Today Bill de Blasio becomes the chief executive of New York and the city bids goodbye to Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing mayor.
Bloomberg has been hailed in many ways and deservedly so, in some respects for his record as mayor.
He took the reins around a persistent epidemic that others have shied away from the circulation of illegal guns that have left too many New Yorkers dead and built a national coalition to push for strict regulations and laws. He went beyond advocacy. Bloomberg ran candidates against those who were standing in the way of gun control.
He was persistent and relentless on this issue, as also was the case with immigration reform.
As the anti immigrant lobby seized a post 9/11 climate of fear to make the foreign born Public Enemy No. 1, Bloomberg showed great leadership and pushed for common sense reform. Locally, he emphasized smart policies such as Executive Order 41, which protects status information for undocumented crime victims or witnesses. He went on to establish the Partnership for a New Economy, to advocate for fixing the broken immigration system.
When he bothered to listen, he listened. His administration implemented Family Justice Centers to offer integrated services to domestic violence victims. But Bloomberg had deaf ears around the racial profiling that was taking place with stop and frisk, propelling the myth that policing can’t be done without the abuse of civil rights.
Bloomberg moved the dial on high school graduation rates. Yet, our kids remain far behind where they need to be. A testament to this is the ongoing crisis of disconnected youthteens and young adults who are neither in the workforce nor in school.
In 2011, Bloomberg announced an initiative to help young men in crisis. And early on in his administration, he introduced an anti-poverty program that experimented with out-the-box proposals. But at the same time, the administration was putting hurdles to funding in front of community-based organizations that serve these populations.
Certainly, one of Bloomberg’s worse moments for the history books is overturning term limits. His manuever spat at democracy and unabashedly illustrated a gross abuse of power.
The hallmarks of the Bloomberg administration will remain visible for years to comefrom pedestrian plazas to bike lanes. Bloomberg built a more attractive city. But it is not an affordable one.
New Yorkers have always moved out of the Big Apple and newcomers have flowed in. The complexions of neighborhoods change. This is an age-old story.
But the re-pavement of our city during the Bloomberg era is not a question of different ethnic waves replacing older ones, or of some seeking the space and alternative of suburbia in the face of urban blight and crime.
Instead, low and moderate-income families who are desperately trying to climb up are being priced out and forced to move out of neighborhoods that are now tagged with trendy real estate nicknames. The message: the improvements in this city are not for you.
Last week, El Diario/La Prensa published a report on the changes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the span of a 12-year Bloomberg administration, the Latino population there has decreased by 25 percent. Is this a harbinger of what is to come for neighborhoods like Bushwick and Sunset Park? Or will Mayor de Blasio put forth balanced planning, zoning and development?
Bloomberg once referenced power -broker Robert Moses, considered a visionary by some, a key architect of gentrification by others. Indeed, the outgoing mayor will face the same scrutiny around displacement. Now, it is de Blasio’s turn and his chance to prove whether this will be an era of an inclusive New York.