Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Next Year's Top Stories

Predictions '08

Oh woe is the idealistic political observer in 2007. Last year, nearly two-dozen journalists, City Hall observers and politicians predicted the taking-Albany-by-storm Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer (a.k.a. The Steamroller) would root out corruption and inefficiency upstate with his combative prosecutorial ways and reform-minded agenda.

"Spitzer will be very popular in his first year, despite a tough love budget," predicted WNYC's Brian Lehrer last December.

But that's not exactly what happened, is it? Spitzer's approval rating is treading in the thirties, and many Democrats polled said they would not vote him in for a second term.

While many of our so-called psychics may have missed the mark last year, Gotham Gazette is willing to give it another try.

Every December we ask New York's political know-it-alls and policy wonks to predict what could be in store for next year. For 2008, they predict a struggling economy - thanks to the mortgage meltdown - continuous scandals upstate and a presidential pulpit starring some well known New Yorkers.

Tom Robbins, reporter, The Village Voice

Rudy Giuliani defends Yankee steroid users. "What's wrong with wanting to be the best?" he insists.

Mike Bloomberg fires Dan Doctoroff as Bloomberg LP prez after learning he has cut a deal to sell the company to developer Steve Ross and government of Abu Dhabi.

Bernie Kerik cops a plea with federal prosecutors. Burly ex-corrections chief tells judge: "I did the crime and I can do the time -- standing on my head." Then he demonstrates.

Giuliani campaign is hit by scandal after Human Growth Hormone capsules are left behind in the New Hampshire hotel room of top campaign aide.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey resigns to take top campaign post with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Says: "I just couldn't wait any longer. Mike's great, but he couldn't make up his mind."

Eliot Spitzer gets his old mojo back and climbs in polls as Democrats take control of the State Senate.

Andrew Cuomo opens new Spitzer probe. Aides say: "This one makes Troopergate look like a lunchroom food fight."

Mike Wallace, co-author of "Gotham"

A lot of futurology amounts to assuming tomorrow will be just like today, plus or minus 5 percent. Given the power of inertia in history, would-be seers who bet that things will continue along the same trajectory aren't likely to go too far wrong.

In this cautious vein I foresee: another round of corporate mergers and concentration of capital (especially in finance); another increase in CEO salaries (for all the astonishing flubs that sent high officials out the window to float down on golden parachutes); more high-rise office and luxury housing development; more sub-prime foreclosures; more conspicuous Gilded Age type consumption; another round in the third great wave of immigration; a continuing decline in blue-collar jobs and increase in low-wage service sector positions; a worsening shortage of truly affordable housing (despite heroic efforts by the current administration); and, overall, a steady widening of the enormous chasms between Gotham's poor and rich and superrich.

Will the economy slow down?A trickier task is to spot the fault lines along which more seismic shifts might occur. Set aside a last minute lunatic lurch into Iran by cornered Bushies -- damn the National Intelligence Estimate, full speed ahead. Set aside, too, the arrival in New York -- the last domino? -- of the toppling real estate prices raising havoc elsewhere in the country, which might in turn torpedo many mega-developments (Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards).

These apart, the most worrisome source of instability -- not unrelated to the above -- stems from the ongoing transformation of the city's (and the world's) financial arrangements. The sloshing about of trillions of dollars in the largely unregulated speculative hedge fund and derivative markets has generated a level of buccaneering reminiscent of the 1920s. Given the city's hyper-vulnerability to perturbations in the global economy -- and given the gaping national budget and balance of payment deficits, the impatience of Europeans and others with the declining dollar, the possible quantum surge in oil prices and the conceivable cardiac arrest of credit markets shocked into seizure by subprime screwups -- the possibility of a global financial perfect storm, while remaining unlikely, can, alas, not be entirely excluded from the menu of worrisome possibilities for 2008.

New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan

After yet another year of losing $13 billion to congestion, political and traffic gridlock are broken for the first time by a congestion pricing plan that brings $350 million in federal aid to expand mass transit and get New York City moving.

Representative Charles Rangel

I can work with the new president, no matter who she is.

Next year the country and the world will know that the change in the administration will bring a new hope for world and peace.

The economic success New York City is having must be shared with the poor and working class. In the coming year we need to invest in housing— not just luxury housing, but affordable housing.

Jonathan Bowles, director, Center for an Urban Future

The city's crime rate goes up, housing prices begin to go down, the economy cools and at least one cupcake shop goes out of business.

Concerns about overdevelopment in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, the loss of New York's uniqueness and the squeezing of the middle class become the early hot button issues of the 2009 mayoral campaign.

Shelly Silver gets just about anything he wants from Governor Spitzer.

City Councilmember Simcha Felder

Ray Kelly will announce his candidacy for mayor in 2008.

