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.
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.
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Reminder: Caroling at the Arch today, Christmas Eve, 5 p.m.!
Previously at WSP Blog:
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)