On August 6, I meet Mayor Bloomberg in the wide-open City Hall bullpen he installed as soon as he took office to re-create the collaborative corporate environment of his business empire. It’s the middle of summer, with the mayoral race heating up, and he’s conferring with Deputy Mayor Patti Harris and glancing at the Bloomberg terminal at his desk. I ask him what he’s monitoring—local companies, he says, which he follows as economic barometers. Many of which also happen to be run by his friends. “Some media companies, you know.” He mentions News Corp.—“or whatever the new name is”—and the Times. “American Express would be on there. Ken Chenault’s a friend, but also it’s a big employer in New York City. If you want to know what’s happening, Chenault can tell you. Another one which would be a good indicator is Macy’s. The guy that runs it happens to be a golfing buddy, Terry Lundgren, but he can tell you—they have stores in all five boroughs, and out in the suburbs, and around the country. You can get a good feel if you talk to him.”
Having climbed up the short stairway to a conference table, we begin the first of several conversations about his twelve unusual years in office, sitting beneath a countdown clock showing the time left in his mayoralty ticking away.
A common theme in the campaign to succeed you has been that you’ve governed primarily for the rich.
I’m fascinated by these comments—and it is just campaign rhetoric—suggesting that we haven’t done enough for the poor. The truth of the matter is we’ve done a lot more than anybody else has ever done. The average compensation—income—for the bottom 20 percent is higher than in almost every other city. Of course, the average compensation for the top 20 percent is 25 percent higher than the next four cities. But that’s our tax base. If we can find a bunch of billionaires around the world to move here, that would be a godsend, because that’s where the revenue comes to take care of everybody else.
Who’s paying our taxes? We pay the highest school costs in the country. It comes from the wealthy! We have an $8.5 billion budget for our Police Department. We’re the safest big city in the country—stop me when you get bored with this! Life expectancy is higher here than in the rest of the country—who’s paying for that? We want these people to come here, and it’s not our job to say that they’re over- or underpaid. I might not pay them the same thing if it was my company—maybe I’d pay them more, I don’t know. All I know is from the city’s point of view, we want these people, and why criticize them? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?
But isn’t there a point where the compensation has outstripped whatever civic contribution bankers make?
They are private institutions—maybe public companies, but in the private sector—who want to maximize their profits. I assume they don’t deliberately overpay their employees, they pay what they think is necessary, and if one guy raises the ante, the other guy doesn’t have much choice.
So you don’t think the fact that the economic gap is increasing is a problem for the future of the city?
The question you’ve got to ask yourself is, are we spending money to help those that are struggling? We spend $22,000 per year per student. No other city in the country spends that. We have a commitment to having a park within a ten-minute walk of everybody. I don’t think any administration has done as much to help the whole spectrum of people who live here.
The truth of the matter is that there are more private-sector jobs in this city than ever before, and the people struggling at the bottom have more support than ever before. We’ve created something like 300,000 jobs at the bottom end, where they are really needed. We’re also working at the top, whether it’s the Cornell engineering campus or trying to help support big finance. We’ve created a government that’s not based on special interests or who you know; it uses numbers to decide whether or not, in fact, people are getting this kind of service, need that kind of service.
People don’t remember—when Giuliani was going out and I was coming in, it was supposed to be the end of the world. Nobody knew what a billionaire would do. They thought I would destroy the city. That did not happen. Take a look at all the things we’ve done—infrastructure, education, crime, helping the poor, cultural institutions. The elitist thing that cultural institutions are only for certain people—no! We built small cultural institutions all around the city—from cultures you’ve never heard of.
This conversation has been condensed and edited from interviews on August 6, August 26, and September 4.
So if that’s what you describe as income inequality—that’s just not an apt description. One of the things that’s different today is the poor—80 percent [nationally] have air-conditioning. Seventy percent have cars. When we grew up we didn’t have air-conditioning. Air-conditioning in the schools, the subways. Are you crazy? Now, by most of the world’s standards, you ain’t poor. The old measure just looked at your income. It didn’t look at what services you need. I’m not being cavalier about it, but most places in the world our poor are wealthy. There’s a lot of tragedy around the world.
People still say, “Bloomberg is in the tank for Wall Street.”
I’m in the tank for industries in New York City! That’s my job. That’s the way people here eat!
But you have defended the financial industry when it’s done bad things.
