Tom is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Plan Association, an independent planning and advocacy organisation in the Metro New York area (the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region). You can listen to our conversation with Tom in two podcast episodes on The DNA of New York.
Photo credit: NASA via Unsplash.
So, Tom, in your mind, what is the DNA of New York?
New York City's always been a city that prides itself on commerce. I go back to Melville and the commerce ring at the Isle of Manhattoe. It was a natural harbour situated on the Atlantic seaboard that really led to the development and commercial expansion of North America and that still is very much vital and part of the DNA of the city today. It sees itself as a meritocracy and a city that tries to open its arms to commerce from all over the world, and anybody who wants to come and participate is welcome.
Amazing. And you kind of touched on a few things there that I'd love you to elaborate a little bit more on, such as New York's location in the harbour and whether there are any other geographical features or any other reasons why you think it has these traits in its DNA?
Sure. I mean, yes. So, again, it goes back to the original geography and the deep-water harbour and the protected harbour and the location to-- the access to the other cities and growth along the entire Atlantic seaboard. But then it becomes, I think-- I think you have to look at New York and think part of it may be with the Dutch settlement and the legacy of the Dutch settlers but that it was always an open society and one that, through its history, has seen progressive waves of new populations, immigrants coming in, bringing their own culture, their own heritage, their identity but adding it to the collective rather than trying to wipe out what existed before because of the-- The other incredible thing about New York, of course, is its extraordinary scale and size. Everything is on a larger scale in New York: our transportation system, our commercial districts, the extraordinary region and the access. 23 million people have access on a daily basis to the core of the region. Everything we've done in New York has always been at this greater scale, and I think part of that is because it's not a city that kind of wipes out its history but instead, keeps adding to it. And so that's why it has become such the global metropolis that it is today.
Just as we stay with the geography for a moment, Tom, in a minute, we'll ask you to say something about the Erie Canal and all of that. But before we get there, is there anything about the fact that New York or most of the boroughs of New York are part of islands that is important to understand? What does that mean for New York as a city and how it's evolved?
Well, I mean, to compare New York to a city, say, like Chicago, where its western edge is the Rocky Mountains, New York, by being a series of islands - Staten Island and specifically, of course, Manhattan but even Brooklyn and Queens are essentially the westernmost portion of Long Island - it kind of hemmed in the geography. I think that in the early 20th century, in particular, that was so important because it gave a definition to the city that while other metropolitan cities and parts in America, in particular, were kind of pursuing the supremacy of the automobile, we were hemmed in in a way that was to our own benefit.
It might have been-- seeing all these rivers and trying to cross them was probably seen by planners - by Robert Moses and Austin Tobin and the great city makers of the post-World War II era - as problems. But in fact, what we've learned is that the water's edge becomes an attraction and amenity for future communities. And by keeping us close together, it kind of impeded our worst instincts, maybe, as city makers, and that many of the mistakes that were being made in other great cities in the United States didn't happen in New York because the islands and because the archipelago essentially defined us.
That's very interesting, Tom, and I suppose that partly explains why so many people in New York walk instead of drive, why you've had the density that you've had. Do you want to talk a little bit about those things: mobility, density, that kind of stuff?
Sure. I mean, New York is extreme compared to the rest of the country. In many ways, the rest of the country is kind of, maybe, decades behind in terms of following up. But New York City, even during the tough periods in the '60s and especially the '70s, we still maintained an extraordinary transit system and we recognized in the '80s and '90s the importance of that system in coming back in the rebirth of the city.
But New York has always been the most walkable place in the United States, literally. That more people, that hundreds of thousands and even millions of people on a daily basis find the easiest way for them to get around is to walk from one place to another and/or jump on the Subway or bus, and that has always been what really defined us, at least for the last century. And we maintained that while Los Angeles was ripping up their tram system and other cities were getting rid of them. I mean, Boston-- I mean, my own sense of this is that Boston actually did quite well coming out of the '70s and '80s with its transit system, its subway network and then failed to maintain it and today, really finds itself, I think, behind because they didn't build on that legacy the way they should have and the way New York has.
So, New York has always been, really, the most walkable community, and, again, it fits in with that. It allows that incredible scale. You know, Manhattan, south of 60th Street, employed, pre-COVID, something on the order of 2.3 million people a day, to move that many people in and out. And by far the majority of them were reaching those jobs by mass transit. The second highest mode of transportation after mass transit is walking. It's only a small fraction of people who could or would drive into the city.
