591 Comments
Jun 10·edited Jun 10Liked by Ben Krauss

I'm a native Long Islander. The state has had a bipartisan governance crisis that goes back decades. It's relatively recent that it came under unified control.

Taxes in New York are too high. But there's two things you need to know: One is that property taxes went out of control under Republican local government. Nassau County spent decades being ruled by a GOP machine (that largely still exists, despite being temporarily exiled under Tom Suozzi and then Laura Curran). You still need a GOP vouch to get a county job. The other is that suburbanites in particular have resisted every change that would lower taxes. They refuse to rationalize or consolidate local government. On Long Island, you have the county, the city or town, and in many cases the incorporated village, and then special taxation districts on top, some of which primarily exist to provide patronage jobs. There are **127** school districts for Nassau and Suffolk counties, population 2.6M (compare to ONE school district for Fairfax County, VA, population 1.13M.) It's proven impossible to consolidate even the ones that are literally one-room schoolhouses. For much of the Island, district mergers would mean economic and racial integration, which are taboo. Villages' prime purpose is to control zoning, i.e. keep out poor people. Town boards resist pro-growth strategies, meaning no desperately needed apartments or higher density housing (because apartment tenants will "overload the schools"). Transit is a nonstarter and yet people complain about the traffic.

So I have cousins paying $20K+ in property taxes for a 3 bed split. It's absolutely absurd.

Expand full comment

Fellow resident of Long Island.

To other commentators, can’t upvote this comment enough. This nails so much of it; spent entire time just nodding my head.

The only thing I’ll do is add a few things. I don’t think we realize how much Long Island political culture is driven by actual contempt for New York City. Like we can get into the history of Levittown but post WWII Long Island was created very explicitly as an “escape” from NYC. I think people on here would be surprised to know the almost pride some people have that they live 35 min train ride from Manhattan and haven’t been to NYC in decades. Point being, even though congestion pricing would affect an extremely small number of Long Island residents. The idea that Long Islanders would have to commit even a cent more for the benefit of NYC residents is just catnip for the worst local culture war demagoguery.

Expand full comment

“I think people on here would be surprised to know the almost pride some people ha e that they live 35 min train ride from Manhattan and haven’t been to NYC in decades.”

Is this an East Coast thing more broadly? I have met plenty of folks in the Philadelphia and Baltimore suburbs who have the same attitudes towards their metropolitan centers. I cannot for the life of me understand what the source of that almost-pride is.

Expand full comment
author

I wonder how this all would have played out if the Knicks were in the nba finals and New York was just filled with good vibes all around. Probably the same, but kinda funny alternative universe

Expand full comment

The Mets winning the World Series in 1969 probably helped John Lindsay, arguably the worst mayor in NYC's modern history, get re elected. Not that Procaccino would have been a great mayor, but it took decades to recover from Lindsay.

Expand full comment
Jun 10Liked by Ben Krauss

Suburban contempt for inner cities is to an extent probably a universal thing. We can get into some of the reasons why (including some of the very real uglier reasons).

However, I have family in NJ and have lived in CT. I can say pretty definitively that an anti-NYC attitude is pervasive in Long Island way beyond what you see even in other NYC suburban counties. Even just going to a deli and waiting for a breakfast sandwich, it's actually kind of amazing how anti-NYC attitudes just start coming up in regular conversations around me.

Expand full comment

> Suburban contempt for inner cities is to an extent probably a universal thing.

It doesn't exist where I live (a southeast Asian megalopolis of 13 million), so while it is certainly widespread in the West I probably wouldn't go so far as to say it is universal.

People who live in the inner city here are seen an unfathomably rich while people in the suburbs are most certainly not that.

Compounding that, general infrastructure (roads, markets, etc) means living in the suburbs usually sucks.

We also aren't (yet) anywhere close to Western levels of "my home is my castle" and people are accustomed to being very, extremely social at cafes, restaurants, etc, etc.

That said, we are in the early days of a transition to suburbia as those rich inner city people are aging and going "I can sell our multigenerational family house for enough to buy a villa in the suburbs and have enough money for us and all our children to never work again?"

So it is possible in 10-20 years we will see the emergence of a similar dynamic.

Expand full comment

I think this is where the history of post WWII suburban planning in America needs to come in. I should clarify and say suburban contempt for cities is universal across America and not a NYC thing. But yes, I think you're right to correct and say this is uniquely an American thing. In fact, in places like Paris, the suburbs are actually where the tower blocks are located and are often quite a bit poorer than central Paris. The situation in Paris is almost inverted.

But yes American suburban planning was conceived with exclusivity very much in mind. So so much of how suburbs were promoted and still promoted are as an "escape" from the city and yes this probably a very American way of thinking.

Expand full comment

I'd guess that three very American factors also played a part.

America is very large, so there's actually a space for suburbs to exist. To take another extreme: having suburbs in Singapore is nonsensical. But lots of other smallish countries have similar problems to a lesser degree I imagine.

America had uniquely well developed transportation infrastructure thanks to the postwar Interstate Highway system that made living 30km away from your work even remotely viable.

America was extraordinary rich so people could actually afford cars. I have a feeling that if I compared car ownership in the US in 1950 to France or Germany or the UK it would be pretty different.

I think, especially with the latter two, it's also why we've seen other countries become more car centric as they've become rich enough to build the infrastructure and for families to afford cars (most people in Europe drive to work, after all).

It's just that due to path dependency different places got locked in at various times. If you visit Australia it doesn't feel substantially different than America, for instance

Even in Japan something like 75% of people have a car, after all.

Expand full comment

In NY a big factor IMO is people who were all but forced to leave for economic reasons. In Philly or whatever I can imagine someone chilling in the suburbs, thinking the city is gross (and/or containing black people), but in NY it’s “oh yeah, you’re gonna price me out? Well all you fools paying $2m for a house in Queens or $3m for a condo in Manhattan are the real suckers! You walk outside and you see homeless people! Garbage everywhere! Filth! Well, I don’t, I haven’t been to the city more than 3 times since I moved here. I see it on the NY Post website. Anyone who stays there for those prices is just out of their minds! I’m not angry at all! I’m just completely baffled by how any human being unless they’re an IDIOT LIBERAL would be willing to stay in the city and pay those taxes to be surrounded by FILTH and HOMELESS PEOPLE and GARBAGE and CRIME and CRIMINALS! I’M NOT MAD!”

I’ll never forget, I went to a friend’s wedding and got stuck talking to this boomer who moved to Florida from NYC 30 years before. He spent the whole time railing about crime and filth in Brooklyn! When I told him that Downtown Brooklyn had completely transformed and that townhouses there were going for several million (not that I could afford one to be clear) I could see him visibly hurt.

Expand full comment

Lol yeah you nailed it. Anyone, just go read the NY Post comments and I sweartagod the top couple dozen of them are just this guy’s first paragraph.

Expand full comment

It's got to be just racist Trump people. I grew up in Long Island and we went to the city all the time It was one of the entire benefits of being in Long Island. Why the hell are you paying so much money to be near one of the biggest cities in the world if you don't ever want to go near it?

We would go to Broadway shows, sports events, concerts, Just meet up with people around the state for dinner and drinks, etc

Expand full comment

It's definitely partly that. I can say with confidence that Long Island Trump fans would a 1 seed in an NCAA tourney style bracket of most obnoxious Trump fans.

But I'll note again that my district is D+10 and is now represented by a Republican. The (hilarious) George Santos debacle sort of overshadowed how absurd the Democratic loss was for my House district. This is why Matt was being sympathetic to Hochul; my district should not be a GOP House district given demographics.

Which gets to your second point. There are plenty of people like me who commute to work and yes events in Manhattan. In fact, walking distance to the train is right near the top of the list of reasons my wife and I bought the house where we did. Plenty of people do actual use the train and love going to the city. Nassau and Suffolk County have just under 3 million people (should have more like 4 million if zoning wasn't so restrictive. The lack of any apartments near a number of LIRR stations is absolutely shameful). But this is where I push back against Matt. I think Matt (and Hochul) is wildly overestimating the number of people flipping their votes one way or another in November over this. If anything, it's going to lead to people like me wanting to primary Hochul in 2026.

Expand full comment

You should primary her because she's basically solely responsible for Democrats losing the house two years ago

Expand full comment

When I was born, my folks lived in a cramped apartment in Brooklyn; we moved out to LI when I was 9 and I loved the space. When the wearher got warm, you could find half of my high school's Senior class hanging out at Jones Beach.

On weekends, I'd take the train into Manhattan and go to the museums. It was like living near the world's greatest theme park!

When I was a little older, however -- and wanted to stay out late in the City -- I'd go by car. ;-)

Expand full comment

Long Island Rail Road?

Expand full comment

Lol, bunch of Lon Guyland bums.

Expand full comment

Dat's LAWN Guyland to you, buddy! ;-)

Expand full comment

Baltimore and Philly are kind of famously unpleasant by reputation. Democrats love The Wire, and one clear takeaway from that show is “do not live in or near Baltimore if you have alternatives, it’s terrible.”

Expand full comment
author

As a young person in the eastern corridor, who frequently sees many young people traveling to different cities in the corridor to live. Philly is viewed as dramatically more attractive than Baltimore.

