(Graphic by Kathryn Doheny/The Ram)
For the first time in 12 years, New Yorkers did not see the name Michael Bloomberg on the ballot for New York City mayor.
To some, this was a relief. For others, like me, it was saddening.
Michael Bloomberg became the 108th mayor of New York City on Jan. 1, 2002. Bloomberg entered City Hall at a very peculiar time; it was only four months after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the city was still shaken by the events. In addition, Bloomberg faced three consecutive years of budget gaps greater than $3 billion and an underperforming school system. And yet, he was still very optimistic about the city’s future. On his inauguration day, he said, “New York is safe, strong, open for business and ready to lead the world in the 21st century.”
He was right.
Under Bloomberg’s watch, New York City became the safest large city in the country. He and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reduced crime by 35 percent. This is due largely to stop-and-frisk, an effective policy that does not racially profile, but stops people who fit descriptions of suspects or are engaged in suspicious activity. It just so happens that 90 percent of those suspects are black and Hispanic.
Bloomberg also became a public opponent of guns, leading efforts to eliminate the sale and distribution of illegal guns in the city and co-founding Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Eight thousand guns are now off the streets of New York, undoubtedly saving lives. Bloomberg has also devoted his efforts to making New York City’s counterterrorism programs the best in the world.
To stimulate the city’s economy, Bloomberg created the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan, which focuses on creating jobs for New Yorkers, implementing a long-term vision for growing the city’s economy and building affordable, attractive neighborhoods in every borough. As a result, areas in Coney Island were rezoned for housing and commercial use. In addition, the Lower East Side will generate more than 1 million square feet of housing, open space and shops, the West Side of Midtown Manhattan will see residential housing, office buildings and the extension of the 7 line (also a Bloomberg initiative) and decrepit Willets Point in Queens will add housing, retail, entertainment, public space and much more that will transform the area around Citi Field.
One of Bloomberg’s major accomplishments was making New York the healthiest city in the world. First he tackled smoking by signing the Smoke Free Air Act in 2003, which made smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars (beaches and parks followed in 2011), illegal; raised taxes on cigarette; started an anti-smoking campaign and was recently updated to raise the cigarette buying age to 21. Youth smoking has decreased by 51 percent and adult smoking by one third.
He then fought against obesity. In 2006, trans fats were banned from restaurants. In 2008, calorie counts began appearing on menus and menu boards. In 2010, he unveiled a plan to reduce salt in packaged and restaurant food. Unfortunately, last year, he failed to ban soda drinks greater than 16 ounces, which would have helped diabetes and obesity rates fall. Nevertheless, the city now boasts an 80.6-year life expectancy.
Of course, Bloomberg has had his share of flops. One was appointing Cathie Black as schools’ chancellor, and another was being unprepared for the 2010 Christmas blizzard. By far, his biggest mistake was listening to NYC’s Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. Thanks to her, the city is plagued by careless cyclists, 300 miles of street-consuming bike lanes and ugly and useless pedestrian plazas.
However, this will not eclipse the good Bloomberg has done for the city.
There are more parks, affordable health insurance for all New Yorkers, environmentally friendly hybrid taxis, a city-wide information and non-emergency service and an improved public school system. Give the man some credit.
Now that Bloomberg has less than two months left in office and a new mayor has been elected, I fear for my city. After 12 years of Mayor Bloomberg, I cannot entrust my beloved city to anyone but him.
The mayor-elect is a stranger, and he has declared that his New York City will greatly differ from Bloomberg’s.
What, then, can we expect? Will the crime rate remain low? Will the city’s economy continue to prosper? Will he fight obesity as hard as Bloomberg did? Will he be as influential as Bloomberg? Will he lead with an iron fist? Will he fight for this city like Bloomberg? Will he speak Spanish like Bloomberg?
Only one thing is for sure: Bloomberg is leaving behind an unparalleled legacy.
On his inauguration day, Bloomberg promised Rudy Giuliani he would not fail the people of New York.
He did not.
Mayor Bloomberg, thanks for all you have done. I will miss you.
Andrew Santis, GSB ’16, is an undeclared major from Flushing, N.Y.