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40th Anniversary

In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg and Ed Koch


EK: The State Legislature is a cesspool. I hate them.

MB: Don’t pull your punches. Tell us what you think.

EK: And you can’t get rid of them.

NY: The middle class that existed in the seventies continues to be squeezed out of the city. Is that tragic or simply inevitable?

MB: No. It’s not happening. It’s going in the other direction. Because schools are better. The middle class is not moving out. The problem we have is the reverse: that there are a lot of people who believe, me included, that you have an obligation to find, for example, housing for those who are with us during the tough times, who are at the bottom of the economic ladder, education ladder, whatever.

NY: In the seventies and eighties, New Yorkers weren’t just sure we were better and smarter than the rest of the country—we were proudly, defiantly different.

MB: Arrogant.

NY: Now it seems that attitude is fading, and we’re content to fit in with the rest of the country.

MB: I’m not sure that’s true. What is clearly true is that people from around the country now come to New York, don’t find us arrogant, don’t find it dangerous, don’t find it expensive, don’t find it scary. We’ve worked very hard at bringing events here that spread the message. The Republican convention was a godsend for us. I didn’t want to get the Democratic one; I wanted the Republican one. Why? ’Cause the Democratic one would bring people who come to big cities. The Republican one brought people here who knew about New York from David Letterman. And when they walked out, they never saw any of the protesters, they never saw any of the craziness that the New York Times writes about. They say New Yorkers were wonderful.

The people who had to sacrifice the most were the poorest. Because that’s where the budget goes.

NY: Tourists have worn down our edge?

EK: I don’t think tourists have worn us down. I think that we’re genuinely appreciative—

MB: Absolutely.

EK: —of what the rest of the country did when it came to our aid [after September 11].

MB: I have tried to downplay the arrogance because of the 9/11 thing, but also because I think it’s the right thing to do. And, as Henry Kissinger says, it has the added advantage of being true—that we aren’t that much better, or any better.

NY: What are the lingering effects of 9/11?

MB: The families are very different than everybody else. The families haven’t forgotten. The danger for the rest of us is that we are in fact forgetting. [September 11] is not a big thing in our lives—sadly. We are doomed to repeat tragedies if we don’t learn anything.

EK: It’s not possible to continue constantly in fear or sorrow. Otherwise, you can’t get things done. What’s happened is very normal. I believe we are facing a 30-year war against Islamic terrorism. But you also have to live your life. And that is what we are doing in the city of New York.

MB: Did you review the new Woody Allen film?

EK: I did.

MB: Did you like it?

EK: I liked it.

MB: It just came to mind because they’re not worried about anything. It’s a love story. It’s a chick flick, I think. Though what’s-her-name is to die for.

EK: Penélope Cruz.

MB: Penélope Cruz is to die for! But it’s exactly the reverse of this—it was what Ed said, getting on with life. Drink and art and sex!

NY: Present company excepted, which New York mayor do you most admire?

EK: La Guardia!

MB: I can’t answer. I never knew Beame; I didn’t know Lindsay.

NY: What is Giuliani’s greatest legacy as mayor?

MB: He brought down crime and reduced corruption in welfare.

EK: I wish him well, and I’ll stop there.

NY: The city has changed a great deal, but is the practice of politics eternally the same?

EK: I ran against Westway. And I did it because all my supporters were against it. I wasn’t sure they were right, but there’s a limit to how many things you can take on that your supporters don’t approve of when you’re running … Then when the real timetables came in, Hugh Carey said, “You’ve gotta be with me on this.” So I said to him, “Listen, if I get off Westway, there’s gonna be an uproar. I’m gonna really suffer—and you have to pay for it. If you want me to get off Westway and join you, then you have to guarantee that the [transit] fare will not be raised for four years.” He said, “Are you crazy? That’s hundreds of millions of dollars!”

MB: To save a few fish!

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