Expand full comment

Baltimore is famously unpleasant (although it in fact has nice areas). However, Philly doesn’t have that type of reputation.

Expand full comment

Philly has improved a lot in the past decade or so, but I can say, growing up near there, it did/does have a bad reputation. High crime, a weirdly high amount of litter, and the job centers mostly being located in the inner suburbs instead of the CBD, have all contributed to the city's reputation as "Filthadelphia".

The city has improved quite a bit. It's one of the few big East Coast cities where you can build things. The city is investing in housing. Crime spiked, but is coming down. Even the litter is less bad now.

Expand full comment

Have a good friend who lives in the Philly suburbs and I actually go to Philly a lot for work; can vouch for this. Don't think people realize that Vanguard is located kind of far out in the Philly suburbs near the "main line" (depending how you want to define "main line" neighborhoods).

But to your point, the transformation of places like "Fishtown" and Manayunk (not strictly Philadelphia, but very inner ring suburb for sure) is very real and speaks to how much Phiilly has gotten better over last 30 years.

But yeah crime is strikingly high given the median income, demographics and physical location. Like it really does seem like there is some Philadelphia specific reasons crime is higher than it should be and it's a real problem.

Expand full comment

As someone who moved back to Philly in 2022 after several years in DC, I'm not sure the litter got any less bad. BUT we're early into a huge 13-wk citywide cleanup that was one of Mayor Parker's big initiatives during the campaign, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing what it looks like when they hit the bulk of Center City.

Expand full comment

I'm one of these people who are almost-prideful about not visiting Philly, except I live about 6 hours away. (Meaning I think it does have a crummy reputation).

Expand full comment

6 hrs away is Pittsburgh. Throwing shade at your competitor city from across the state isn't the phenomenon people are trying to describe here.

Expand full comment

I used to work for a firm whose corporate was in the suburbs. I enjoyed my visits in-town. Big, interesting, walkable urban core with a lot of nice architecture and a great food scene.

Expand full comment

I respectfully disagree re Philly but readily concede that I’d 100% need polling data to back that up with anything more than bar argument gut feeling and my own experiences with the city.

Expand full comment

I’m not saying Philly is perfect, but Baltimore is another level. I was recently driving through a bad part of Baltimore and I couldn’t help thinking that I wouldn’t mind being in an armored vehicle. I’ve never felt that in Philly (although I can’t claim to have been in all of Philly’s sketchy areas).

Expand full comment

Baltimore is not that bad. Annapolis has pushed bad policies (made it impossible to prosecute and punish juvenile crime.)

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

It's definitely not an East Coast thing. Detroit is the same way, at least for certain species of Oakland County and Macomb County suburbanite. (I grew up in Oakland County.) It was seen as either a mark of pride that you didn't go into the city or (more commonly) a mark of weirdness that you would ever go at all, akin to going to, like, Kazakhstan ("you went to Detroit? Why would you do that?"). (Note: For our purposes, crossing the city on the way to the airport did not count so long as you stayed on the freeway.) It's changed a bit more recently, but that was how things were for a long time.

Expand full comment

I'll say just from my own experiences that in makes way less sense to feel this way about NYC vs. Detroit. A lot of people's mental image of NYC was formed in the late 70s when NYC really was in bad shape; movies like "Taxi Driver" and "Death Wish". I would bet that NYC was probably a lot shabbier in the late 70s than Detroit.

Given the extent of urban decay in Detroit that continued into the 80s, 90s and 2000s I do at least have some sympathy for people living Oakland county to ask why you would be going into Detroit. NYC very very famously had quite the rebound and drop in crime. It's also what got me so exasperated in 2022 when crime rose in NYC. Yes there were far left commentators with lots of Twitter followers who probably downplayed this crime rise way too much. But when people like the mayor of NYC said crime had never been worse in all his years, this was truly insulting to my intelligence.

But kind of more tragically, I know people who are not particularly anti-NYC and are not at all big Fox watchers or New York Post readers who have real hesitancy about going into NYC even now because of how much coverage there was in 2022 about NYC becoming out of control.

Expand full comment

I attended a PA House of Representatives committee hearing a couple years ago where at the end of the hearing the Republican chair (who was admittedly from the other side of the state) said “wow, I’ve never been to Philadelphia and now I’m never going.” Which is a crazy thing to say about the economic engine of the state you are a government leader in.

Expand full comment

Not sure if it's pride, but my parents are a 30 minute train ride from Philly and never go. I've lived here almost a month and still no visit from them lol

Expand full comment

It’s a think wherever you had a heavily urban black population in the USA.

Expand full comment

Man, it’s everywhere. Tacomans HATE Seattle. People in the Memphis suburbs talk ridiculous shit about Memphis and are irrationally afraid of it bc omg black people. Cobb County wouldn’t let MARTA come in bc it would “bring in riffraff” ie black people. New Orleans omg. The collar counties of Chicago basically exist out of spite for Chicago. I could go on. People self sort into the suburbs or cities bc they dislike the alternative.

But Matt’s right NYC is fucked for governance. As is probably NY state, im less familiar with it, though im pretty sure it was super fucked historically. Sooooo much corruption, everywhere, all the petty fiefdoms extracting their rent, from Tammany (and most likely before) until now.

Expand full comment

Actually we even have this in Central Florida - a loathing and hatred for Tampa, Orlando, Disney, etc.

Expand full comment

As someone who knows more than 0 Long Islanders, particularly any over 40: trust me I know. 10x this if the Long Islander in question is a nurse, teacher, or cop working for the city. And while I think the attitude is unhealthy and immature and kind of pathetic, I understand where it comes from.

Expand full comment

Matt (and a lot of coverage of this issue) is underrating how much the fact that Teacher's unions made noises about being congestion pricing is likely a huge part of the story here. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/traffic/transit-traffic/congestion-pricing-nyc-naacp-lawsuit/5249743/

A lot of those teachers likely commute from the suburbs by car. The "hilarious" part is most of these teachers teach at schools unaffected by the congestion pricing plan!. It's only for commuters going below 59th street in Manhattan. The vast majority of NYC public schools are located above 59th street and in the outer boroughs. It's insane.

Also, NAACP coming out against is kind of shameful to me. Again, this is part of the political pressure that Hochul can't ignore given demographics. But another case (I suspect) where particular high up officials in NAACP NYC chapters may drive to their job and are letting their personal annoyance guide what is a dumb stance.

Expand full comment

Hot Take: Despite its long, proud history and the liberal pretenses of its contemporary rhetoric, the NAACP has mostly devolved into one of the last redoubts of conservatism and reactionism within the Democratic party. It basically serves to represent the interests of the right wing of the elder Black middle class.

In my city, the local chapter spends all their time basically as foot soldiers for harrassing the local Republicans (who play their part by mostly earning it!) and keeping them in their place of submission to the reigning Democratic machine.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of actual people of color here are suffering from a deep housing crisis and the chapter hasn't lifted a single finger.

Expand full comment

But they don’t, though? Why would anyone, let alone people who take the LIRR, let alone people defined bu their contempt for NYC, drive into Lower Manhattan if they had alternatives? What dog do Long Islanders even have in this fight? Driving into downtown Manhattan routinely from LI may not quite be Not A Thing, but it’s pretty close.

Expand full comment

One of the things that is true about LI is that it is basically totally cut off from the rest of the country by the location of NYC--which is a traffic nightmare 24 hours a day and takes an hour to traverse no matter what. In NJ or Westchester you can just drive the opposite direction from the city and end up in plenty of places that you might want to be. But Long Islanders are trapped, which has (IMO) driven them all insane--I'm not clear on the mechanism for this, maybe if they living in a different suburb they are the people who would have moved further out into the exurbs by now but they can't because there are no exurbs? It's a weird culture.

Expand full comment

Yes, we sometimes say that no one goes in and no one goes out of long Island. When we plan statewide conferences, it is difficult to get long Islanders to attend, but when we hold one on Long Island, it is even harder to get anyone from other parts of the state to go. (I am speaking on Long Island in the fall and already dreading getting there.)

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

"One of the things that is true about LI is that it is basically totally cut off from the rest of the country by the location of NYC--which is a traffic nightmare 24 hours a day and takes an hour to traverse no matter what."

If you're trying to exit LI for the rest of the country, you avoid Manhattan for the traffic anyways. I don't think the Verrazzano Narrows bridge (I-278) or the Cross-Bronx Expressway (I-95) were included in the congestion pricing, so I don't understand the opposition.

EDIT: Alexis (nearby) has the answer: all the non-Manhattan bridges are tolled.

Expand full comment

It didn't include the FDR either! You could cross the Brooklyn Bridge and drive up the East Side without paying the toll as long as your destination wasn't in Manhattan. But no one actually knows or cares what the rules are, it's all just vibes until it goes into effect and people try it out.

Expand full comment

All those roads are heavily congested now. Imagine the traffic when they get the additional slice of traffic trying to avoid the congestion toll. It would screw up everyone's travel whether they are going to Manhattan or not. There was a brief flap in the environmental review process when the models revealed a massive increase in traffic and air pollution on the Cross-Bronx expressway (one of the worst highways in the nation). This is going to happen all over.