And I think as we look into the future, one of the things we've learned out of COVID-19 is how important having a flexible and adaptable transit system is. It's kind of urban Darwinism, that you have to have a system-- a city that's based on systems that are adaptable and can evolve to changing environments, and Covid is a massive change in our environment. And one way that we've done relatively well is that our system-- that biking has increased, that people could still walk places and that the transit system is, thank God, still there for us when we need it.
I'm looking forward to the book by Tom Wright called Urban Darwinism.
It was Ken Thompson who taught me about that concept and Jane. You remember Jane, the great-- with Pratap, of course. And Jane told me something decades ago that stayed with me which is that cities could be looked at just like species and that they evolve over time to a certain environment - heat, humidity, weather, economic activity - and that buildings and central business districts and transportation systems look the way they are because of the ecosystem and the evolution that occurs to them.
But just like a meteor striking the planet or other things, there are going to be shocks to the system that are going to change those environments, and certain types of built environments are so highly adapted that they're unable to evolve with a changing circumstance. And we see it all the time in North America, at least, when you drive down a highway, and you see a dead mall. That shopping centre was built for a certain set of circumstances - the traffic, that people were living over here, working over there, there was not too much traffic on the road, that buying patterns supported that - and so somebody built a mall. But when something changed in that environment, rather than a meteor hitting the planet billions of years ago, it would be, people stop living over here or the work changed or they started-- or a new mall opened up. And if they're not able to adapt, they become extinct.
New York City-- Soho is a neighbourhood that has adapted several times over its lifetime to meet different kinds of activities from warehousing and industrial and textiles to arts to now upscale residential, and that is an urban system that is able to adapt. And it's Darwinism.
That's fascinating, Tom, and we're going to come back to you for some more thoughts on the key leaders of the city over time. You've mentioned some of those. But just before we go back to Caitlin's sequence of questions, I want to bottom out this issue about waterways and the Erie Canal. To what extent does the Erie Canal represent a key catalyst in the way New York has evolved?
You know, the thing about the Erie Canal was it was a recognition on-- both the Erie Canal and even-- though I'll say the construction of the New York City water supply system, which extended up into the Catskills, and later, of course, the construction of the entire commuter rail system, which was done by private operators-- but at each time, I would say that New York's civic and business leaders and political leaders recognised that the city wasn't just its own self-enclosed entity, but that it was part of a larger metropolitan and even megapolitan region and that the benefit of this city was going to be its connections to the rest of North America and then later, even the rest of the world. And that's very far-sighted.
Many, many cities make their decisions-- city councils can be extraordinarily parochial, and through their histories, they would make decisions based on kind of a small vision of their future, maybe competing with one other neighbouring town or other things, but it was all kind of very insular. And I think this goes again to the cultural legacy of New York, that it's always been an outward and ambitious city, that they would decide to invest in this extraordinary expansion of the Erie Canal system, really, to make sure that they weren't cut off from the rest of the nation and that Chicago did not dominate. And it was a competition, but it was a recognition that access to the centre of the core of the continent was important for our future.
Likewise, I would say that the development of Idlewild, now Kennedy, and then Newark Airport, it was a recognition that airports were our gateway and that we had to have absolutely as much capacity as we could so that we wouldn't be constrained in our ability to do commerce with and communicate and travel to the rest of the world.
New York has always-- it has always looked forward to those kinds of moments. It's not a city that turns its back on the world or that thinks small. It's always one that has been, for many important times, decades ahead in terms of creating capacity. This is an example of creating a century's worth of capacity which is amazing to think about.
And I just want to pick up that question that Greg alluded to there. Are there key leaders who have prompted these changes? Are there key city leaders; are there key cultural leaders? Who comes to mind when you think about key people who have shaped the city over its long history or even more recent history?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, much has been written about the historic leaders: Mayor La Guardia, governors and things. I'll stay more recent to say, look, one of the things that a lot of people feel is that New York is really still benefitting today from the 12 years that Mayor Bloomberg was in charge, that there was, post 9/11-- that there was an ambitiousness, an expansiveness, a kind of recognition, a willingness to confront things.
