Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

The Big Stories of 2004?

Each year, Gotham Gazette asks some bold face New York names to make their predictions for the city in the new year. Of course, we are not Page Six, and so we attract more standard typeface policy wonks than models, actors, or rock stars.

Still, last year, we were fairly accurate. Subway fares did go up. The economy improved. The courts ruled that the state education funding formula was unconstitutional. And as comedian Alan King predicted, it was indeed the year 2003. (Read about the big stories of 2003)

On the other hand, our prognosticators missed a few or were overcome by wishful thinking. Governor George Pataki did not reinstate the commuter tax. The Mets did not hold up their end of the Subway Series. And our billionaire bachelor mayor Michael Bloomberg did not get married nor did he grow taller.

So once again we try to predict the headlines for New York City in the new year. And we want to include the most important bold-faced name - YOU. Add your predictions to our Message Board.

What Will Be The Big Stories in 2004 in NYC?

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:

The economy will get stronger, but it won't be as euphoric as some expect. We still have a $2 billion deficit and a $3.5 billion deficit the year after that, so we have to stay focused on providing services without raising taxes. In fact, taxes will have to come down.

Janeane Garofalo, actress and comedian:

If the federal government takes no responsibility for helping New York City, more cuts will be made. And it is usually social services and sanitation that takes the hit. But it's not a problem for me, because I pick up my own garbage and burn everything but tires in my living room.

David Cross, comedian and actor from "Men in Black II":

Will there be a local candidate coming out against the smoking ban? Also the smell of garbage in the city will produce a debate over whether to put a retractable dome over the city and pump in fragrances like apple pie or vanilla.

Jonathan Bowles, Center for an Urban Future:

On the heels of the Bloomberg administration's licensing deal with Snapple, the financially strapped MTA inks a five-figure deal with Dr. Zizmor, the skin specialist, to become the exclusive dermatologist of the transit agency.

Governor Pataki and legislative leaders reach a new low, opting to close the state's budget gap with even more borrowing and failing to come up with an equitable school funding formula. But they also fail to act on calls for legislative and campaign finance reforms, and every incumbent running for re-election in November coasts to an easy victory.

Carolina Gonzalez, New York Daily News editorial board:

To go along with the new stadiums to lure the Jets and the Nets back to New York, we get another new stadium to bring the Mets back from ignominy.

If George Pataki can't make up his mind what to do with Governors Island, he can turn it into a nice Frank Gehry-designed garbage dump so we don't have to ship solid waste so far.

New York issues smoking licenses for bars, which is the way the city and state should have handled the issue in first place.

A real train to the plane, please, not a train from the plane to an even more crowded train.

Liz Krueger, New York State Senator:

The state budget will not get done anywhere near on time causing the city of New York problems with its budget.

We in the state government will not successfully meet our obligation under the court order to increase funding for New York City schools. One Republican legislator has said it will take 15 years. I'm more optimistic. I think if we do it right, we can get it done in five years.

At least five Democrats will announce that they are running for mayor against Michael Bloomberg.

Howard Dean will take the Democratic primary in New York State in March.

Kevin Parker, New York State Senator:

I predict that the Reverend Al Sharpton will win New York State in the Democratic primary for president. Furthermore, I predict that New York State will once again have a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and that the State Legislature will come together to pass a budget without the governor. We will garner even more votes to overturn his vetoes. (This year, the legislature overturned the governor's vetoes with a total of 119 votes.)

Jill Chaifetz, Advocates for Children:

It will be a make it or break it year for school finance reform. The governor and the legislature are compelled to make changes to an arcane and unfair funding formula. The hope is that the right thing is done, and New York's school children benefit by getting the resources they deserve.

I also predict that the City Council will create a Charter Commission on class size reduction to examine if the Charter should be revised to require a certain class size for students.

After this first year of implementation of the mayor's and chancellor's sweeping reforms to schools, the dust will have cleared enough by September 2004 to see what's working well, and what is not, and to hopefully address the problems.

Dan Cantor, Working Families Party:

I predict that the Working Families Party will win its minimum wage campaign in Albany, and that this will do more for low income New Yorkers than almost anything else one can imagine.

Gifford Miller, New York City Council Speaker:

You are going to continue to see New York's recovery and more jobs created. And the Yankees will bring home the World Series next year.

Moby, musician:

There will be massive civil disobedience around the GOP convention. Also, it will be fascinating to see what happens when the Bush administration comes clean about the EPA air quality reports following 9/11.