Expand full comment

You can't get to the FDR directly from the Queensboro bridge though and I think that exit is tolled for CP

Expand full comment

Would a car ferry service from like Port Washington to New Rochelle help?

Expand full comment

Not really. There is a ferry from Port Jeff to Bridgeport but it's expensive. Robert Moses' original plan was to have 135 Continue to oyster bay and then a bridge linking it to 287 at Rye, but the rich people blocked that. And even if a ferry were feasible, residents would block any traffic increase leading to the ferry.

Expand full comment

Hochul should trade congestion pricing for that often dreamed about bridge/tunnel to Westchester/ Connecticut.

Expand full comment

Trust me. They do. And if they don’t, they want to be able to. It’s principle. Long islanders resent how much it costs to drive off the island. Congestion pricing cuts off the only toll free route.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I feel like if you can afford to live on Long Island and you’re adding 40 minutes to your commute to avoid a $6.50 toll on the Throg’s Neck or whatever you’re Doing It Wrong.

Expand full comment

Look at how much effort people put in to avoid taxes or how many business try to lower their tax bill and end up making poor business decisions as a result. For example, moving to a location that actually doesn't make much business sense long term even if short term you're lowering tax bill.

Point being, I feel like there is some PH.D paper to be written about how any government fee, whether taxes or tolls or..a fee has a very particular effect on personal behavior. The amount of time and effort to avoid small taxes I feel like very often is so not worth it as you allude to. And yet it seems to a very common American phenomenon. I feel like there is a very particular American sensibility that finding a way of avoiding a tax or a fee is like some weird psychological victory that influence so much behavior. Even if the actual remunerative victory is often not worth it.

Expand full comment

As I’ve learned with doing my taxes. I can do them if their fairly simple, but if I do complicated things and have to hire a CPA or go to H/R Block, the cost of hiring the tax preparer will be more than the tax savings.

Expand full comment

Looking this up on Google Maps, is it accurate that all of the non-Manhattan bridges are tolled, but multiple Manhattan ones are not?

Expand full comment

Correct. The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges are not tolled. All other crossings are.

All Hudson River crossings are toll, though the toll is only paid in one direction (entering Manhattan).

Expand full comment

Is there a way to get from west of the Hudson to Long Island without a toll? I guess you could drive up to the Bear Mountain Bridge, then take the Taconic south, then take a non-Henry Hudson bridge into Manhattan, then take the 59th St. Bridge into Queens? At a certain point it gets ridiculous. There are a lot of tolls in NY.

Expand full comment

Fear of the train and fear of the subway. It’s more than that, but it’s a big one.

I noted back in November, 2022 that every single day and I mean every single day, the New York Post had a blaring headline about crime on the subway being out of control. So you say to yourself, well how many people read the Post who are swing voters? Not many. But those news papers are the first thing you see at any 7/11, any bodega, any cvs and any convenience store. Which is where the Post’s famous giant headlines are so important. Everyone just living their daily lives sees those headlines.

To back up with data. A datapoint I’ve brought up before. There is one PA district in 2022 that shifted right from 2020 to 2022. It’s the one district in PA located in the NYC media market. Just a striking natural experiment in the power of unearned media. And one of the datapoints as to why I am so furious that leadership of the Times has put its thumb on the scale against Biden at apparent personal pique that Biden won’t do an interview. I think we really underrate the second and third order effects of news coverage beyond the direct effect of people actually watching a tv news show or reading an article.

Expand full comment

"I am so furious that leadership of the Times has put its thumb on the scale against Biden at apparent personal pique that Biden won’t do an interview."

I keep seeing this repeated, but I don't understand why Biden won't just do the interview?

Everyone acknowledges that the NYT is the premier newspaper in the US, and is one of the most important journalist outlets in the country. 99.999% of every other Democratic politician in the country would love to get a sit down interview with the NYT - but while Biden will go on Howard Stern, he won't do a sit down with the NYT? You can be outraged by the NYT's leadership, but shouldn't you be at least a bit outraged by Biden being so foolish?

Expand full comment

We all know why he isn't sitting for the interview.

Expand full comment

My brother-in-law (who grew up in Queens, by the way) is absolutely convinced that NYC is a crime ridden hellscape. Because of the headlines.

Expand full comment

(Oops hit enter) -- no amount of data from me can convince him, or the other long islanders I know. THIS is why bail reform failed. It wasn't progressives. There may have been some tweaks needed, but reform worked in NJ. In New York, the PBA and SBA came out swinging and the Post was right there to back them up. Dermot Shea even admitted to the legislature that bail reform hasn't caused a crime wave. I have my own gripes with DSA and Justice Dems, but contrary to the radical centrist takes they're not always wrong.

Expand full comment

The Post didn't make up the revolving door stories. They just reported them, when it was beneath the notice of the other papers.

Expand full comment

Ding, ding ding.

Expand full comment

You're fooling yourself if you think it's all media. Crime is not even the most important thing. The subway is just slow. I live in New York City itself, and it takes more than an hour to get to and from the theatre district from where I live, including a bus transfer, and probably 20 minutes more late at night when the buses run infrequently. I'm getting on in years, and I'm not going to do that trip after getting out of theatre at 10:30pm. I just won't go. Many people like me will do the same, and the impact will be devastating on the cultural life of the city, which relies on people like me to pay the bills so they can create edgy art.

Expand full comment

Wouldn’t the NE PA exurbs of NYC, simply by being exurban, tend to vote R?

Expand full comment

People are loss averse and see the loss of options, even those they would never take, negatively.

Expand full comment

1) no one in Long Island wants to admit to themselves that they’re not a New Yorker anymore. Even if they’ve gotten lazy and only show up to a Manhattan restaurant twice a year, they want to tell themselves that any day now they’re going to get back into things and go out more, etc. The congestion fee is too on the nose in that regard (of course these people have convinced themselves that only lower Manhattan is “The City”, and really have no reason to be offended more than someone like me living in Brooklyn - but this whole train of thought is irrational enough already.)

2) the elephant in the room is cops and nurse and teachers and state bureaucrats who live in the suburbs and commute to the city. I don’t think many cops at all actually live in NYC. (Note that Eric Adams was living in NJ.) These people get all manner of parking carveouts too, ranging from legal but questionable (dedicated signed sidewalk parking for teachers in front of schools) to blatantly illegal (cops who stick a placard in their windshield and park on the sidewalk itself, taking up the entire block.) Congestion fee will hit them directly - in fact they may be the primary group it extracts revenue from. I don’t know the numbers for certain, but based on the lack of carveouts for them, I lean towards that guess.

Expand full comment

It may be worth just a thought that many of the people who live on Long Island are the children and grandchildren of people who were driven out of a collapsing New York City in the 1970's, for which (with considerable justification) they blame on urban liberal politicians. It should not surprise anyone that they don't want to see that happen to them a second time, and the failure to see that coming is simply political malpractice. That they don't like the soup is the fault of those who cooked it.

Expand full comment

My wife is fond of using the phrase Long Island has "too much government". But what she means is exactly this; there's just too many districts, municipalities etc. You have maps of school districts, but I can't tell you how much these leads to way too many cops. I know Matt is fond of noting that more cops on the street really is probably a key to keeping crime under control; a general principle I can agree with. But Long Island is the place where you can see how like anything else this can go too far.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a very underrated key to Long Island that my wife will emphasize. So, so much of development in Long Island is centered around whether or town has a sewer system or if a sewer system can be implemented.

Expand full comment

I've long thought that a counter to "we need less government" is "we need fewer governments".

Expand full comment

Vote more often, for fewer positions!!

Expand full comment

My hometown of STL has this same problem. 100 municipalities in a county that refuses to merge back with the city. Constantly cannibalizing each other.

Expand full comment

Just spent two years in STL recently (came from and returned to NYC with my partner, who is from Webster) and man, the differences in public services, and a million other things, between where we lived—in Shaw, by the Botanical Gardens—and her mom’s neighborhood in Webster were wild. We had multiple snowstorms followed by deep, sub-0°F freezes, and the City simply did not plow secondary residential streets (y’know, the ones people live on), so they turned to skating rinks *fast*. Meanwhile back in Webster—in fact, noticeably on I-44 as soon as you cross the City/County border—the roads were pristine by comparison, even on little cul-de-sacs like her mom lives on. And at the same time as *that*, the roads in, say, U City or a similar suburb, were somewhere in between. And not just the roads: every aspect of life varied in quality based on what patch of jurisdiction it took place on, in a more noticeable way than I’ve experienced elsewhere.

Now, though, the thing I’ve become fascinated with in STL is the extent to which St. Charles is cannibalizing St. Louis County. Covid just absolutely murdered downtown STL, and it’s kind of an open question (I think?) how much it will ever come back from that hit—which then raises the question of whether it really matters that living in St. Charles County means you’re halfway to the friggin’ boonies, because what are you going to the City for anyway? Even things like hospitals and so on are being built/have long existed out in West County, so it just looks kinda grim for the City of St. Louis, especially when you consider that unlike NYC, it really *does* have a massive crime problem. I loved a lot of things about Shaw—especially Tower Grove Park, which I still miss even though I live in a part of Queens with a nice park in it—but I’d be hesitant to plunk down money on a house there, because even a nice neighborhood like that had real crime problems (property crime and some amount of violent crime, though the latter was more concentrated south of the park).

