Mayor Mike’s “Farewell Tour:” Words We’ve Waited Twelve Long Years to Hear

by cathryn on December 24, 2013

Goodbye, Mike!

It really is time for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to go. I thought so back in October 2008 before he engineered and bought his third term, and way before that (from Day 2 perhaps?).

But now it’s actually a reality! He’s going! Is it 7 more days? Bloomberg reportedly has a clock in his office counting down the days – of course, that should have been 1453 days ago (if not more).

If Michael Bloomberg had departed after the first two terms, it’s likely the daily newspapers — whose publishers dine all together with him, at his townhouse (it’s important to note, prior to M.B., they had a ‘healthy’ rivalry) — and other corporate media would still be glowingly writing about him: the press has played a starring role in deception to the public. It’s hard not to be almost thankful for the third term — the true picture finally bubbled to the surface as public outrage escalated over what the city had become; Mike could only keep the negative impact of his Wall Street and tourism-favorited ways hidden for so long — and yet, so much more destruction ripped through the “fabric” of the city over these last four years.

The Way the Man Operates

I’d forgotten until reading a Letter to the Editor in yesterday’s New York Daily News that, in 2001, when Bloomberg spent so many millions on his campaign, he said he was only doing it because his opponent, Mark Green, had “name recognition advantage” and he would never do it again. And yet, he did. In 2009, the billionaire Mayor spent $102 million to influence that third term “win,” after previously shelling out $74 million in 2001 and $85 million in 2005 to buy those terms.

Of course, Mike’s motto is: “I never, ever look back.” How can he ever possibly understand why people didn’t like his policies which enriched Wall Street, developers and the corporate elite while dictating nanny-like policies on everyone else and bypassing community input every which way? He can’t. He thinks the election of Bill de Blasio is a “fad,”, something akin to fashion dictating the change in hemlines of women’s skirts. In his mind, people want change just because, not because of anything he did.

This past Saturday, Michael Bloomberg was in town, probably for the first time in years — oh right, he doesn’t want us to ask about those weekend Bermuda jaunts that begin early Friday afternoon and go until Sunday night and be accountable to the, uh, people informing them as to the Mayor of New York City’s whereabouts — for a “Saturday Night Live” appearance (first time) and even held a press conference. I gather that clock’s ticking was reverberating a little louder and he wanted to have a few more days as Mayor (Emperor? Dictator? Nanny? King?) Bloomberg.

The “Legacy” of Bloomberg’s Parks Department

Bloomberg’s fingerprints were all over the embattled redesign of Washington Square Park. Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was like an errand boy – happy to comply with Bloomberg’s wishes. He was lavished with attention for this role and easily stepped over community heads along the way; he has been heralded as the Parks Commissioner who oversaw more parks added to the city. The fact that money was always easily found to create and redesign public spaces but not necessarily allotted to fund their maintenance is no small matter to Bloomberg and Benepe. Just find a corporate privatizer and it’s done as far as they are concerned. (Benepe has now gone on to push for privatizing public spaces across the country for the Trust for Public Land.) The negatives associated with privatization of public space have never been an issue for these two men (current Parks Commissioner Veronica White mostly just played along during her one and a half years in the job).

Bloomberg’s Parks Department didn’t worry about the give away and obliteration of one and a half parks in the Bronx and chopping down of hundreds of trees for the new stadium for the Yankees corporation, was an eager participant in forcing a restaurant on Union Square Park against community wishes, championed parks becoming exceedingly commercialized (looking at you Bryant Park, Union Square Park and Madison Square Park) with no one in the administration pushing back, public sentiment ignored, and there is so much more. For Washington Square’s contentious redesign, it was community wishes be damned – Bloomberg and Benepe wanted the fountain centered to the Arch (missing the point that the fountain had been centered to the ‘center’ of the Park for the last 137 years), sold the fountain’s “naming rights” to the Tisch Family (purposefully neglecting to mention this to anybody), and bulldozed through the total overhaul of a well-functioning, much loved public space.

