Monday, September 26, 2011

NBA Lockout Could Hurt NYC Economically

The National Basketball Association's (NBA) team owners have locked out the NBA players and cancelled the first several games of the 2011-2012 preseason. As regular season games become vulnerable to cancellation, the economy of NYC and of the United States may be harmed.

The Lockout

The owners of NBA teams started the lockout in early July as collective bargaining talks broke down. Team owners have stated that twenty-two of the thirty NBA teams lose money and that the losses total more than $300 million. There has been no attempt by the owners to prove that there are indeed twenty-two teams losing more than $300 million, and the owners have refused to reveal any of their financial results to the players or to the players' union. The lockout is created entirely by the owners, and is not a "strike" in which the players would refuse to continue working under the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In the lockout, the players are forbidden from practicing or playing as a team by the owners, who refuse to continue operating under the previous agreement.

Malcolm Gladwell has argued that NBA owners are not generally behaving like business owners but instead are enjoying the psychic benefits of owning high profile entertainment assets. He reminds us that the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball refused to have any Black players until long after Black players were present on all other teams and that their choice to remain all-white cost them a large amount of money. Because the owner of the Red Sox enjoyed the psychic benefits of enforcing his dogma of white racial superiority, he was willing to lose millions of dollars. His love of racism was greater than his love of (or need for) additional profits.

In the current NBA lockout, though the owners have not opened up their books, the players have offered to reduce their share of NBA revenue from 57% to 54.3%, a reduction that would cause more than one-half of one billion dollars to be shifted from the players to the owners over the next five years. The owners have rejected that suggested reduction and demanded a reduction to less than 50% of revenue. Such a dramatic reduction has no chance of being agreed to by the players. The stalemate has caused some preseason games to be cancelled. Soon, early season regular season games will be cancelled, and then, we'll face the potential cancellation of the entire season.

With most teams claiming to lose money, the NBA owners may prefer not to play the upcoming season rather than to play the season and absorb the losses.

If the season is not played, the fans will lose out, and the economies of both NYC and the United States might be harmed in the process.

Economic Impact

Every NBA team is scheduled to play 41 home games in the 2011-2012 season. Cancelling those games will affect the venues where the games are played and the cities of the NBA teams more generally.

Here in NYC, we have two NBA teams in the metropolitan area. The New York Knicks play their games in Manhattan, and the New Jersey Nets play their games in Newark, NJ (the Nets will play all of their home games in Brooklyn starting with the 2012-2013).

A cancellation of the 2011-2012 season carries major risks for our local economy. The travel industry will lose hotel revenue; restaurants will be harmed. Food vendors, sporting goods vendors who sell replica jerseys, and the cable channels that broadcast the games will lose revenues; advertising spending will decline.

It is likely that the Knicks and Nets are teams that are profitable. If they are, a cancelled season also eliminates the profits of two major local businesses.

In these difficult times, a cancelled NBA season is the last thing we need. Perhaps Gladwell can appreciate that beyond the economic challenges that a cancelled season would cause, there is psychic damage that the owners will cause all of us if they deny us basketball this year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alexander Hamilton's Historic Home Re-Opens in Harlem

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton's home from 1802 to 1804 in Harlem has been re-opened to visitors by the National Park Service after a $14.5 million restoration.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton is one of the most important figures in United States history. He helped lead the military success of the colonies during the Revolutionary War; he signed the Constitution on behalf of the New York State delegation to the Constitutional Convention, and he led the campaign for adoption of the Constitution by the States. Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and his economic thoughts have had a potency that have made them the guiding principals of the economic systems of many of the world's largest economies in the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries.

Only Benjamin Franklin ranks with Alexander Hamilton as a non-President whose face appears on United States paper currency. Hamilton appears on the $10 bill, and Franklin appears on the $100 bill.

Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton was the son of an Irish father and a Dutch mother. He made his home in Upper Manhattan and lived in a home he built and called the "Grange" until his death in 1804.

Hamilton Grange Reopened

Hamilton's home remained in Upper Manhattan after his death and was moved once, but it only moved a block. It was then moved one more block in 2008 and restored after falling into disrepair and being reduced in size to fit into a tight space as the Manhattan street grid stretched northward.

The $14.5 million restoration has transformed the historic home back into what it was in 1802, but it has also added modern touches.
As stated in the New York Times:
A crisp, intelligent exhibition about Hamilton and his accomplishments has been mounted on the basement level, created by the National Park Service. It includes a interactive video display in which questions about Hamilton are answered by an avatar speaking Hamilton’s own words.
The restored Hamilton home is likely to be a destination for visitors in Manhattan for many years to come. It will help teach new generations to respect the accomplishments and views of Alexander Hamilton, and it will help reinforce the origins of the name of the Harlem neighborhood in which it sits - Hamilton Heights.