The MTA will refund all MetroCard users 4 cents a year as a result of them increasing the fare so much. This is the equivalent of the $400 rebates the city is giving real estate owners - not very good.

The Brooklyn Bridge will be closed and affordable housing will be built on top of it to eliminate the problems that congestion pricing is trying to address. That way cars won't come into the city. All commuters from south Brooklyn will have to take the train.

Steven Cohen, professor of public administration at Columbia University

The Democrats will take the White House and hold onto the Congress.

Will he? Won't he?Rudy Giuliani will return to the private sector, but won't hire Bernie Kerik to work for him.

The federal Clean Air Act will be amended to regulate carbon dioxide and reduce global warming, President Bush will veto the bill and Congress will override his veto.

New York City will continue to export its garbage out of state and costs will continue to grow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will not run for president, and rumors that he will run for governor will continue to grow.

The Yankees and Mets will both get past the first round of the playoffs.

The Knicks will not get to the first round of the playoffs.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Plastic bags will be recycled by the thousands in neighborhoods around the city.

CouncilStat data will help constituents get their problems solved at lightning speed.

The Yankees and Mets will battle it out in a Subway Series.

Americans will elect our first female president.

Madison Square Garden will pay property taxes for the first time in decades.

Bruce Springstein's "Magic" will win the Grammy for album of the year.

More New Yorkers of all incomes will have access to healthy, nutritious foods.

Building on the success of its metal bat ban, the council will ban the words "metal bat ban."

Gotham Gazette will surpass Drudge in number of page views per day.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, senior fellow, The Manhattan Institute

The Bloomberg administration will continue its triumphant rezoning of the city, opening up more land for residential and commercial development than any administration in history, including major rezonings for 125th Street in Harlem, 161st Street in the South Bronx, Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens and West Shore in Staten Island. Yet as New Yorkers pursue their drive for living space, they will find that, contrary to the promises of economists, new supply will not bring down rents or prices. While property values may stall briefly in response to national economic problems, they will then return to their upward march, rising inexorably until they match those of London—our ruthless and successful competitor across the sea.

Don Hastings, actor, As The World Turns (interviewed on the Writer's Guild picket line outside the Time Warner Center)

Hopefully things like this (the Writer's Guild Strike) will get the city back to normal and will get more film and television production in this city. I'm hoping that all of this unrest in labor gets quickly and amicably resolved.

I think you've got a great mayor, and I wouldn't mind seeing him run for president. I'd hate to lose him in New York, but I'd like to see him in the White House.

City Councilmember Letitia James

Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination for the presidency and select John Edwards as her vice president.

The Atlantic Yards project will go down in flames.

Farehike? Chaos?

David Birdsell, professor and dean, School of Public Affairs at Baruch College

After suffering further damage in a difficult budget environment in the spring, Governor Spitzer will regain his footing with a series of popular, politically achievable policy proposals in 2008-09.

The scale of savings from a variety of "green" initiatives in New York will create new industries, new subsidies for start-ups, and make environmental sustainability the brightest spot in the local economy for the next two years.

Presidential candidates in both parties will continue to ignore the nation's cities.

Baby boomers will finally start using social networking sites in large numbers, but primarily for business and community organizing, not social encounters.

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

The Traffic Mitigation Commission will recommend programs to:

  • Lure motorists to automobile salvage yards using free MetroCards;
  • Impose a $15 surcharge for taxi cab riders who are snotty to their drivers;
  • Charge a $100 congestion fee on vehicles entering Manhattan, but only apply it to foreign visitors from Guatemala.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will change its "If you see something, say something" ad campaign to, "If you see something, feel free to laugh at us."

The now-independently run 7 line will secede from the transit system and re-route itself from midtown to downtown.

Mayor Bloomberg will recommend building new X subway line from his East Side townhouse to his vacation home in Bermuda.

Charles Geisst, professor of finance, Manhattan College, and author of several books about Wall Street, including "Wall Street: A History."

Poet e.e. cummings once remarked that, "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart." Given the current state of affairs in the credit and mortgage markets, 2008 will prove that many will be living apart since a recession is looming. On a cheerier note, there will be some reconciliations afterward.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone

Isaiah Thomas is finally fired, goes to work on Wall Street and loses $10 million on the first day in bad trades.

City Comptroller William Thompson

New York City's pace of economic growth will slow down, but the local economy will still generate 40,000 new jobs.

Tourism will remain a bright spot in the city's economy as foreigners take advantage of the weakened dollar.

The recent trend of companies relocating to New York City will accelerate as the city's inexhaustible capacity for creativity and innovation becomes more widely valued in uncertain times.

