Priorities for our new governor
“Day One” has come and gone in Albany and now Governor Eliot Spitzer’s real work changing Albany begins. The new governor has laid out an ambitious agenda that will need deft political skills and public support to enact.
Downtown, admittedly, has been one of the beneficiaries of “three men in a room” government because one of the guys has been and is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The speaker, who represents Lower Manhattan, continues to serve the district and state well but change is needed, including more open government and a reining in of the money.
One of the most important and politically difficult reforms proposed by Spitzer is to set up a nonpartisan commission to draw district lines for the Assembly and State Senate. It is more common for Albany legislators to get indicted than lose a re-election bid. New York is one of the bluest states in the country, yet the G.O.P. has had a lock on the State Senate because of unfair district lines. Nonpartisan district panels have been tried in other places, and New York should draw from the best examples around the country.
Closer to home, we appreciate Spitzer’s promise to look at Lower Manhattan redevelopment with a set of “fresh eyes,” particularly the Freedom Tower, which is being built with massive public subsidies. The memorial and a World Trade Center cultural center are two projects we particularly hope the governor puts on the front burner.
Spitzer has already moved to take control of the two most important public authorities, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority. We look forward to hearing the new leader’s specific views on issues like the proposed rail link to Lower Manhattan, the Second Ave. subway and World Trade Center redevelopment. New York is expected to get almost $2 billion in transportation money related to 9/11, and it is essential this money is spent to help Downtown, which bore the economic brunt of the attack on America and has always been crucial to New York’s well-being.
On another authority, Spitzer has five appointees on the Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors. His first appointee, Carol Ash, is an ex officio, or automatic, appointment, under the Hudson River Park Act, since she is Spitzer’s new State Parks commissioner. Ash has a long record of involvement with parks, and we’re glad Spitzer chose a committed advocate to head State Parks, rather than using it as a political plum. We hope his subsequent appointments to the Trust’s board including, we expect, a new chairperson are as qualified.
Pier 40, for which a request for proposals has elicited two competing proposals, will be high on the Trust’s agenda. A top panel of board members will be needed to assess whether one, or perhaps even none, of these proposals should be selected. The Trust will have its work cut out for it.
We have liked most of what we have heard from candidate and Governor Spitzer so far. Let Day Two begin.