Oh, yes, sure. And they have done some bad things. I suppose everybody has, every industry has. But the mortgage crisis was not the exclusive creation of the banks. We all wanted everybody to get a mortgage regardless of whether they could afford it, and that eventually leads to euphoria and exaggeration and to sloppiness and a variety of those things. But Fannie and Freddie were as guilty as everybody. I’m not taking the banks off the hook. But I don’t think that just because you’re a banker you should be vilified.
Do you think Congress has vilified Wall Street?
If you want to come out of a recession, you need banks out there being expansive and making loans. Not “Let’s protect the country so that banks don’t take any risks”! The result of Dodd-Frank is that we are more vulnerable to a handful of banks going belly-up than we were before. Thank you very much! It didn’t accomplish anything, because it wasn’t a well-thought-out piece of legislation. I’m not opposed to legislation. This was just a terrible bill.
Looking at Washington: Is there a way the gridlock ends?
Well, if you go back 235 years, there’ve been plenty of times where we’ve had gridlock, okay? This is nothing new.
But how do we get out of it?
Part of it is the public getting fed up with inaction. Part of it is just who happens to get elected. At some point, the other Republicans—not the real crazy, crazy right—are going to step on the crazy, crazy right and say, “Enough! You may be safe in your district, because we redistricted it to make it just you and your friends, but it’s going to hurt the rest of us.”
In the end, though, it is the job of the chief executive in any organization to bring along the board of directors or the city council or the state legislature or the federal legislature.
So you put it on Obama?
Obama will get it done, or the next guy will. But we’ll come out of this, sure.
Of course, there are people that would argue that some inability to pass legislation is not a bad thing. If you want to be a cynic, you can say, “Wait a second, everybody predicted, including the administration, that the world would come to an end with sequestering.” It did not come to an end with sequestering. The military isn’t leaving this country defenseless. They are spending less money, and that maybe is a good discipline.
A lot of us said, “Oh, they should enact Simpson-Bowles.” Erskine and Alan are friends—Erskine’s a good golfing buddy. But if you read their program, nobody would be in favor of it. It had big cuts, it had revenue raises, it had all the tough stuff. So let’s not get too carried away.
But not only does Boehner not want to pass anything, he wants to repeal laws.
Well, keep in mind, his job is to please his members. It’s like blaming Shelly Silver, which I don’t in a lot of cases—he’s working for his members, not for the public.
I think you analyzed a big part of the problem right there.
Whether you are in favor of Chris Quinn becoming mayor or not, I will tell you this: She did a very good job for seven and a half years of keeping legislation that never should have made it to the floor, that would have been damaging to the city, from ever getting there. And she deserves a lot of the credit for what’s gone on in the city in the last seven and a half years.
I thought the Times was right in their editorials on Lhota and Quinn. I’m very pleased about that.
Then there’s Bill de Blasio, who’s become the Democratic front-runner. He has in some ways been running a class-warfare campaign—
Class-warfare and racist.
Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.
But his whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division. The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help. Tearing people apart with this “two cities” thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most. He’s a very populist, very left-wing guy, but this city is not two groups, and if to some extent it is, it’s one group paying for services for the other.
It’s a shame, because I’ve always thought he was a very smart guy.
But it’s not just De Blasio. Eliot Spitzer, too, has run an anti-Bloomberg campaign. If they were to both win, how much of a repudiation of you would that be?
What’s one thing got to do with another? Spitzer’s case—it’s probably more name recognition and Stringer’s lack of it. With De Blasio, the percentage of the public that’s going to elect him is pretty small.
And he doesn’t have any ideas. “I’m gonna raise the taxes.” You know that Albany, under no circumstances, nor the governor, under any circumstances, is going to allow that! So come up with some real ideas, Bill!
Stop-and-frisk has also been a big issue. Three years from now, do you think the policy will be largely the same, substantially changed, or scrapped?
I don’t know. I think that if crime starts tweaking up the tiniest bit, there’s going to be enormous pressure. And there may be other ways to do it—we’re not the only ones with good ideas, but we’ve found a formula that works and we believe is consistent with the law.
How do you square that view with the ruling last month that it is unconstitutional?
The judge is just wrong. We have not racial-profiled, we’ve gone where the crime is. I don’t have any doubts that she will be reversed right away. The question is, will our successor continue the battle? I cannot get involved in the next administration, nor should I. But for something like that I would certainly make my views known.
What would you say?
The sad thing, which nobody’s willing to talk about, is that most of our crime is in two neighborhoods: southeast Bronx, central Brooklyn. All minority males 15 to 25. We’ve got to do something about that. And unless you get the guns out of their hands, you’re not going to ever be able to do anything.
