This being, apparently, a time to talk about decadence, (or at least the L Magazine’s Decadence Issue,) I have been trying to think of a suitably decadent subject for this column. This being New York, there’s no shortage of decadence, but I’m not so interested in 25-million-dollar apartments, or 12-day cocaine parties, or whatever it is that the over-funded and under-intelligent get themselves up to. And then, today on the radio I heard that our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is worth six billion dollars. BILLION. SIX. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he was worth a good deal of money, certainly a billionaire, but I imagined between one and two billion... tops. How naive I am.
So what is one man, with one child, going to do with six billion dollars? Can he spend it, in one lifetime? The New York Times just reported that the NYC Housing authority is facing a budget shortfall of $168 million — a pittance in the face of $6 billion. And to make it up, they’ll be raising fees for their tenants, some 400,000 low-income New Yorkers, on services like unclogging toilets.
And yet, the 2007 New York City budget anticipates a surplus, one that permits the allocation of $265 million for “parks and infrastructure at the new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets” two “public” spaces being provided for private enterprise. The $400 property tax rebate (just what it sounds like, a check for $400 mailed to every city property owner who is up-to-date on their tax payments: wouldn’t want to knock $400 off the tax bills of those who might actually need the money) will be continued for the next three years. Sure, there are some lower-income folks who own one-, two-, and three-family houses, or condominiums or co-ops, but the average price of a New York City apartment is well over a million dollars. $400 means a pair of shoes, or a nice dinner out to the “average” NYC property owner.
So, we’ve got the six-billion-dollar mayor, a three-billion projected surplus, and a compiler of the “Rich List” reports there are at least 168 billionaires in New York City, and we’re chucking money back to property owners. Meanwhile, there are homeless people (still), a child welfare system that’s barely functioning, and a school system that no rich, or even upper-middle class New Yorkers will send their children to.
I know Mike Bloomberg gives a lot of money to charity, and I know this isn’t Sweden. But if you want to talk about issues of decadence in New York City, this is a good place to start.