Out of his administration, PlaNYC was the first long-range plan for the city in over 50 years and of course, addressed climate change for the first time in a very strategic way: the pedestrianising and adding bike lanes to the city. I mean, where would we be today? Think of this: through COVID, while transit ridership declined by around 95% on the subways and buses, driving declined by, at its peak, at about 80% - it's come back quite a bit faster, scarily, since then - but what we discovered was bike riding. I think in March or April, Citi Bike saw a 50% increase of monthly traffic that it had a year before. We were able to kind of weather this COVID crisis in the last six months, in part because of the bike lanes and the public spaces that had been created by the Bloomberg administration.
And just answering this question, I'm thinking I don't think anyone has ever pointed out how much tougher this situation would have been for us but for that very far-reaching and thoughtful intervention that was made over a decade ago. So I do think that Bloomberg goes down as one of the greatest and in particular, in the modern period, the most important leader that New York has had and that he established a lot of things. There's certainly criticisms about the community policing and making sure that the benefits of the city was becoming a playground for the rich and making sure that we were bringing those benefits to everybody. But there was a very conscious model at work and a theory that they had about city making in the Bloomberg administration and that was, essentially, if we can bring people with resources in to participate and spend money and invest in our city, that will create opportunities for everybody. And that is a coherent strategy that they were pursuing.
Who else would you point to, Tom, if you wanted to give us a second one, from any moment in the city's history who you think really defined a generation or made a critical impact as a leader?
It doesn't have to be a mayor.
Yeah. I'll go back then just a little bit further. And I was a kid living on the Upper West Side in the late '60s and early '70s, and so I can remember slightly what that was like and even through the '80s. In an unelected position, I think everybody in New York City today owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Dick Ravitch who was the transformational-- he was the real estate developer, who was put by Governor Kerry in charge of the Metropolitan Transit Authority., who turned the entire system around.
And Dick had the foresight, he had the ability to advocate aggressively for the transit system and to start to turn it around and bring it back. There were other people - Bob Kiley, of course, who ran Transport for London, who came in later and had a very important role in continuing all that work and others - but Dick Ravitch was the pivotal person who took a system that was sliding into decline and turned it around and found mechanisms to invest in it, pushed and cajoled both the business and the political communities to find the funding to do it and made people understand that without an operating subway system, New York City would perish. And so I think Dick is still the person who all of us owe and played an incredible role. I'm not going further back than that because I wasn't around. I'm just basing-- anything else before Dick, I'd be basing it on things I've read.
And of course, I have admiration for the-- Andrew Green who led the consolidation of the five boroughs. And there are other great leaders, but Dick Ravitch really is a person we all still are-- have to be so thankful to Dick and what he did.
Fantastic, Tom. Now, I know that Caitlin's going to come on to questions about inventions, discoveries, myths, truths, lies and all sorts of things, but I just want to talk to you for a minute about shocks and the way that New York City has addressed shocks and recovered from shocks. And I think I've heard you speak in the past very eloquently about-- you know, if you just look at the things that have happened to New York in the last 25 years, it's a huge range of shocks. And of course, prior to that, you had the municipal finance crisis, and you've had all sorts of things.
What is it about the way New York addresses shocks, recovers from shocks, adapts itself that you think is distinctive or important for people to understand?
I'll try to put this into kind of two different periods because there were the shocks of the '70s and '80s, and the decline of New York City was really something that was traumatic, and there was a feeling of, maybe New York is never going to come back. And it was almost a siege mentality in the city. I mean, I remember, you didn't park a car on the street without taking the radio out of it because otherwise it would be broken into. You didn't go on the Subway after dark because it was too dangerous. You wouldn't dream of walking into Central Park after dusk or stepping off of a path virtually any time because it just seemed it was a scary, unlawful kind of place. From that period and the very slow, long recovery from that, I think that a lesson out of that period actually is, in some ways, that it was informal systems that brought us back.
I mean, probably the most important policy that we were pursuing at the time was not even in New York's purview. It was allowing immigrants to come in. New York City lost something on the order of 1.6, 1.7 million people during that period. But the saving grace was that for every two people that left, one of them was replaced by somebody else moving in from somewhere else: from South East Asia, from Africa, from the Middle East, from South America. And so we only saw half the population decline that we would have. And but for that kind of policy-- and it's an informal one, I would say, because it wasn't like New York was kind of explicitly saying this, but it was a welcoming community. And but for that, New York would have gone the way of Detroit, I would argue, which saw a much steeper population decline and has taken much, much longer to get back on its feet. So it was things like that.
