“There’s an ad for that.”
The phrase could be a campaign slogan for mayoral hopeful Tom Allon. As a newspaper publisher in Manhattan, Allon knows the strength and value of advertising. And it’s one of the things he wants to bring to City Hall.
A former Democrat who just changed parties to seek the Republican nomination for mayor next year, Allon is running on a platform that stresses educational improvements and reform and more public transportation options.
And one way he’d pay for it all is through advertising — letting companies bid to put their names on subway stations, for example, the way they do on sports stadiums. The same thing is done when benefactors get their names put on hospital wings, he pointed out.
Decrying the transit fare hikes the MTA is planning during an interview last week with the Queens Chronicle editorial board, Allon said, “Why not take our 468 subway stations and 15,000 bus stations and sell the naming rights? Why not have Google Times Square station? There’s no reason we shouldn’t do that.”
Selling naming rights as a way to raise revenue is just one part of the Allon’s financial improvement plan for the city. He would also sell the air rights over schools to help fund education by letting developers put apartments above them where it would work, sell residential parking permits in some neighborhoods and try to get the commuter tax reinstated to bring in revenue from people who work in the city but live in the suburbs.
“The city needs somebody with my experience, vision and creativity,” Allon said. “I think like a businessman.”
Allon is the publisher of several community newspapers and online media outlets based in Manhattan, including Our Town and City & State, the latter of which is becoming required reading for the chattering classes all over the city. Prior to becoming a publisher, he was a reporter, and in his various roles has covered city government for more than 25 years. He was also a teacher at Stuyvesant High School, from which he had graduated years before.
Improving the school system is one of Allon’s key campaign platforms. He stressed that he would reduce some of the reliance on test scores as a measure of success and instead “give teachers the tools they need to teach” — starting with better training in teachers’ colleges.
“I think if teachers get proper training before they get into the classroom, that solves 50 percent of our education problem,” Allon said.
The interview at the Chronicle covered a broad range of other topics as well. Allon’s position on various issues include:
• adding more express bus service and building elevated light rail systems. Asked about the proposal to reopen the old Rockaway train line that used to run from Forest Hills into South Queens, Allon said that although he had not heard of the proposal before, it sounded good, because any improvement to public transportation is;
• selling more taxi medallions to raise revenue and expand transportation options;
• reforming but retaining the use of stop and frisk as a police tactic;
• hiring more police officers. Allon noted that the force has dropped to about 34,000 from its high of 41,000, and said he knows how to cut other costs so the city can afford it;
• putting the brakes on the drive to expand gambling, which he said amounts to a regressive tax on those least able to afford it. While he would not try to shutter the existing Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, he does not favor adding full table games there; and
• licensing bicycle riders and forcing them to carry insurance.
He also said he would support building a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a plan that has been the center of controversy in recent weeks. Asked if he would back such a project in Central Park, the lifelong Manhattanite said yes.
A Democrat until just a couple months ago, Allon said he is a fiscal conservative and social liberal who no longer felt at home in that party and had to become a Republican. The other announced GOP hopefuls for mayor are Adolpho Carrion, a former Bronx borough president, and George McDonald, founder of the nonprofit social service group the Doe Fund. Both also just switched parties.
On the Democratic side, likely and announced candidates include City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson Jr.