoughts on the mayor's race, before disappearing upstate.

Golisano then toys with the idea of buying all those media outlets that didn't cover him.

Kevin Sheekey leaves City Hall for Bloomberg's campaign, makes a lot of money and doesn't return.

State Sen. Jeff Klein gets photographed measuring the curtains inside Malcolm Smith's office.

Newspaper publishers apply for a federal bailout.

Twitter becomes so popular that it's no longer cool.

Norman Siegel and Mark Green have a series of historic debates about who truly represents New York's liberal left.

David Weprin sports a pocket protector to bolster his image as a fiscal expert.

Whoever Paterson doesn't pick for the U.S. Senate starts getting talked about as possible gubernatorial candidates.

And Gotham Gazette gets Drudged for its policy-focused interview with Eliot Spitzer, which starts off with the phrase, "If I didn't get caught, I would have told Shelly Silver..."

Debora Spar, president, Barnard College

New York public schools and civic organizations see a flood of hugely qualified job applicants, as newly minted graduates decide that maybe Wall Street isn't the career for them.

The jobs that do remain in finance and the regulatory sector are increasingly filled by women. Big bets decline, as do massive bonuses. But actual scrutiny of transactions increases.

Overcome by schadenfreude, New Yorkers at last learn how to spell it.

Gotham Gazette image by Ya-Hsuan Huang

Brian Lehrer, The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC

2009 in New York turns out better than anyone expects as I write this on Dec. 13, 2008. At least, people will look back on it that way years from now.

While 200,000-plus jobs are lost statewide, and wrenching decisions are made about tax hikes and service cuts, New York remembers that there's more to economic life than Wall Street. And we discover that Wall Street still has a pulse to boot. The insane bonuses and leverage ratios are gone, but finance is finance and those people will always find ways to make money. New York is still the trophy address to have to compete with London and Tokyo etc. for world-class investment. It is not the year of the Charlotte Stock Exchange. Let's just hope they don't try to securitize zero percent interest Treasury bills!

We remember that other sectors of the economy also really matter around here: higher education and medicine, for example. Boston has nothing on us as an economy driven by smarts.

We have tourism too, plus the arts and entertainment, technology, and exports and imports of all imaginable kinds. Immigration remains a special economic gift to New York as immigrants continue to expand import-export entrepreneurship and decentralized financial networks. Remember why finance took hold here in the first place – New York was an international hub of commerce. It still is.

The credit squeeze slowly eases in 2009. With that and no-interest loans, the dollar remains stable but low, and international tourists flock once again to NY.

Our new U.S. senator, Shirley Jackson, builds visibility for our existing technology sector and helps secure federal funding for a Hudson Valley R&D corridor extending from Manhattan to Troy. And, of course, New York still captures the imagination of ambitious creative people from everywhere else. Whatever decline in real estate values we endure will have the silver lining of sustaining large scale immigration, and making bohemia possible again. Bohemia, like immigration, fuels innovation and long-term value in the housing market.

Anthony Weiner will win the Democratic mayoral nomination as the candidate from the angry middle class. Mayor Bloomberg, running as an independent, also secures the Republican nomination. The winner in November will be determined by the state of the economy and populist anger at the mayor. If he is seen as deftly managing the recession and building for the future, he will win, and Weiner will look like a whiner. If he is seen as raising taxes and cutting services while being tone deaf to people's pain, he'll become "that billionaire" and he will lose.

Similarly, President Obama's change we can believe in will be judged by how much his stimulus package is spent on real innovation and real infrastructure building. 2009 will tell. Weatherizing federal office buildings may give people work, but it won't spur the next generation of economic growth.

The Ravitch Commission's recommendations will be adopted almost unchanged and the city will be grateful for the next 30 years as world-class mass transit infrastructure development attracts sustained private sector economic growth.

On the down side, AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia will both get injured. The new Yankee Stadium will have many gold-plated empty seats. After Citigroup files for Chapter 11, Citi Field will change its name to Debits Field, pleasing Dodger fans of a certain age.

Bernie Madoff and Marc Dreier will both find religion in prison, and vow to devote their lives to helping others. Michael Milken will consult.

Donald Trump will change his name to Chrysler and ask for a federal bailout.

David Letterman will move his show to 9pm.

Doug Muzzio, professor, Baruch College

In a political stunner, capo di tutti capi of New York City politics Mike "Nine Zeroes" Bloomberg is denied a third term, even after spending $100 million plus, making many offers that couldn't be refused but ultimately were, by a majority of NYC voters.

Michael Miscione, the Manhattan borough historian

New Yorkers’ disinterest in history will reach new heights in 2009.

After months of media claims that "we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” economists will realize that most people have no idea what the Great Depression is. The New York Times will conduct a survey that will find that 91 percent of New Yorkers think it was “when everyone was sad because they hadn’t invented Prozac yet.”

2009 will mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Henry Hudson, an English explorer who sailed for the Dutch. Hudson traveled up the river that would one day bear his name in a ship called the Half Moon. Again, New Yorkers will be baffled. Another Times survey will find that most Gotham residents will define the Half Moon as a “wardrobe malfunction caused by low-rise blue jeans.”

