Every burned town is tragic. But Newsom needs to lead with science, not sentiment. That means the town will need to be rebuilt from the ground up, with all of its current infrastructure. It means, if history is any guide, most of the residents will be forced to leave town to prevent them from suffering in the new housing.
Newsom’s decision was met with a backlash that quickly morphed into a full-blown panic. The state-backed construction industry came out in droves with suggestions that Newsom would bankrupt New York City. In fact, as the situation got worse, the construction industry offered to contribute $2 billion to the project. The mayor had no way of knowing it at the time; the only clue he had was the $200 million contract, which required him to build with high speed rail and toll stations and to have a citywide plan for the construction that was approved by the legislature. It was a good bet Newsom would walk away from New York’s largest reconstruction project since the Second World War.
Two weeks after the fire, New York Times City Beat reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin broke the story of the mayor’s plan to rebuild New York City by driving in a private rail car from Queens and then driving back. The mayor had no plan. As one of his aides later explained, he was afraid of the “gut-wrenching” decision.
While the mayor’s aides were having trouble explaining why the rebuilt city should be rebuilt the way they wanted to, Newsom was facing the largest public backlash of his long career.
In June, after spending three months going to the trouble and expense of buying back the burned-out city, Newsom announced the news media were free to show pictures of his new New York.
His new New York looked nothing like the town he had just seen burned to the ground.
He wasn’t alone in his reluctance to fully embrace the project. Newsom’s original economic development director explained that he