Even my own life is the quintessential New York story, which mirrors the ups and downs of the metropolis. As I attempted to write my own Diary of a Yuppie, The Bright Lights Big City found me early in my career. Too many late nights at the Surf Club after working 12-14 hour days as young aspiring young attorney/nobody at Weil Gotshal & Manges, living in my alcove studio apartment on the Upper East Side, led me to crash and burn. Like many who came to New York City to pursue their dreams, I rose up, had my heart broken, career aspirations frustrated, shattered and fell on the seat of my pants. There is no museum dedicated to those who have failed in New York, only an Exit sign. So, I left the city with my tail between my legs and spent several years working in Boston while trying to create the perfect suburban myth in a few ill fated relationships. But in the end, I returned after witnessing, on return trips to the city to visit family, Mayor Giuliani’s turnaround of New York City. Truth is that I am a bridge and tunnel New Yorker– meaning although I once again live in Manhattan, hanging on to remain here like so many who struggle to, my values, my street sense, aspirations, dreams and roots are in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Although, it should be noted that my mom’s claim to fame is that she grew up in Chelsea when it was a bastion of the middle and lower middle working class. Often I have found myself challenged beyond recognition by this city, giving up on it fearing I could not make it here, wondering what difference it made anyway whether I was here or not. Would anyone really notice or care that I could not leave my imprint on this metropolis? So in short, I think I have a very good sense of what my friends, family and acquaintances in all the boroughs of New York City feel right now. People are nervous, wondering which messengers that they can trust, with good reason. Predatory class warfare rhetoric may resonate and can go far in times like the present, when we all feel vulnerable. Hating the rich guy won’t solve your problems though.
Just as I got comfortable that my city was back as the capital of the veritable shining city on the hill, a beacon of hope, opportunity, prosperity and culture, we suffered the attacks of 9/11. Times that reminded me that New York might once again slip into a period of decline, as my own career/business fortunes took a significant hit. I was hopeful but not terribly certain about Mike Bloomberg, even after Rudy Giuliani, who to his credit really did help in turning around the fortunes of the city, endorsed Mike Bloomberg, in the wake of 9/11, prior to the November 2001 election. For a period of time I largely bought the tag line that Bloomberg was a bored billionaire looking for something else to do in his latter years, even if in the back of my mind, I figured he had to be at least a somewhat competent executive for building Bloomberg L.P. into what it is today.
But then I watched, studied, listened, read and observed the progress of his administration, the community building, the ceaseless and seemless promotion of the city’s brand by NYC & Company, Inc., and The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. What I saw was during one of the most challenging periods of this city’s history, we did not have machine politicians hacking away and gorging themselves on the remains of the metropolis. Instead City Hall led by a rather efficient but compassionate CEO with a profound love of the city, worked deliberately and tirelessly with business, community, civic and religious leaders to advance the interests of our city. And it is not just a one man show, the Bloomberg Administration, current and past is filled with highly talented and skilled personnel. Under Bloomberg New York City has been transformed even as we face our greatest challenges in the domestic and global economy.
Maintaining New York’s stature in the world does not just benefit financiers, real estate developers and corporate CEO’s. The more business that continues to be transacted in New York City benefits workers of all types and skill levels. Without the engines of commerce running on all cylinders, all New York City residents suffer and that I believe is something that Bloomberg’s critics do not necessarily understand.
Playground for the rich: Escalating property values over the last decade or so have pushed many once proud Manhattanites to the outer boroughs. With that, it has been often said that New York City and specifically Manhattan has become a playground for the rich. Think about that statement and what it implies. While I believe all Americans should have some form of health care, we live in a capitalistic society, and I do not see having an apartment on Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Central Park West, the Upper East Side, West Side, a loft in Tribeca or Soho as some kind of inalienable right. I would love nothing more than a Penthouse view of the river or Central Park, but like many of you who may read my blog, I am not a beneficiary of the sky rocketing property values. So yes at times, rest assured, they literally bum me out as well. Unless, a sugar mamma finds me sometime soon, my existence shall remain that of a humble artist for the remainder of my days. Nevertheless, I see the development and transformation of other communities around Manhattan as a positive. Brooklyn has even been referred to as as the New Manhattan, the new capital of sexy. Ironically, I can recall a time when my college girlfriend’s mom was horrified that her little princess, after traveling in to the city from Yardley in Bucks County, Pennnsylvania to Penn Station, took the subway with me all the way to my parents apartment in Sheepshead Bay. At times I may disagree with zoning, land use or building design and think we need to be wary about destroying what remains of historic “Old New York”. This is the reason why I see entities like the New York Historical Society, the Municipal Art Society and the Musem of the City of New York as New York’s most important cultural institutions. They remind us of what was here before, how the city evolved and to remind us that we need to think and plan for the future of New York. Building a soul less city of skyscrapers is not something I see as progress at all and likely not something Jane Jacobs would either. But likewise should the rich stop living here or wanting to do business here and find other places more hospitable, then New York City will literally cease to be New York City. There are many nice cities along the eastern seaboard that do not get the same volume and frequency of visitors and it might be easier to have a park or water view in one of those cities. So for some, surely that remains an option.