The Hamilton Grange reopened last week with great fanfare. As a National Park Service site in the midst of a New York City park, the reopening is an example of cooperation between national and local authorities. Such cooperation is dreamt of in the Constitution that Hamilton defended so eloquently and so effectively when it was itself more a dream than reality.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten Years Later - Commemorating Heroism and Loss in Manhattan

Yesterday, Manhattan was the focus of the largest commemorations of the heroics and of the loss of loved ones experienced on September 11, 2001.

The five-hour ceremony in Lower Manhattan captivated the world yesterday, and the opening of the World Trade Center Memorial today helped ensure that we never forget those lost on September 11, 2001.

May God Bless America . . . from sea to shining sea.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bloomberg Domestic Violence Cover-Up

Mayor Bloomberg's cover-up of the domestic violence arrest of one of his highest ranking staff members is a new low for his administration.

Strange, Ugly Week for NYC's Mayor

Last week gave us a front-row seat to witness an ugly turning point in the Bloomberg Administration's reign.
Mayor Bloomberg has had failures and disappointments during his tenure, but he has typically been overly critical of personal failures (Plaxico Burress, smoking). We have been critical of the Mayor, but watching the Mayor get caught attempting to execute a classic political cover-up is both strange and disappointing. He has supported ultra-racist policing in our city. He has presided over the ruinous debacle of an educational system where only 28% of black males graduate high school. He has sought regressive taxes and punished the poor for being poor. But, Bloomberg has never shown a willingness to engage in a cover-up or to protect perpetrators of domestic violence, until now.

The Mayor had other ugly realities emerge last week as well. His administration demonstrated an unyielding commitment to race-based policing and established a pace of stop-and-frisk activity in our city that would set yet another record. A white police officer accused the NYPD of punishing him for complaining about racist statements made to him as part of ordering him to meet quotas for traffic stops. The same officer also has accused the NYPD of ordering him to give unfavorable performance evaluations to black officers.

One wonders if the public has accepted that the Bloomberg Administration has declared war against African Americans (especially against African American males). But, there should be little doubt that the public does not condone cover-ups or domestic violence. Bloomberg may not be excused for the cover-up the way that he has been excused for the intensity and consistency of his racism.

Ironically, while the Mayor has been dedicated to racism as his governing principle in office and not been held accountable, he has shown no evidence of supporting domestic violence (until now), and his one known defense of domestic violence may bring him down in a way that ten and one-half years of intense and unashamed racism has not.

The Domestic Violence Cover -Up

Mayor Bloomberg's Deputy Mayor, Stephen Goldsmith, resigned after spending two days in jail for domestic violence. The Mayor promoted the idea that Goldsmith's resignation was required because of disappointment with his handling of the blizzard in December 2010.

Only now, many months later, are we learning of the domestic violence arrest. The Mayor has not yet offered any explanation for the cover-up. In fact, he has praised himself for the cover-up and refused to apologize. That is an amazing contrast to his demand that Plaxico Burress be prosecuted "to the full extent of the law". Friends and supporters of Bloomberg get his assistance in covering up their crimes and keeping their crimes out of the media. Non-supporters get trashed by Bloomberg in press conferences before their trials. The Mayor focuses on compassion for the accused criminal when the accused criminal works for him. When the accused criminal is not a friend, the Mayor leads the lynch mob before the jury gets the case.

We cannot imagine that the Mayor genuinely believes that his cover-up was best for the people of New York City, but it is very difficult to understand what he believes other than that perhaps he values his friendships more than he values his credibility as our Mayor. He is willing to destroy his credibility and support domestic violence to show loyalty to a friend, even though a Mayor who supports domestic violence and tells lies to the public cannot be effective.

Goldsmith lives in Washington, DC (an odd location for a NYC Deputy Mayor), and the Mayor may have felt justified in engaging in a cover-up, given that another jurisdiction was entirely responsible for the arrest.

Bloomberg may feel that the cover-up was justified in retrospect because the domestic violence charges were later dropped.

But, neither of those explanations, if offered, could justify the deception promoted and executed by Mayor Bloomberg. A cover-up of domestic violence by a top advisor to the Mayor of our country's largest city can never be justified. It is a new low for Bloomberg.