Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Bloomberg Way

Julian Brash, Ph.D., a Brooklyn-born professor of anthropology and urban studies now at Montclair State University, has written a book entitled Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City.” As our economy crashes and burns, with the City Council set to vote on term limits tomorrow, I talked with Professor Brash about what he calls the Bloomberg Way and its effect on the city.

Doctoroff & Bloomberg

What is the Bloomberg Way?

It’s a notion of governance in which the city is run like a corporation. The mayor is the CEO, the businesses are clients, citizens are consumers, and the city itself is a product that’s branded and marketed. And New York is a luxury product.

This is all about class. Bloomberg and many in his administration are asserting their right to both govern and shape the city into a place for corporate elites and high-level professionals. This is the culmination of a major shift in policy, underway since the 1970s, away from the post-war idea that working-class people are the heart of the city.

Sure, they’re saying, we need people around to fight fires and serve sandwiches, but it’s not their city. It’s really a city for the well-off. Bloomberg realizes this vision through a privatized, top-down, outcome-based notion of government.

What effect does the Bloomberg Way have on the city?

Bloomberg’s administration is corporate, technocratic—and a touch authoritarian. Its development agenda is Robert Moses-type stuff. A complete transformation of the city is underway. Bloomberg’s rezonings are about creating high-end commercial and residential districts. His administration aims to create an urban environment conducive to the people you call “yunnies.”

His development model is a corporate model, in which growth is a good in itself. It’s the fetishization of growth, constantly accumulating more and more and more. This leads to real problems, as the basics—especially infrastructure—have not been maintained and expanded adequately.

Many people will say: What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we let the Bloomberg Way continue?
The reason we keep having fiscal crises in the city is because we’re so dependant on the unstable industry of finance. Bloomberg has not diversified the city’s economy enough to protect it. In fact, he made it worse. He created a place where only super-profitable companies, namely finance, can buy into the city.

Bloomberg is very good at short-term fiscal management and he might be able to get the city through the next couple of years of fiscal crisis. But in the long term, he isn’t the person who’s going to be able to address the basic problem of New York’s inequitable and unstable pattern of economic development.

Basically, it’s a very bad time to be one of the financial centers of the world. The next few decades are likely to see finance decline as the leading edge of capitalism. New York’s economy will suffer from this.

Which brings us to the term limits issue.

Right. It fits right in with the whole corporate governance model for three reasons:

One, the argument goes: Bloomberg’s an excellent CEO, he’s getting things done, so why shouldn’t he continue? It’s not about making decisions in a democratic way. Democracy doesn’t matter in his model of governance because the CEO makes the decisions.

Two, it’s personalistic. Only Bloomberg, they’re saying, only this corporate superman, a God-like figure with some internal, personalized quality that makes him exceptional, can govern the city. The idea that in a city of 8 million people, Bloomberg’s the only person who can govern the city’s affairs is wrong and alarming.

And three, there’s the class element. Bloomberg helped to solidify the class shift in the city. A coalescence of billionaires around Bloomberg basically asked themselves, Who among us can govern the city? Richard Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner, was a possibility, but then he decided to tend his vineyards in his retirement instead. Bloomberg was the guy interested in the job.

Billionaires for Bloomberg: dnblog1

Most people in New York aren’t billionaires. So why aren’t we seeing a large-scale protest against Bloomberg and his policies?

Nobody’s causing a ruckus because, in Bloomberg’s vision of the city you’re not a citizen, you’re a consumer. Citizens get rowdy. They protest in the streets, they don’t make complaint phone calls. Now we have 311, which provides great customer service, and basic services are being delivered well—no small accomplishment. But the consumer model diminishes political action because it’s so emotionally seductive.

A lot of mid-level professionals--teachers, academics, urban planners, people in publishing and non-profits, people like you and me, basically--identify with Bloomberg because they identify upward. They are so happy to be living in this shiny, elite city, that the fact they’re amassing thousands of dollars in credit card debt or are desperately house-poor to fit into the New York standard of living escapes them. They’re getting screwed. Eventually, these people will just leave.

Marx said about the peasantry that they are “incapable of enforcing their class interest in their own name.” These professionals are the peasants here. They’re allowing themselves to be led by Bloomberg without a sense of their own class interest. These people are the most deluded of all.

Is there any hope?

Don’t overestimate the degree to which the Bloomberg administration has changed the city. New Yorkers are still citizens—not consumers. People are agitating against it. Political action is not dead—it’s just not being articulated in a coherent way on a city-wide level. It’s hard to tell where a coherent alternative would emerge from right now. But it's hard to believe it will not.

Check out the book here.

