Friday, February 15, 2002

Getting Worse.

A while back, I wrote a grim column about the future of New York City. Looking back on what I wrote, I now think that I probably understated things.

The basic math is straightforward. New York City's $43 billion budget is roughly $4.8 billion in the red. The cost of debt service will escalate dramatically in the upcoming "out" years, leaving less money for basic services. A study conducted by the world's leading consulting firms found that September 11th amounted to an $83 billion hit, not all of which will be covered by insurance and federal disaster relief. Not surprisingly, tax receipts are down sharply. And byte flight -- the departure of information age companies from Manhattan -- is proceeding apace. Recently, both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs announced they would be relocating some of their operations to, respectively, White Plains and New Jersey. There are literally dozens of other firms that will soon be packing up parts of their operations and heading out to the Island, or Connecticut or Westchester County or New Jersey (or, for that matter, Dallas, Atlanta and Virginia).

As bad as all that is, what's truly disturbing is what a friend of mine calls the return of the menace. The other day my wife was driving to work and was accosted by a squeegee man on Columbus Avenue. Another friend was chased down the street by a crazed homeless person, who threatened my friend with death by box-cutter ("I'll box-cutter you, you little faggot" were his exact words). Everywhere you go in New York City these days, there's a keen sense that the menace, which was simply not tolerated during the Giuliani era, is back.