NYC Postmortem

So I step in after my colleague’s hard crash, like a child coming back down hard to earth after a mad sugar rush, he could be out for days by the look of it, to wrap up our New York City sojourn.

As any good trip away should, we return home with a heightened appreciation of where we live. At least, most of us do. Acaphlegmic went missing Monday night, staying aboard the uptown bound N train as the two of us hopped off at our stop. He had a plan, he said, that did not include us. With that, he was gone, destined for the upper regions of Manhattan or, quite possibly, Queens.

In terms of vibrancy and self-assurance, there really is no other place that compares to New York. It is the centre of the known universe and is well aware of that fact. To bask in its aura even for just a few days, is to acquire a taste, ever so fleetingly, of what it is like to wield true power.

That’s fun for awhile but the responsibility becomes a bit much for us mere mortals to bear. We make our way back home with the knowledge that we are not, ultimately, made of the sterner stuff needed to survive a serious go in such an unforgiving environment. Failure is not an option, as the movies tell us, so we retreat to our slightly more humble surroundings.

Where we have a little more space. A little more tranquility. Where the food is just as good and less pricey and precious. Where we have long since abandoned the idea of building subways.

Did you know that New York City is still building subways? How is that possible? I thought our American neighbours took it in the economic cojones much harder than we did. Especially at ground zero of the meltdown, home to your Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. So how are they going about such extensive public transit infrastructure spending while we fiddle and fart over extending LRTs?

Then I came across this little tidbit in the Wall Street Journal yesterday at the airport:

Top New York real-estate executives and the City Council speaker will make an 11th-hour push Wednesday to persuade the White House to back federal funding for a second subway station as part of the extension of the No. 7 line in Manhattan.

Officials from the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will meet in Washington with Vice President Joe Biden’s staff in hopes of securing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.

What’s that then?! A New York City councillor and some members of the real estate association have an audience with the US Vice-President, the second most powerful man in the world, trying to secure federal funding for one subway station!? I mean, wasn’t he just over in Israel trying to kick start peace in the Middle East? Remember when Toronto was trying to secure some federal infrastructure money last summer and were told by the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to go fuck ourselves because we hadn’t crossed our Ts and dotted our Is to their satisfaction?

Maybe cities get the respect they deserve. As long as we continue to grovel at the feet of senior levels of government, begging them to pony up cash they took from us in the first place, we’ll continue to be second class citizens. By taking seriously would-be mayoral candidates who call financial negotiations with the province ‘going cap in hand’, Toronto is simply acknowledging the fact that we’re an after-thought, a voter rich zone with little actual power and zero influence.

I’m not proposing we be like New York. That’s impossible and undesirable. What I would like, however, is to occasionally strut like New York, swing some serious pipe like New York. To simply stop acting like we’re not worthy to be treated like a world class city by the very politicians we elect to serve us. I’m not alone in appreciating where I live. It’s time to demand our elected officials do the same.

stridently submitted by Urban Sophisticat

3 thoughts on “NYC Postmortem

  1. Dear Urban
    It is our opinion at the Parkdale Party that our Mayor Miller is currently doing exactly the kind of “strutting” and “swinging some serious pipe” you are suggesting with his campaign to regain the provincial funding for his Transit City. His idea of strutting and swinging is to make lapel pins and mumble on the subway speaker system encouraging us to swing our individual pipes at the Province. And how is that working out right now? A few days of banter and its gone! The man is trying to embarrass McGuinty into restoring funding. Good God, that’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
    In order to swing a pipe you’ve got to have a pipe, and currently our fair city simply doesn’t. In this case the pipe would be credibility. With credibility comes respect and very few people outside of the downtown core have any respect for our Municipal leaders.
    If Mayoral candidates such as George Babula were given any decent exposure then our citizens would see that there are different, and much better, ways to run this city. The same old, same old, just doesn’t, cut it anymore. Even if George doesn’t win, with greater exposure of his campaign platform, at least he would have succeeded to open up the minds of the new Council later this year.
    If the city is run in a professional manner then it will have something to strut about. Until then we just don’t have the pipes to swing and end up looking like fools. There is little worse than a strutting fool.

    • Dear Walt,

      While we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke realize that credibility is a major plank in your candidate’s platform, we fail to see any lack of credibility on this particular issue on the part of the city or mayor. They had a funding agreement in place for Transit City with the federal and provincial governments which the provincial government reneged on—oops—delayed. If there’s a lack of credibility anywhere it’s with the premier and his minions.

      The mayor’s reaction to the province withdrawing its support for Transit City with the lapel pins and subway announcements may prove ineffectual and ultimately useless but we think that speaks more to the powerlessness municipalities possess in the face of provincial government capriciousness than any sort of lack of credibility. We’d be interested in hearing how you, Mr. Babula and the Parkdale Party plan on securing more control of our political fate at the city level other than relying solely on establishing credibility. That goes only so far when dealing with untrustworthy partners.

  2. Dear Cityslikr

    We understand your perspective completely and would like to clarify the issue of credibility. Our position is that the Province recognizes that there just isn’t enough transparency in the operation of City Hall so its difficult to believe the information coming from there. When they “find” a $100 million, or Mr. Miller finds a cheque on his desk for $20 million (our desk is a freaking mess but we would know if a $20 million cheque was missing), our first reaction would be to say “keep looking, maybe there’s more!” In our opinion this demonstrates to the Province that either you don’t have full knowledge of your financial circumstances, or you’re not telling the whole truth. Not sure if there are other options but neither of these two gives us much confidence in the management team at the Hall and it probably scared the crap out of the Province. Once it can be demonstrated that the City has nothing else stuffed into the mattress then perhaps some honest open discussions can take place instead of the back-room crap that seem to be ongoing. This is the lack of credibility that we see in the Mayor and the City.

    We believe that the Province would be very foolish to ignore the needs of Toronto but perhaps they feel that they would be just as foolish if they gave in to the wants, if they can’t tell the wants from the needs. It is our opinion that if our city had credibility as a well run corporation then it would have the required respect from the Province and mutually beneficial actions will follow. To us simple folk something stinks when the Province reneges on their promise. Either there was no promise to begin with, something was lost in the translation, or something ugly happened on the way to the bank. Perhaps the Province expected to get a certain amount from an equity mortgage only to find out that their house is not worth as much as they thought? What is the truth? Who knows?

    Transparency will bring efficiency, and efficiency will bring trust. A trusting relationship with the Province will lead to credibility on both sides with resultant mutual respect, and then a deal is easy to make. No credibility leads to no trust and no trust to no deal. This is the chain we believe exists between the City and the Province.

    Is there a better reason why the Fliberals would attack the core of their support? We don’t think so, unless there is much more crap going on behind the closed doors that is hidden from us unwashed masses.

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