The following images are from a brochure Brash received at a Doctoroff speech in 2004. The brochure is entitled "Bloomberg Administration Major Economic Development Initiatives." It outlines a massive plan to transform the city. Click to enlarge:


Ken Mac said...

Fantastic post. I forwarded to an architect friend who thinks Bloomie is great and doesn't understand my rants against endless development. This is an important post.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks ken. i agree, it's hard to explain to people why bloomberg is so bad for the city. his policies are indeed "seductive." i think brash gives us good ammunition for debate.

Barbara L. Hanson said...

People in publishing identify upward? I've been in publishing my entire professional life, and I can honestly say that that's one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever heard. Great piece, though.

Anonymous said...

J, great piece! The "consumers" are living on plastic; that bill will also come due. I've read that Venice was once the financial capital of the world; now it's for tourism. Europe no longer considers NYC the financial capital but don't tell that to the Elf Mayor. His term limits denial exemplifies his hubris. Get him out of office.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic piece. It puts into words so many ideas I've had forming about Bloomberg and why the non-elites are complacent with their lives as citizens being taken away.

Though of course obviously this is bigger than Bloomberg. As Brash noted Bloomberg embodies the culmination of the 70's policy shift. Term Limits Extension or not, I am not so sure that the next mayor will serve Citizen Interests any better. We could just be looking at Bloomberg II, Giuiliani III.

Anyway, yes, great ammunition for debate.


Anonymous said...

I think Nero is fiddling in New York. You cant have a city exculsively for the rich...ultimately the support staff will move to Raleigh and Portland ME.

Unknown said...

Can you advise those of us who have seen the development train wreck coming for the last 5 years.......the most affective way we can use our voice and energy, keeping this man out of office? Does he stand a chance of being reelected?

Architect's love Bloomberg. They tote the "we need housing" line. We do...but we need it for working class folks with thoughtful City Planning and infrastructure and responsibility to the future.
84,000 permits were issued in 2006 with only 207 DOB inspectors. Hmm surprised about buildings falling down? Mr Bloomberg increased the DOT (Parking ticket department)in 2007 or 2008 (wish I new the exact figure........
And he has the audacity to say that the building collapses and resulting deaths are average, acceptable and par for the course? That says to me that collecting revenue through parking tickets is more important than safety or lives.

I really see Bloomberghs reign, as negligence.

Fabulous observations. I hope people will read and be enlightened by this post.

Anonymous said...

baha, I also have spent my life in publishing and think that there is truth to Dr. Brash's statement. I do think many "identify upward" in the sense that we feel there is a refinement, an honor to our work (in the worst cases breeding elitism). I wholeheartedly agree that we do NOT identify with Bloomberg! He's a billionaire! Publishing pays nothing! We do it for the love. ;)

Dr. Brash, question: What do you think is the future of rent control and rent stabilization in New York City?

Barbara L. Hanson said...

anon @ 1:47pm: I definitely identify upward intellectually and, yes, there is honor in our work, but no money! I was referring solely to identifying with the glass-tower- occupying so-called elite, which I could never do. I think we're more or less in agreement.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i have known many in the publishing field, especially editorial assistants, who aspire to a "sex and the city" lifestyle, as if publishing were glamorous. which, i guess, for some people, it is. depends on what you're publishing. the tables at barnes and noble are loaded with aspirational chick-lit and shiny covers.

Bob Arihood said...

Unfortunatlyy what this book is about should be obvious to most New Yorkers today .This has happened right before our eyes as so many of us were giving this mayor the benefit of the doubt for much too long a time .

The comming to this situation here today in our city has also all been written about many times before ,at least since the late sixties .It has all been right befor our eyes for years now . What is wrong that so few noticed . We allowed a few wealthy ones to just take this city and do what they wanted with it . they made numerous fortunes doing so .

This mayor has done massive damage to this city .The economic diversity that we need to survive , especially in catastrophic times , has been radically reduced by the implementation of his policies .It was the Economist that said several years ago of these policies that they were responsible for " a colossal misalocation of capital .

Back in the 70s Christopher Lasch wrote a book titled "The Culture of Narcissism".This mayor and the crowd that he has hustled and sold our city to are all in Lasch's book .

Rather than reelect this man to mayor we should be tarring and feathering him and riding him out of town on a rail .

Barbara L. Hanson said...

Jeremiah, I work in nonfiction (I'm freelance), which doesn't seem to draw a glamorous crowd. No SATC girls; they all work in publicity.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great piece and such great information to work with - it's like every germ of an idea most of us had been grappling with put into a concise, understandable framework. It's such a breath of fresh air! thank you !!

