DMI Blog

Elana Levin

When Infrastructure Attacks! (a special you won’t see on Fox)

There was an explosion in Midtown Manhattan yesterday. I found out about it because 10 people were text messaging my cell to make sure I was okay - each with varying levels of fatalism about my prospect of survival. (Maybe they want my apartment? It's New York so who knows...)

As you've all heard the explosion wasn't caused by terrorism; rather an underground steam pipe constructed in 1924 had too much cold rain water leaking on it, causing it to explode like Old Faithful-- except flinging more mud and some asbestos into the air. I know the air has been declared clean but the dust and debris spat out from the explosion do contain asbestos and what with air movement and, you know, gravity, I can image the carcinogenic dust will get airborne and be inhaled endlessly until it's cleaned up. Remember how the EPA told the public that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe - when it actually wasn't? You'll have to excuse me for being a bit concerned over whether the same thing will happen here.

I should probably explain this blog post's title. When chasms in the earth open up near Grand Central the media tends to report it. Even Fox. But what you won't see in the media by and large is a discussion of why it is that these accidents take place. Sure they'll explain how the explosion was caused by water hitting an antediluvian steam pipe but they just won't make the connection between the lack of investment in our country's infrastructure and things going kablooie. You see it takes money to keep any locality running. And localities get that money through our taxes.

Infrastructure is quite literally crumbling beneath our feet and to paraphrase Rick Perlstein "it's not the terrorists, it's the tax cuts." You see you can't have modern society without infrastructure like emergency services, a working sewage system and a power grid. And if your only goal as a society is to cut taxes eventually you are left with asbestos-covered steam pipes from 1924 that explode and kill people - and yes, damage business interests.

One thing I really like about Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC is that his plan seriously addresses infrastructure as a longterm investment for our city. As a major economic engine for the country we all need to be concerned about NYC having ongoing access to clean water, the ability to safely meet (and reduce) our need for electricity, and get all of our roads into safe condition, just to name a few tasks highlighted in the plan. It's not just NYC that needs to plan ahead -- it's the whole country.

Recently there was a poll on a New York entertainment magazine's website that asked what NYC should do with its budget surplus. There were two options: A. tax rebate or B. save the money for a rainy day.

I was frustrated. Was the hypothetical tax rebate in question going to be divided between all taxpayers and end up only putting a few dollars back into my wallet, like the Bush tax rebate did? My money can do a lot more than pay a month's cellphone bill if my money is working in concert with other people's dollars. In fact, that's what we need to do to keep our country functioning like a developed nation. So in that little poll I'd like to vote C. put that money into building public infrastructure right now. Smart investors know you need to spend money to make money.

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jul 19, 2007 in Cities | Environmental Justice | Government Accountability | Tax Policy | public services
Permalink | Email to Friend