The mortgage debacle will continue to dominate the economic headlines in 2008 and emerge as a challenge to community stability. Its impacts will be mitigated somewhat in New York as the city's fundamental attractiveness makes the housing market more resilient than in many other places.

Ask the magic eight ball, will he run?

Michael Miscione, Manhattan borough historian

2008 will begin badly for city history lovers.

New Yorkers, ever oblivious to events that took place before they were born, will wonder why the number 1625 appears on the city seal. (The two oddly dressed figures also on the seal -- one in a loincloth and feathers, the other in a cap and knickers -- will elicit no such questions since they will be assumed to be Fashion Week models.) The question will leave government officials scratching their heads. The City Council will create a special committee to solve the mystery, but their findings will be inconclusive.

The best we could come up with, the chairman will say, is that 1625 probably represents the number of World Series wins by the New York Yankees. When asked how the committee came up with that theory, he will say, "Well, what number could possibly be more important than that?" The theory will be dashed, however, when someone points out that surely that figure is too small.

Things will pick up a little later in the year when another historical mystery is finally solved. Diggers of the Second Avenue Subway will stumble across a long-forgotten station built in the 1920s, when the line was first conceived. Long-lost Judge Joseph F. Crater, who was last seen entering an automobile in 1930, will be found impatiently pacing the platform and peering down the tracks. When asked what he is doing there, the judge will explain, "Traffic was murder, so I thought I'd try the train. But this is taking longer than I ever imagined."

How true, judge. How true.

Andrea Batista Schlesinger, executive director, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy:

I predict that New York City government will finally understand that New York City cannot function as a city of the super wealthy and everyone else, and that creating public policy that enables the middle class to actually live here is as high a priority today as targeting crime was in the 1990s.

I predict that, at some point in 2007, NYC's elite will get fed up with being an ATM for aspiring presidential candidates who have no ideas about how to save our nation's cities.

I predict that New York City will make a strong stand against global warming by getting people out of their cars and onto a strengthened system of public transit.

Nicole Gelinas, co-editor, City Journal

2008 will be the year in which New York City figures out that Wall Street's now-six-month-old "credit crunch" isn't temporary. The crisis may become less acute, but sharply lower volume in one of Wall Street's bread-and-butter industries -- securitization of not only residential mortgage assets but of commercial loans as well -- will be the new normal for a while. Depressed volume on Wall Street will hurt personal income and job creation as well as cut tax collections: property taxes, property-transfer taxes, income taxes, and business taxes.

In a related matter, 2008 also will be the year in which New Yorkers realize that the fact that the richest part of the city is on an island doesn't insulate Gotham from the housing-market slump that's started to bring prices closer to earth in the rest of the nation. And no, the Europeans aren't going to save us from reality by buying up our property, residential or commercial. Just like the rest of us, Europeans have been buying property here only because they expect to reap double-digit percentage gains on that property every year; when that stops, the buying will stop.

Roberta Reardon, national president, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

It's going to be a very busy year for the entertainment business, negotiations wise. The writers are on strike now; we hope they will come to an agreement soon. The director's guild has announced they will probably go to the table in January.

AFTRA is negotiating their network code in mid-January with the networks, which covers 80 percent of television.

Then in June AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild both have their prime time theatrical negations come due. These are all with the same employers that these people are on strike against right now, and it's all the same issues. It's digital. It's new media.

It's going to be a very tough fight. We're certainly watching what the Writer's Guild is doing, and I'm sure when the directors go to the table we'll be watching them as well.

Hopefully this (the writers) will be the only strike, because this industry can't take repeated strikes.

Alexandra Pelosi, HBO documentary filmmaker

The end of network television as we know it.

Jad Abumrad, host and producer, WNYC's Radio Lab

I've got a Bridge to Sell youAs election season heats up, I predict another round of entertaining (but not to be trusted) brain research into what, anatomically, separates blue-staters from the reddies.

Last prediction: 2008 will see the rise of the personal surveillance industry - targeted at those of us who can't trust ourselves.

Councilmember Tony Avella

What a wonderful city it would be if in 2008 ...

The City Council voted to abolish the anti-good government practice of issuing "lulus" to members and formally establish the position as a full time job, prohibiting outside income.

The mayor recognized that the Department of Buildings is in total chaos and undertakes a complete overhaul of the agency.

The City Council becomes a more open, transparent democratic body with committee chairpersons being able to schedule hearings and set committee agendas.

The mayor keeps promises made during his 2005 re-election campaign to rezone neighborhoods throughout the city to protect their residential character and stop the rampant overdevelopment.

The City Council truly considers community input and puts residents' interests before the interests of the real estate industry.

Eminent domain is not misused and the rights of private property in this city are respected.

And, City Council meetings actually start on time!

We can only hope....


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