Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

What Will the Big Stories Be in the New Year? Fifth Anniversary Edition

Each year since it began in 1999, Gotham Gazette has asked New Yorkers - from Susan Sontag to Marty Markowitz, from Moby to Mnookin, from members of Congress to the cast of Saturday Night Live - to predict what the big stories will be in New York City in the new year.

Now for our fifth anniversary, we carry on the tradition, which has gotten completely out of hand; what started as succinct lists from a handful of policy wonks has grown to thousands of words from dozens of bold faced names.

Still, looking back, our contributors have been fairly accurate. Subway fares have risen. Budget battles did rage at City Hall. A West Side stadium was proposed for the Jets. Massive civil disobedience did greet delegates at the Republican National Convention. And a "dark horse" named Mike Bloomberg did become mayor.

But sometimes hopes and dreams for the city cloud the view of the future - and our predictions have been a little off the mark. New York still does not have a commuter tax. Bus service has not improved. Governors Island will not become a Frank Gehry-designed garbage dump. And no one "put a retractable dome over the city and pumped in fragrances like apple pie or vanilla," as actor David Cross hoped last year.

Browse through past predictions for 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 - and below, read the latest predictions, for 2005.

Then make your own predictions on our Message Board.


David Dinkins, former New York City mayor: New York City is the greatest city in the world and in 2005, it will become even greater.

Jose Torres, former light heavyweight boxing champion and chairman of the New York State boxing commission: More people will discover that New York is the place where different groups can come together, work together, and love each other.

Edward T. O'Donnell, New York historian:
1. After 70 years of heroic effort, the city will admit that the campaign to get people to call Sixth Avenue the Avenue of the Americas has failed and that corporate naming rights will be auctioned.
2. Massachusetts-born Mayor Bloomberg will announce that he really is a Red Sox fan and that he's not going to seek re-election.
3. Full-wrap advertising now seen enveloping city buses will be extended to the Staten Island Ferries.
4. The City Council launches anti-superstition campaign by passing an ordinance requiring that all buildings renumber their floors to include the number 13.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City: As long as I'm mayor, we will keep crime down in the city.

Gifford Miller, Speaker of the New York City Council: Our city is at a crossroads: do we follow the path that puts pressure on Washington to provide New York with its fair share, or do we follow the path of Mayor Bloomberg and thank President Bush for his non-existent support?

Elizabeth Kolbert, writer for the New Yorker magazine: Predicting that New York politics will be dominated by intractable financial problems is about as risky as forecasting that the swallows will return to Capistrano. That being said, 2005 promises some particularly contentious -- and consequential -- fights, one over the MTA capital plan and another over school financing. The debate over the future of the West Side will also dominate the news. And at the end of it all will be the mayoral election. With Jon Corzine running for governor in New Jersey, and Michael Bloomberg seeking reelection in the city, it promises to be a very good year for political ad buyers.

Bill Thompson, New York City Comptroller: I forecast continued recovery and modest growth for both the New York City economy and its jobs market in 2005. Potential risks to the city's economy and recovery are high interest rates, higher oil prices, Wall Street decentralization and outsourcing. The weak U.S. dollar could slow the growth of imports and increase the foreign demand for American goods over the next year.

Eddy Tatum, Santa Claus bell ringer in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral: For the average New Yorkers, it's going to be tough. Rents and subway fare are going high. I'm working this job so I can get a little stipend. I am homeless, but the city is wasting $2,000 a month putting homeless people in hotel rooms, when for $600 or $800, I could live in an apartment.

Jami Bernard, film critic, New York Daily News: It's been a long time since the Moonies sold pencils on every corner, but with the country's turn toward the religious right, combined with the erosion of citizen privacy ("for security reasons!"), New York will succumb to a blizzard of sidewalk-blocking advice, soapbox rhetoric, bridge-crossing pat-downs and pamphleteering. Some of it's religious, some just plain intrusive. It's the beginning of the end to personal space where you can hear yourself think.

Naked Cowboy, street performer at Times Square (real name Robert Burck): Naked Cowboy will come to Times Square everyday in 2005. He's the biggest thing happening in the world!

Jeff Zucker, president of NBC/Universal: A pilot for a new drama set in the 1970's, called "NY70," will be filmed here in New York City. Four of the five Law & Order shows are filmed in New York, and we are considering bringing the fifth one here.

Lonnie Youngblood, singer and musician: New music venues are coming in and I just say 'Wow.' The renaissance in Harlem refuses to die.

Gregory Meeks, New York representative to U.S. Congress: The big story is going to be that we begin to build a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. That is going to create thousands of jobs, and thereby help improve the economy of New York City and lower the unemployment rate, and is going to be a tremendous success story for New York.

Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland and Paradise Alley: The real estate bubble will burst. The smug little mayor will get his stadium, wasting billions in needed tax dollars and continuing to wreck the West Side skyline begun so ably by Donald Trump. Transit fares will go up again. Public schools will go begging. New York will continue to be run, as it has been for nearly all of the previous 381 years, by self-interested men with little care or vision for preserving its greatness. Nonetheless the city will remain impervious to all the most dedicated attempts to destroy it, still far and away the most interesting single place in America.