Washington Sq Park Blog

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, Jeremiah, as usual. This loud braying by the many admirers of Lord Bloomberg, extolling the necessity of his remaining in office, is but a continuance of the sentiment expressed by then mayor Benito Guiliani on Sept. 11 towards George Bush. On that sorrowfull day, Little Benito remarked, "Thank god George Bush is our president." And so, in this present crisis, we are hearing that it is only Bloomberg who can steer this failing city to safety. Americans love these kinds of paternalistic narratives.

Anonymous said...


It's not YOUR city, and it's not dying. If you don't like the New York see today, free of all the filth that has plagued it since Ford said "NO", move to Jersey. All you NIMBY's can find a condo in Edgewater so you can foolishly lament about the great city turning for the better before your eyes, while staring at a city you cannot afford. Work harder, or move out.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, talk about someone jealous of people doing better in life than he is. This post makes me sick. I suppose we should bring Ed Koch or David Dinkins back? Pathetic. For those of you looking at those before and after shots above in the proposal and actually agree with it - are seriously delusional.

Anonymous said...

You know what, let's just keep the sites in the third picture as is ant try to improve them. Cause that's definitely great for NYC.


Anonymous said...

To anonymous, 10:54 -- NYC was being overshadowed by London in recent years but that is sure to change as that city will undoubtedly suffer more of a shock from this crisis than New York. They're already struggling across the pond and the crisis hasn't formally "hit" them yet.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:06PM - The boroughs and fringes of Manhattan are for the working class.

Anonymous said...

"Massive damage"?

What Kool-Aid have you been drinking?

Jacob Felson said...

Goodness... am I the only one who thinks this guy really has no idea what he is talking about?

The post reflects a fundamental luck of understanding in economics in general, and in trade-offs in particular.

The reason that real estate prices are so high in NYC is that there is a tremendous demand to live here. (I, for example, live in a very run-down building for 1,300, which is very high for me -- I wouldn't do that anywhere else.)

To the extent that Bloomberg has made the city more desirable, I suppose he has raised the cost of living by indirectly increasing demand.

But of course demand is only one side of the equation. There is incredible demand in places like Phoenix, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, and the suburbs of Atlanta, GA -- indeed those are several of the fastest growing parts of the country. But despite that demand, housing prices in those locations are *very* low compared to New York. In those places, someone with a middle class living can easily afford to buy a home. Why? Because supply has kept pace with demand -- and in fact has likely exceeded it, with the housing bubble.

But unlike those locations of course, space in NYC is at a premium. First of all, of course, NYC is already the densest city in the nation. But there is still a lot of room to build up. What also limits supply are zoning laws that are stricter in NYC than many places, in part due to the fact that many of us (me included) see many parts of NYC as "museum" like and important to preserve. Also of course, because of the density of NYC, we all "rub shoulders" a lot more, and so private development has a bigger impact on all of us. Unlike much of the country, we won't be racing by a new development at 60-70 mph, but rather will have to walk by it every day. So the process of approval is complicated and lenghened tremendously, in comparison with much of the country. The result is that building in NYC is much more costly. In part for this reason, we unfortunately get very little new housing for poor, working class, and now even for middle class people. Today, when do you see an ad for a new building that does not have "luxury" tacked on to it? People like myself who never envision making over $100K / year have virtually written off the idea of raising a family *and* owning a home in the city.

This frustrates me, but I also understand that this is part of the price that one pays for living in a place that is an icon, a place where aspirants in nearly every field flock to every year. A place like that couldn't be cheap! An unfortunate downside to the decline in crime in NYC in the 1990s is that the city is even that the city is now desirable to people who would have written it off.

But part of the reason for the high prices has to do with the relative *lack of development*, not too much development. Holding demand constant, the more condos that are built, the lower that prices will be. In places that many define as "sacred" -- the Village, for example, land use restrictions (whether by law or by process) are so strict as to prevent a hospital that serves many indigent clients from expanding as it sees fit. In that sort of environment, prices are bound to skyrocket. The only way out is to let more townhouses be replaced by tall towers. If there were no zoning restrictions, and a very quick approval process, the amount of construction we would expand dramatically, and soak up all that extra demand.

Now, I agree with many others in that I want to protect much of the Village as it is; I cherish that neighborhood, and others, as national treasures, even though I will most likely never be able to afford to live there.

However, land use restrictions in other neighboorhoods that are much less picturesque, seem to bringer greater costs than benefits. I know it is always painful for people who have lived in a neighborhood in a long time to see that neighborhood completely change before their eyes, in scale or socioeconomic status. Although I am white, I would like the neighborhood where I live, Washington Heights, to remain mostly Dominican. I like the history that has been built up in the neighborhood. Change is heartwrenching.