And Bob Yaro, my mentor and former colleague, used to say that from a land-use policy, one of the most important things that they would do in New York was what he called lax enforcement because land use laws-- I mean, if somebody was actually enforcing their codes, then Soho never would have happened. It was all illegal: the squatters moving into old textile buildings and inhabiting them and turning that community around. So a lot of that was kind of through an informal process and other things. It still, to go back to your earlier question, was built out of the DNA of New York, which was a commercial city, but it wasn't actually planned.
Now, for the last 20 years, what have we gone through in New York? 9/11, obviously, and the extraordinary trauma and the attacks of 9/11 but not so far after that, the financial crisis. And here we are, the financial capital of the United States if not the world. And so that, of course, impacts us very severely. A few years after that, we get Superstorm Sandy and the worst hurricane and storm to ever hit us. And now, of course, COVID-19. So four major, major events in a 20-year period.
With those, I would say it's very different from the 1970s and ‘80s in that the responses to each of those, in particular, 9/11, was an extraordinary coming together of the community saying, "No, we're here, we're staying, we're going to fight this. We are going to, and the way we're going to fight this is by coming back better than ever."
Again, I think we had mostly strong leadership at a municipal level. There are books that chronicle all the ins and outs and the Port Authority in the state and the federal actors and everything that was going on. And of course, at Regional Plan Association, we were very active in this role, too. But what I think is important to realise about that is that it was a partnership between the public sector, the private sector, between kind of established business interests and community groups. I mean, the Lower East Side Chinatown community was probably the most devastated, actually, economically from 9/11, and they became active participants in the process.
It wasn't a closed process. Planning was evolving. Electronic town hall forums-- everybody wanted to be involved in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan and see us come back, and there was really a role for people to play. What that did was not only, I would argue, lead to great success in terms of bringing Lower Manhattan back, but it also taught us how to be resilient and how to come together as a community and how to trust local leadership and how to form coalitions, so that with the financial crisis, you saw folks kind of thinking about, "how are we going to make sure that the mortgages and underwater loans and the housing crisis doesn't devastate us as much as it did?" And frankly, the boomburbs of Phoenix and parts of the South East and stuff really were harder hit than New York through that. After Superstorm Sandy, there was an extraordinary coming together at both the city, state and federal level. And so when COVID-19 hit and the uncertainty of it and other things, I think that New York had an advantage over any other city, at least in the United States, in that we knew we could pull through; we had been tested before.
There is a kind of embedded resiliency, a fortitude to New Yorkers who remember what we've been through before, and I think that that leads to a sense of optimism that's going to be really important as we try to reopen. I am not pessimistic about New York City's future. I'm not one of these people who thinks that suddenly everybody is going to work at home or not jump on the Subway again. I can recall when after 9/11, people said nobody will work in a tall tower again. We had two supertalls in Manhattan on September 12th 2001; we have 20 today with another 18 in the works. People sleep in those buildings. So we got over our fear of tall buildings. I think that our fear of subways and mass transit will be gone, you know, a couple months after we have a vaccine. And I think, while people might change their live-work schedule some, based on the experience of working remotely, which I'm doing here, I still think people are going to want to come back to their offices. They're going to want to go back to restaurants, they're going to want to walk the city streets, they're going to want to be part of that community again. And so I think there is an optimism, and part of it is that we've been through this. This is only the fourth of these things to happen to us in the last 20 years.
Brilliant, Tom. Absolutely brilliant.
So I think I'll start with, are there any inventions or discoveries that have emerged from New York that make New Yorkers particularly proud or have had a very kind of wide-ranging, world-changing impact? And then the next question I'll ask you is about myths or folklores or misconceptions that people have about New York and what the effects of those are.
Oh, that, people don't understand? That's a really good one.
In terms of inventions and things, look, the two that jump out to me the most-- first, I would say that New York is a biking city. We were certainly not the first there - and our percentages are still well below the Copenhagen's and the Amsterdam's and other places - but I think New York takes pride in the idea that a city that was-- that a North American city that was, like many others, so heavily invested for such a long time in the automobile and that Times Square and our public spaces had been turned over, was able in such a short period of time, I would argue, to start to move in this new direction. But New York as a biking city is really-- I mean, because the scale of what's happened on the timeframe is quite remarkable, and I think there's a lot of pride in that.