The failure of the Olympics, the West Side stadium, and congestion pricing—what did you learn about the politics of how Albany works, how government works, from those episodes?
It is very difficult to explain complex things in sound bites. And government talks to its constituents generally through the press, whereas private-sector organizations talk directly to their customers. If you have something that is complex and long-term before you see results, and there’s one or two people who are willing to go on the record and say the reverse, it is very difficult. Particularly in the days of social media, when there’s an instant referendum on everything—I think it’s going to make governing more difficult.
Could there have been a compromise with Occupy Wall Street that didn’t involve running them out in the middle of the night?
We waited two months, which I think was more than adequate. I was worried that a court would say that you haven’t given them enough time, so we waited what I thought was a reasonable amount of time. Then we called in everybody and said, “Tonight, this is what we’re doing.” I had at various times during the two months discussed options with the Police Department and the Fire Department and the Health Department and the Sanitation Department and legal counsel. So when it came time I said, “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” And they executed it.
So no second thoughts?
Why didn’t the Cathie Black appointment work?
In the end, she just could not understand the sensitivities, to some extent. I went out looking for somebody—it was totally me. I wanted somebody that came from out of left field, because the school system needed shaking up, and that’s where Joel Klein came from. And if she hadn’t been dumped on in the newspaper on day one, maybe she would have been able to make that transition. I think the city owes a great debt to anybody who’s willing to try. And this woman put an awful lot on the line.
You came to this job from a business background, too, of course.
Nobody knew what the mayor was going to do. You know, “He’s a billionaire? Does he put his pants on one leg at a time? Do they eat with their fingers? He takes the subway? He eats fried chicken in a diner? I’m shocked!”
It gave you the advantage of political independence.
The independence—I’ve never thought that comes from not having come through the machine. I don’t know that whoever gets elected next is going to have to do what their supporters want. If the supporters think that they’re buying the candidate, shame on them. And if they do buy the candidate, shame on the candidate.
I don’t think I’m any different than I was at age 24, when I came to this city. I cooked my own meals. My vacations were up on the roof of 333 East 66th Street—tar beach.
You have other advantages now.
It’s probably easier for me to raise private money for philanthropy. Partially because I can say, “Chris, I just gave $5 million; I’d like you to give $5 million.”
Would you have been as successful as mayor without your personal wealth?
Yeah. I actually think so. Of course, there’s some things you couldn’t have done. I couldn’t have given $30 million and got $30 million out of George Soros and then have $60 million for this Young Men’s Initiative to help young minority males, which is where most of the crime is. But most of the things, sure. Smoking had nothing to do with being wealthy. In fact, a lot of the diseases we’re going after tend to be things that afflict those less wealthy. I don’t subscribe to the fact that “Oh, you’re not dead poor, therefore you don’t know.” That’s the height of arrogance.
But your wealth has helped you get things done politically.
Well, John Lindsay, he’s a good-looking guy—all right, that’s an advantage too. I come with a different advantage. There are people that had great educations at Ivy League schools. I was a straight-C student at Johns Hopkins. Don’t ask me how I ever got into Harvard Business School. Now [Harvard president] Drew Faust is asking for my advice on education. But let’s get serious as to why.
You can come from all different backgrounds. The real question is, do you have the desire and the willingness and the creativity and the moxie? And that’s all in your head. When people say, “It’s not fair, you had an advantage,” I’m thinking, Well, they had an advantage—they went to better schools, or they came from wealthier families. My father was a bookkeeper. He worked seven days a week until he checked himself into the hospital to die. My mother went the next day to the library, got a book on driving, taught herself to drive on our quiet street, because she said, “I’m gonna have to be the chauffeur from now on.”
I know what hard work’s about. I still come back to what my strategy always was and will continue to be: I’m not the smartest guy, but I can outwork you. It’s the one thing that I can control.
When people say, “He bought a third term,” does that bother you?
Number one, it isn’t even accurate. I mean, people vote. And the same organizations that carry those criticisms kept raising their ad rates. Talk about duplicitous.
The broader criticism is that because of your wealth you don’t have a feel for the way people really live in the city.
Will you show me all of the man-in-the-street, sympathetic, mayoral candidates? The last time I met one of them on the subway was a long time ago. Let’s not get too carried away. You want to make a bet that whoever’s the next mayor skips security at the front gate of City Hall? You want to make a bet they don’t have an office with everybody else? Come on. This is ridiculous.
A recent poll in the Times said New Yorkers want the next mayor to be empathetic.
