During his State of the City speech on Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided ample evidence to disprove critics who said that his third term failed to live up to the promise of his previous two, and for good measure, he hung it from the ceiling of the lobby in the Barclays Center.
The mayor’s office teased Bloomberg’s various third-term accomplishments in an email leading up to his speech, from the record low in homicides in 2012 to the record number of private sector jobs, and these statistical achievements were plastered on several championship banners that the Brooklyn Nets can only dream of one day hanging from their rafters. If Bloomberg’s third term as mayor solidified his “champion” status, then this speech was his parade through the Canyon of Heroes.
Bloomberg began his speech by praising the long-awaited opening of the Barclays Center in 2012, but punctuated the triumphant moment to take the opportunity, as he has in the past, to put down those who opposed its construction.
“Against all the odds, despite all the legal challenges, despite all the naysayers and NIMBYers, here we are,” Bloomberg said. In another dig, he added, “Over the past eleven years, we have beaten the odds and the obstructionists over and over again, not just here in Brooklyn, but in neighborhoods all across our city.”
And so began his victory lap, as Bloomberg rattled off a litany of other real estate and infrastructure projects that the city has undertaken, including the Third Water Tunnel, the Number 7 train extension, and a new engineering and science campus for Cornell University on Roosevelt Island, among many others. Never one for modesty, the mayor used these projects to make lofty comparisons between himself and a couple of historic New York political luminaries.
“For the first time since [Fiorello] La Guardia was mayor and [Franklin D. Roosevelt] created the WPA, we’re not only conceiving big plans that fundamentally change the landscape of our city, we’re achieving them,” he said. “We’re taking a city built mostly before World War II and renewing it for the needs of New Yorkers today and tomorrow.”
The mayor hit on the emotional lowpoint of the past year, devoting a section of his speech to Hurricane Sandy and the work the city did to help homeowners, small businesses and communities get back on their collective feet. Bloomberg added that the city would develop a long-term plan for extreme weather in the city to ensure that the city can maintain power and heat, and that gas stations stay open, but made no mention of the flood mitigation proposals that have been bandied about over the past couple of months.
As one of the nation’s leading advocates of gun control, Bloomberg called on Congress to pass “common sense gun reforms” this year. He then pivoted to the controversial policing tactic of “stop-question-and-frisk”, which opponents argue disproportionately affects minorities in New York City. The mayor pointed to stop-and-frisk as part of the reason for the city’s declining incarceration rate and for taking illegal guns off the street. These statements sparked a defiant response from city Councilman Jumaane Williams, a vocal opponent of stop-and-frisk, who stood up during this portion of the speech to contest the mayor’s claims.
“I just said, ‘It’s not true. [Stop-and-frisk is] not working, and it’s not effective’,” Williams said after the speech, when asked what he said. “It’s doing nothing but causing division.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an ally of the mayor and a candidate to replace him in this year’s election, noted several aspects of his speech that she liked, including his call for a New York State DREAM Act to make college affordable for young immigrants, but broke with Bloomberg on the issue of stop-and-frisk.
“Obviously the mayor was aggressive in that part of his speech, it’s something he feels strongly about,” Quinn said, adding, “I disagree with his perspective on stop-question-and-frisk.”
Bloomberg wrapped up his speech with the rollout of several new green initiatives, such as a pilot program to compost organic waste in Staten Island and a proposal to ban styrofoam food packaging from stores and restaurants. Summing up the goals of his next 320 days in office, Bloomberg said that despite his short amount of time left, he would continue to lead in a manner consistent with his vision for the city’s long-term success.
“By working to finish all this work, we can create a new beginning for the city we love,” he said. “But for now, the unfinished business awaits. Or, in the words of a poet: ‘We have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep’.”
Tags: 7 train extension, Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, compost program, Cornell University, Fiorello La Guardia, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gun Control, Hurricane Sandy, Infrastructure, Jumaane Williams, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York DREAM Act, real estate, Roosevelt Island, State of the City, stop and frisk, styrofoam ban, third water tunnel