Gale Harold, actor from Showtime TV show "Queer As Folk":

The Republicans will stage a big event at Ground Zero for the 2004 convention in a display of unfortunate opportunism.

James Oddo, Republican Leader of the New York City Council:

We will see a new level of partisanship in the city. From the budget negotiations to the Republican National Convention, everything will be more partisan. And folks who have had better relations with the mayor than I have and have held press conferences with him over the past two years, will not miss a chance to attack.

Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union:

Hundreds of thousands of people will come to New York to protest at the Republican National Convention. The protestors will seek permits for Central Park and midtown, but the city will offer them that vacant cruise ship on the Hudson. While attending the convention, John Ashcroft will make a tour of the sample sales on Seventh Avenue to buy clothes for all those nude statues at the Met.

Brian McLaughlin, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

Not only do I predict, but I declare 2004 will be the year of the worker. My wish list includes an increased minimum wage; improved worker's compensation laws; a safer workplace; protected and affordable healthcare; dignity for all those who currently work without it; and jobs for all those who want one and need one.

Kenneth Jackson, New York historian:

The year 2004 will be important in New York for three reasons. First, the economy will finally begin to improve in the five boroughs. Second, there will be no terrorist activity either in the city or in the nation so that Gotham will remain the safest city in the United States. Finally, planning will begin in earnest for a large museum of history at Ground Zero that will focus both on 9/11 and on how the greatest city in the world came to be.

Betsy Gotbaum, Public Advocate:

I predict New Yorkers and the media will be less tolerant of the Bloomberg administration. I expect to see closer scrutiny by the City Council and the press of the budget process and public schools reform.

Henry Stern, former parks commissioner:

Will the state government postpone reality and continue to borrow money until 2005? It is an election year, so I predict they will.

Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President:

In the future, I predict that the Nets will be playing at a beautiful new arena in Brooklyn. The cruise industry will dock in Brooklyn and our downtown will rise to new heights as businesses flock to new office space. The health of Brooklynites will improve as they eat better and exercise more. In the summer, all of New York will go to a revitalized Coney Island and enjoy hotdogs under the restored parachute jump.

C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan Borough President:

I believe in 2004 we will see some long awaited projects really get off the ground in Manhattan. We should see ground broken on the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway, construction should begin on the World Trade Center site and decisions should be finalized on the future of the West Side rail yards. It will be a year of considerable political activity, capped off by the replacement of George W. Bush in November.

Beverly Willis, Rebuild Downtown Our Town:

The governor seems intent on spending $1 billion in federal [lower Manhattan] transportation money to bury a portion of West Street, which means that we may not have the direct connection to the airport from downtown. Transportation, and the connection to the airports, is critical.

Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign:

Last year, I predicted that "transit officials will launch a major initiative to speed service on the M-15 First/Second Avenue bus," which is the most-used route in this hemisphere. It didn't happen, but I renew my prediction for 2004. It's an unfulfilled promise of the Bloomberg administration and time is running out.

The MTA will propose a $26.5 billion (with a "b") five-year rebuilding program to continue repairing and expanding the transit system. But its fate may not be decided until 2005.

New Year will come early to Chinatown - and 600,000 subway riders - as full train service over the Manhattan Bridge will be restored by February and the Grand Street subway station fully re-opened. But get your new maps Brooklyn riders, as, the D will become the B and the B the D! And don't even ask about the W!

Governor Pataki will abandon plans to spend $900 million to bury West Street alongside four blocks of the World Trade Center site - as other priorities win out.

Mark Green, head of New Democracy Project and former mayoral candidate:

Mayor Bloomberg finally admits that the reason he won't say where he goes on weekends is that he leaves to spend quality time with Dick Cheney at his undisclosed location.

After coming in a surprising and strong second in the Iowa caucuses, Senator John Kerry barnstorms into city the next day and declares, "I'm going to be an Alexander the Great and cut the GoreDeanian knot."

Asked at his annual press conference in October why he attacked Port Washington on Long Island just before the election, President Bush said "9/11 and Saddam changed everything."

Rick Bell, NY Chapter of American Institute of Architects:

I predict that New York City will increasingly be seen as the center of the world for architecture and planning. Design projects now on the boards will transform the shape of the city. The Brooklyn Visual & Performing Arts Library, Downtown Brooklyn planning, Fulton Street Transit Hub, Hudson Yards, Hearst Tower, Jets Stadium, Morgan Library, Olympic Village, New York Times Tower, Penn Station, 2 Columbus Circle, Whitehall Ferry and the World Trade Center PATH Terminal, to name a baker's dozen, will enhance the verve and glamour that makes New York special.

