Selling Off New York City

Can you put a price on the soul of a city?

Hell yes, barks Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the Big Apple itself! Sounding like a hustler hawking stolen goods on a streetcorner the mayor is telling any corporation that'll listen that he's willing – even eager – not only to sell the soul of New York City, but sell it on the cheap. His gambit is to peddle the naming rights of such city-owned landmarks as bridges, subway stations, tunnels, and parks, allowing the historic names of these public places to be plastered over with corporate monikers and logos.

How charming: Halliburton could take the Brooklyn Bridge, Viagra could put its stamp on Central Park, Wal-Mart could take the Grand out of Grand Central Station, Rupert Murdoch could rename the Times Square subway stop for his global empire, Donnie Trump could brand the Tri-borough bridge, and Nike could change Union Square to Global Sweatshop Square.

Bloomberg claims that his effort to corporatize the soul of the city is necessary because of severe budget constraints – yet, pathetically, his sell-off will raise only some $78 million...at best. That's an insignificant fraction of New York's $45 billion annual budget.

The saving grace here might be that Bloomberg's soul sale could fail for lack of buyers. Take the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. What corporate PR department wants to put the company name on a roadway that is constantly jammed to a standstill and cursed daily by thousands of commuters? Then again, maybe Rolaids would want it.

Bloomberg might know the price of the city's soul, but he knows nothing about its value. Our public resources ought to be named for the uniqueness of their place or for people we consider heroes or otherwise worthy of our public acclaim – not for faceless, faraway corporations interested only in another space to plaster with ads. To fight such corporate intrusion into our civic lives, go to www.commercialalert.org.

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