NY Daily News wants to have its water and drink it too

In the NY Daily News yesterday: An editorial urging the city to buy every last possible scrap of land in the Catskill-Delaware watershed, to forestall the massive cost of another filtration plant like the one recently built to handle water from the Croton watershed.

That would be a killer. Think of finding space not for 8 acres of construction, but 80 acres. Think of spending not $3 billion, but likely $30 billion and perhaps $50 billion on the job.

This must not happen. The city must do all in its power to maintain the Catskill/Delaware watershed's natural, clean state. Among other things, that means continuing to buy up as much surrounding land as possible, to be kept vacant. The state last week gave the city permission to continue purchases for another 15 years. Since 1997, the city has spent $541 million on acquisitions. They are well worth the price.

And the money line (cymbal crash):

Buy, buy, buy, or it will be bye-bye, New York.

Upon reading this, we went back and re-read the NY Daily News's story about the Catskill Watershed Corporation from September of 2009, in which the paper raked a prodigious amount of muck about the city's spending of taxpayer dollars on loans to small businesses in the watershed. The story quotes a bunch of locals who remind the reporter that clean water costs money, and that the money New York City gives the CWC is not so much city largesse as the price of city-imposed regulations in the watershed. But the overarching tone is one of outrage: Our tax dollars fund upstate bowling alleys?

The city has laid off teachers, trimmed the housing authority payroll, chopped cultural grants and scrambled to close a looming $1.1 billion budget gap.

Yet millions of tax dollars flow upstate to hundreds of rural businesses that peddle everything from booze to bowling.

Your outrage makes perfect sense, Daily News. Because none of those teachers, low-income Housing Authority tenants, and artists drink water, right?

And further along in the article, there's this:

Critics also fault the city for providing grants and low-interest loans, typically at 4%, to unusual businesses like a bowling alley in Walton, a golf course in Margaretville and a historical society in Haines Falls.

"Government is making a series of eccentric investments in an odd assortment of companies that may or may not pay off," said Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an influential think tank. "It's never been very good at cherry-picking winners and losers ...and it's an inefficient use of taxpayer money."

(Steve Malanga, for what it's worth, is a conservative commentator who has been loudly critical of New York City's use of eminent domain within city limits. It seems logical to presume that if he'd been around during the building of the Pepacton Reservoir, he would have been on the side of what the Daily News refers to as the "four villages, five schools, eight churches, 13 cemeteries, 24 cauliflower farms and 974 people" that were unwillingly moved in the process.)

We get it. The Daily News is rather tabloidy -- and, believe it or not, as former print-news folk, we have a great love for tabloids. It's their job to stir the pot, and they tend to do it well. Our guess here (and, admittedly, we're guessing) is that the paper doesn't have anything like an overarching philosophy behind its editorializing about the watershed; they're just reflexively pro-NYC, and as a metro daily, that's their prerogative.

But anybody reading these two articles together might think that what the Daily News really wants is for New York City government to have total control over just about every aspect of human life (if there should even be any) in the million-acre Catskill-Delaware watershed, and to give the region not so much as a red cent for the privilege.

And New Yorkers wonder where all the local anti-NYC sentiment comes from.