Anyway, not to bang on endlessly here but man, I became very very fond of the people of St. Louis, and it bothers me that they’re having to sit there with that level of dysfunction. I sincerely hope, and on good days believe, that there’ll be a big post-Covid comeback—maybe not downtown, but other parts of the City are doing better already and will continue to improve. Downtown does seem like a problem, though.

Expand full comment

Matt wrote a post a while back making the argument that the cities that will struggle most post Covid would be Midwest cities that were already in decline. Reason being is commercial office rents will likely decline everywhere as some aspect of WFH will be permanent. Long term this could be a boon for places like NYC as more firms will be able to locate to places like Midtown Manhattan or FiDi.

But precisely because rents will likely drop, it means a lot of cities with already low rents may lose a lot of office tenants and as result exacerbate an already steady decline. Reality is a lot companies have “back office” jobs in cities away from “superstar” cities precisely because these jobs are not worth the high rent. But if rents drop then the reason to locate certain “back office” jobs in smaller cities kind of disappear.

I think unfortunately for Matt, he used this as a jumping off point to title a post “Chicago is doomed” and his message got lost. I suspect because Chicago is the 3rd biggest city still (though Houston seems poised to overtake it) and Chicago has more cultural cache than any other midwestern city, he focused his argument on Chicago. For a variety of reasons I think focusing on Chicago was a mistake (I feel like Matt underestimates how rich Chicago really is. Take a look its GDP compared to other cities). But is underlying argument I thought had merit and I suspect your description of St. Louis makes for a much more compelling example of Matt’s point (see also a good WSJ article about office space vacancies in St. Louis).

Expand full comment

Yeah, I hate having to agree, but I always thought Matt's Chicago take was more apt for STL, too.

However, I think a lot still hinges on both the *differential* rates of rent drops and the current absolute levels. STL is already at a really low level, which still makes it a good "back office" city. Right now, though, the county is having a construction boom, which will KEEP the rents ever lower, even as other cities are struggling to keep up and seeing their rents rise.

The biggest contradiction right now is that the city itself still has PLENTY of cultural cachet, but the county is where the stability is and where the construction is happening. Conversely, the county is a cultural hellhole, while the city is basically deserted and dangerous.

So, there's no real reason BESIDES cheapness for an outside company to relocate into STL county. And no company wants to locate to the city.

What the county needs is an actual industry to attract companies. And right now, the fastest-growing industry is the construction business itself! But that's the ONLY one, really. STL basically has JUST THIS ONE SHOT to take advantage of the local and national construction booms and try to turn that into an actual engine that will rescue them from the "doom". And the only thing really going for them right now is that the county has this oddly libertarian bent that is somehow keeping the NIMBYs *juuuuuuust* enough at bay that MAYBE they could pull off a hard pivot to some Strong Towns action and make it all work out.

But that's a 1-in-1000 shot. I'm not holding my breath.

Expand full comment

My BFF back home works for one of the big contractors that's putting up 5-over-1's, and he says STL has among the highest construction rates of those in the country. It's also the HQ for his company, which is THE largest in the country at like 20% of the 5-over-1 market.

I think *that* is the sliver of hope to hang our (hard!) hats on here. STL could essentially build itself out of a housing crisis that was never all that deep there to begin with, densifying its suburbs into prosperity, and then eventually that prosperity would bleed back into the city.

And what I mean by that last bit is, if you get enough growth out in the county, eventually all those people get sick of having a handful of relatively nice things so far away in the city. At that point, they face a choice: either (A) pour county resources back into the city, or (B) cannibalize the city and start building big attractions and shit in the county.

I think that (B) is probably more likely for people to WANT to do, but also extremely difficult to actually do -- since the county will already be densified-up and have a lot of space that people won't want to ruin for things like a new honkin stadium -- so what ends up happening is that the county just muddles through (A): they exert a crap-ton of pressure on the city to clean up the touristy areas first, then once the city proves that it can do that, they tentatively start putting more county resources into expanding those "green zones" (so to speak).

At least, that's the optimistic version!

Expand full comment

Yep. I grew up in Huntington. No sewers in most of the town. And I’m convinced that the continued refusal to have them is about preventing any development. It’s a town of over 200K, for gods sake.

Expand full comment

My city's NIMBYs are currently obsessed with blaming recent development for the fact that our treatment plant occasionally gets overwhelmed by storm surges. Nevermind that we're barely at 10% capacity most of the rest of the time, it's definitely all the durned apartments' fault.

Expand full comment

Stormwater surges are a real issue in a lot of areas right now and they create infrastructure challenges and do quite a bit of ecological damage. Typically this isn't as simple as "we built too many apartments and now have stormwater surges so we should stop building apartments," but I think YIMBY activists should be prepared to address this.

As someone who is YIMBY because of the need for more affordable housing and someone who does a lot of enviornmental volunteer work that is directly impacted by stormwater surges, I think that there are a lot of solutions to this that don't require reducing density.

For the most part, increased storm water surges are being caused by two different problems interacting. First, climate change has frequently led to weather pattern changes where areas get more extreme weather events with fast heavy rain fall and drought rather than more frequent smaller rain storm that most systems were set up to handle. Second, there really are issues in many areas with too much of the area being made up of impervious surfaces that rain runs off of rather than soaking into the ground.

The results of this can be manifold. Groundwater supplies require recharging from rainfall and surface water that has time to soak in and these run off events led to reduced groundwater supplies that are problematic for longterm water supply. These surges often also dump chemicals in to surface water like lake and streams and will wash away stream beds in ways that can reduce wildlife survival, especially fish stocks. (In Seattle this is a huge challenge for Salmon recovery which is where I interact with it.) These rushes of water often also damage water systems and even surface infrastructure.

On one level, most multifamily building lots have a large percentage of impervious surfaces than your typical single family home. However, the largest percentage of impervious surface on almost any residential lot is going to be the roof of the primary dwelling and apartment dwellers typically have less roof per person than your average single family home so blaming them is a bit irrational unless you just want to move problematic storm surges farther out into the suburbs.

Apartment buildings can also do a lot of low cost things to reduce their impact. For example, adding a cistern to a building that collects rainwater during storms and the releases it slowing through drip houses to water landscaping typically is going to cost less than 10K and will likely pay for itself over the long run in water bill savings. A single family home could do something similar with a cistern but it would cost the same amount or use rain barrels which are less expensive but also less effective because of reduced volume. Building can also landscape with rain gardens and add green roofs which are are not always as easy to single family homes to incorporate. New buildings can also pave areas around the building with more pervious materials like pavers with gravel in between or pervious asphalt. This doesn't actually cost significantly more and it is more cost effective to put this in during initial construction that to have a bunch of individual dryways at single family homes pulled up and replaced.

As a general rule, a new multifamily building with reasonable low cost runoff mitigation is going to be better for the stormwater situation that infill on lots or expansion of single family home areas. If there is concern that these low cost mitigation efforts are going to curtail development, it could be that these are paid for with community grants given that it probably the best bang for your buck to do this with new large construction. Personally, I don't get the sense that these mitigation requirements actually do curtail development. Having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building an underground parking garage or losing living space to having to have two exit hallway systems are huge ticket items but most folks getting ready to put up a few million to build a multifamily unit probably aren't going to be deterred by having to spend $10K on water mitigation as part of the construction, especially since these also reduce water intrusion issues for the building itself and save on water bills for the groundskeeping.

I think folks with legit storm water concerns should have those concerns addressed with regard to new construction but should also have their focus redirected at changing the way they and their fellow single family home neighbors are managing their storm water. Unless they all have installed at least rain barrels for all downspouts they really need to shut the fuck up about what anyone else is doing particularly folks looking to build more housing.

Even if they do have rain barrels, there are tons of things they could be doing with their landscaping decision for themselves and with their neighbors that are more useful that NIMBY input at meetings.

If they are super concerned they could nerd out like me and join the volunteer core of the city or state department of wildlife and fisheries and spend their weekends setting up "energy disruptors" along paths to water systems and during beaver habitat restoration work in green spaces.

In the long run, for most places in North America outside of extreme deserts, reintroducing beavers and allowing them to recreate the natural water systems that captured storm surges and redirect them to ground water is the most impactful thing they could be encouraging their communities to do and hanging out with Beavers is a way more satisfying way to spend your evening that bitching at community meetings.

Expand full comment

I love the idea that beavers could save us all.

Expand full comment

Thanks for the cistern idea! I'm going to put that in the ears of the local chattering class, not that they listen to me anyways. It's probably the best solution for our town, since it'd be low-cost and they're currently casting about for ways to mitigate surges.

Expand full comment

It's striking to me the difference between town center of Huntington and Huntington Station. Love the town center of Huntington; awesome place for restaurants. But that's what Huntington Station should look like. The lack of apartments and small business around Huntington Station is astonishing; like they exist but nowhere near the numbers they should. Huntington station should look like Huntington town center.