The Manhattan and Queensboro Bridges turn 100 in 2009. Keeping with the recent trend of renaming our bridges for historically inappropriate persons, the Manhattan Bridge will be rechristened the Senator Caroline Kennedy Bridge, and the Queensboro will be renamed for a Kennedy to be named later. Defenders of the change will invoke the Sarah Palin rationale, claiming that Caroline deserves the honor because she can see the bridge from her penthouse window (with binoculars). The name changes will utterly devastate Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz because his attempts to rename the spans Brooklyn Bridge 2 and Brooklyn Bridge 3 will go ignored.

City Councilmember Letitia James

Atlantic Yards will not be built.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, senior fellow, the Manhattan Institute

We've made it to the end of the year, and our city is still standing. For that, we should be grateful. On the other hand, we're a bit like the man falling off the Empire State Building who, on passing the 22nd floor, says to himself, "so far, so good."

We're in a downward spiral, hoping that we're somehow going to have a happy ending. But we haven't yet crashed to the ground in part because, as the New York Building Congress pointed out in mid-October, momentum from New York's historic 2003-2008 building boom has continued to drive up some residential and nonresidential construction.

The city looks a little bit better off than it actually is. Major projects all over New York are slowing or stopping altogether. The most mesmerizing are the highly subsidized, politically favored, allegedly private sector projects, for which Atlantic Yards is the poster child. Forest City Ratner has halted work and laid off staff while asking for even more government subsidy. Will our elected officials really have the gall to raise our already excessively high taxes while directing hundreds of millions of dollars more into Bruce Ratner's sink hole in downtown Brooklyn?

Let's hope that 2009 becomes the year in which corporate socialism, and its bloated projects, is ended in New York once and for all.

Charles Geisst, professor of finance, Manhattan College

2009 is not shaping up to be a good year. Last year at this time there was no consensus about a recession. What a difference a few months make.

The current recession will last well into next year and beyond, and it will unfortunately prove to be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Cutbacks can be expected in all city services since so much wealth has been destroyed in the markets and with it, tax revenues. On the brighter side, the first years of the Depression coincided with the last years of Prohibition, but there was no shortage of cheer to go around in New York. Speakeasies then outnumbered grocery stores in some parts of the city.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr.

2009 will be one of the most challenging years for New Yorkers in recent memory.

Struggling families and businesses throughout the city will feel the continued squeeze of a shrinking economy, growing job losses, ever-tightening credit, and the persistent threat of home foreclosures.

To respond to these challenges, I predict New Yorkers will demand new leadership that will change the way business is done in our city – fewer give-a-ways to the rich and more protections for hardworking families and small businesses. With strong leadership and a collective spirit, New York City will bounce back as it has done before and show its grit, resolve and resiliency.

Gotham Gazette image by Ya-Hsuan Huang

Steve Cohen, executive director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Mike Bloomberg will find his reelection campaign does not turn out to be the coronation he was expecting.

The web-based fundraising and communication techniques pioneered by Howard Dean's campaign and perfected by Barack Obama's campaign will be used in the next New York City mayor's race

Subway fares will not go up 25 percent but the real threat is to the long term capital plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In 2009, we will learn if our political leadership can match the talents and courage of Hugh Carey and Ed Koch, or if we will have the revival of the three guys in a room that got us into this fiscal mess.

By this time next year the media will still be looking for some way to diminish President Obama's stature, but they will not succeed. Our new president will have a tough, but successful year.

The Yankees and Mets will have to find a way to sell tickets to regular New Yorkers or risk losing their fan base. If they are not careful, the new stadiums will reinforce the idea that live major league baseball is not available to the rest of us. Of course we can all watch CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett on HDTV's that just look like real life, and we can just pretend we're at the game.

We will finally have federal policy on global warming here in the United States (I confess, I predicted this for 2008 too).

Columbia and the New School will both recruit new provosts. The one at Columbia will last longer.

We will avoid another great depression and start to climb out of this great recession.

Gene Russianoff, senior attorney, New York Public Interest Research Group and the Straphangers Campaign

The night before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to vote on a whopping fare hike and harsh service cuts in late March, the state legislature will pass a tax package that will soften the blow of an increase and block the worst service cuts. The base subway and bus fare will rise to $2.25 and a 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard from the current $81 to $89. However, it will take until the late fall for the legislature to enact a new five-year rebuilding program for the transit system.

A federal judge will rule that the council's vote to overrule two referenda votes of the public to limit the terms of city officials violated the First Amendment rights of city voters - and all hell will break loose!

Mayor Bloomberg will participate in the city's landmark campaign finance law and limit his campaign spending to his total spending in the general election to $6 million - not!

The state will permit the transportation authority to toll the East River bridges, but only for vehicles driven by motorists who are visitors from very, very distant galaxies.

Governor Paterson will flirt with the idea of appointing Tina Fey to the U.S. Senate by only if Al Franken is elected as the junior Senator from Minnesota.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn

My prediction for 2009 is that New Yorkers will do what we have always done during times of great difficulty. We will stand up. We will band together.

