APPLE OF MY EYE
‘Après moi, le deluge.’ I can’t help thinking that Michael Bloomberg must have been saying that to himself on his last day as mayor of New York. Whether you agreed with his methods or not, the Bloomberg administration left its mark on the city, and a lot of it was for good. During his tenure, New York’s crime rate dropped, tourism surged and the number of jobs increased.
He paved the way for new arts initiatives like the Frieze Art Fair and, when the balance sheet required it, dipped into his pocket and paid for the things he believed in.
It wasn’t all bliss. Instead of solving the problem of teachers’ pensions, he only succeeded in pushing it down the road, and by the end of his term there were so many buildings going up that New Yorkers finally balked at the massive overdevelopment.
He also developed a certain annoying trait of trying to have a say in people’s personal lives, whether that was attempting to ban large sizes of sugary drinks or attempting to ban baby formula from being distributed in hospitals.
But in spite of his nannying tendencies, Bloomberg was a guy who really wanted to improve New York City, and he set about it like the economist he is, as though the city were a company in need of an overhaul. He was an abnormality in politics because of his immense wealth ($27 billion). In some ways he behaved more like a king: his supreme wealth insulated him from having to kowtow to special interest groups.
His successor, however, is just the opposite. A career politician, Bill de Blasio rose to power under Clinton and many have seen his election as a return to business as usual. As you might imagine, New York Society loathes the new mayor. He didn’t endear himself to them with his campaign message of a ‘tale of two cities’ divided by wealth and then his unsuccessful attempt to raise taxes on the rich to fund a universal pre-kindergarten programme.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was his rudeness to Bloomberg on the day de Blasio took office as mayor. The day should have been nothing but a win for de Blasio — all the great and the good of political New York were there, and he even had President Clinton officiating. But de Blasio made his first misstep when he began attacking the policies of his predecessor, with Bloomberg sitting behind him, his lips pushed together so tightly they looked like pieces of string. It was a bad beginning.
Life has gone from bad to worse for our new mayor, as New York was hit with snowstorms every week for the first two months of 2014. To make matters worse, during one particularly bad blizzard de Blasio neglected to plough the Upper East Side. To say it was unpopular with the residents of the Upper East Side would be a gross understatement. When the denizens of Park Avenue can’t speed-walk between doorman-staffed buildings down their city streets, you are going to know about it.
I could go on about the unpopularity of de Blasio’s attempted horse carriage ban, or forgetting until the last minute that the mayor always has a breakfast for the Irish elite on St Patrick’s Day, or being accused of cronyism when he gave his wife, Chirlane McCray, a job as head of his Mayor’s Fund — but the truth is that no matter who replaced Bloomberg, it would have been a tough act to follow.
New York City is unlikely ever to have someone who will be able to rise above the special interest groups as Bloomberg did in order to lead the way he saw fit.
I do have to confess, I’m biased. I’ve never met Mayor Bloomberg, but I do have great respect for one decision he’s made. His girlfriend, Diana Taylor, was October covergirl for Avenue magazine (which I edit) and after spending the day with her I’m impressed by his choice. Not only is she smart and well-educated, she’s also witty, fun, down-to-earth and charming. Beautiful, too.
She was more than happy to wear all the clothes we’d picked out for her, and even when she tried on a particularly hideous dress made by one of our advertisers, she didn’t demur. I couldn’t bear the thought of this elegant person in such a vile concoction, so I told the stylist not to use it. But she never said a word (although I caught a hint of relief in her face).
She was gracious and kind to everyone, the interviewer included (and that is not always the case). I can’t speak for the rest of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies and what he’ll do now that he’s out of power, but if you judge a man by the company he keeps, Bloomberg is clearly on the right track.