Also, classic example of "other side of the tracks" which unfortunately is probably why this development and upzoning doesn't happen. I mean, look at some of the awful and asinine rhetoric here. https://nysfocus.com/2023/07/27/huntington-long-island-housing-new-york

Expand full comment

I remember this. It was batshit insane. And people refuse to believe they're pricing their own kids off the island. The history of Huntington forcing all rentals into Huntington station is long and gross, and so is how people react to the area.

Expand full comment

Yeah that difference is quite shocking, as a Queens resident who visits Huntington to see friends who live there. They live about halfway between the two, walking distance to the train and to Huntington town center, and yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m not actually sure which hamlet they live in, but they’re in an apartment, so maybe HS? I dunno, it’s a perfectly pleasant spot, and Huntington is easily one of the nicest towns I’ve been to on LI, but yeah, the anti-apartment sentiment out there causes crazy distortions. I really don’t relate to it, but your and others’ various comments in this thread do an excellent job of outlining the historical and sociological motivations behind it.

Expand full comment

Some assemblyman-type of local political figure had a booth at a festival a while back, and I tried to tactfully say “hey, why don’t we build more housing on Long Island?” He brought up the sewer/septic issue, which honestly I had never heard of or considered before in other places I’ve lived. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that so much of LI is “old suburbia” that dates back to the ‘50s and ‘60s, while other places I’ve lived (Northern Virginia, North Carolina) have boomed and developed more recently and don’t have the same infrastructure issues.

Expand full comment

There is also a water issue, the aquifer is limited in size. Closer-in parts are on the city system, but the rest can only develop so much.

Expand full comment

I live in NC in a county with a huge school system spread across a large land area. This leads to a different set of logistical challenges (school bus rides to magnet schools - generally used for voluntary integration - can be over an hour, weather events in one part of the county close all the schools even when some are not affected, transportation is inefficient and budget is too high, too few bus drivers to meet demand), but the upside is we don't have the crazy house price inflation related to being in the one tiny district with a good school (we do have some "better" schools with houses that cost somewhat more than others). People who come here from up north want to replicate their many small township/village districts to solve our big-county problem. I think that would be disastrous. However, we could probably stand to be two districts for practical reasons, but the political fight over how that would be allocated would be epic.

Expand full comment

Is it CMS? Sounds like CMS…

Expand full comment

Nope, the other huge county. And I grew up in Florida in another such county. Same issue. I still think it's better than the micro school districts of the NE, but that's only by reputation.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

Yikes. Even PA had the guts to forcibly merge some school districts (although the results might still cause your eyes to bleed). Edit: https://williampennfoundation.org/what-we-are-learning/politics-educational-change-what-can-we-learn-school-consolidation-acts-1961

Expand full comment

I live in Pennsylvania now and while our districts are dumb, they got nothing on Long Island. At least most Pennsylvania districts follow borough or township boundaries. On Long Island someone just drew a line through a potato field. I know some cases where the boundary literally goes through people’s houses. Back in the day the only way to know where the line was was to buy a Hagstrom map. There are actually people who get to decide which district to attend because their property straddles the line.

Expand full comment

What taxes to which districts do the property straddlers pay?

Expand full comment

I"ll just say, "loaded" question, lol.

But you can definitely see it in house prices. I'd argue (and curious if Alexis agrees), the most infamous town boundary in Long Island is the one separating the "town" of Hempstead with the "village" of Garden City*. There is absolutely a traffic light on Clinton Street that might be best visual represenation of "other side of the tracks" I've ever seen; one side houses going for north of $1MM minimum (likely more), other side edge of the poorest neighborhoods in Nassau County.

My point being, this "town" of Hempstead has houses way way way more expensive than other Hempstead houses because technically they are located in the Garden City school district. It's really stunning to witness in front of you the change from one street to the next.

* So the "town" of Hempstead also refers to an amalgamation of towns that total over 750,000 people in population and makes in the largest "town" in America. Another example of the absurdity of government functions in Long Island.

Expand full comment

Towns on Long Island are more equivalent to midwestern townships. In New York State, every place not in an incorporated city is in a town. The state would be well served by city town amalgamation and mergers imo.

Expand full comment

I don’t know if I have them ranked, but if I did, that boundary would be up near the top. Incredibly stark racial and economic segregation. Pretty sure Garden City code enforcement still harass Black people too.

Expand full comment

Here's what I see on Zillow, with my likely poor attempt of drawing the school district boundary:

https://i.ibb.co/yVy4gqR/image.png

This also reminded me of way back in the day when Bill O'Reilly described himself as being from Levittown, while others said he was really from Westbury, as I see those towns just due east.

Expand full comment

Re: “There are **127** school districts for Nassau and Suffolk counties, population 2.6M (compare to ONE school district for Fairfax County, VA, population 1.13M.)”

Economic research does *not* support the idea that large school districts are more efficient.

If you dig in to the research on district size vs. costs per student, what you generally see is that after adjusting for a bunch of demographic and geographic factors, there’s a U-shaped cost curve in which both tiny and large districts cost more per student and there’s an efficiency “sweet spot” in the middle.

But the “sweet spot” is at a much smaller point than you might think!

For example, a report from the Center for American Progress arguing for merging tiny districts is quick to note that “Research suggests that the optimal school-district size is around 2,000 students to 4,000 students.” https://www.americanprogress.org/article/size-matters-a-look-at-school-district-consolidation/

A different study on PA says: “Findings from this study suggest the optimal school district size in Pennsylvania is between 6000 and 7000 students” https://www.jstor.org/stable/48642625

Each study or meta-analysis out there has slightly different numbers, but all of them are on this magnitude of smallness.

Districts like Fairfax County (or NYC!) almost certainly suffer from significant diseconomies of scale. For Long Island, there absolutely may be some tiny districts that would see cost benefits from consolidation, but many are likely just fine and would become more inefficient if merged. Caution is needed with this stuff. Also, a lot of efficiency gains can be gotten through shared-services agreements rather than needing full consolidation.

Expand full comment

Point two: Long Island has incredibly high levels of residential and educational segregation, and the small district boundaries mean districts "tip" and go into white flight very quickly. In my opinion, district mergers are needed to smooth this out. You have districts that are 90% Black and Latino across the street from ones that are 90% white/asian. Of course, racial equity is exactly why many long islanders do not want mergers. "Local control" is the euphemism for racial control.

Expand full comment

I was just talking about economic efficiency. I totally agree with you that there are other relevant things to consider too, and that residential segregation (and school segregation) is a problem!

Expand full comment

I don’t think county level districts would be ideal — I’m using them as a contrast. But 127 is really too high. I’m a little skeptical of those numbers to be honest, simply from figuring out how few students you’d have in the high school with a student population of 2,000. I live in one of the largest districts in PA and we still have only about 10,000 students — and one of the lowest per student expenditures in the state. From experience I can tell you that you start having issues with special education when you get small, too.

Expand full comment

Isn’t Fairfax one of the top 10 highest performing school districts in the country? Same as Montgomery County, which also has a big county school district?

Expand full comment

Yes, but this might reflect affluence. You need to get really detailed with data to try to distill the effect of the schools themselves from advantages conferred by intake. In recent years FCPS is considered to be outperforming MCPS for various reasons. I don't have data (or expertise) to discuss economic efficiency. I will say that a good friend of mine moved from Cobb County (GA) -- considered one of the best districts in GA, and quite affluent -- to Fairfax... and soon learned that Cobb had managed to let her kid get to 7th grade with undiagnosed dyslexia. FCPS figured it out within the year, and during the pandemic at that. But when you get into special education, everything changes. I will say that FCPS is able to offer a spectrum of programs I could only dream about.

Expand full comment

Yeah. I had a lot of friends from Fairfax or MC in college and they were very well-prepared, I’ve read a decent amount of articles about them, and a friend of mine’s wife teaches there and their kids attend schools there.

Also, an interesting tidbit: Remember the 3 young black TN state senators that got kicked out for using a bullhorn in Congress to try to do something about guns, and were reinstated? The one based out of Memphis built a name as an activist blocking a pipeline that was going to go through a historic black neighborhood (and could have polluted the wonderful Artesian aquifer we have there). He’s pretty well loved by Memphians of both races. Anyway he was born in the hood in Memphis, then one of his parents got a job in DC and he went through his sophomore year in Fairfax Schools. When they moved back to an impoverished Memphis school, he was so far ahead of the kids there he was easily valedictorian. School quality matters, and anyone who is bitching about the Fairfax Schools of all places needs to get out more!

Expand full comment

I don't think hyper local government is the problem so much as *redundant* local government.

I live in Connecticut, where we also have hyper local government in the form of the Town. But it's just one, simple town government. There's no county gov, separate "village," etc. I think it is ideal. Town level is the perfect size government to accomplish meaningful goods like public safety, parks, and schools but still small enough for people to feel like they have a real voice and stake for their money. We pay 10k a year in Newtown on a 4brdroom colonial. I think it's worth it - and we send our kids to private school. I don't mind paying taxes to the public schools because these are my neighbors, I know the schools are well run, and the quality of the public schools brings us all up.

I would absolutely NOT be ok with paying taxes like that to a consolidated "Fairfield County" government where the money got sucked up by a bunch of crooks and patronage jobs in Bridgeport and where my vote and voice matters much less.

