I read with pleasure yesterday that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of our city's cultural treasures, will be getting a spectacular new plaza design. When completed, the landscaping will run all the way from 80th to 84th Streets on Fifth Avenue and will include more trees, new fountains, and new LED lighting for the façade at night. It will make the museum, which is already one of the city's greatest tourist attractions, even more inviting and beautiful.
This latest reinvention of a public space outside a cultural institution had me think about the future of New York City and its economy. I have long believed that one of the best ways to ensure our city's prosperity is to continue to maintain and improve its standing as a cultural and educational destination. Tourists will always want to come to the city because we have so many cultural landmarks. And students will come here because we have so many great educational institutions. What will have them tell their friends and family that they should also come to New York is their experience when they are here. The more trees and plazas, green spaces and fountains the city offers, the more welcome they will feel.
Some might say that the new plaza at the Met is a vanity project -- and at $60 million an expensive one. I beg to differ. Big philanthropists are always going to spend some of their money on projects like these. In the end, we all benefit.
Of course, the city needs a Silicon Alley and a strong financial sector. We need light manufacturing and lots of movies being made here. The key to long term stability and growth is a diversified economy. However, what really distinguishes New York City from a tourist point of view - its competitive advantage -- is several hundred years of investment in the city's cultural and educational infrastructure. Did you know that Columbia University is the city's largest employer?
I applaud the leadership of the Metropolitan Museum for continuing this tradition of improving and beautifying our cultural gems.