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Opinion: What kind of city are we? • Brooklyn Paper

Opinion: What kind of city are we?

Students exit a school following the announcement to close public schools, as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Brooklyn.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

New York is the city that never sleeps, but then Broadway was shut down. Then, so were the clubs and the bars and the restaurants past a certain hour — and even before that, the subway was closed overnight. That was the real change.

We make changes here to fight emergencies, and we’re in an emergency now, no question about it.

When people say that New Yorkers are mean or annoying or difficult, what they really mean is we demand faster responses and higher quality, whenever we want, to a greater degree than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Because we are a big old city, state, and country, though, that quality is lacking in all our levels of government.

I’ve been a columnist here for about nine months. I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong. To be reactive and competent, to deliver anything of high quality, you’ve got to admit when you are wrong.

I was right to warn the federal election was not something we could control. I was right to warn of coronavirus. I was right to repeatedly notice how incompetent, slow, unreactive, and blinkered Mayor Bill de Blasio is. I will be proven right that commercial real estate in this city will collapse in value.

But it turns out I was wrong when I wrote in a column about the mayor and the city’s public schools and his general slowness three months ago, that “perhaps it is okay or even good that unlike most other large public school districts, New York City plans to continue to offer some in-classroom instruction to students who desire it. But not much in-class instruction. And it’s not at all clear staying open will end up being a good idea.”

Three months later, it’s increasingly clear from data around the world that schools, especially elementary schools, are not the major spreaders of coronavirus, especially not compared to indoor restaurants and gyms. Almost everywhere else in the world has chosen to close almost everything else before they close their schools, especially for their youngest.

In this regard, New York again showed itself to be more like the world than America. For a little while.

Because now de Blasio has decided to stick with his plan of closing schools when the citywide positive test rate has hit 3 percent, even as indoor dining and retail continues. We are showing once again that our true priorities are commercial priorities, nourishing companies and their employees instead of humans and their offspring.

Forget the Big Apple: a terrible nickname, used only by tourists. I still like Gotham and The City That Never Sleeps. We know we’re New York Tough, so let’s try to not to be The City That Never Learns.

Nick Rizzo is a former Democratic District Leader and a political consultant who lives in Greenpoint. Follow him on Twitter @NickRizzo.

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