I saw that story.
How important is empathy in a mayor?
You have to have empathy to get people to ride with you. If they hate you, then you’ve got a bigger problem. No mayor is a dictator. Leading from the front doesn’t mean you don’t abide by the legal process, don’t need the legislature, don’t need the public behind you.
I can only tell you this: When I walk the streets, people whose support I would never expect in a million years—the truck driver—yell out the window, “Go for four terms!” Or, “Mayor, we love you!” In the subway this morning!
Today I took a photo with the 50 carpenters that got the Staten Island beaches open again. If you take a look at what we did after Hurricane Sandy, it’s a phenomenal job. New Jersey—the Times writes stories about how they’re not done yet. Nassau, Suffolk, not done yet. In New York—in the Rockaways, Staten Island, Coney Island—it’s not perfect, but we got 20,000 homes heat and hot water within two months of starting work.
So I took pictures with these carpenters and each comes through, “Great job, love working for you, thanks.” They don’t have to say that. One guy glared at me. He really glared. He wasn’t sure he was going to shake my hand and have a picture. He did. And he walked away and I looked at the back of his T-shirt: UNION TIL I DIE. Maybe he thinks I’m not pro-union.
Is that a fair charge?
I’m the only one who’s defended the unions in the city. I think without them, it’d be very hard to govern.
Many New Yorkers who agree with the results of your policies don’t like the way the changes got done. They feel like it was forced on them.
Is it naïve to think big changes could have been done differently, with more consensus?
It’s called leadership! We did not take a vote on smoking first. You never would have gotten it passed. But everybody agrees that ban was one of the best things we ever did—saves 10,000 lives a year. Everybody loves it. I think history shows that strong leaders are the ones who make progress.
When you’re criticized for imposing a “nanny state”—
Oh, come on! Everybody loves it! Graydon Carter wrote the nastiest editor’s letter—now he will tell you I saved his life. Literally. His wife thinks I saved his life. Fran Lebowitz is probably the only person whose life I haven’t saved.
On schools, given the issues involved, and the importance of the teachers union, was it bound to be contentious and hostile?
I don’t blame everything on the union. The union’s job is not to educate the kids, it’s not to improve the school system; it’s to get the best working conditions, fewest hours, and the most money for its members. They will fight and die to prevent their members from ever being evaluated and pushed out of the job if the results aren’t there.
Bill Thompson, after getting the UFT endorsement, said he wouldn’t “demonize teachers” if he’s mayor. Have you demonized teachers?
No; the only ones that demonize teachers are the UFT. Most teachers, if you survey them, want to be treated as professionals. Mike Mulgrew [compared them to] truck drivers. I don’t think most teachers want to be compared to truck drivers.
No mayor has ever given as big of a raise to teachers as I have. I think it was something like 43 percent day one. Before, we couldn’t recruit and we couldn’t retain. Today, a teacher that started out five or six years ago making $60,000 can be at $80,000. We’ve done a lot for the teachers, and I think they appreciate it. They’ve done a lot too. They really have improved the school system. It is dramatically better.
You’re a believer in the empirical, in data. But after all the changes in standards, is there any credibility in the test scores and graduation rates?
It is very hard to explain complex numbers in a sound bite.
But when the numbers went up, you were very happy to say so.
Yes. Compare us to Rochester: I think we’re at 30 percent up to standards. Rochester is at 5—5 percent! We’ve caught up to the whole state!
You’ve been a Democrat. You’ve been a Republican. You’re currently an Independent. Which party do you feel closest to now?
I would describe myself as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. But I think I’m too liberal for the liberals, because I actually try to deliver the services rather than just promise them. If they delivered everything they promised, nobody could afford it. I actually am a conservative more so than other conservatives in the sense that I think you could go and cut 2 or 3 percent out of the budget in every agency. We’ve done that twelve times, and we’ve cut roughly a billion and a half and there’s six-odd billion that’s recurring, and you can go and cut people or find other revenue sources. There are ways to do those things.
But given the Republican intransigence on things you care about, you can’t really be so evenhanded about the parties.
There are plenty of Democrats who I don’t agree with. I can’t get them to vote for a bill to stop this carnage with guns on our streets. I don’t see the party rushing out and trying to throw those members out. They’re not without sin, both sides.
On guns, isn’t it counterproductive to be going after Democratic senators when their replacements are going to be far more conservative?
