As Earth Day dawns Sunday, Americans should consider the relationship between environmentalists and the former mayor of the capital of Earth. From New York’s City Hall, Rudolph W. Giuliani successfully confronted green zealots while advancing science and technology. Here again, Giuliani stands well right of where his detractors might expect.
–The West Nile virus debuted in the Western Hemisphere in the College Point community in the New York borough of Queens in August 1999. Among 62 New York state residents who contracted West Nile encephalitis (brain swelling) that year, seven died.
Rather than study the problem to death, that summer and in 2000, Giuliani launched widespread insecticide spraying against West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. Environmentalists went haywire.
The local No Spray Coalition sued to block fumigation. New York’s Green Party callously declared: “These diseases only kill the old and people whose health is already poor.”
Giuliani firmly told Newsday that spraying was “perfectly safe.” He added:
“There are some people who are engaged in the business of wanting to frighten people out of their minds.” In 2000, he told CNN: “The reality is that danger to human life is more important than birds, fish and insects.”
Before releasing waterborne larvicide and aerial- and ground-level pesticide, hundreds of Health Department employees used fliers and home visits to urge Queens residents to remain indoors with windows and air ducts closed during nighttime spraying. A 75-person, 24-hour hotline answered 150,000 calls. Doctors and journalists also were briefed.
Giuliani’s swift and thorough spraying programs yanked the wings off the mosquitoes that could have turned a manageable West Nile outbreak into a catastrophe.
“Unfortunately, West Nile has spread, largely because other mayors didn’t spray when they were cowed by the greens,” says John Berlau, author of “Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health.” “But West Nile could have become an immediate nationwide epidemic if not for the quick action of Giuliani and his Health Department.”
Given West Nile’s documented human toll, Giuliani did the right thing. In 1999, a Russian flare-up sickened 500 people, killing 40. A 1996 outbreak of West Nile meningitis and encephalitis centered in Bucharest, Romania, infected 90,000 and hospitalized 835. Seventeen died.
— Environmentalists whined when New York City and Consolidated Edison cooperated to build 10 new electrical generating plants and expand another facility.
“We object to the fact that our neighborhood is being slammed with pollution,” East River Environmental Coalition President Susan Steinberg complained to gothamgazette.com. “Con Ed, let me breathe,” demanded a placard at an April 2001 protest. One demonstrator’s puppet puffed on an asthma nebulizer.
As Giuliani writes in his book, “Leadership”: “I, too, would have preferred a public park or beautiful housing to a generator on the East River, but I also had to think about the 12,000 megawatts New Yorkers could consume in an hour on a hot day.” Indeed, a 1999 blackout left 300,000 Washington Heights and Inwood residents in the dark for 30 hours.
“My administration’s clear priority in this area is to see that the lights stay on and that electricity continues to flow in New York City,” Giuliani said in a power-policy address that March. “There is no room for complacency as we prepare for the future.”
— Giuliani also privatized the management of Central Park. While the city still owns Gotham’s gorgeous 843-acre rectangle of flora, bike paths, lakes, lawns and stages, the Central Park Conservancy, a nonprofit, operates it.
For New York, this idea was as radical as an American president asking the National Geographic Society to manage Yellowstone National Park.
— Today, Giuliani advocates broader domestic production to achieve energy independence as a national-security goal. As he told local supporters March 14: “We have to end our reliance on oil from sources that are enemies of the United States.” Last June 13, he told a Manhattan Institute luncheon, “We have to diversify. That’s our strength.” He added, “You can be independent by being diversified.” Giuliani embraces Alaskan oil drilling, plus natural gas, clean coal, ethanol and accelerated construction of atomic power plants.
None of this will help America’s Mayor with the eco-freaks, but they hate him anyway. These facts, however, pour yet another spade full of earth on the myth that Rudolph W. Giuliani is some sort of liberal.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)