But I also know that the kinds of rules that prevent dramatic change from occurring -- such as height restrictions, and rent stabilization, also come at a huge cost to newer cohorts of people trying to settle down and find roots in NYC. One can make an argument that someone who has lived in a neighborhood for 30 years has some right to stay, rather than be forced to move due to rising. But one can also make a persuasive case that young people have a right, or a claim, to more affordable housing than is currently available in the city.

The interests of old timers in maintaining stability in prices and scale are in fundamental conflict with the interests iof newcomers seeking affordable housing. My sense is that many people do not recognize, or at least do not pay sufficient attention, to this fundamental trade-off. Instead, the issue is often perceived in terms of the greedy developers versus the current occupants of the neighborhood. But of course, just about everywhere we live in NYC was built by one of those greedy developers at some point. The benefits of new development do not accrue to developers only. Actually, the more development that is permitted, the less that individual developers will be able to benefit from their projects. In the current climate, in which it is incredibly difficult to build, only the politically-connected, and extremely well-capitalized developers are able to build. And only luxury housing! If building approval processes were streamlined, more low density areas were opened to midrise construction, and midrise areas were opened up to highrise construction, we would see much more housing for the middle class. We would see prices come down, as the amount of supply was more in line with demand. The city would be less "for the rich" only. But the only way to get there is more development, not less.

One argument in opposition is primarily aesthetic. People often say that they would hate to live in Midtown with all the skyscrapers. But there are several problems here. First, people usually miss things that they had, but when you come into a neighborhood for the first time, you take it as it is. The tall buildings don't look out of place. Many people's ideal might be 4-7 story buildings, but there is incredible diversity in preferences. And many places in the city with good subway access and an unimpressive built environment -- e.g. Williamsburg -- would not suffer aesthetically if they were replaced entirely with 6-20 story buildings. Some might say this is already happening. I suppose -- but at a snail's pace.

So in the end, its very tempting, very easy, to want to find individual culprits to blame for problems. But the explanations for these problems are more subtle and nuanced, and require an understanding of the trade-offs we make.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jacob. I understand that there is alot of frustration & struggle when it comes to finding house & seeing your neighborhood changed. However, on one hand, NYC can be kept as a musuem as Istanbul or endless construction as Beijing. In fact, we are between the two which isn't bad.
Have anyone here attend NYC public school in the late 80's or late 90's? It is much better to live than before.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Reverend Billy said something very interesting last at the "Celebrate Union Square: 10 years as a designated historic landmark" Event. When people argue about how the city was, going back to the 70's or 80's, it's as if nothing has happened between then and now and those are your only two options.

Jacob, the Mayor focused so much on real estate and Wall Street sectors to the detriment of our city.

This totally could have been played another way. Instead of giving tax breaks to developers who were building endless luxury housing, he could have NOT done that and also focused on affordable housing. He wants Manhattan to be exactly as it is. Glitzy. Glass. Exclusive. He does not get or care about the diversity or the 'little people' -- he didn't admitted to not even bothering to listen to ANY testimony from public hearing over term limits. I don't even think he can see how bad he is looking right now because he's in a bubble. He is a billionaire from Boston who is used to getting his way - as the term limit issue showed.

Everything he's been doing that was a bit shady during his two terms has been hidden - until now.

Our whole city, the things that make it great, is falling apart - particularly to our neighborhoods and communities which are all starting to look the same as VNY covers so well.

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that challenges the Mayor's reputation as a good financial wizard and states that he could have - and didn't - prepared the city for the lean years which anyone who knew anything would have seen coming:

Anonymous said...

I agree that Bloomberg should have done more to diversify the city's economy. I think there should have been much more of a push to lure green industry and other technologies here, which could have been tied to his other industrial retention policies, most notably the IBZs (Industrial Business Zones are areas where there is a “promise” to keep it zoned industrial).

I also think that there should have been less rezoning of industrial land not located in IBZs - once that land is lost to residential development, it’s pretty much impossible to get it back for more intensive uses in the future. That said, the Morrisania mixed use district in the Bronx has been successful at mixing industrial retention with new housing development; but this is an area that has had much less development pressure than other areas in the city, and new development in the neighborhood is predominately (much needed) affordable housing, not high-end condos.

Since future industrial development will look and function differently from the industries that built this city, Bloomberg’s policies of rezoning areas along the waterfront in return for public access and parkland is a good one. But all this thinking about increasing housing capacity should have been done alongside efforts to diversify the city’s job base. There should have been a progressive industrial policy that went hand-in-hand with rezoning industrial land. We should have been hearing more about what the business models of the future are (and not just in the service sector), and how the city can attract them. As we are all witnessing, tourism and finance will not cut it.