The way that all these single-issue advocacy organizations work—the NRA, Gun Owners of America, the AARP—is they say, “Vote with us, or we’re going to go after you.” And if you say, “Well, my opponent is worse than me,” they say, “We don’t care, we’re going after you. It’s your vote we care about. We’ll deal with him if we need to.” You have to have a counter to that. This, to me, is the most important issue. And incidentally, it is not Democrats we are going after—it is whatever party happens to control the Senate, and if we get legislation passed there, we will go after whatever party happens to control the House. It is not because they’re Democrats. It looks like it would be Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, but who knows?
These are people’s lives! Twelve thousand people this year will be killed by guns. Nineteen thousand will commit suicide.
Other than guns, what is your policy agenda?
Immigration and guns are the two big issues at the national level. Health-care costs and pension costs at the local level.
You endorsed President Obama this time around. How’s he doing? Give him a grade.
I think some things he’s done well; some things I’ve encouraged him to do more of. He’s a very smart guy. He’s very thoughtful. He is honest, and he is earnest. He’s got a tough row to hoe with Congress, but if I’ve been critical at all, it’s because I think he could do more reaching out to more sides of the aisle. He gave a speech on immigration and said that we have to have bipartisan support, but the Republicans were the problem. I wouldn’t do it that way. In business, I would kiss you and then ask for something. In government, they tend to take a swing and then ask for something.
So that’s a B, B+?
I wouldn’t give him a grade yet. But on the things that you can measure short-term, he gets good grades.
You’ve worked closely with at least three people who are likely to be top contenders in 2016. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie.
Add the governor of Maryland.
Who’d make the best president?
Oh, I can’t answer that. Number one: I don’t know that any of them want to run. And I still have to deal with all of them. I think they’re different people, and each brings something different to the party. Is that good-enough obfuscation?
Would you vote for Hillary?
I think Hillary’s very competent. And I’d say the same about the other two. I’ve worked well with all of them.
As for your future: There are plenty of different models of wealthy people giving money away—Larry Ellison races yachts and funds his son’s Hollywood dreams. Bill Gates donates to medical and educational causes.
I don’t know Ellison very well. Bill, I do know well, and he deserves a lot of credit. He and his wife spend an enormous amount of time and dedication in trying to change the world. I would like to do a lot of that. Certainly a big component of my life will be philanthropy.
As important as that is, I can’t see that being enough for you.
I can’t either, but we’ll see. I am an executive. What I do is make decisions, hire people, get ’em to work together. I’m not a consultant, I’m not an investor, I’m not a teacher, I’m not an analyst. You have to know what your skill sets are.
If you’re an executive, can you really rule out running for president in 2016?
Yes. It’s just impossible. I am 100 percent convinced that you cannot in this country win an election unless you are the nominee of one of the two major parties. The second thing I am convinced of is that I could not get through the primary process with either party.
And, incidentally, I think I’ve got a better job than the president’s. He’s got a very tough Congress, and he’s removed from the day-to-day stuff. My job is the day-to-day stuff. That’s what I’m good at—or at least what I think I’m good at.
Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post. John Henry just bought the Boston Globe.
I saw that.
They are not good businesses. The media world is changing. Newsweek and U.S. News, two of the big newsweeklies nationwide, go out of print, and Time magazine’s thinner than it was before. There’s something changing. Whether it’s good or bad for democracy, whether it’s good or bad for the public, I don’t know, but it’s changing. The print circulation of the Daily News has gone from 660,000 to 330,000 in four or five years.
Does the future of journalism include you owning the Financial Times or the New York Times?
The Financial Times is not for sale. The New York Times is certainly not for sale.
But I’ve always said if you read Bloomberg Businessweek and The Economist cover to cover every week, you will know more than if you read the newspapers every day. And it’s probably true. And I think I’d say that about Businessweek even if it wasn’t owned by Bloomberg.
And if the Times were for sale?
I can’t answer a question like that. There are a handful of great newspapers with great journalism still. I don’t necessarily agree with their editorial policies or even their front page, but the Times is one of the great newspapers.
So you’d be interested.
As a reader, yes.
No, as a businessman.
I just can’t answer your question because you don’t know—I think the future of print journalism is problematic. Why Bezos bought the Post, I have no idea. He said that he wasn’t going to get involved in it. What’s the point of owning it if you don’t? Certainly not to make money. If you wanna have fun, buy the New York Post.
So you should buy the Post.
No. I would try to upscale it, and that’s what would destroy it. Plus, I heard this weekend from somebody who probably does know about the Post, and he says it’s losing over $100 million a year. That’s a lot of money for a vanity thing.