I can see the appeal of consolidating hyper local government, but I think one of the reasons New England has so much more buy in compared to the South when it comes to public services is the town system (combined with a history of relative racial homogeneity) facilitates much more trust in local government than a large county (with high levels of racial diversity). It's a lot easier to convince people to give money to government officials they personally know and socialize with and have commonalities with than to get people to hand over money and power to a distant bureaucracy whose community loyalties might be less certain.

And yes, this has a racial / socio economic element to it. I'm not saying that racial aspect is good or bad, just saying it is what it is, and all these Good White New England Liberals take for granted that they would hold the same politics even if they didn't live in very white states with folksy, responsive local governments.

Expand full comment

"On Long Island, you have the county, the city or town, and in many cases the incorporated village, and then special taxation districts on top, some of which primarily exist to provide patronage jobs."

This is exactly how all of Illinois is.

Expand full comment

Goddamn. In Brooklyn I pay half that in property taxes for, well, not a 3 bed split. Makes me feel better about my city income taxes.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I’m pretty pro decent amount of taxes to pay for more services; trains, good schools and yes even pensions.

But the poster actually compliments Matt’s main point; it’s really hard to defend high taxes when it’s going to places I can’t even see and to the commentator’s point, going to fix the mistakes of decades of GOP misgovernance.

Can’t emphasize this enough; on Presidential level, Long Island has become swingy and may now lean a bit left. But locally GOP still has way more power and control. We associate machine politics with Democratic Party given history of Chicago and NYC; but it’s actually a pretty universal phenomenon across both parties.

Expand full comment

Indeed, and although people get annoyed whenever I bring this up, I think that the poster also unwittingly highlights one of the arguments Strong Towns makes about the Suburban Growth Ponzi Scheme.

Those suburbs have high taxes because they're among the most mature in the country, and they were built on debt without a realistic model for paying for ongoing maintenance. This reality gets hidden from them because the whole thing collapses if people actually understand that their white picket fences are financially unsustainable. It's easier to let them believe that their huge tax bills are from some distant, unaccountable, alien government that is robbing them.

Expand full comment

I think it's a both-and

Expand full comment

Is the issue locally that no one pays attention to local elections? Traditionally “the taxes are too damn high!” is a popular pitch, and on Long Island / Westchester it seems like it’s probably *right* as a matter of substance. Surely not everyone in town can be o the county payroll taking in each others’ laundry, right?

Expand full comment

So politicians talk about lower taxes but don’t do it. The biggest segment of taxes is the school tax. You can vote the budget down and sometimes that happens. But then the state law kicks in. You get the mandated austerity budget (which might still have a tax increase, because the contracts don’t change). Then everyone screams about no sports and limited busing and they put the budget up for a revote and it usually passes.

Expand full comment

IMO it's mostly actually the Suburban Growth Ponzi Scheme at work.

And before you dismiss me, consider this: We KNOW that the homevoters who hate the taxes are the ones who are the MOST overrepresented in the local elections!

So, WHY in the WORLD would these governments continue doing the ONE thing they are the MOST painfully aware that their MOST active constituents hate the MOST?

[Addendum: I mean, we both know that municipal government is fundamentally broken, but we're talking about the LEAST broken part here! It just doesn't make sense for the least broken part to have the most glaringly obvious contradiction -- it'd be like seeing a shitty McDonald's run by an absolute tyrant of a manager, except none of the employees were afraid of him. Sure, it's a shitty McDonald's, so everything in it is shitty to SOME extent, but there's still just GOT to be a reason why no one's afraid of the big asshole manager, because employees at every OTHER company in the world are ALWAYS afraid of asshole managers.]

The only explanation that makes sense is "because they know they HAVE to do it anyways". The SGPS means they have no other choice than to stick their constituents with a huge tax bill. But it also means they're MAXIMALLY incentivized to obfuscate the true reasons for the huge tax bill; if they admit that it's the SGPS, well, their constituents don't want to hear that because they paid for *suburban* housing. It's easier to blame some distant government and generalized "waste".

Expand full comment

I don't think this entirely explains the school tax problem, though. The increases in costs here are much easier to analyze. And on Long Island, reason #1 is that teachers are very well paid, with average salaries in many districts in six figures. Also, NYSTRS is fully funded, unlike some states with unfunded pension liabilities, though the most recent class (youngest teachers) got screwed by the formula. You also have constantly increasing healthcare costs.

Expand full comment

The salaries, pension, and healthcare costs are ultimately driven by NIMBYism. If you don't build enough housing, teachers' and healthcare workers' costs go up.

Expand full comment

Very locally, if you have moved there for the schools you are probably not trying to cut the school budget. Your village budget is probably pretty small in comparison, and of course you want some cops, garbage collection, etc.

As you get up to the county and state level, the party allegiance kicks in. Heck, the GOP voters are sometimes discouraged just because they know they have such an uphill battle in NY.

Expand full comment

Well and up north regular snowplowing in the winter costs quite a bit, if you’re doing more than the arterials.

Expand full comment

I know more than one person who worked out that it would be cheaper to pay income tax in Queens than property taxes in Nassau. All depends on your income bracket and house, of course.

Expand full comment

Yeah the savings comes from not paying private school tuition(s) though.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

To be fair this makes Westchester and Nassau county tax rates even more insane. I want to basically shake whoever is in charge of setting them by the lapels and just shout repeatedly “Selection Effects Are Doing All the Work! You Don’t Need High Taxes!”

Expand full comment

But the high taxes are a big driver of the selection effect…

Expand full comment

I’m pretty sure that housing prices alone + higher minimum lot size and lower density is doing all the work. A 2% property tax is insane but you’re not going to lose selection effect benefit by catering to nine hunred fifty thousand-aires instead of just millionaires.

Expand full comment

bit of a tangent, but how magical are the selection effects versus "this is how the selection effects operate"?

Like obviously there is a benefit to getting my kid into a school that is very safe and has plenty of AP classes and lots of other smart peers for them to engage with. I don't believe you can just say it's irrelevant where my kid goes to school.

Expand full comment

It’s pretty irrelevant where your kid goes to school as long as they are with peers with parents who care.

I bet you Yung Wing school in Chinatown, with 51% low income student body and a 9/10 rating doesn’t do much in the way of special resources compared to any average New York City public school.

https://www.greatschools.org/new-york/new-york/2416-Ps-124-Yung-Wing/

Expand full comment

Yes but you pay city income tax.

Expand full comment

You should definitely not consider the Fairfax county system to be good. It's insane that an entire giant county of over a million people are in one school system and the entire school system shuts down because one random kid on a farm can't access the bus that day.

Expand full comment

It seems good everyone is in the school system together. The saner thing is to not do snow days for everyone just because a single rural resident can’t get to school that day.

Expand full comment

It’s one of the highest rated school districts in the country! Who gives af about an unnecessary snow day or two? Fairfax schools offer a lot, the parents are almost all PMC people that are involved, it’s probably the best school district in the country for its racial diversity, it performs really well! Fairfax SD kids are well-prepared for the world.

Expand full comment

Nelson Rockefeller and George Pataki were the biggest spending governors of my lifetime. And while I know that people in LI love to bash the MTA, the only reason it exists at all is that Nelson Rockefeller needed a vehicle to fix the then notoriously unreliable Long Island Rail Road - and he did, using toll revenue from NYC.

New York City is one school district for a population of over eight million. One high school in Brooklyn has six thousand students. There are actual economies of scale in running larger schools and larger school districts. We also aren't as allergic to development here in NYC. As a result, property taxes for homeowners in NYC (I am one of them) are much lower than in the suburbs.

Expand full comment

"New York City is one school district for a population of over eight million. One high school in Brooklyn has six thousand students. There are actual economies of scale in running larger schools and larger school districts."

NYC has some of the most expensive public schools in the country spending more than double, budgeting over 38k per student next year compared to national average of 15k.

Expand full comment

Actually NYC isn't even close to the highest per pupil expenditures in New York State! The really expensive ones are typically the smallest.

In addition to the high cost of living that requires higher salaries for teachers, there is also the issue that pension fund contributions in NY get charged to the per pupil expenses. In many other states, the politicians simply reallocate what should be the pension fund contributions to their pet projects or to tax cuts. That doesn't happen in New York. The unions make sure that any politician irresponsible enough to suggest such has his political career terminated at the next election. Would that were the case everywhere in the US.

Expand full comment

I'm not saying there aren't other more expensive districts in NY, just that the economies of scale run into some real hard problems when its more than TWICE the national average in the densest city with the largest school district in the US. Nor can you assign the blame primarily to pensions since pension and benefits make up less than 20% of the budget. That wouldn't *double* the cost.

Expand full comment

Pensions and benefits are 19% -- those don't get accounted for in most other places (in part because most states simply don't bother to fund the pensions, and in part because in some places they come out of a completely separate non-education budget). Charter and nonpublic school funding is 15%. In most places that also doesn't get accounted for in the local school budgets. (And in some places those expenses do not exist at all.) Pre-K services are 5%. Those programs aren't publicly funded in most places. Debt payments are 9%. In many places, that doesn't appear in the school district budget at all because the obligation to pay off the bonds isn't with the school district but with some other government body that actually has taxing power (unlike the NY City school system). Also not accounted for in most places.

