Imagine if construction crews had just bulldozed most of the Ground Zero wreckage a few blocks further down West Street - and then took this summer off. In effect, that's how Albany and City Hall responded when, in the wake of 9/11, the state and city budgets plunged into the fiscal equivalent of a 10-story-deep, debris-filled hole in the ground.
Consider the Gotham Corporation - a multibillion-dollar service conglomerate given up for dead in the mid-1970s and widely written off as an Old Economy dinosaur just a decade ago, only to emerge as one of the great turnaround stories of the 1990s.
In a single year, New York State's finances have been knocked out of kilter by a deep stock market slump, a national recession and an unprecedented terrorist attack aimed right at the heart of its tax base. The result, says Gov. Pataki, has been a loss of $7 billion in revenue.
As if New York's economy wasn't already stressed enough, there's a renewed push in the City Council for a local "living wage" law that could hinder the city's economic renewal while reducing job opportunities for the very people it is supposed to help.
The two New Yorks - city and state - were the nation's twin towers of public indebtedness long before the tragic events of Sept. 11 placed extraordinary new strains on their budgets.
Will the next mayor restore New York's battered, post-9/11 economy? The candidates' recovery plans don't inspire much confidence.
Most of Mark Green's answers come out of the 1930s. And while Michael Bloomberg seems to have learned a few lessons from the '90s, he's still reluctant to embrace the most growth-oriented elements of the Giuliani philosophy.
Giuliani took office declaring that city government was too big and taxes were too high. His first two budgets cut the headcount of city employees and reduced spending, setting the stage for both tax cuts and a series of surpluses.
The best that can be said of New York City's just-negotiated tentative contract with its principal public-employee union, District Council 37, is that it will expire relatively soon, in June 2002. Meanwhile, the agreement sets a costly precedent at a time when the city's budget picture is dimming.