NYC's Bellamy calls for fresh initiatives

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

It's time to quit running New York City as if it were still in a financial crisis, and start managing it more creatively, says City Council President Carol Bellamy.

''Since 1975 (when New York City plunged into the crisis that nearly left it bankrupt), we have gotten our fiscal house back in order. I give everyone credit for that. But it is really a challenge to manage the city, and I give lower marks to the (Mayor Edward I. Koch) administration there.''

Initially, the city's management had to be turned around - and many operations needed to be handled on a day-by-day basis. City spending was high, and the local economy was shaken by a decline in manufacturing industries, elimination of jobs due to automation, and the relocation of some corporate headquarters.

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Today, New York has a balanced budget. To achieve this, spending was slowed. The city's economy improved in the early '80s even while the national economy faltered, partly because of the growing internationalization of business, partly because of tax incentives the city offered companies. And state-mandated agencies, such as the Municipal Assistance Corporation, helped keep a rein on city spending.

Miss Bellamy, who says she may run against Mayor Koch in the 1985 election, says that his administration has become expert on management data, such as figures on the state of street cleanliness. But ''there is little in the way of new initiatives.''

''If I were mayor at this point,'' she says, ''I would say (to the different city departments) that I want two creative ideas from each.'' She might dismiss most of the ideas, but even if just two new ways to manage or deliver a city service were accepted, it would be a great accomplishment and benefit to the city, she says.

''There is no sense of movement,'' says Miss Bellamy, who presides over New York City's council and influences budgetary and policy matters through her two votes on the Board of Estimate. There needs to be more long-range planning.

Miss Bellamy lists the areas that she sees as crucial to New York City in the near future:

Social services. As a recent report by urban-affairs specialists points out, roughly one in every five New York City residents lives below the federal government's standard of poverty. And poverty is growing more rapidly in New York than it is in the country as a whole.

Repairs to infrastructure. Miss Bellamy refers to it as ''the virtual crumbling of America.''

Economic development. Miss Bellamy says that the current administration needs more long-term and specific policies for economic growth for Manhattan and the four other boroughs.

Housing. Virtually no housing is available for moderate- and low-income families, she says. High interest rates hurt both potential buyers and the rental market.

Transportation. ''It is awful, but it could be worse.'' She says the need now is not just maintenance, but rebuilding of the system.

Miss Bellamy also says more attention should be paid now to the city's four boroughs outside of Manhattan - the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. After the fiscal crisis, the economic focus was on attracting and keeping business in Manhattan.

''It is good we have more white-collar workers, but many of them live in Bergen Country (New Jersey), and we have huge youth unemployment.''

She agrees that New York's future does not lay in keeping industries that will soon be obsolete. But in the transition toward a service and information economy, there needs to be some help for blue-collar workers. The city also must look at where future jobs will be and shape school curricula to reflect that. Miss Bellamy suggests that students train part-time in high-technology jobs, since schools cannot afford state-of-the-art equipment.

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