Elitist: Do I think Mike Bloomberg is an “elitist”? Yes and no. I think that Mike Bloomberg is as much of an elitist as I am, insofar that you can see in the passion of his actions, the team he has built around him and the manner and style with which he engages with citizens, that this is not just some ego trip. Bloomberg is working his tuchis off out of a genuine love and respect for the ultimate destiny of this city and that destiny is for New York City to maintain its elite global stature as the center of commerce, finance and culture. Mike Bloomberg is and shall be remembered as a transformational figure in the history of New York City. Historically speaking, I suspect he will be remembered as a benevolent, responsible, civic minded leader and philanthropist who came to power in unusual and uncertain times and rose to the challenge. The office of the Mayor and the character and qualifications of what we shall seek in the future has evolved because of Mayor Mike. He and his team have raised the bar. Next to those at the highest levels of national prominence and power, governing our metropolis is a critical job. New York City is not just another city in America, just as Paris is not just another city in France, and should it ever become that it may be time to leave….. America. I love New York. If you do not believe in New York’s elite global destiny than you may not appreciate or understand the significance of this Mayor and the context of his Mayoral service.
The competition: New York City Comptroller, William C. Thompson, Jr. Politically, I have supported Democrats, Independents and Republicans. At present I have been a registered Democrat for the last sixteen years and supported and voted for President Barack Obama. So while Bill Thompson is the Democrat in the race, that is not dispositive for me. My love for New York is above and beyond any particular party or political ideology, even if I identify personally most with a progressive minded agenda. I do not have great wealth, stature or means to live above it all or retire to a tropical climate. My life is living and breathing New York City and I have a natural affiliation and affection for those whose politics transcend their political party in having an agenda, whether it might be labeled liberal, conservative, progressive or libertarian if it advances the interests of my hometown. Mayor Mike is unique in that regard. I think that Mr. Thompson from all accounts is an earnest, hard working, thoughtful man who represents the frustration that many folks had with members of the New York City Council voting to repeal term limits for themselves and Mike Bloomberg. Sentiments I have heard expressed have been along the lines of “we do not appoint rulers or emperors for life in this town.” Truth be told, there are many politico’s who’s career aspirations were dashed, thwarted or put on hold as a result of Bloomberg’s decision to seek a third term. Those folks have a choice, you can limit anyone’s term at the voting both on Election Day.
Likewise, I refuse to use this endorsement of Mayor Mike’s candidacy to undermine, insult or question the credibility of Comptroller Thompson or his bid for the Mayoralty. I am empathetic to the mountain he will have to climb to defeat a Mayor with unlimited resources and a team of superstars. Ultimately all that is left in a challenger’s arsenal is to charge the Mayor with being an out of touch elitist billionaire, demonizing his working relationship with the business community and how he gamed the system to run for a third term, but he seems to have the support of the majority of New Yorkers. And that also really illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the realities of economics in the modern global economy. Furthermore, while Mike does possess great wealth, at a salary of $1 per year he remains the best deal of any Chief Executive in America. Mayor Mike is so hands on, one is only left to wonder, how many hands he actually has or what they put in his Wheaties for breakfast. Witnessing this man work a room regardless of the hour of the day is simply remarkable. On many levels, we should be thankful that the job, the position of Mayor of New York City is sufficient a lure for someone with his experience, wisdom and managerial skills. Despite all of the capable leaders who came before him in New York City, one would be hard pressed to argue that any of his predecessors came armed with his administrative skills as a Chief Executive. If it were me who accomplished all that Mayor Mike has, I might be on the Island of Oahu being fed grapes, or an umbrella drink by one of my entourage of personal Hula dancers, returning to New York City to visit my favorite Steakhouses, go to Yankees, Mets games, see Bruce Springsteen at the Garden or what have you. Or I would be writing the great American novel from my home in East Hampton instead of writing this endorsement of one of my favorite New York City Mayors of all time. That is why on November 3rd, 2009, Election Day in New York City, which happens to be my birthday, I will celebrate it by heading to my local polling place and casting my vote for Mayor Bloomberg’s 3rd term.
I think that this man deserves your vote for the right reasons. Mayor Mike has already obtained the endorsements of a wide cross section of high powered business, community, political, civic and religious leaders throughout New York City as well as national figures, celebrities and rockstars like Bono of U2. While that is helpful to his campaign, it again is not necessarily dispositive for me. You will not read about my endorsement in the New York Times, the mainstream media or touted in any press release by any campaign. Instead, my opinion is for those of you who perhaps are outside the bubble of Manhattan, and want to know what someone like me, who grew up with working class roots in Queens and Brooklyn, perhaps like yourself, but has taken a look inside the halls of power and seen these folks up close and personal— what do I really think? All you have is the word of a guy who never forgot where he came from who understands, first hand, the struggles to put food on the table, meet your rent, pay your gas bill and your worries about whether you have enough saved for retirement. My take, is that though he is a billionaire but he is not out of touch with the reality of life for many New Yorkers. There is a saying: ”You are either a part of the solution or you are a part of the problem.” This Mayor is not perfect or beyond poilitical critique but he is a leader for the times, one who comes armed with pragmatic solutions, not simply fancy rhetoric. In the end Mayor Bloomberg is a doer, one who is committed to the progress of our metropolis and who possesses the skills to steward the city through these troubled times. This is true even if he is not always a great politician and even though I appreciate and understand the basis for discomfort and outright anger that certain folks have for his decision to seek a third term. In recessionary times one can expect heightened tension between the creative classes and industrial/capitalists, and as a Billionaire, with strong relationships with the powerful, it makes Bloomberg an easy target. As for me, in these terribly uncertain times, for once, with the current man at the helm I am confident that New York will weather the storm.