Letter: Don’t Add Superman Subsidies to the Taxpayers’ Tab


Well said by Catherine Orloff in a letter to yesterday’s Providence Journal. She uses the word that occurred to me: bailout.

Sure, a rehabbed “Superman” building would be great. But whose job is it: the owner’s or the public’s? …

No way should all Rhode Islanders be forced into yet another bailout.

Indeed, the public – a.k.a., the taxpayers – already has far too many costly problems on its hands, the vast majority inflicted on us by bad decisions and poor policies on the part of our elected officials. We don’t need to add yet another in the form of a bailout for the out-of-state owner of the Superman Building.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I am of two minds. The Superman building is as “iconic” as the Roger Williams statue, or the reopened river. However, any “bail out” would require sound economics. I don’t see a future as an office building unless it could be brought in very cheaply. There isn’t sufficient floor space for the mass. It was built at a time when the architectural maxim required that no work space be more than 28 feet from a window. So, as the elevator shaft decreased in size, the walls came in. I don’t know if PVD (like NYC) had a “set back” requirement at the time. Unfortunately, I lack a suggested use. Your argument could be equally applied to why do we support Monticello, Mt. Vernon, or Robert E. Lee’s home. Do we tax the College Hill mansions owned by 501(c)’s?

  • Mike678

    Frankly, if the owners need a taxpayer bailout then their is no “sound economics’ behind it. See 38 Studios: The private, profit-driven side wouldn’t touch it. But our public sector leadership loved it–after all, it isn’t their money and it also provided a great opportunity to redirect monies to insiders.

    If the private sector thinks this is a pig–it’s a pig.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      There is much in what you say, but the private sector is not always correct. Have you seen “The Big Short”. Granted the quasi governmental FMNA was backing it, the private sector ran with the ball.. Regardless of perceived wisdom, private lenders follow the pack mentality. They won’t do what no one else is doing. Worse, they will do things for no better reason than “everyone’s doing it”. I recall the late 80’s when you couldn’t finance a single family subdivision because “condos were the thing”. This led to a glut of condos and (in part) the “savings and loan crisis” (Google it). As a practical matter “Savings and Loans” disappeared. Replaced by the “Community Re-investment Act”. Before granting absolute faith to the private sector, you might want to read up on the 16th century “Tulip Mania”. The private sector is frequently wrong (selling video tape technology to Japan rather than develop it) still it is wrong less frequently than government.

      Still, you are right in the sense that a good idea should fly. Trouble is, I don’t have that idea. I would hate to see it go. So much of what we like about Providence is the result of what preservationist call “preservation by poverty”. There is no other reason that the Arcade survived.

      • OceanStateCurrent

        “I would hate to see it go” should not become “I will make other people pay for my aesthetic preferences.”

        • Rhett Hardwick

          True, I would like to see a good idea for it. What I fear is that it will deteriorate “just sitting around”. Then be dismissed as an “eyesore”. PVD values are probably not high enough to justify demolition.But, taxes might do it. A lot of big city buildings become “parking lot” taxpayers until a better idea comes along.

          I wonder what keeps the Empire State Bldg. afloat. I worked there when I was a kid. Above the lobby, it was a dump.

      • Mike678

        No, I read the book which included gov’t complicity, no, encouragement by the Feds (Barney Frank and others) for banks to package bad loans. Somehow much of that got left on the cutting room floor. Didn’t meet the narrative, I assume.

        Of course the private sector makes mistakes. More startups fail than succeed. But private people take those risks…it isn’t corrupt politicians passing the risk off to the public.

        Change is constant…only a fool thinks the present should also be the future…. :)