A Portrait of the City Under Bloomberg's Tenure

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered his 11th State of the City address Thursday when he is trumpeted education initiatives, and re-ignited plans to develop the borough's vacant Kingsbridge Armory.

The mayor is halfway through his third and final term, and will likely lay footings for the legacy that he hopes will endure beyond his tenure.  

Bloomberg has made the case that improving the quality of public education is the surest path out of poverty. His selection of the Bronx's Morris High School as a backdrop for his State of the City address Thursday was meant to cast the mayor's focus on the city's public schools as transformational.

Morris, built in 1897, was the Bronx's oldest public school. It was closed by the mayor and re-configured as five smaller high schools -- four of which are located in the Gothic Revival building.  
Since Bloomberg took office, the on-time student graduation rate went from less than 50 percent to 61 percent. But truancy remains a problem and state officials caution that graduation does not mean students are prepared for college or careers.

The results of test scores are decidedly mixed – they went up under Bloomberg when he took mayoral control and fell in 2010 when Albany made the test harder.   

Last year, 57 percent of third through eighth grade students passed their state math exam, and 44 percent passed their language arts test.

City Poverty Numbers Climb

The city also continues to be a place with the highest wealth disparity in the country where an increasing number of families find themselves struggling below or near the federal poverty line.

Nearly one in five – or 1.6 million New Yorkers – live below the poverty line in the city. By contrast, 15 percent of Americans fell below the poverty line nationwide.

Mayor’s Public Health Legacy

The Bloomberg Administration has also spent a lot of time and energy on improving public health.

The mayor's smoking ban in bars and later in parks forever changed the landscape of the city.   

And Bloomberg has tried to balance long term economic re-vitalization and diversification with making the city more environmentally sustainable.

Bike lanes, tree plantings, waterfront parks and Times Square's re-invention are physical manifestations of the emphasis on making the city more livable.

Baruch political science professor Doug Muzzio said these initiatives help the city re-invent itself and may be the mayor’s most enduring mark.

"It does it in the Highline and it does it in Kingsbridge Armory where you take old facilities, old infrastructure and transform them to 21st century uses," he said.
But critics contend the Administration has been Manhattan centric and the makeover has emphasized luxury housing. Under their analysis the city may have become more livable but less affordable.

Administration supporters counter that under the mayor the city has added 165,000 affordable units to its housing stock.

The City Economy

But despite efforts at diversification, the city remains hugely reliant on tax revenues realized from profits and bonuses on Wall Street, according to the city's Independent Budget Office

"While Wall Street is just 5 percent of all of our private sector employment" it accounts for "about 24 percent of all wages and salaries in the City," said Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the IBO.

Wall Street's profits and bonuses are down, and the city will have a multi-billion dollar budget gap to close come July.  

Additional reporting by Beth Fertig, Charlie Herman, Ilya Marritz, and Cindy Rodriguez.


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Comments [4]

Lilly from New York

I really liked Bloomberg for first 2 terms, didn't agree with everything but thought that he was no-nonsense goal oriented guy. I moved to Hell's Kitchen last year and was shocked to discover how little police and traffic police do. As a neighborhood we complained about many taxis and limos idling for hours, tour buses idling for hours, many of them right next to the schools. We never see a traffic policemen give them a fine. We talked tosome of them-and they don't even know that idling is illegal! Mayor recently said "our police has more important things to do", and in that one sentence bascically said many things: I don't care about children's health. I just pass the laws to appear like I care but will never enforce them. I am giving permission to police not to protect the citizens. I am giving permission to drivers to idle because they know nobody will come after them.
But he has plenty of police and money to spend on one little park downtown in order to prevent people from excersising their 1st amendment.
It's not the most important issue but this is what happens when people are in power for too long.

Jan. 12 2012 01:54 PM
Bill from UWS

Great leadership from Bloomberg, and I agree with 99% of what he does, especially efforts to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles (and resulting huge reduction in fatalities), and his defense of freedom in regards to the Muslim community center. Does anyone remember that he raised taxes right after he took office? No--because we're in great financial shape now. That's a lesson for the federal government.

Jan. 12 2012 01:47 PM
Melissa S from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I have lived in Williamsburg for the past 14 years and so much has changed. I'd say the worst thing to happen is the excessive amount of horrible new residential construction. Not only is it an eyesore but it has essentially displaced many long time residents. I'd say the best part is the amazing DIY live music venues that help Williamsburg's maintain their standing as a cultural mecca.

Jan. 12 2012 12:04 PM
Art LaBow from 69th St & 2nd Ave.

The worst thing on E. 69th St now is the 2nd Ave subway The best thing is the 2nd Ave. subway in the future,

Jan. 12 2012 11:32 AM

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