But this is where I get more critical of Bloomberg’s critics. Rezonings cannot dictate whether or not the condos being built are affordable (at least not without mandatory affordable housing requirements, which opens a land use law can of worms), nor can rezonings dictate whether or not the units are rentals or condos, or the retail is a mom-and-pop or a chain. Zoning is a blunt tool. The only zoning mechanism of any real significance is the (optional) inclusionary housing program, where developers get a floor area bonus for providing affordable housing. The city could try additional creative approaches to zoning (and in many ways is, as with the waterfront zoning), but that is always easier said than done in a city as big and complex as New York.

And all those contextual rezonings that residents keep screaming for (and the city keeps churning out) just keep housing costs up by reducing the pool of potential development sites. Another thing New Yorkers love, off-street parking, can increase development costs as well, especially for smaller development projects (this is a huge zoning policy flaw that so many New Yorkers seem to love).

Still, I am a critic of the simple notion that the answer is simply to increase housing capacity, because the reality in New York is so much more complex, with rent stabilized and rent controlled units, unwavering (at least until recently) international demand, rampant speculation, high land development costs, and on and on.

The point in all of this? These issues are bigger than Bloomie, and he’s not a villain, nor a savior. Critics need to be more specific about his failed policies (and his successful ones) and stop the silly King Bloomberg refrains.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeremiah,

By massively rezoning areas of the city where middle and working class people currently live to enable the development of luxury condos and hotels, I am actually helping the middle class.

Mayor Bloomberg

Anonymous said...

Well, I for one applaud J. Why? Am I against progress? No. Do I think people should be forced to live in squalor? No. Do I think we have a right to mandate how people live? No.

He is not wrong about what has been lost. And the boors that have bothered to post clearly were not around in the glory days. They therefore have no idea what has been lost.

What follows is just one man's view.

I am an ex-New-Yorker. I left because the character of the city was being lost every day and I had watched this happen for 10 years before I decided it was time to go. Every bit of cool drained from my neighborhood with every new bit of construction. Eventually, it was simply no longer my neighborhood. The reasons I had come to love it were gone. Quite literally.

There is much that has improved since the dark days of the early 80s when I first arrived. The city was mean and dangerous back then. It was also cheap, exciting and full of people with great ideas to share. There was a creative charge to the city that is in my opinion gone. Why?

For the most part the improvements have come at the expense of what made New York a place of diversity. It is without doubt becoming whiter, richer, insanely expensive and boring. For that reason I saw no reason to stay. To me it had all the character of Miami. With shittier weather and that's saying something. The awesome small neighborhood places were displaced by chains meaning I really could be living in AnyCity USA, but paying a premium. My artist friends scattered in what might be the biggest diaspora of creatives since the late 1930s / early 1940s.

The flood of people that were charmed by the city has done the one thing that always happens. By arriving in large numbers with different values, they've changed it completely without meaning to. By being here, they displaced the very things they came for. That has been going on through all of NYC's history.

I know for a fact that those who pioneered the West Village in the late 50s (the neighbors I met in the 1980s) loathed me for being able to afford my filthy railroad style apartment all by myself. I was the very transformative scum, a guy with a good job, they had always feared would arrive.

Know what? They were right to fear me. I ended up being an influencer who publicly proclaimed in newspapers and television how great the creative resources were in the city. I got a startup off the ground. I helped bring in people that would never have considered living in the city before.

And guess what?

Within less than a decade those cranky neighbors had had to move on. The writers, painters and poets got the boot in favor of people that could pay up.

They were displaced by me and my cohorts. Just as I would later be displaced by the marauding hordes of Wall Streeters who helped eliminate the last vestiges of the city as it had been. And now they have died off leaving the city with a real problem. It has in the last 25 years managed to progress to the heights of excess and glory last seen in the 1920s. It has by its simple rise squeezed out the creatives that once thrived. But guess what? We now have arrived at a moment where the excess is about to meet its just end. It is only a matter of time before the rich whites will abandon ship.

And the whole cycle will start all over.

It might take another 10-15 years but it will happen. It always has in NYC. It always will.

But J is not wrong about what has been lost. And I mourn the passing with him. With that, I can only hope that whatever rises next will be as quirky and awesome as what was lost. That too has always been the way it has worked.

Anonymous said...