Bloomberg’s NYC as Unregulated “Luxury Product,” No Hospitals, Giveaways to Developers and Corporations, Privatized Everything

The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman wrote two days ago that building heights in the city have to be regulated somehow – because there are towers on 57th Street blocking light uptown and on Central Park — twelve years late. It’s not like this just started yesterday but, of course, criticism of the Mayor was measured amidst sparkling regurgitation of his administration’s press releases.

Gawker ran a piece this week, Michael Bloomberg Takes the Train to Nowhere, which takes on Bloomberg’s “legacy:” the failed policies, the ten-plus years of viewing NYC as a “luxury product” for Wall Street, developers and his million-and-billion-aire friends, and no one else.

This doesn’t even mention the fact that nineteen hospitals have closed in New York City since 2000! St. Vincent’s just one of them — those luxury condos are selling well so Mike is just fine with the fact that there is no hospital below 14th Street. Overturning voted-in term limits (which did in Christine Quinn’s shot at Mayor, although she is still pondering why she didn’t prevail – well, that, a million other things including not standing up for St. Vincent’s over money coming into her campaign coffers) isn’t touched upon. Or the impact of the uber privatization and commercialization of just about everything on our city. It’s time to rewind these policies! We can begin with Washington Square Park and removing the private conservancy inflicted through the stealth mode operation of Bloomberg’s Parks Department.

Gawker: Failed Policies and Time for “a New City”

Running as “the education mayor,” Bloomberg’s insistence on testing and school closings further segregated an already unequal school system, while his plans to relieve congestion in New York City never even made it past Albany. His ideas about homelessness resulted in a record amount of homeless families, and his proposals on the regulation of the consumption of sugary drinks failed to be constitutional. His defense of the “stop and frisk” policing tactic was struck down by a federal judge, while his plan to rezone Manhatan’s Midtown East were batted away by the city council. His 2012 Olympic dreams failed to live anywhere but inside Dan Doctoroff’s mind. Today, New York City is more unequal than any time in recent history.

Bloomberg’s administration did succeed in getting the private sector to pay for parks and bicycles! Unfortunately, these are unsustainable revenue streams and completely contingent on the welcoming environment Bloomberg created for corporations that dislike paying taxes and enjoy ripping off the rest of America.

And…

While almost all of his policies have failed, there is a single one, in fact, the most important one, that has succeeded: The rezoning of New York City. Since taking office, Bloomberg has rezoned nearly 40 percent of the city, transforming industrial spaces to residential ones, low-rise neighborhoods to ones with gleaming office towers. Rezoning was a long time coming, cities inevitably change, but the scale on which the forces of development were unleashed on New York City has been staggering. In just over a decade, whole neighborhoods have changed, and, demographically speaking, been upscaled. The luxury city of which Bloomberg spoke has been realized, albeit not necessarily complete.

After Bloomberg, New York is now nowhere. The fabric has changed too much in the past twelve years for there to be any connection to what it was before Giuliani, 9/11, Bloomberg — before it all. But being nowhere is good, because nowhere is still short of that luxury city Bloomberg dreamed. The time of autocratic rule, or the illusion of such, is over for now in New York City. Maybe a new city, one that actually represents what people want their city to be, can now happen.

And Bloomberg will always have Bermuda.

It was billionaire Michael Bloomberg behind-the-scenes pushing for a private conservancy at the public’s Washington Square Park, you know, for Mike, there can’t be enough private influence inflicted upon government and the people; the aggressive redesign now part of his “legacy.”

As Gawker writes, “Maybe a new city, one that actually represents what people want their city to be, can now happen.”

Perhaps now, our city’s parks and public spaces, instead of being sold off to the highest bidder, can at last be returned to the people.

Farewell Mike!

*   *   *

Happy Holidays!!

Reminder: Caroling at the Arch today, Christmas Eve, 5 p.m.!

