Feature

Editor's Letter: New Yorkers pull a NIMBY

Until recently, many New Yorkers were relishing the opportunity to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants to justice near the scene of their monstrous crime.

Until recently, many New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, were relishing the opportunity to bring self-described 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants to justice near the scene of their monstrous crime. But Bloomberg last week urged the Obama administration to find a more suitable locale, citing the security risk and the enormous police tab. His remarks echoed the growing opposition to the trial from businesses that fear a drop-off in customers and from residents worried about being blocked from using neighborhood streets. New Yorkers may pride themselves on being tough, but they have succumbed to NIMBY—the “not in my backyard” lament that’s heard whenever local sensibilities clash with a broader public purpose.

It’s a widespread syndrome. We understand the need for homeless shelters, prisons, and hazardous-waste sites—we just don’t understand why they have to be plopped down in our towns. Who doesn’t favor development of alternative energy to reduce our debilitating addiction to foreign oil? But please, put those unsightly solar-power transmission lines and wind turbines someplace else. When President Obama pledged to close the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, the legal complications of transferring the prisoners to the U.S. were the least of his obstacles. “You think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY problem?” warned Sen. John McCain. “Wait till you see this one.” He was referring to the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, which was established by Congress in 1987, cost billions to build, and has not received a single barrel of spent fuel. Never underestimate the power of NIMBY.

Eric Effron

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