J: Thanks for your illuminating post.
I detest Bloomberg and his "I am the Emperor of New York City" attitude. I am a middle class New York native who owns a small condo and my RE taxes have gone up 123% in the past 6 years. And yet - no outcry.
I plan to work against his reelection - but as far as I can tell, no one else is running because no one has the money to run against him.

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg makes Rudy look like a supporter of the arts. He and his 'advisors' and commisioners have drained the creative life out of this city and passed it on to the real estate developers and corporate sponsors. Like London, Paris and Rome these clowns have made NYC 'another' museum city.....old, dead and stuffed.

J:Lai said...

You have at least make some effort to understand reality if you want to be taken seriously at all. Bloomberg is not terrible, nor is he responsible for many of things you dislike about current NYC.
First of all, most of the trends that this blog opposes got started in the 90's during the Giuliani administration. Bloomberg, while he certainly has many flaws, is far better than Giuliani. Now that was a guy that you could legitimately hate.

It is popular to claim that Bloomberg runs the city like a private corporation, but there is really no evidence to support this. He's a politician in his role as Mayor, and a surprisingly effective one. Hizzoner is not all-powerful, and Bloomberg has had to work within the constraints of the city council and Albany.

It's true that a disproportionate share of the city's economy is in the finance/real estate industry, but this was true since at least Koch and the Mayor has limited power to change that. One thing the mayor can influence, that Bloomberg has definitely emphasized, is growing the tourism industry. I think this has been a terrible idea, but it was sort of the obvious choice to capitalize on the larger trend of falling crime and global affluence.

Bloomberg's administration does tend to be Manhattan centric, consistent with his view of NYC as a "luxury product", but he has also supported development of the entire East River waterfront from Coney up to at least LIC and will probably go all the way to Soundview if he can manage it. Now you could argue that NYC waterfront re-development should include more industrial use and not be just residential and parks, and you might be right, but you have to admit it beats the hell of the Bob Moses plan to just cover it with highways.

When it comes to real estate development, its true bloomberg must take a lot of the blame for the over-development of the last 5-10 yrs. Again, though, you can't have it both ways. You want to diversify the economy, and all these construction projects have certainly provided a lot of jobs and investment, and eventually the market will absorb them just fine because there is a chronic under-supply of housing here. The developers will suffer, but we who live here will actually benefit in the long term by having more options for housing.

In addition, Bloomberg's PlaNYC (terrible name, but not all bad in terms of the actual content) propses creating massive new capacity for middle income housing by developing areas such as Sunnyside Yards. If you're not familiar with the plan in particular, you should check it out - it is a pretty amazing proposal to build a platform over the rail yards in north western queens and zone it for what is essentially a whole new neighborhood. Like grand central but better.

Things like getting the schools under mayoral control may seem "dictatorial" in some sense, but he took a system that was broken and has shown signs that he is fixing it. I know it can be a slippery slope, and there is something a bit unsettling about ceding too much power to the Mayor, but you can't paint him with a broad brush and say everything is in service of commodifying the "luxury product" that is NYC.

I think Bloomberg has a genuine vision for fixing some of the big problems in the city. I think some what he wants to do is good and some of it I disagree with strongly. I also think he does a horrible job articulating his policy goals to the public, but that just shows he didn't spend his life in politics.

To sum up, while there is much to criticize, there are also positive things that have come out of the Bloomberg administration. And you should look at the city council, Albany, the MTA, NYPD, all the various bureaucracies with just as much scrutiny since the Mayor doesn't work in a vacuum. Bloomberg is hardly the worst Mayor of the last few decades, and if you look at his competition in the upcoming election, they are a pretty depressing bunch.

Jim VB said...

Jeremiah, pieces like this are why I read your blog. And the comments after(absent douchebaggery) are also quite informative.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Bloomberg is a tyrant in the way he weals "Zoning Tools". There is no room in his power scheme plans that allow for any democratic processes. Under Bloomberg, the Will of the People is no match for the moneyed elite armed with redevelopment plans. And development plans are good even as they obliterate what is of value in a community, so long as they make money for those developers.

(As planning teacher at Yale pointed out in a recent publication, that for every new dollar of revenue that a city gets from a redevelopment project, the city will have to spend 3 dollars in additional city services to accomodate those new developments. So we know these efforts aren't about long term fiscal responsibility.)

And much of what appears good in the PlaNYC is "green washing" that doesn't actually take the problems of climate change to heart.

