A reader has sent us links to The Bloomberg Years in The New York Times, a fascinating review of the impacts of Michael Bloomberg’s years as mayor of New York City. His third and final term is in its final months. Vancouverites may find it interesting to compare. First, click How Bloomberg Reshaped New York to see this animation and image sequence — housing boom, a third of the city rezoned, the battle of bicycle versus automobile, and neighbourhood transformation.
The introduction states: “Parks, pedestrian plazas, stadiums — and construction everywhere. Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy includes profound changes to the landscape of the city, among them 40,000 new buildings.”
Between New York and Vancouver we see interesting trends, similarities and differences, worthy of deeper discussion about what’s going on, underlying influences, and the impacts of global factors. All cities operate within a greater context.
In the case of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson is exploiting Vancouver’s absolute majority to make changes of magnitude similar to New York — despite having been re-elected in 2011 with votes from only 18% of the electorate. On the left is just one example of Robertson’s dramatic policies imposed on the city. Who and what is driving, backing and influencing Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver? The public needs to look deeper at our entire civic system and work together to bring to light what makes it tick.
Bloomberg is a billionaire who could afford his own expensive election campaign. But we think one major factor in Vancouver is political campaign contributions, largely from developers, unions, and special interests. (To take action, see our petition to get big money out of civic politics.)
Here are some of the key words that jumped out of The New York Times articles: Special interest groups, billionaires, green mayor, bicycle lanes, corporate sponsorships, term limits, public parks, tax dollars, commercial base, urban informatics, arts, education.
The New York Times special includes a lot more. Here are some highlights from the various articles, with bolding by CityHallWatch.
- New York has added 40,000 new buildings since Bloomberg took office, and an additional 170,000 housing units in 2010, up from 10 years earlier, more than any other city [in the U.S.].
- Quote: A Third of the City Rezoned – Mr. Bloomberg and Amanda M. Burden, director of the Department of City Planning, rezoned 37 percent of the city and claimed credit for creating opportunities for high-density growth along subway corridors while preserving low-density neighborhoods. Critics said that this simply cleared the way for gentrification and that the city fell behind on building affordable housing for lower-income New Yorkers.
- Excerpt: Turf War Over Asphalt – The mayor fought a war of attrition with the automobile. He sought to transform bicycling from a recreational activity into a real alternative to cars. By 2013, the city had added about 450 miles of bike lanes carved mostly from the city’s roadways. Some curbs and medians were installed to separate pedalers from cars, but many of the lanes were demarcated simply with painted asphalt…. Mr. Bloomberg lost his most ambitious offensive against cars when the State Legislature defeated his plan for “congestion pricing” in 2008, but he doubled down on biking with a popular bike-sharing system this year.
- Excerpt: Transforming Neighborhoods – Whites and the college-educated moved into neighborhoods, like Harlem, that had been home to minorities and those with lower incomes. Rezoning encouraged inclusion of affordable units, but the poor were pushed out as housing prices rose.
The Impossible Mayor of the Possible, By JIM DWYER: Three terms. 750,000 trees. 450 miles of bike lanes. 5 million police stops. And one failed soda ban. How the billionaire mayor reshaped New York.
Poll Shows New Yorkers Are Deeply Conflicted Over Bloomberg’s Legacy, By MICHAEL BARBARO and MEGAN THEE-BRENAN: Michael R. Bloomberg’s health initiatives have won over New Yorkers, but the public is less enamored of his overall mayoralty, The New York Times found.
Talking Bloomberg: Notable New Yorkers weigh in on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s legacy.
- Fran Lebowitz
- Michael Van Valkenburgh
- Marcus Samuelsson
- Gary Shteyngart
- Steve Koonin
- Rosie Perez
- Caleb Carr
- Felix Rohatyn
- Mark Green
Here are some of their quotes we find pertinent.
- When Michael Bloomberg finally leaves office, we may rely on pervasive testimonials concerning the manner in which he has made the city cleaner, safer, more attractive to business and a hive of new development; and many of these assessments will even have the virtue of being true. What is less likely to be discussed is the cost of all this supposed civic improvement to the soul of the city. The influx of wealth and the super-wealthy from around the world has meant the exodus of those creative New Yorkers who gave the city its own unique romance — and heart.
Caleb Carr, author of “The Alienist” and other books
- There were pluses and minuses to the reign of the Medici in Italy — and Mr. Bloomberg in New York. Was our bargain with a benevolent billionaire worth it?
Mark Green, former public advocate and then the Democratic mayoral nominee against Mr. Bloomberg in 2001; host of national radio show “Both Sides Now”