Previously at WSP Blog:

The Blanding of New York City: Why It’s Time for Mayor Mike to Go October 3, 2008

Bloomberg’s Parks Department to NYC: Privatize! City Conspires to Legitimize Private Conservancy at Washington Sq Park Before New Mayor Steps In November 15, 2013 (Part II in a series)

 
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Seth Wolitz December 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Well, I for one am not about to weep crocodile tears for the departure of the “Billionnaire” Mayor of NYC, but the article posted on 24 Dec. 2013 is a rather flimsily anti Bloomberg rant. Our Washington Square Park needs to be defended against the conservancy we are facing but I dare say look to NYU and its President, to Tisch and a few other big developers in the city to see that we have opponents well oiled and prepared to push their own agendas. But as nonsensical as moving the fountain in the Park and the new stone benches that are too hot in summertime and too cold in winter to sit on, the dog run, the whole area on the southwest was really a mess with the chess players more fronts for drug dealers and the area insecure and menacing after dark but even in daytime too: all this has been improved and mollified. The need to control the candy and food stands is not the worst idea either but ridiculous to deny frankfurters from being sold because of the ‘tone’ it projected. To place blame on Bloomberg for the less than happy results so far is to miss what in the city he really did accomplish. He succeeded in keeping the city going and spirited while the economic downturn ruined the rest of the country. He brought in more tourists to keep restaurants and the entertainment industry alive and the department stores and tourist traps functioning. He had to oppose constantly Mr. Silver and his West Side in order to get the city moving again. We need a subway for 10th aVe or 11th and we need a 2nd Avenue subway. We need another tunnel to Jersey and we need better cross town traffic ways. This city has not done anything vast and spectacular compared to the accomplishments of the 19th century or even the beginning of the 20th century. We have stagnated basically with all this nonsense of saving left and right obsolete old housing as ‘architectural wonders.’ It pains me personally to enter housing in both East and West Greenwich Village and find that people are still forced to walk up to apartments on the fourth and fifth floors. This is unacceptable. Every building over three stories should have an elevator. Bloomberg can be faulted in not pressing such a reasonable demand. He could have introduced escalators in every subway stop as one finds in Washington DC or now in MOntreal and more and more in Paris. Much more could he have proposed or done, but to blame him as a billionaire for not being sympathetic to the needs of the “ordinary” citizen a la Blasio’s clever “tale of two cities” is to do him dirty. The absurd complaint that the new tall towers will block views and sunlight on Central Park appears to me the same stupid reasoning from people in the 19th century opposed to building apartment houses. A city lives and breathes with ‘nouveauté’ and expansion in all directions. As to the scandalous comment that he was stealing parkland for Yankee Ballpark, what about the new parklands he was creating along the waterfront in the west side in Manhattan and in Brooklyn? And how nasty can one be to attack the right of the Mayor to fly off to his Bermuda retreat on the weekend but flew back immediately when there were problems that needed his immediate attention in situ? And our other noble mayors who got drunk on weekends and indulged in activities that were less than noble, because they remain in Manhattan made them more responsible mayors? Perhaps he should have turned Gracie Mansion into a playground and school to teach the immigrant children English on the Upper East Side rather than leaving it vacant? Let us see what de Blasio will perform with his noble ideas of rescuing the downtroddden citizens of our city. NO one denies that the poor of the city need support but Bloomberg did not block their lives. He tried to improve the comfort of the city and his bikes and street closures seem to irritate the rich more than the poor who enjoyed the street carnivals and the new little tables and chairs to rest a while. A metropolis is made always of warring factions and pecunia is at the heart of most of those battles. Bloomberg appears to me to have been rather moderate in his actions and never stooped to the Guiliani ways of sweeping the vagrants off the streets and out of Manahttan. Howls were not terribly loud as I remember those days. But these vagrants were human beings too trapped in the city. 53rd Street with its great humanistic institutions was almost impassible in the days of Dinkins and early Guiliani. The Mayor took rough action. NO one wants to see those “laisser faire laisser aller” days of Dinkins ever to return. Even our beloved Washington Square Park in those days was a nightmare of filth and crack and solicitations besides the glorious folk sing-ins of those days. Now one can walk into the Park even as night has fallen and not feel threatened. Mayor Bloomberg deserves the credit of having stewarded the ship of NYC well and one may wish the new Mayor Good luck and hard work to maintain what Bloomberg wrought.

Sincerely,
Seth Wolitz, Greenwich Village

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