Michael Bloomberg’s first election for the New York City Mayoralty took place just a few weeks after 9/11 and his first task as a public official was to oversee the city’s rebuilding after the worst attack in American History.
How’s that for your first day on the job?
He had also come into office at the midway point of a recession that began with Wall Street’s post-millennial crash. A short-lived boom followed beginning in 2003 but within five years, the Mayor was back in crisis management mode again.
This time, the financial sector – which accounted for an enormous chunk of the city’s tax base and about 230,000 jobs – was quite literally melting down. Some of New York’s most crucial employers, like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, were vanishing right before our eyes. The effect of this, our worst market crash and financial crisis since the Great Depression, was harrowing. The streets, restaurants and stores were eerily quiet for a long time, there was an emptiness everywhere that just a year earlier would have been unimaginable.
And despite all of this historic tumult, concentrated as it was in the New York City area, Hizzoner never blinked.
Crime stats actually improved throughout the Great Recession and real estate values have since rebounded everywhere. Under Mayor Bloomberg, some 12,000 blocks, or 40% of the city, have been aggressively rezoned for modernization and development. And while many have nitpicked about some of his nanny-esque leanings on social and health issues, there’s been a shockingly small amount of true controversy on his watch. Bloomberg’s had quite a run through some incredibly difficult times, with barely a scratch on him to show for it.
His support for New York’s financial sector – which wasn’t exactly an easy stance for a public official to take – has meant a great deal for our recovery and the ongoing prosperity of the city in which we live and work. That was Mayor Mike having burgers with Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman HQ in the wake of the Greg Smith NYT op-ed that opportunistically trashed the entire workforce of that firm. And there was Mayor Mike once again, clearing out the Occupy Wall Street disaster after allowing it to run its course and make its point (it didn’t have one, turns out).
A lesser politician might have felt compelled to adopt the anti-finance rhetoric of the times and pile on to The Street at its most vulnerable moments. But Bloomberg understands how important the money business is for all New Yorkers, the enormous amounts of wealth it brings in for everyone. Roughly 20% of the nation’s securities industry jobs are located in New York City. The financial sector employs 9% of all NYC workers and we make up 31% of the tax base.
Supporting the financial industry through the clean-up of a terrorist attack, two recessions and a firestorm of populist outrage may not be the legacy that Bloomberg is most proud of, but it may turn out to have been the most important one.
I had the chance to say farewell to Mayor Bloomberg on behalf of Wall Street in today’s New York Post. They’ve got a special pull-out section called Bloomberg: The Legacy if you can get your hands on a print copy.
Thank you, Mr. Bloomberg.