Harold Levy, former schools chancellor: Kaplan buys Cornell University. Guy Vellela is nominated to the state parole board.

John Sexton, president of New York University: Everybody in New York City pays attention to the "F.I.R.E." sector: finance, insurance, and real estate. I think in the coming year we will pay more attention to the "I.C.E." sector: the intellectual, cultural, and educational strength of the city. We have more students in higher education per capita than any other American city. Too few of us know and celebrate that New York is the leading importer of college students from the other 49 states. This concentration of intellectual activity displays itself vividly in science: over 100 Nobel Laureates in science; 45 active members of the National Academy of Sciences in bioscience alone; the highest concentration of science students and post doctoral students; and more Ph.D.s granted in life science than 48 states. In short, we are the educational capital of the world.

James Oddo, Republican City Council member from Staten Island:
1.The big story is the mayor's race and everything that occurs locally will be filtered through that lens. An incumbent mayor running against the City Council Speaker will affect the budget negotiations.
2. Medicaid will continue to be a black hole that sucks up millions of tax dollars.
3. On the issue of NASCAR coming to Staten Island, I have trouble believing that supporters will see the checkered flag.

Nadia Bernic, owner of Terrace in the Sky restaurant on 119th Street: I think we will see more promotion uptown, celebrating the gorgeous buildings and culture and name recognition of Harlem.

Lloyd Williams, president of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce: I think the big story for 2005 is going to be the unanticipated election of a new mayor. Some think it's a foregone conclusion that Mayor Bloomberg will win, but I don't think that's going to happen. Also, New York City will not receive the bid for 2012 Olympics.

Syl Tang, CEO of HipGuide, Inc.:"I predict that in 2005 a subway ride will cost $8 except if you want to carry a blue deli cup of coffee on board, in which case it will be $3008 (the fine plus your fare) and the train will only be on time during Yankee games. Also New York will be declined for the Olympics (New Yorkers will celebrate) and a computer glitch will cause all computer systems to suffer a system fault on Midnight, December 31st, and the city will be plunged into stone-age darkness... Oh wait... Uh..."

Russell Pergament, publisher, AM New York: I predict a real resurgent New York City economy, especially in restaurants and entertainment. It's happening already, and I think it is going to be accelerated, especially downtown.

Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President: 1. In late summer, the inaugural cruise will set sail from Brooklyn to the Caribbean, marking the start of a major new industry and encouraging more tourism.
2. The new Target and Lowe's Brooklyn stores will outsell all their other American locations.
3. Steiner Studios in Brooklyn will challenge Hollywood's claim to fame as the most creative and exciting center of film production in America.
4. The Brooklyn Cyclones will once again
crush the Staten Island Yankees and keep the Borough President's Cup where it belongs — in the County of Kings.
5. Affordable housing will be included as part of any new housing built with public assistance in Brooklyn.
6. Brooklyn's waterways will host a regatta that will attract competitive sailing enthusiasts from around the globe.
7. Trader Joe's and Cracker Barrel will finally make it to the big time and arrive in Brooklyn.
8. The Parachute Jump at Coney Island will be a world-class source of light.
9. The Mets will have a championship season because they are now managed by Brooklynite Willie Randolph.
10. Brooklyn's Restaurant Week will grow even faster than its Borough President and the Lighten Up Brooklyn Campaign will be needed more than ever.

Andrew Heyward, president, CBS News: Everyone who can should make a New Year's resolution to pick a warm weekend and cycle or walk along the New York City waterfront greenway from Washington Heights to the Battery. Try the whole 13-plus miles or pick a section. You will rub elbows, sometimes literally, with fellow New Yorkers of every stripe, and you will see the waterfront pulsing with life and change and the spirit of the city.

Leslie Cagan, head of United for Peace and Justice:
1. More of our tax dollars will be pulled out of programs our communities depend on as the costs for the war in Iraq mount.
2. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers to fill the streets on May 1st to mark the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a call for complete, global nuclear disarmament. Will the mayor and parks commissioner learn from their mistakes and this time issue the permit being sought for a rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park that day? Only time will tell.
3. New Yorkers will make a strong statement of their rejection of the Bush administration's policies by sending the current Republican mayor on his way.

Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for New York Public Interest Research Group: I'm hoping the mayor will wake from his slumber and join the MTA in proposing ways to meet the $11 billion the agency needs to fix the existing subway system. And I wish him no luck ramming a West Side stadium down our throats.

Jonathan Bowles, research director for Center for an Urban Future: Governor Pataki's approval ratings plummet to new lows, due to mounting frustration over the poor performance of the upstate economy and his handling of the New York City school funding issue. Pataki will escape to a post in the Bush administration just as New Yorkers begin to compare him to recalled California governor Gray Davis.

New York will lose its bid for the Olympics, but city taxpayers will still be saddled with the costs of subsidizing a new stadium for the Jets after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agrees to sign off on the plan.

Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO Partnership for New York City:
1. Next year promises to bring continued economic growth across the five boroughs, with increases in private sector employment across such consumer-oriented sectors as education, health services, leisure and hospitality. New construction activity will also increase, fueled by sustained demand for additional housing and early starts on major infrastructure projects in Lower Manhattan and around the boroughs. On the flip side, the city's and state's fiscal problems will grow more challenging, with increased spending on Medicaid, pensions and public education outpacing revenue growth. There are some hard choices facing us in 2005.
2. This may be the year that we take a step to legalize gambling and capture some of the billions in revenues that Connecticut and New Jersey are generating as New Yorkers travel out of state for entertainment.

Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party: The movement to stop Wal-Mart from opening stores in New York City will generate more grassroots energy, but less media attention, than the fight against the Nets Arena or the Jets Stadium.

Health care will begin to surface as the dominant issue of the 2006 election cycle.

Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement Who Care:
1. Ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik will make a comeback. He is use to rising from adversity and this is just another chapter in the real life drama of his life.
2. The mayor will give public school teachers a contract that dramatizes that our most important commodity is our children.
3. MTA will raise fares and vote to extend their free riding privileges to their children and grandchildren.
4. Jennifer Lopez will marry her fourth husband, Mayor Bloomberg.
5. My nephew and cousin will leave Iraq safely and we will all say and mean the words "peace on earth."

Joseph Crowley, New York representative to U.S. Congress: Because of term limits, you're going to see a lot of changes politically in the city's landscape. The man with $4 billion is a tough opponent, but I think the Democrats are going to come together with a solid candidate and I think in the end will be successful.

Vito Fossella, New York representative to U.S. Congress: I hope the big story is that New York City continues to rebound and continues to grow from 9/11, and that it will remain the envy of the world. That should be the big story; New York City should be the place to be. And if Mike Bloomberg gets his record out in terms of what he has been able to do for New York, he will prevail. And I hope he does.

Jill Chaifetz, executive director for Advocates for Children: This year should be the year that New York City receives the funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. If things go right with the world, the first billion will actually start flowing by September, along with some portion of the 9 billion meant for school facilities.

Leonie Haimson, education advocate for Class Size Matters: I predict that next year the attention will shift away from how much additional funding the New York City schools will receive as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case to the need for more accountability in how this money will be spent.

Also, one of the major issues in the forthcoming mayoral elections will be how to reinstate the public voice in public education, as opposed to the autocratic style and priorities of the current administration.

I also predict that New York will not get the nod for the Olympics -- which will make it more unlikely that the Jets Stadium on the West side of Manhattan will ever materialize."

Brian Lehrer, WNYC public radio host:
1. In the New York City mayoral race, a "draft Bill Clinton movement" will inevitably spring up, draw one news cycle of a flirtatious comment from him, and then die when he quickly rules out a run. Bloomberg's money will loom large, but nevertheless, the Democratic primary campaign will be chock full of big names early: Gifford Miller, Anthony Weiner, Fernando Ferrer, Charles Barron, C. Virginia Fields. Fields will tout herself as the only woman in the race, but drop out for lack of funds. The remaining candidates will blast Bloomberg on various issues, prominently education reform. The primary will result in a runoff between Ferrer and the stronger of Miller and Weiner, probably Weiner, who will run a bit to everyone else's right. The runoff will echo some of the racial tensions of Ferrer-Green. Ferrer will win.

But no matter who the Democratic nominee is, Mayor Bloomberg will be easily re-elected. The same working and middle class property taxpayers who he became so unpopular with from the tax hike will come home to him as still more tax-averse than the Democrat, in an unusual coalition with liberal Manhattan "goo goo" voters who just think Bloomberg is an honest guy, even if he is buying the election. Education reform will be a net plus for Bloomberg among voters.

2. The State Legislature will finally pass a Campaign for Fiscal Equity compromise, phasing in $4.4 billion per year extra for New York City schools, while spreading the wealth statewide, including to suburban areas that don't need it, to cover the asses of the politicians who will vote for it rather than see a court-imposed system that only funds the city. Most of the new money will be promised for the later years of a five-year deal, exempting the 2005 mayoral candidates and 2006 gubernatorial candidates from taking much heat for the new tax burden.

3. The Jets Stadium will get approved after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver extracts city funding for his support - maybe even as part of a education funding deal. The Nets Stadium will be approved after Bruce Ratner further reduces use of eminent domain, and makes black community leaders interested in jobs his poster pols. New York City will not get the 2012 Olympics. Madrid probably will get the games, as a way to rub it in the faces of both Al Qaeda and Bush.

4. Governor Pataki will become really unpopular on both left and right as the chickens of his decade-long borrowing spree come home to roost. But the year will end with him seriously considering making a difficult run against Hillary Clinton in 2006, because hey what the heck?

Clarence Norman, member of the New York State Assembly and indicted political boss of Brooklyn: Expect the unexpected.


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