Good piece by John Tierney in the Times:
If you love cities, this is a week to rejoice. Now that the stadium planned for New York’s West Side is dead, no one can fantasize anymore about the Olympics coming to New York.
If the city had gotten the 2012 Games, its leaders would have basked for seven years in Olympic photo opportunities, and mayors across America would have watched enviously. They would have succumbed further to what I think of as the Circus Maximus syndrome.
The victims of this urban-planning syndrome believe, like some Roman emperors, that a leader’s prime civic responsibility is to build entertainment palaces for the masses. American mayors haven’t yet built anything quite like the Circus Maximus, where a quarter of a million Romans watched chariot races, but their combined output makes it look puny.
They’ve endowed downtowns with stadiums, arenas, theaters, concert halls, museums and aquariums. They imagine drawing hordes of out-of-towners to the new convention center, and when the visitors don’t materialize, the mayors’ solution is to build an even bigger convention center with a subsidized hotel next door.
The mayors hire consultants to project grand economic benefits from their projects, but these dreams virtually never come true. The only realistic way to justify one of these public projects is by considering the noneconomic benefits.
A good piece, because it echoes my sentiments.