And can anyone explain why the mayor is so strongly opposing the EPA cleanup of the Gowanus in Brooklyn? How was it the city was planning to rezone this area for high rise developments without addressing the toxins in the water here--not to mention the toxins leaching from the land?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this terrific piece. Will by ordering the book (from a BOOKSTORE, thank you) in the next day or so. It's funny but in my emotional state about this topic I always refer to Bloomberg as a King creating his wealthy, land owning crew around him; turning our city into an elitest thing of the past--past centuries, that is. I appreciate the author's cogent arguments so neatly laid out with passion but not emotion. I shall use, and credit them. The sad thing is, it will all be too late. It's already almost impossible for the middle class to live in this city and unless we have a major real estate catastrophe (well, for the landlords, NOT for the citizens; for the citizens it equalled things out a bit) I don't see that changing. This building, destroying old neighborhoods, building these stupid malls that can only be navigated if you travel by private car service on aregular basis are horrifying. History will judge him but, again like Bush, it will be too late.

Deb said...

Additionally, lest we forget, in his infinite arogance the man STOLE the Mayorship.

But one need only think back to what the city was like pre-9/11 but at the end of Giuliani's term as opposed to what it is like now to see what horrors have been wrought on this city.

Interesting question: would he have been elected had it not been for 9/11? I don't think he would have. We were in mourning, recovering from one of the worst incidents in this country's history and we weren't paying attention.

Sure, I want to be wealthy, too. Who doesn't? But I don't want to see my city so changed that it looks like some generic shopping mall or giant housing complex and I think people who are not wealthy should not have to spend an hour on a train twice a day to come in to work to support the lifestyle I want.

This is lunacy. And I ahve nothing against the guy except this issue: but it is huge.

Anonymous said...

The comments here perfectly illustrate the difficulty in pinning Bloomberg to any one way. He has certainly overseen the destruction of more old NYC neighborhood favorite small businesses, while constructing more large scale luxury buildings. But then he goes to and tries to be Mayor Green with all the bike lanes and pedestrian plazas (which I find overbearing and obnoxious, but that's just me). He also has lots of plans for "affordable housing," although that term is so baffling to me. Who decides what is affordable and what is not? And if affordable housing means less than market value, who is paying the difference?

NYC_Chic said...

OMG...I freakin' luvvvvv you!!!I can't believe this blog exists. I thought it was just MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! I found you doing a google search for "gentrification destroys" and the results gave me another blog that linked to this one.
Dude, I thought it was just me. I hate this artificial plastic crap non-New York City and all of these phony, corporate rat bastard settlers that they've bussed in from the Twilight Zone or Soulless Republican Creep Bloodlustville or wherever they're from. I've been a NY'er all my life, from way way back when 42nd street was the Deuce, Fort Greene was the 'hood, the Village was gay and creative and alive with rebellious energy, Harlem was uptown and the only white people found there after dark were buying drugs. From back in the days when you started out in Flushing and worked your way up to your dream crib on Central Park West. When there were bad neighborhoods (graffiti, trash and liquor stores,) better neighborhoods (private houses, catholic schools, nice parks) and great neighborhoods (Riverside Drive, Brooklyn Heights, Jamaica Estates) - you know, before the Borg. I HAAAAAATE that the Big Apple doesn't exist anymore!!! I hate that there are no blocks, no neighborhoods, no communities anymore. I HAAAAATE this neoliberal POS tourist trap the Forces of Evil have made of OUR city.
And damn it feels good to know I'm not the only one. Salute, bredren!!! Keep fighting the good fight and we'll get it back...

Jeremiah Moss said...

hey, glad you found us. always good to know you're not alone.

Anonymous said...

The people who speak of the change being good do not really have an idea of what it was like originally and what was lost. Change is one thing but to be basically unrecognizable is another. When I go bellow 14th street were I lived for 20 years it is a different world I feel like I am the tourist (great) the buildings are there but everything else is gone, it all looks the same and feels more like a stage set. Everyone whats to be safe and not have crime but there is no life left (unless a wealthy suburb is your thing) and the creative people now replaced with money and a wild and crazy type. Yes it is the suburbs or Hollywood and it has lost allot of the charm and the pricer areas of Brooklyn are not much better.

Anonymous said...

Occupy Wall Street! You said people aren't getting angry in the streets...well they are now!

Great blog man, absolutely great. Grew up in NYC as a pro musician and left for the midwest as you can't make any money in NY anymore as a musician. They passed some crazy law that mandates a $10k insurance fee to hire a wedding band at any catering hall. that means no more wedding bands. Can you believe that? NYC is an awful place, and in the midwest, we actually don't have to get searched everywhere we go, and we're allowed to carry weapons. Down with NYC!

SadEnding said...

Never read so much short-sided, ignorant, and ill-informed blather than in the responses to this article.