Basically you are comparing apples to a fruit basket. NY gets trashed a lot but the budgets really do cover all the costs.

Now add in the fact that salaries are 50% or more higher. Try paying NYC teachers what they make in Mississippi. It doesn't work.

You can deny the economies of scale but they are real. The dozens and dozens of school districts in NY State that have much higher per pupil expenditures are all smaller, mostly much smaller, than New York City.

Expand full comment

Does Long Island even have any cities or is it just towns? Yonkers is the second largest city in New York State portion of Metro NYC (and #3 in the state after Buffalo), but the town of Hempstead is much larger and, I believe, the second largest municipality in NY State.

Expand full comment

Yes. Cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach.

Expand full comment

I don't know anything about Long Island but I "liked" this comment because I've never seen a comment hit triple digit likes here before and I had to join in.

Expand full comment

It's happened before. One of my favorite triple digit upvoted comments was this one:

https://www.slowboring.com/p/the-amas-advancing-health-equity/comment/3653540

Expand full comment

I had one! To be honest it wasn't a particularly interesting or great comment and I'm not sure it deserved three-digit likes, but hey, I'll take it.

https://open.substack.com/pub/matthewyglesias/p/why-are-young-liberals-so-depressed?r=i2ydk&utm_campaign=comment-list-share-cta&utm_medium=web&comments=true&commentId=13203698

Expand full comment

I think what you’re missing here is that a big part of New York’s governance failures are downstream of stunts like the one Hochul pulled. It’s much harder to retain good civil servants, contract with a wide range of non-corrupt private sector companies, and indeed convince constituents that you are serious about policy when your top governmental officials act like this.

Obviously New York’s governance has been failing since before 2021 (and Cuomo before her did even worse stuff) but I think you have to oppose moves like this as prima facie bad for governance even if you disagree with the policy itself.

Expand full comment
author

That’s a fair point

Expand full comment

Matt's implying that the Hochul's thought process is mostly just cynical politicking. But I think he's underrating the possibility that she just has bad policy preferences.

If Hochul actually quietly liked congestion pricing all she had to do was... Nothing.

Same with Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs vetoing a good YIMBY bill. Which, again, for good things to happen, all she had to do was nothing.

Maybe we're just underrating their bad policy preferences.

Expand full comment

And/or the party establishment as a whole.

It’s notable that neither Hobbs nor Hochul is a wild-eyed leftist. Valence-wise, they code as the sort of moderate Yglesian technocrats who should be defending YIMBY and congestion pricing!

The fact that they don’t, speaks to the institutional party’s deep shittiness. Moderation does not actually equate to Yglesianism in this party. Instead, it tends to mean a sort of cynical and blinkered overreliance on conventional liberalism — the sort that might say “Just run on abortion everywhere!!” without ever questioning the limits of such a strategy or trying to think outside or beyond that single box. (And then wallow in shock and despair at the state of democracy and our citizenry when it falls flat on its face -- OR do senseless victory laps when it succeeds out of sheer luck or for reasons that were unrelated or which they never examined in all that much depth.)

I wish Matt would recognize this problem more! Because, to reiterate, his brand of popularism calls for a moderate-ish stance, but the actual current moderates are not Yglesian in the slightest. We need actual change in who the moderates are and what they believe, not just to elect more moderates.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I tend to think SBer's, Matt included, pretty substantially overrate the extent to which cynical triangulators like Hochul and Biden actually overlap with the moderate technocrats they prefer. This sort of football pull is exactly what should be expected.

Expand full comment

You mean underrate?

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

I think he means overrate. Dave's critique is that there's less overlap than SB's "popularist" ethos would suggest between "optimized for winning elections by eschewing commitments to partisan ideology where it doesn't play well in Dodge" versus "adopting technocratically sound policy," and that Matt's endorsement of the former often comes at the expense of the latter. This being an example of the rubber hitting the road as to that tension -- Hochul's position is "moderate" in the sense of reflecting a form of wishy-washy status-quo bias (which is what is actually being politically selected for, in a kind of Goodhart's Law version of being a "moderate") but it's also totally at odds with what mild-mannered economists would tell you makes sense to do with respect to scarce public resources (i.e., charge for them).

More succinctly, sometimes the Baileys are wrong about what makes good policy.

Expand full comment

Hochul even screwed up the running on abortion thing! During the election she sent me dozens and dozens of mailers about how we need to protect choice in New York and one of her very first acts as governor was to appoint a judge to our highest court that was opposed by every major abortion rights group and digging in on the choice until the legislature refused to confirm. Her being an absolutely terrible politician is very much part of what's going on here.

Expand full comment

Why I always bring up that having Joe Lieberman as my senator is always going to impact my thinking about what "moderation" really means in practice. In theory, it means being a little more right of center on showy culture war stuff while being left of center (though not full on lefty) on economics. Think this is what Fetterman is trying to do.

But in practice? Yeah, it leads to stuff like Kyrsten Sinema voting against $15 minimum wage and protecting the low carried interest taxes https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/09/how-wall-street-wooed-sen-kyrsten-sinema-and-preserved-its-multi-billion-dollar-carried-interest-tax-break.html.

Sinema in some ways is an especially egregious example that serves a point. I don't think Matt is properly remembering how many Sinema like figures existed in the Democratic party circa 2000-2010 and how much they sucked.

Expand full comment

While I broadly agree, the counterpoint I’ll offer up is that as an Obama convert, it always stuck out to me how much liberals hate moderates like Sinema, Manchin, and Lieberman.

It’s not that I can’t see the betrayals or don’t personally mourn them myself, it’s just that the rage over them seems disproportionate and personal.

To someone deeply steeped in historical concepts like the Entropy of Victory, I struggle to get so upset about them. And I think it’s emblematic of how liberals’ emphasis on policy means they get so emotionally attached to their policy preferences that these betrayals don’t ever get filed under “politics as usual” - or worse, there’s a deep hatred OF seeing politics as anything that CAN go through “usual” setbacks.

I’m no fan of idiots like Sinema, but I also understand that if we had a rotating cast of 12 more of her as a permanent fixture of a Senate supermajority, we’d get a lot more of the big policy wins than we’ve ever gotten in my lifetime.

Expand full comment

Sinema was terrible, and moreover she ran as a middle-of-the-party Democrat. We could have gotten a more reliable, less corrupt Dem elected in AZ.

But Manchin, even though from what I understand he is corrupt af, is by far the best we’re gonna get out of WV. And most of his impact has been pretty positive, I believe.

Expand full comment

For a technocrat, congestion pricing was REALLY poorly thought out. If the idea was simply to raise money, there are better taxes to raise. If the idea was to get cars off the streets, there would have been increased transit capacity, which basically means many more buses and bus lanes on major arteries. Here in the Bronx there are no bus lanes on the expressways and the MTA has been trying to cut bus service for years -- and there are no plans to increase subway capacity at any time in the forseeable future.

Expand full comment

The MTA is a money sink. They need congestion pricing just to bail themselves out, how could they ever increase capacity at the same time?

Expand full comment

Per Charlie's point, it's quite obvious that a billion dollars spent on buses and more subway trains would improve capacity a LOT more efficiently per-dollar than the same billion spent on building entirely new subway lines or stops.

Expand full comment

A good question for Matt: how would he reform MTA?

Expand full comment

This is an excellent point about moderate politics and can perhaps also be described as dumb centrism (take the average position on any given issue) vs radical centrism https://www.abc.net.au/religion/the-radical-centre-constitutional-conservatism-and-indigenous-re/10094802

Expand full comment

Ehh, I think the radical centrism stuff is unwittingly descriptive of the average centrist voter -- who indeed tends to have a mix of radical positions from either side -- while also being an absolutely naive and feckless exercise in intellectual masturbation.

Because regardless of all their talk about "not taking averages", the radical center's supposed thought leaders basically have ZERO control over their own putative movement and constituents. Like the No Labels fetishists, they fantasize that mass discontent with the two-party system means there's a mass public ready and willing to accept their own ideas, and they live in a constant state of confusion about why this apotheosis perpetually refuses to magically, spontaneously happen -- often casting about for various idiotic theories that lead them down dead-end rabbit holes of even WORSE self-delusion than they started with. But the reality is, the mass public of centrists are mostly either (A) a bunch of deeply confused morons who don't read these thought leaders' high-falutin' manifestoes, or (B) a smaller handful of moderate and deeply ideological partisans who aren't actually centrist but just have a couple major disagreements with the party they lean closest to, and thus already have an information and thought-leadership environment they're quite satisfied with -- and aren't looking for some new philosophy of radical centrism, but really just want to win whatever intraparty debate/grievance they're currently on the wrong side of.

Also, the supposed thought-leaders' centrist stance basically requires they intentionally and very studiously ignore the very real asymmetries between the two parties as they actually exist. Most people are under the mistaken impression that you can't borrow ideas from a party that is so deeply morally compromised as the GOP, and so in order to indulge their desperate desire to virtue-signal their self-image of even-handed centrism, these radical-centrist ideologues pretend there's nothing *that* wrong with the GOP. Just because they're "not taking averages" doesn't mean they aren't engaging in an immoral both-sides-ism out of intellectual vanity.