I predict that we will see a rise in volunteerism. We will see New Yorkers helping neighbors, friends, family, and complete strangers. We will all find ways to do more with less, and to make up in work and passion what we may lack in resources. We will act responsibly today, lest we face even bigger problems down the line.

No one expects New York City to be able to turn things around quickly. But New Yorkers are used to defying expectations.

Kevin Baker, novelist and non-fiction writer, author of the "New York, City of Fire" trilogy

I would say that the one thing we can count on in 2009 would be the growing disparity of wealth in this city. So far, nearly every proposal made by both the governor and the mayor is for more taxes and fees on working- and middle-class New Yorkers to carry us through the new Depression, along with layoffs and pension cuts for public employees. Meanwhile, the wealthy are being asked to contribute almost nothing. This is not only unfair. It also will not work.

Jonathan Bowles, director, Center for an Urban Future

The city's worsening economic problems will be broad-based, but will have a particularly severe impact on the poor and working poor, nonprofits, real estate brokers, black car drivers and owners of cocktail lounges selling $15 saketinis. There will be a modest spike in the number of outer-borough middle class residents who leave the city altogether, prompted by the weak job market, deteriorating subway service, under-performing public schools and higher fares/taxes.

Dozens of bank branches and a handful of national drug store chain stores across the five boroughs will shut their doors, creating at least some new opportunities for independently owned businesses.

Rising commercial vacancy rates and plunging office rents could lead to a wave of start-ups with growth potential in technology and creative fields, similar to how the weak real estate market of the early 1990s helped give rise to Silicon Alley.

The state legislature's eventual response to this economic and fiscal crisis will remind New Yorkers, yet again, that the city has few friends in Albany and that the legislature truly is the most dysfunctional such body in America.

Paul Steely White, executive director, Transportation Alternatives

NYPD Officer Patrick Pogan is convicted of assaulting a cyclist

during a Critical Mass bike ride, and then ordered by the judge to clear bike lanes of placard abusers and double parked cars.

The city, state and Metropolitan Transportation Authority keep the transportation system from collapsing and will actually increase mass transit service. The State Legislature will pass a law to mandate Paris-style bike share integrated into New York City's public transit system with 50,000 bikes and 3,000 stations reclaimed from parking spaces. The catch: they would charge bikers $20/hour and use the revenue to save the MTA.

Gov. Paterson sells Sen. Clinton's seat to George Soros and uses the revenue to save the MTA.

Geoffrey Croft, president, NYC Park Advocates

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn will hold a joint press conference to apologize for misleading statements made during the term-limits debate: Both had repeatedly insisted the public could actually choose not to re-elect them in November. They acknowledge that out in the last 107 City Council races, 98 percent of the incumbents were reappointed. They admit council members have only a slightly less chance of returning to office than former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did during his last re-election bid. (He garnered 101 percent of the vote.)

For the first time in more than four decades, elected officials will abide by the City Charter and begin to allocate adequate expense dollars to maintain, secure and program parks.

The Bloomberg administration will apologize for installing more than 100 million pounds of chemically laden recycled tires in our parks and schools and realize natural grass is good for the environment.

The city will voluntarily agree to test all materials installed in playgrounds for heat before they burn more children.

Mayor Bloomberg will initiate community-based planning and consultation for all park projects. He agrees to send out $400 rebate checks to victims of poor park policies. The program will be suspended 24 minutes later after 311 is overwhelmed by calls from residents living near the new Yankee Stadium, the Van Cortlandt Park water filtration plant, Washington Square, the Ridgewood Reservoir, Randall's Island, Union Square, the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park and others. The mayor will respond, "Don't they know we're experiencing the golden age of parks?"

The New York Yankees will give back their city financing and admit the new stadium places an undue burden on taxpayers.

After being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future, all 29 Council members who voted to ignore two voter referendums on term limits will have a sudden change of heart and not seek re-election. Bloomberg holds out. Tipped off about the coming visitation, he posts extra security at his Upper East Side townhouse and prevents entry. However, the next day -- after receiving a note left by the spirit saying he would return soon -- the mayor agrees to participate in the city's campaign finance program.

Randy Cohen, The Ethicist, New York Times

Mayor reads fine print, discovers it is Central Park not Central Parking Lot, bans cars from Olmstead jewel. "If you want to run over a jogger or knock down a child, do it on Queens Boulevard like everybody else."

Patti Lupone leaps from stage, savagely pummels audience member texting during final number of final performance of Gypsy. Although the incident is witnessed by a packed house, Lupone is acquitted and carried from courtroom on shoulders of cheering theater-fans.

City to fund solid gold caps for Yankees and Mets. "We can't do enough for these tobacco-spitting millionaires," says the mayor. "It was this, or squander the money on schools and subways."

Times Square B.I.D. marks 100th Ped-lock day of the year as Ohio family is carried seven blocks, pressed between bodies of strangers. "Our feet never touched the ground! Can we go again?"

Deepening its commitment to public-private partnerships, the city opens bidding for corporate logos to be tattooed on foreheads of teachers, police and firefighters.

Public restrooms finally appear on Manhattan streets. No, wait, hang on… no, they don't.


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