Because of when Bloomberg took his shot at Silverstein—with a landslide victory over Ferrer in plain sight—his words sounded like the first symptoms of incipient Titoism, of a second-term mayor who arrogantly believes he should be in charge of everything and accountable to no one. If Bloomberg unbridled means he’s going to try to ram through another West Side stadium, or break the teachers union, his popularity could prove ephemeral.
Bloomberg’s blast at Silverstein sounded a bit like incipient Titoism. But maybe ground zero needs a dictator.
When it comes to ground zero, though, dictatorship is good. Bloomberg is right about rethinking the mix of residential and commercial, and his comments are one more indication that four years in elective office haven’t shaken his private-sector mind-set: If market conditions have changed, the product should change. But he must follow through on his offhand comments about ground zero. The most important move of his first term was winning responsibility for the public schools. This time, he doesn’t need to seize operational control of the Trade Center site, and the Port Authority wouldn’t surrender it.
Bloomberg seems likely to acquire a cache of political capital nearly as sizable as his bank account. And that power, in concert with his Fifth Avenue allies, creates an unprecedented opportunity for a mayor to make his mark on the city. All he will need is vision.
After the mayor disappears into the Top of the Rock elevator for the trip back down to the midtown sidewalk, David Rockefeller and Jerry Speyer linger on the observation deck. “The way ground zero has gone, the mayor shares responsibility with the governor,” says Rockefeller, a man Bloomberg admires. “But the mayor is a great leader.” Speyer, who serves on the fund-raising board for the September 11 memorial but last year turned down Pataki’s offer to lead it, deftly demurs. “I’d rather talk about this after the election,” he says.
That day is upon us.