I would also say, look, New York has always felt very proud of its public spaces. I mean, we think Central Park is the greatest urban park in the world. And there's nothing you can say to convince me it's not; I will always believe that. No, nothing. I'm sorry. Regents? Forget it. Nobody else can compare to Central Park. It is the most extraordinary urban park in the world. And some people will argue it's not even the best in New York City because there are folks who will tell you that Brooklyn's is better and others. So we've always had this legacy to that. And creating the High Line, which is not a huge park but is such a transformative park, and it made people rethink what it meant. And probably not as well known internationally, but Brooklyn Bridge Park is absolutely extraordinary. Domino Park on the East River. The Hudson River Park has been coming along. We really have in the last 20 years-- we made enormous strides towards reclaiming our industrial waterfront and turning it into just world-class waterfront urban park systems.
And we are designing these, by the way, to be not just public spaces for people but also to provide resilience, to protect the upland communities. They mix communities. Domino Park is extraordinary. You go there, and you see the Hasidic communities and the African-American communities and all these and the hipsters all co-mingling. And I think this is what Olmstead had the vision in the 19th century of doing with Central Park, and we've continued to do that. So I do think that New York really-- that our great invention are the great urban parks and that we've continued to innovate with them. And I think that our waterfront parks and the High Line today show that we've still got it. That's my piece. Could you reframe that second question? That was wonderful the way you put it.
Of course. So the final question-- well, the second-last question I have is whether there are any myths, folklores or misconceptions that people have about New York City and what is the implication of people believing in those?
Yeah. Yeah. Do people misunderstand New York? Boy, I'm trying to think of, like, how is it that people-- when I travel, if I talk about being from New York, do I feel like people misunderstand or don't get something? And to be honest, you asking the question almost makes me feel the reverse to a certain degree. Saying you're a New Yorker, people kind of do get it. They understand that you are proud of the city, that, yes, it's crazy to get around and that the subways can be too crowded, and it can be pretty gritty and things like that, but I think to a large degree, people actually do understand New York. They know that you feel you come from the greatest city in an incredible period of time and that it's something-- that being part of New York is being part of something really extraordinary.
I mean, for certain people - and this is fading all the time - the legacy of the '70s was still, for a long time, really hard. I do think in the '90s, in the '00s, earlier, when I would go to Texas or California or something and tell people I was from New York, they still thought that it was that. And in popular culture, it was. The movies made in New York - Fort Apache, The Bronx, Escape from New York - it was a dystopian vision, and I think to some people, there still is that kind of a sense of that. But it's less and less because, for the last 20 years, the popular vision of New York has been Seinfeld or Friends or, you know, it's movies with Tom Hanks and things that made people love the city, and so it's become much more attractive.
Let me try a couple out on you, just quickly. Do people ever confuse Manhattan Island with the whole of New York? Or do people ever think that New York is just, the streets are paved with gold, everybody who goes there is rich? Or do people ever think that kind of New York is not really America; it's a kind of place on its own? Any of those ideas ring?
So New York not just being Manhattan was definitely in my childhood. And I lived on the Upper West Side, and Brooklyn was terra incognita to me until I was maybe even 20 years old or something, so, I mean, I fit in with that. But I think less and less. I think, actually, 20-somethings all now think of Brooklyn first and Manhattan second. You know, Staten Island is still kind of more part of New Jersey than New York.
But no, I think that there is a recognition of New York. Also, there's more of a recognition that New York is part of a metropolitan region. And in particular, 9/11 and Sandy were regional events. They were-- a third of the people who lost their lives on 9/11 lived in New Jersey. And Superstorm Sandy, of course, ravaged the entire Long Island and the Connecticut coastline, etc., too. And so we all did see that. So I do think there's more of a recognition of New York being that way.
In terms of the streets are lined with gold, look, people do think that New York is an extraordinarily expensive city and that it's filled with very rich people and other things. But I don't think that they think that it doesn't also have pockets - middle-class pockets and lower-income communities and things - and I think people understand that. And it is; it is a city that has-- the growth at the top end of the economic scale has been a big part of the story for the last 20 years, and rebalancing that is going to be absolutely critical. But--
Does the rest of America think New York is America?
Oh, I think that there are politicians who want to try and convince them that it's not because they see it in their interest, and I don't actually think that works. I actually do think that Americans from the Midwest and others see New York as an important part of the country. There are certainly opportunists who try to rile up the regional divisions that have been at the core of our country since the founding. You know, when you watch Hamilton, the scary thing is how all of the debates, especially the second half of it, are all still debates we're having today, and the tensions between the South and the North and all of these things and racial tensions and all of that, that is an American legacy. But I think that Americans, by and large, actually, still take pride in the fact that New York is our largest city, and is part of America. I really do think that.
