After an estimated 500 shows together, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his final appearance this morning on John Gambling’s WOR radio show–marking Mr. Gambling’s last day as he retires after a decades’ long career.
“You and I are going out on the same boat, just about,” remarked Mr. Gambling, whose voice strained with emotion as the pair traded praise and reflected on the past 12 years.
“You are a New York institution,” offered Mr. Bloomberg, who has joined Mr. Gambling almost every Friday for the past 12 years to discuss the news of the day and tout his initiatives in a more relaxed setting than his day-to-day press conferences. The appearances have also been the source of many of the mayor’s minor verbal gaffes, making them a favorite of the city’s press corps.
“It’s a great chance for the public to listen in to an unscripted view of what’s going on the city. A little bit of banter, a little bit of serious questioning and having to defend or promote policies. And as newspaper articles said, I’ve always defended your right to be wrong if you’ve disagreed with me,” joked Mr. Bloomberg, summing up the show and the close relationship that has developed between the pair.
In honor of the occasion, Mr. Bloomberg presented Mr. Gambling with a parting gift: a small crystal apple, which the mayor often doles out to visiting dignitaries.
“See, I was hoping for a street or a park or maybe a tunnel? A tunnel or a bridge?” joked Mr. Gambling, feigning disappointment.
“This could be more useful, because if you don’t like someday you can throw it at them,” offered the mayor.
“I will remember it big time,” said Mr. Gambling, audibly choking up. “I will cherish that. As I have these get-togethers. Spectacular.”
With less than two weeks left in his final term, Mr. Bloomberg also used his last appearance for some legacy-touting, announcing that his office will release its final “campaign promises report” later today tracking progress on every promise he made over the course of his three campaigns. As he departs, he said, about 89 percent of those promises have been fulfilled or are well underway, including taking over the school system and making the city more bike-friendly.
His biggest regret as mayor, he said, was failing to establish non-partisan elections. “Most people don’t have a vote in this city,” he bemoaned. “It’s only the primary that matters and only the most committed and the left-wing of the Democratic Party, right-wing of the Republican Party.”
Reflecting on the past 12 years, Mr. Bloomberg was asked whether people had any misconceptions about him. “I think nobody expected me to like people. And they didn’t know how a guy that’s been in [the] financial sector would deal with parades and town meetings and whatever,” he said, insisting that wasn’t the case.
“And I like people,” he said, describing how he never walks into a building without shaking hands with the doorman. “I would never walk by a cop on the street without stopping, shaking hands, and saying, ‘Thank you for keeping us safe.’ Or if there’s a fire truck stopped at a light, I always walk up or stop at a fire house. Sanitation workers, inconceivable if they’re loading the truck, I don’t go over and shake hands,” he said.
And overall, he said, the response he gets from the public is largely positive, despite mounting criticism in his third term. “When I walk the streets, people stop and say, ‘You’ve done a great job. Thank you.’ … Cab drivers yell out, you know, ‘Thanks!’ Truck drivers,” he said.
The two ended on a wistful tone, talking of future trips to the gold course after Mr. Gambling retires to Florida and Mr. Bloomberg is no longer mayor.
“What am I gonna do next Friday?” asked Mr. Bloomberg.
“I don’t know. What the hell you’re gonna do next Friday?” asked Mr. Gambling.
In fact, Mr. Bloomberg said he would be attending an NYPD event, followed the next week by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, a trip to Hawaii and New Zealand, “and then back to work”.
Mr. Bloomberg plans split his time between his media organization, his philanthropy group, and various other boards and groups, in addition to a new venture: becoming a grandfather. His first grandson is due any day.
“We’re waiting, waiting, waiting,” he said of the impending arrival. “I think she might make it through the weekend. We’ll see. But imminent.”