Some wishes for the new year


With the end of the year fast approaching, our thoughts naturally turn to the ongoing and unmitigated tragedy that the Iraq war has become for the Iraqi people, the Middle East, America and the rest of the world. This misbegotten adventure of the Bush administration will have no easy ending and no moral high road or victory. Our soldiers are now mired in the middle of a brutal civil war between rapidly shifting political and religious factions, and the worst is probably yet to come. We hope to see political processes that lead to the end of killing of civilians and soldiers — a tall order — and substantial reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq.

On the local front — such a world away — we are at peace, which permits us the luxury of turning to such mundane problems as congestion and traffic in the big city, parks and rezoning.

Our wish would be that 2007 would see the beginning of studies to reveal all of the benefits of making drivers pay to clog our streets. Traffic is on our minds because it’s always bad during the Christmas season. This year it seemed even worse. We have long backed East River bridge tolls, politically, a difficult policy change. Lately, there’s been more talk of congestion pricing, that is charging drivers the costs of using some of the city’s scarcest resources — street space in Midtown and Lower Manhattan during the day. Congestion pricing could include bridge tolls. A recent Manhattan Institute study suggests ways to sell congestion pricing politically, and a study by the Partnership for New York City — an organization of the city’s most powerful business leaders — estimated traffic delays cost businesses $13 billion a year. These pro-business groups are welcome additions to the fight for cleaner air and less crowded streets, and hopefully their pressure will help move City Hall, which — like the gridlock itself — is stalled on this issue.

Locally, on the embattled Washington Square Park renovation, we’d like to see the Parks Department relent and re-present its plans to Community Board 2 — fully and faithfully this time — so that there’s genuine community dialogue and input. At Pier 40, the community’s wishes to maintain the well-used athletic and parking facilities and not add anything that will negatively impact these uses, the park or the neighborhood are paramount.

At Union Square, Parks must accept that a pavilion restaurant won’t fly — either with the community or local politicians — and retool its proposal and start renovating the playgrounds.

Regarding the East Village and Lower East Side, the proposed rezoning should be done — but without any slight upzoning on side streets or any zoning bonus for developers on E. Houston and Delancey Sts. without their first committing to include affordable housing. As for the old P.S. 64, we hope owner Gregg Singer stops chipping and suing and starts working with the community to end the stalemate over this treasured building, so it can be restored as a neighborhood hub.

Hopefully, the State Liquor Authority continues its newfound sensitivity to residents’ concerns on oversaturation and safety, achieving a healthier balance of nightlife and quality of life.

On bicycles — an important transportation and health issue — we were heartened by the administration’s commitment to add 200 miles of new bike paths. Sadly, still more must be done, as seen by the two recent cyclist deaths on the Hudson Park path.

And last, we welcome Eliot Spitzer as governor and wish him the best as he tries to reform Albany, making Downtown Manhattan and all of New York a better place.