Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

To Speak of City Issues That Matter

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It’s been reported that we’ve recently broke a milestone for public housing in New York City: There are now more applicants for public housing than there are apartments in public housing. Specifically, there are some 227,000 applicants and only some 178,900 units total in the city, about 3% of which may actually become available in any one year.

Mind you: That’s not a quarter million people. That’s a quarter million applicants – both individuals and families. It actually works out to half a million people. We have a transient population in New York of half a million people. That puts us in the in the same ballpark as eastern Chinese cities, except they’ve been doing something about it.

Bloomberg’s response was to tie “affordable” housing with luxury development – wherein each new building has to have some 20% of housing that is affordable, but it’s simply not enough. The average monthly rent in New York, despite economic stagnation and collapse, shot up from $1200 in 2002 to $1900 in 2011, with Manhattan alone being over $3400, as demand completely outstripped supply.

This is a crisis. It’s not new – we’ve had a crisis since before I was born, which is why we made rent control and rent regulation (and thank god for that or I wouldn’t be able to live in this city) – but it’s worse than ever before. Each of the Democratic candidates for mayor have proposed to build new housing, but the numbers they give wouldn’t even make a dent in the magnitude of the problem, should they even achieve them, and their plans are actually dwarfed by what Bloomberg’s succeeded in doing. (Indeed, they seem to have fallen on the “we feel your pain” route as of late in lieu of actual plans.)

Today, we have China-sized problems. We need China-sized solutions. We need to flood this city with housing, and damn the NIMBYs. Bloomberg prompted a building boom:¬†We need a boom to make that one look like a store-bought firecracker. We simply cannot have this outsized underclass eking away an existence nor can we truly afford to price out people who could make a living practically everywhere else in the country. We’re causing working New Yorkers to exist in an untenable tenancy situation, which is driving down the economy overall.

We need a New Deal shot in the arm. We’ve needed that for at least ten years. I know Obama isn’t FDR, but can he at least pretend to be?

Freedom of Religion

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is not dictated by popular vote.

The strongest point of our democracy is not that it reflects the will of the majority, but that it protects the rights of the minority. We are not governed by mob rule.

Trafficking

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A few NYC cabbies are found out to be double-charging for trips, and people go ballistic.* Don’t they know that the only people allowed to gouge the American public are bankers, government contractors and insurance providers? Meanwhile hamburgers still go for $25 in Times Square, so in reality it’s only a crime if they force locals to pay these ridiculous rates.

Consequently, imagine my surprise at just how far Bloomberg’s gotten to documenting everybody (and the NYPD have been doing so a bit more aggressively as well) when, in hailing a gypsy cab up in Washington Heights I found that, to a man, they now had little plastic cards with the NYC logo showing their licenses and a bill of rights for customers, including how very illegal it was to hail them. It didn’t stop ’em from ferrying me around, but hey: We must keep appearances, no?

Speaking of appearances, a Mercedes ad has cropped up on the pages of Bike Snob and Streetsblog, where some guy in a Mercedes SUV enjoys a leisurely trip while losing time in a race with a frenetic bike messenger. The former scoffs at the ridiculous route the Mercedes driver took, the latter rails against how they make Manhattan bikers look like maniacs. Well, this ain’t Amsterdam, after all (though I do have special enmity against one-speeds). They both forgot the most important part of the whole exercise: Where the hell is that guy gonna park a goddamn SUV in Brooklyn Heights?

*Seriously, get over yourselves, people. An extra $4 a trip average ain’t gonna break the bank if you’re taking cabs in the first place, it’s a scam as easy to catch as watching the meter tick once, 3,000 cabbies outta an estimated 39,000 – what with the high turnover rate – is far from universal, and saying you’re “not going to tip out of spite” or how we should “revoke their green cards” is petty and racist.

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