It’s tough out there on the Internet.
It’s just another disruptive technology that has come along. You may want to do this story sometime: Try to figure out where the jobs of the future are gonna come from. My barber—it’s not inconceivable at some point you’ll stick your head in a box, and boom, out you come all coiffed. It is a very big problem for society. The knowledge world destroys jobs. I was on a panel with Mark Zuckerberg: “We’re gonna create so many jobs.” Go to Google and you’ll be shocked at the lack of diversity and how few people really are creating all that stuff.
The gains in technology make it easier to live and work far from an office. Yet big cities have grown and become even more vital. Why is that?
Fifteen, twenty years ago, when telecommuting was going to be big, I kept saying, “No!” Skype didn’t exist back then, but being on a conference call isn’t the same as standing at the water cooler. It just isn’t. And I think you gotta go to work. And I think people should be next to each other to the extent possible.
But the 24-year-old Mike Bloomberg, in 2014, couldn’t come to New York and find a cheap apartment anymore. Or if he did, it would be with six other guys.
I don’t know, but my guess is that if you and I were sitting around the table back 40 years ago, you would have said the same thing. It’s like the way we think the music that we have is okay, but the next generation’s music is crap. “I could never get into that school today”—that’s all bullshit. Things are changing, but I don’t subscribe to that.
And incidentally, we’ve gotten back 300 percent of the jobs we lost during the recession; the country’s got back 79 percent. So there’s a lot of jobs available in New York. We have more people working in New York than ever before. We’ve created jobs at every level. The ones that are the hardest to create are at the bottom. The top will take care of itself if you have a good immigration policy, set a reasonable tax structure, have clean streets and safe streets and culture and that sort of thing. It’s at the bottom that you really gotta see how you can get jobs for people who don’t have a lot of skills.
How can you?
Our answer to that has been tourism as much as anything—last year, we had 52 million visitors. This year, we think we’ll come up with something like 53 and a half. Our objective is 55 by 2015, and if the next administration doesn’t screw it up, you’ll get there. It creates an enormous amount of jobs. Middle-class jobs, too, incidentally.
Clearly you believe that mayor is not just an important job, but a great job.
You get a real chance to change the world. New York City—listen, when California banned smoking, no one paid attention. When New York banned smoking, all the rest of Europe, all of Latin America, parts of Asia now, every big city, even the Tobacco Belt in America, they were all smoke free.
Speaking of the smoking ban: Which of these Bloomberg innovations will survive into the next administration: the City Hall bullpen?
Yes. But the mayor won’t be in it.
Yes, for sure. Much too popular. Citibank has made one of the great investments of all time. I was talking to somebody yesterday from Colombia; he says, “We have to have Citi Bike here.” It’s become a generic term. It’s great for Citibank.
Sure, but people complain that the city is abetting commercialization.
Commercialization is good for the city! And this is done with private money. I mean, what’s your complaint? By your argument, we shouldn’t have any jobs here that are with companies because they use their own name. I don’t get that.
Okay, what about plazas where there used to be traffic lanes?
Overwhelmingly popular. Our problem is turning down neighborhoods that want to do it.
Public overwhelmingly in favor. And the number of cases of salmonella in hospitals declined something like 14 percent. People say we’re just doing it for the money raised by the fines—no, but if we don’t get those moneys we’re gonna have to raise your taxes, because we do need the money from someplace.
Yeah, I think so, as long as they don’t dumb it down. That would be my great fear. I think the educational reforms are always going to be in jeopardy, because most people don’t have the interest in education reform that they do in crime, for example. Crime comes back—it affects everybody. In the long term, I would argue, education affects everybody, but in the short term it doesn’t affect people who don’t have kids, don’t have kids in school, and those who, if they have some savvy about how the system works, can get them into better schools.
You’re going to miss being mayor, right?
Yeah, sure. But I never, ever, look back. The day I got fired at Salomon, I think I said, “Fuck them!” on my way out the door.
What was the first mayor of New York City’s name?
I don’t remember.
[Bloomberg points to a wall plaque commemorating Thomas Willett] At least we have that—I don’t know that there’s any evidence of it other than that.
Someday the city will name something after you.
No. Probably not.
But what would you pick?
I never even thought about it. What would I like? Probably can’t change the name of Central Park, right?
*The mayor’s office asked us to amend the remarks to add an interjection that was inaudible in our audiotape of the interview, which was conducted over speakerphone. In our view the added words do not alter the meaning of the exchange as reflected in the published interview.