So yeah, not to act like I'm the coolest kid at the party or anything here, but the radical centrists make me cringe. I'll take bog-standard basic-bitch Yglesianism any day of the week and twice on Sunday over them.

Expand full comment

I didn’t know there were so many self-described radical centrists in the US for someone to have such a strong opinion of them. As a non-American I don’t have that association nor do I see Yglesianism as some wildly different political philosophy. In my mind both strive to be carefully analytical, aware of trade-offs, contradictions and second-order effects and willing to take bold policy positions when warranted. If I were American I *would* worry about a third party helping the GOP win for sure.

Expand full comment

Yeah wtf is a centrist

Expand full comment

Bad policy preferences is far too charitable. She’s just not competent. This was literally optimal with respect to creating as much political damage with as little policy benefit as possible.

Expand full comment

She was surprisingly more competent than I was expecting from whatever party hack would succeed Cuomo, but less competent than the state actually needs.

Expand full comment

Are we feeling nostalgic for Cuomo yet? New York state politics is not a game of pattycake: there are advantages to having a ruthless asshole to balance the fecklessness and corruption of the Legislature.

Expand full comment
Jun 12·edited Jun 12

Cuomo is the guy who, vis a vis the MTA specifically, fired Andy Byford basically out of jealousy of his popularity, in addition to killing a bunch of care home residents and generally being a corrupt, sexually-harassing asshole. So, no -- either in general or specifically as it relates to this specific mess.

Fuck Cuomo. And while we're at it get the Tappan Zee its original name back instead of stroking the Cuomo family ego.

Expand full comment

Not Cuomo yet, but I think there's some Bloomberg nostalgia.

Expand full comment
Jun 10·edited Jun 10

Hochul has bad policy preferences and she's astonishingly bad at politics. If she wanted to kill congestion pricing for political reasons she did it the worst way. Cuomo was much worse in many ways, but he was way more competent at being bad.

Expand full comment

My sense is that Hochul saw some polls and got some calls from Jeffries and felt like she had no choice. Congestion pricing was, good idea or not (it was in fact mostly a good idea), unpopular, and it had lost too much support from Democratic elected officials in the suburbs to succeed.

Expand full comment

Yeah, Matt is dead correct to stress that the Jeffries thing is a red herring.

Expand full comment

The politicians in my outer-borough neighborhood didn't like it either. Which begs the question, who did like it?

Expand full comment

Hochul seems responsive to evidence that a truck is bearing down on her politically. When Zeldin came close to beating her in the governor's race, she got religion on the crime issue and got more active with the Legislature generally (I found this very gratifying). I suspect congestion pricing is the same thing.

Expand full comment

I also doubt Hochul is routinely hanging out with very many people who take the train around NYC, but you bet she knows a few rich Hudson Valley types who like to drive in to the city every now then pretending that the toll would "force" them to reconsider their trips (they won't)

Expand full comment

I would like to add the whole "National Guard sent to the NYC Subway" debacle as part of this frustration over how the state is being governed.

I mean obviously I still won't vote for Republicans, but JFC people, get your sh*t together.

Expand full comment

If a Rockefeller Republican type shows up in the 2026 race? I will not only vote for them, I will volunteer for them. The only thing worse than service cuts to fund tax cuts is service cuts to fund tax hikes. That’s all we get from Albany, going back at least a decade.

Expand full comment

There are no Rockefeller Republicans. They are as extinct as the Passenger Pigeon.

Expand full comment

All we need is one billionaire/ex-CEO to decide they want to get into politics.

Expand full comment

Larry Hogan isn't far from this, right? Nor is the VT governor.

Expand full comment

Rockefeller Republicans only exist as New England Republican Governors. Mitt Romney, Charlie Baker or Phil Scott. You'll notice the National Republican party mostly tries to ignore them when they talk.

Expand full comment

Your lips to God's ears, as they say.

If the GOP would like to get reasonable any time soon, that would be the best freaking news ever. I worry the normal folks can't get through their primaries anymore though.

Expand full comment

Maybe if they lose Bigly in 2024 the GOP will learn to actually offer something to people rather than asinine vitriol.

Expand full comment

Don't count on it.

Just to play Devil's Prophet here, let me tell you how a Bigly Loss will deepen the asinine vitriol.

First, Trump leads a series of second insurrections at the state capitols, enough to create several EC delegation controversies. Everything fails to throw the election to the House, but the controversy itself creates a brand new Big Lie for him to submit as the latest loyalty test for the entire party.

With the black hole of Trump's ego pulling the GOP "Triangle of Doom" (media + elite pols + base) ever closer to him, the party simply can't process losses as anything but a conspiracy against him. There's no way for the party to reject him; it just slowly shrinks as the steady trickle of fed-up moderates and occasional high-profile apostates (like Hogan) continue getting ejected by each round of loyalty tests -- in an unintentional analogy to my black hole metaphor, it's a lot like Hawking Radiation.

So, the whole party just keeps getting more asinine and more vitriolic with each loss, until he either dies or the party's no longer electorally viable.

Expand full comment

I love the Hawking Radiation reference, but I think in context this is probably a bit more like evaporative cooling.

Expand full comment

Hawking Radiation essentially IS evaporative cooling for black holes. It's literally how they cool off and lose mass, and why if the LHC ever accidentally made a really tiny one, it'd evaporate in nanoseconds.

Expand full comment

The water evaporates from the septic tank and all that is left is dry shit.

Expand full comment

This is fundamentally the root cause though - if you aren't going to vote for the opposition no matter how bad they fuck up, what is the incentive to not fuck up?

Expand full comment

With politics this polarized though, there isn't much choice. A blue politician has to be more than a bit incompetent for me to consider voting for someone on the other side who shares almost none of my policy preferences though. But I do think that we need to start viewing excellence in governance as an important progressive value in and of itself since almost all progressive policy preferences require a relatively high level of trust in government and government competence. Folks who do a bad job getting the pot holes filled in blue cities actually make it harder for us to get things like universal health care because they make government look shitty. I am all about the Left having more competative primaries focused on who would actually do a good job of implimenting progressive policies. I think it is actually probably better for our elective brand overall than just looking for moderation for its own sake. (Pragmatic folks who run stuff well frequently are a bit more moderate that incompetent extremists but there are also plenty of moderate folks who are incompetent too and some fairly left folks who are good managers.

Expand full comment

My hot take is:

The most effective method for centrist Democrats to improve the governance in Blue Cities is to invest in building a competitive GOP landscape. Nothing focuses the mind quite like defeat.

Expand full comment

May in some places but where I live the GOP would have to transform very radically to have any impact. I would generally like to see the definition of what makes someone progressive change from "person who say the most leftist talking points to person who actually achieves or has the skills and plans to achieve a possible progressive outcome." I do think that matters more than progressives think. We had a big swing in the Seattle City Council in the last election from very left democrats to centrist democrats because people we upset about poor governance (which is really more of a mayor thing than the council in many ways given the limited power of the council but folks who are mad don't really differentiate.) It is still all Dem but more Blue Dog. Of the two progressive who survived, one was my council person who I am pretty sure won, not because he was more moderate but because he was a very service focused guy who actually held regular office hours and had his staff get into the weeds about specific pot holes and needed crosswalks and high crime spots etc and actually harassed whatever city agency was involved to do something so people felt like he had actually done something useful for them or their neighborhood. I think that suggests that getting folks on our side to do more of that would make it easier to keep people with progressive values in charge.

Expand full comment

There's no crime against centrist democrats running as a republican or joining the party in an attempt to temper leftist ambitions.

Expand full comment

Exactly.

Expand full comment
Jun 10Liked by Ben Krauss

You know what else is bad for governance? GOP majorities.

Expand full comment

Vote for Democrats, sure we raise your taxes and provide bad services but sometimes we get cold feet and don’t do it at the last minute! Heck of a brand, plays great in Suffolk County.

Expand full comment

Like if there was another plan on the table and she switched from a lefty plan to a centrist plan at the last minute then that might be a worthwhile political stunt but switching from ready-to-go plan to…nothing…I don’t think is even helpful politically!

Expand full comment

Whatever effective leadership looks like, this isn’t it.

Vote Replacement-Level Primary Challenger for Governor!

Expand full comment

Can we spare a little criticism for the legislators who created the mess in the first place?

Expand full comment

I mean sure, a coherent moderate Republican agenda would probably stand a real chance in the state - maybe even in nationally. But that's not the GOP we have today. There's no Larry Hogan equivalent trying to get elected governor of NY, to the best of my knowledge.

Expand full comment

Canada’s system of local parties that are largely orthogonal to national partisan branding sounds more attractive every day.

Expand full comment

I can tell you it's not paying dividends in Ontario transit circles at the moment. We've got an independent agency "Metrolinx" that built an LRT line across the city, with incredible delays and way over budget and all that, but they refuse to open it or say when it will open or identify why they can't open it. And there apparently exists no means to force them to do so.

Expand full comment

Liked for the information content; frown for substance.

Expand full comment

Mass sort of had this, at least at the Governor level, until very recently. Unfortunately, Trump has activated the cultural right here with predictable results.

Expand full comment