City & State’s best op-eds in 2019

We’ve injected some overlooked ideas into the conversation.

One of our best op-eds of the year was on 9/11 survivors.

One of our best op-eds of the year was on 9/11 survivors. Anthony Correia/Shutterstock

City & State’s op-eds in 2019 offered original angles on a wide range of issues that New Yorkers care about, including housing, transportation and even how to combat sexual harassment. Choosing only five as the best is hard, as it inevitably leaves out some richly deserving articles. Among the strongest that we couldn’t include were Jesse Singal’s myth-busting op-ed about the exaggerated dangers of marijuana legalization and Lindsay Beyerstein’s fascinating dive into the New York history of presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s quirky philosophy. 

But, if the metric we are using to judge them is telling you something important you didn’t know or offering an insightful perspective about New York politics or policy, these five op-eds are among our best:

I’m a 9/11 survivor. I still don’t know how these programs can help me, by Amanda Luz Henning Santiago. On the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we published the first-person account of our own staffer Henning Santiago on her experience of being near the World Trade Center on that day, as an elementary-school student, and the aftermath for her and her friends. As our print cover story that week detailed, many survivors have not been able to access, or are even aware of, the physical and mental health programs they are eligible to enroll in. Henning Santiago gives us a moving insider’s perspective on how and why that’s the case. 

Cabán campaign shows WFP’s real purpose, by Ross Barkan. As the Working Families Party faces the prospect of extinction under the Public Campaign Financing Commission’s stiffer new requirements for minor-party ballot access, Barkan explicates the role the progressive party played in Tiffany Cabán’s remarkable near-upset in the Queens district attorney race. The WFP, Barkan argued, has a more valuable contribution to make in politics as a “consultant” offering “expertise and guidance” to “fledgling campaigns.”

Why gestational surrogacy should be legalized and unionized, by Lindsay Beyerstein. New York progressives are divided over whether to legalize paid gestational surrogacy, with some touting it as an advance for freedom and for gay couples and others who want to have biological children, with some feminists countering that it would open the door to exploiting poor women and their bodies. Beyerstein offers a compromise that could break the stalemate. “Exploitation isn’t any more inherent to gestational surrogacy than it is to any other kind of work, it’s just that – like all forms of work – women can be exploited when they lack the bargaining power to get a fair deal for their labor,” Beyerstein observed. Therefore, she suggests, “New York should also pass a law to classify gestational surrogates as employees, thereby entitling them to the equivalent of minimum wage. The state should also require fertility clinics to pay into the worker’s compensation system to provide no-fault compensation to surrogates who are injured by their pregnancies.”

De Blasio should run for president, by Kate Albright-Hanna. As soon as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio started to entertain a run for president, the pundits pounced, mocking him at every turn and outright arguing that he would be a negligent chief executive if he campaigned for higher office. (Weirdly, none of these critics had much to say about U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s equally ill-fated ambitions.) Albright-Hanna offered a counterweight to all the de Blasio-bashing, pointing out his many achievements in office and contrasting his record favorably with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. De Blasio, of course, failed to catch fire. But Albright-Hanna never said he would, and simply forced readers to reconsider their knee-jerk reactions. 

Why we need more technologists in politics, by Emil Skandul. Rapidly evolving technology and the new regulatory challenges it creates is at the center of many political battles, and few policymakers have any experience working in the tech sector. That should change, argues technologist and former New York City Council staffer Skandul. Noting the vast discrepancy between technical or scientific backgrounds and overrepresented ones such as law and political advocacy, he writes, “Legislators may be well-trained at winning arguments, but poorly equipped to understand the growing industries they must regulate. … it may not just be knowledge of the tech sector that is missing in New York’s governing bodies, but also the culture, philosophy and enterprising spirit that comes with it.” Diversity among elected representatives can take many forms, and this is a new one to consider.