Look people, there are many "types" of cities you can have: you can have a city of the upper middle and upper classes, filled with glass and chrome hotels on every other block, high rents, and lots of clubs. OR, you can have a city that was New York for 300 years, with all the elements that made it a great city. I'm not talking about the filth and drug addled 60's which so many ageing hippies romanticize about. I'm talking about the 300 years of history before that, a city of working (hello? WORKING) classes, families, churches, clean (mostly) parks, a zoo, fabulous, affordable theater and live music, and indeed, all the arts.

Which one do you want?

Doesn't matter. It has been chosen for you.

revrev_nyc said...

DEB asks, "Sure, I want to be wealthy, too. Who doesn't?" I do not. It is far from my mind. With Bloomberg, Doctoroff (now scuttled, thank god) and Romeny, amassing money is ALL that life is about. This is a sick way to exist. How can people elect hoarders and think that they will give anything to citizens? These uber rich creeps believe in keeping everything for themselves. They literally do not understand any other way. Look how Bloomberg responds to criticism: "My plan B is better than your plan A" is his typical retort. My god, the man is blind. I live my life so that I do not even NEED a plan B. But this sad, sick person - who once stated that he wanted the 2012 olympics here so he could see his daughter ride - is an uncaring narcissist. Unless the topic is money. Then he cares to the nth degree. New Yorkers were idiots for electing him. That they did it three times shows a warped system of values.
Mr. Big Successful Businessman not only runs the lowest rated radio station in the city, but he has yet to balance a budget. And the millions he has squandered to keep tabs on peaceful gatherings of citizens will pale beside the millions that the city will soon be paying out for false arrest judgments. He is a perfect example of the fallacy that rich people are smart. He is a dope. As an example, the man has repeatedly justified tax hikes by saying, "Unlike the federal government which can print money to cover deficits, the city cannot." See? Only an ignoramus would think that the govmin (as he mispronounces it) has NO DEFICIT because it printed money to cover the shortfall. Inflation is at 1.7% as I write this. It would be north of the Weimar Republic inflation rate if the feds printed cash to cover the budget. The man is a know-nothing boor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! Your words bring a weird sense of relief. I moved here over a year ago and feel "lesser" in every way for having made that choice.

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg reptoids, anti human British empire Buffon junkie tranny for the nasty new world order takeover of planet earth. He is no climate change expert and has killed many humans

laura r. said...

bloomberg bashing is a waste of time. it is also not correct. this is happening world wide, everywhere. a mayor is just part of the foodchain. the corporate developers are in charge. so much of the USA is run in saudi arabian $ as an example. occupy wall st. is another waste of time. if they are going to demonstrate they should be in washington in front of the white house. then again, those people are just part of a foodchain- front men. relax & think of moving to bushwick, while that lasts.

Walter said...

Holy crap, Jeremiah

Somebody resurrected a nearly 6 year old post. Congratulations on your staying power.
Uncle Waltie

laura r. said...

waltie, jeremiah is one of a kind, hes not just a flash in the pan. his eassays are so amazing that we keep going back to them, commenting & updating.

Anonymous said...

This makes me want to cry. I know it's an old post, and maybe I'm just feeling emotional today, but I could not stand what the city became under Mayor Mike. A city ( a country for that matter) is not a business, and should not be so run. I think the last ten plus years have destroyed the myth of CEO's as efficient (or even logical.) I liked Guilliani (sp.), and the city needed him at that time. But Bloomberg treated a city of eight million souls as his erect-a-set project, with all the contempt and hubris of a, 'self made man.' It's been said but he really sucked the heart out of this place. I was here in the seventies and eighties, and don't fancy a return of the criminal element, but law and order should not be synonymous with crushing the little guy.
I'm not a flaming liberal at all, but Bloomberg was such that I have hopes of De Blasio, even if it's merely for the change of ethos. There was something stultifying in Bloomberg's reign. It was almost like a personal revenge of some kind (no, I can't qualify that statement.) Anyway, not sure what provoked this, except that I don't think that good government should be such a far out concept. I don't think we need a progressive, or a conservative, or an idependent so called, I just think we need someone with integrity, who cares, feet on the ground, head in the clouds...tra-la-la-la...boy, I better do some tai chi!

Skeptic said...

What's the Golden Age that's longed for? When there were pushcarts in the streets instead of "big box" stores? When, instead of high finance folks ther were stogie makers and garment workers? When, instead od high-rises, there were hot, overcrowded tenements? There seems to be a longing for artists and poets, but not electricians, plumbers, or truck drivers. Want to live cheaply with no high rises and "big box" stores? Move to the myriad small towns struggling to survive since the industries that supported them are gone. Places change. Some get richer and bigger; some poorer and smaller. That's life. Get used to it.