THE BLOG
08/10/2007 12:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Summer in the City

New Yorkers are beginning to realize that our city is being held together
with scotch tape, a wish, and pure luck.

Last summer, when energy provider Con Edison fell asleep at the wheel, Queens residents started to die from the 100 degree heat wave.

More recently there was the pipe that burst in midtown Manhattan -- spraying a lovely
aroma of asbestos and crud. Funny how that pipe was laid about the time
Eisenhower was president and my grandparents were still having "relations."

Then, two days ago, the entire city was brought to a standstill because of rain. A lot of rain, but rain
nonetheless. Subway lines and commuter trains were down the majority of
the day. Streets were gridlocked in bumper to bumper traffic, but not
because a bread truck was taking its sweet time dropping off ciabatta.

Infrastructure is the hottest trend these days, hotter even than the new celebrity couple RoGo (Rove and Gonzales), but it's worth all the attention it's getting. It's what keeps us running. Our bridges, our refrigerators, our water all depend on an up to date infrastructure.

New Yorkers are proud of a lot of things (mostly of being New Yorkers), and
we do have a lot of badges of honor. One of my favorites is the cleanliness of
the tap water in Manhattan. It's considered some of the cleanest
in the world
and there are constant efforts to make sure it stays that
way. It seems odd that a city that has its own infamous odor come August
should have water that's better than Evian, but when you think about it, it
makes sense. If Manhattan's tap water wasn't the cleanest, can you imagine
what it would be?

It would probably go straight to being acidic brown sludge made of rat and
sewer offal. New York is not a town of happy mediums. Clean/Filthy.
Bone-Chillingly Cold/So Hot And Muggy You Want To Die. Uptown/Downtown.
Onion With Non-Fat/ Poppy Seed (Toasted) With Vegetable. Mets/Yankees.
A-plus Infrastructure / Infrastructure So Bad It Kills People.

When our city falls apart, it's not going to be just another pothole.

New York is in major need of an overhaul. All the hype might be about
systems and facilities at the moment, but it's not for nothing. Pre-war
buildings may have charming decorative touches, but a city with pre-war
plumbing is pushing its luck.

City planner href="http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1218.html">Robert Moses may have thought that the future of New York was behind the
wheel of the automobile, but the New York of our future must be on the front
line of efforts to build sustainable cities. And green, too. We must use a
combination of a some of the toughest and most dedicated urban workers on
the planet and the greatest urban planners to make our city run smoothly,
efficiently, and "greenly."

New York, are you gonna let href="http://www.portlandonline.com/osd/">Portland, Oregon kick your
ass
? Seriously?

While Mayor Bloomberg's idea for charging private cars a fee for driving in Midtown, which mimicked London's
brilliant plan
, failed to get off the ground, the City and
Albany should be working to edit the scheme and get it passed into law. Not
only it would drastically reduce traffic congestion and ease up New York's
substantial contribution to greenhouse gases, it would help pay for an
improved and expanded subway system that's already overcrowded and run down.
Trains that don't run through the posh Upper East Side, or even the uber chic Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, and most stations outside
of the borough of Manhattan could especially use some attention. Mayor
Bloomberg might take the subway every morning (via SUV), but he's not standing on the
outdoor platform at Smith and 9th in Brooklyn, which looks like a stop on
the way to Herpestown.

Also, as a side note, having less traffic in midtown would generally lessen
Time Square's resemblance to the ninth ring of Hell.

While Washington treats our homeland defense fund like monopoly money, and
while there's still a hole in the sky on the bottom of our island, it would
be comforting to know that New York can handle something like water falling
from above
. Also, maybe we want to double check our bridges? The Brooklyn
one is built on sand, you know.