Jami Bernard, New York Daily News film critic:

In 2004, stocks will go up, the economy will rebound, and edgy small movies will continue to come through the pipeline from the days when stocks were down and the mood was dismal. I'm noticing an inverse relationship between the economy and creativity. That means that in 2005 the movies will be crappy again.

Rachel Leon, Common Cause New York:

My wish for New York City in 2004 is not only that we get a fair share of revenue from Albany and the federal government, but also that New Yorkers get accountability and responsiveness from Governor Pataki and the State Legislature so that we can have an open debate of crucial issues rather than business as usual behind closed doors. Campaign finance reform, lobby reform and real electoral reform would be great stocking stuffers, too.

Leslie Cagan, coordinator for United for Peace and Justice:

The year will begin with the City Council finally passing Resolution 909, thereby adding New York to the more than 200 cities around the country to go on record in defense of our basic civil liberties and in opposition to the Bush-Ashcroft assaults through USA PATRIOT Act. On March 20th, the one-year anniversary of the start of Bush's war against Iraq, New Yorkers will march in large numbers as part of a Global Day of Action. And throughout the year preparations for the Republican National Convention will intensify. The Police Department and the mayor will struggle with how to overcome the embarrassment the city faced by their outrageous handling of last year's antiwar protest. They will be pressured by the feds to "secure" Manhattan and, at the same time, called upon to enforce the Constitution and allow the full expression of dissent and protest.

Errol Louis, columnist for the New York Sun:

My hope for our city in 2004 is that we make it through another year free of murderous terrorism - and that we extend and enjoy, for as long as possible, what we may someday sadly describe to our children as the good old days, before the horror began again.

Frederick Lane, professor at Baruch School of Public Affairs:

New Yorkers of all stripes will make a special effort to support the city's nonprofit organizations. The mayor returns the nonprofit desk to the city's economic development machinery. It was senselessly dropped in the Koch administration and has not been heard from since. Like Broadway and Wall Street, New York is simply not New York without maintaining its place as the nation's nonprofit capital.

Glenn Pasanen, professor at Lehman College:

Mayor Bloomberg will transform the entire Municipal Building into the Tweed Management Center. He has already turned the magnificently restored $100 million Tweed Court House into a grandiose bullpen where top educators huddle, and the Board of Estimate room in City Hall into an Ikea bullpen for himself and his top aides.

John Kaehny, Transportation Alternatives:

New York will be the first city in the U.S. to ban car-alarms. The state legislature will finally approve 50 more red light cameras for New York City, for a total of 100. A record breaking number of cyclists will travel city streets.

Brian Lehrer, WNYC Radio:

Wall Street will do well, as corporations and major investors take risks to help the economy look good for the Bush campaign. This will help balance the city budget, allowing Mayor Bloomberg to roll back half the property tax increase. City Council, led by mayoral hopeful Gifford Miller, will get into a bidding war over the size of the rollback.

Bloomberg will get marginalized with a bad daytime slot for his speech at the Republican Convention, speaking out, with his own re-election in mind, for moderation by both Democrats and Republicans. Pataki will get a prime time speech, but will be the butt of jokes behind the scenes by Tom DeLay and company.

The streets during the convention will see bigger and angrier protests than the big pre-war one on February 15th. It will not be pretty.

The entire state legislature will be re-elected with not one incumbent losing a seat, and almost no media coverage of any race. Playing to their bases, Democrats and Republicans will fail to agree on any major legislation, and the budget will be passed early on the morning of the 2nd of July.

Elliot Spitzer will turn his attention from Wall Street to sleazy practices of managed care companies, in conjunction with concerns about Medicare reform.

A "Stop Dean" movement will gather steam in the new year. The New Hampshire and Iowa votes will be closer than expected, giving new life to the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns. But Gephardt will run out of money, leaving Kerry and his Heinz fortune to make a last stand on Super Tuesday, March 3rd. The vote for New York's delegates will be critical that day. Senator Clinton will endorse Kerry that week. Sharpton, Dean and Kerry will split the state's black vote roughly in thirds. Kerry will win the nomination, choose Bob Graham as his running mate, and in a very close election, become the 44th president of the United States.

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