Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mike Lupica: When Bloomberg and Pataki Say They Are Trying To Save The Gov't Some Money, Hold Onto Your Wallets

Omigosh, the New York Daily News publishes just its second critic of the hardline bargaining positions of Mayor Moneybags and Governor Bagman took during the transit strike:

This is no defense of Roger Toussaint of the TWU, no defense of the strike that tried to cripple the city for a couple of days near Christmas. But now that the strike has been settled, do not make George Pataki or tough-talking Michael Bloomberg or Peter Kalikow of the MTA into heroes of the city just because they were on the other side. They are not heroes. They are politicians. It is clear by now that when these particular politicians talk about the finances of this city, it is not just transit workers who should keep a hand on their wallets.

Everybody should.

At a time when the three of them, the governor, the mayor and Kalikow of the MTA, wring their hands about the future of New York City, when they make it seem as if that future somehow is tied to the pension fund of the transit workers, please remember that they are the same people who wanted to give away the Hudson Railyards to the New York Jets football team so that the Jets could build a football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.

Those 13 acres are the last great undeveloped piece of Manhattan. Pataki and Bloomberg and Kalikow were ready to give it away to another rich guy — Woody Johnson, the slow owner of the Jets — for what amounted to tipping money.

Kalikow, hero of the strike, was originally going to sell land appraised at $900 million — MTA land — to the Jets for $100 million.

Then he acted like the roughest character in town by getting them to raise their bid to one third of the appraised value. Kalikow only did that at the time because Cablevision had come in with an offer to buy the land for $400 million and then put up the $350 million to build platforms over the railyards.

When Bruce Ratner, the most caring owner in all of sports, saw an opening to build 17 high-rise buildings around Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson in Brooklyn, all these high-minded politicians who squeezed transit workers this week immediately rolled over for Ratner, too. Another land grab by a rich owner, another time when the biggest politicians in the city and state did everything except put a bow around the property.

Again: We are all in perfect agreement that this is a strike that hurt everybody. Nobody wanted it. Nobody liked it. So many innocent people got hurt by it you couldn't begin to count them.

Toussaint's place in the city's history is fixed, and there is little he can do about it. But please note that in the last hours before the strike, as News columnist Michael Daly pointed out the other day, the MTA got up in the face of this union and demanded new TWU workers pay 6% of their salary into pensions.

This is the same MTA that offers sweetheart deals to any rich sports owner who comes along with a hand out. This is the same governor, the same mayor, who were prepared to roll over for Woody Johnson.

These are the guys who taught the members of the TWU a lesson this week.

How come nobody on NY1 or WNBC or WCBS or WABC or the news radio channels or the New York Times or the New York Daily News or the New York Post or the New York Sun brought up last week that Bloomberg and Patak were ready to give away the West Side rail yards for pennies on the dollar and are still giving away MTA land in Brooklyn in a sweetheart deal with real estate developer Bruce Ratner?

How come only Roger Toussaint and the TWU were the bad guys last week for trying to stand up and protect their wages, pensions, and health care benefits?

Might it be that NY1 and WNBC and WCBS and WABC and the news radio channels and the New York Times and the New York Daily News and the New York Post and the New York Sun are corporate-owned entities fully pushing the anti-union, pro-union-busting politics of their owners?

Might it be that the reporters and media people in New York City, doing the propaganda work for the owners of their respective papers and news outlets, are hypocrites and liars who are selling the public a bill of goods instead of telling us the truth about the economic realities in this city?

Might it be the newspapers are just publishing bullshit and the radio and TV stations airing lies?

Mike Lupica is one of the VERY few journalists working for a major news outlet who has actually connected the dots on the MTA, elected officials, and wealthy developers and sports-team owners.

He deserves a Pulitzer, and the gratitude of all New Yorkers.
Right on. I would only add that I and my co-blogger have been screaming since the beginning of the strike that the MTA was forcing a confrontation specifically so that it could get rid of the union and pursue its sweetheart land deals in peace--remember, the union leaked some of the information on just how shoddy these deals were for the public and just how shady the MTA is. Now, having precipitated a confrontation, as "punishment" for the strike, the MTA will get Pataki to the revoke the TWU's ability to collect dues automatically. And as you say, nobody is connecting the dots.
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