I don't think they felt that way 30, 40 years ago, but I think, today, that they do, and that on 9/11, we were all attacked. I think that they did feel that way. I really do think there are politicians who try to divide us, which is shameful, but.
Caitlin's got one last question for you, Tom.
So Tom, if we were to have asked the right question, what else would you have wanted to say about the DNA of New York?
Well, I think that the question I'm asking today is, what does the DNA tell us about the future? Because this is-- and there are people-- and I think you'll guess that I'm more optimistic about this, but that people are very concerned. Just as I've said that there's a kind of culture of resiliency and we know we can get through this, and that's very good.
There is also a scary counter to that which is that for a lot of our leaders - business leaders, civic leaders, political leaders, in particular, but even young people, anyone who lives and works in New York who is, I don't know, in their mid-thirties or younger - to them, all they've known is a New York on an upswing, the successful city. And they have an assumption, I think, that the last eight years of municipal budgets have all been done with an assumption that every single year there's going to be more money than there was the year before. I think that some of the-- that there is just kind of this assumption that New York can't lose because it hasn't because we emerged from those prior challenges so well and that the recent past will be the long-term future.
And so that's a worry because for those of us-- I think that we had already entered a period of austerity before Covid-19 hit that was going to require tougher decisions from our political leaders and require our business leaders to actually step up in a way that they haven't. And so I think that there are concerns around. And when I say step up in a way that they haven't, in the 1970s, very famously, real estate-- when New York City was facing its fiscal crisis, property owners started pre-paying their taxes to the city, paying in advance the money that they owed to the city because they knew that the city needed the cash essentially more than they did.
I think we have a generation of business leadership in New York-- not all, and I work with many of them who are fabulous-- but there's far too many who just think that the city should be giving to them, essentially. And as we've gone through a crisis of affordability, a crisis of social equity and racial justice, there needs to be more, "How do I support this?" And I think that as we go through this, I think political leaders, many of them, have not really confronted reality. So we're going to have painful choices to make. And I think that, in particular, the fiscal perspective for the city and state in the short term is going to be very, very dire.
That said, I do think that the DNA of New York is such that it will come back from this, and I'm very optimistic about the city. I think that for people who say that patterns of work and other things will change, all of that can fit to the city; New York City can adapt to that, too. So people don't want to go into the office, and they want to be home more often? Well, what's more exciting than living in New York City and being close to restaurants and culture and other people in parks and all of the amenities that it provides. You want more green space? Well, great. We're going to invest in parks. We're going to invest in transportation and mobility so that you can have the full range of options so that you can have both the Metropolitan Museum and the Catskills parks.
So I think that New York is very well poised in many ways, but the very short term is still going to be very painful. And if we mess it up, we could screw things up for the longer term. I've been explaining to people, to reporters lately that our transit agencies are facing an enormous fiscal crisis, that the bottom is falling out. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is losing 200 million dollars a week and worried about their operating situation, and if they don't get relief from Washington, they're going to have to steal the money out of the capital projects.
And what I've started to realise is people think, "Well, okay, so you take a couple hundred million or a billion dollars. It's a 50-billion-dollar capital plan, so, you know, three or four billion dollars isn't the end of the world." Actually, though, the thing about it is that these capital plans-- to set up these big projects, the Gateway Project, the tunnel under the Hudson River, to invest in and modernise our airports, to extend the Second Avenue subway, all of that requires long-term planning on financial mechanisms, on regulatory mechanisms, on contracting and permits. And those things have to come together to move these projects forward. And a delay on the financing, even if somebody says, "Look, it's a 12-month kind of period that we have to get through. What's the big deal?" well, when you take that out, everything else falls apart.
But that a small delay can disrupt these things, and it takes years to put the pieces of the puzzle back together again. And so we're facing a very short-term crisis in terms of the operating budgets of these agencies, but if we don't handle it well, it will metastasize into a longer-term problem which could lead us to have the kinds of capacity and maintenance problems that we had in the '70s. And so what we do in the short term is going to be incredibly important to how we come out of this. But all that said, I am very optimistic about the future of the city, and I really do believe we're going to make it, okay?