Will Mr. Bloomberg Be People’s Mayor, or Live in Bubble?

With a record of public service that makes, say, Ronald Lauder

look like a stogie-chomping Tammany boss, Michael Bloomberg, the

anti-politician, offers little raw material for political speculators. What

kind of Mayor will he be? Presumably not the kind of C.E.O. he has been,

otherwise eight million New Yorkers had better be prepared to have their

movements monitored at all times.

Dragging out gassy pronouncements from the campaign trail

probably qualifies as unsportsmanlike conduct, yet what else do we have?

Several months ago, candidate  Bloomberg

told an audience of fellow business types that they shouldn’t hire people from

the suburbs because they aren’t “the best and brightest.” He said this without

the requisite irony-“the best and brightest” being a term associated with those

who brought about a certain debacle in Southeast Asia-and went on to compound

the offense.

“People that want to go [to the suburbs] aren’t the people that

you want to have in your company,” he said. Emigration from New York, he said,

is a “self-selection process.”

By now, Mr. Bloomberg no doubt has been advised to refer to

people as “who” and not “that.” Whether anybody has briefed him on the reality

of New York’s relationship with its suburbs-for example, the noteworthy fact

that so many of the heroes of Sept. 11 lived on Long Island or in Westchester,

Orange, Putnam and Dutchess counties-remains to be seen.

Cheerleading is part of a

Mayor’s job, so perhaps Mr. Bloomberg can be forgiven for giving it his best on

the campaign trail. Nevertheless, one suspects that he really does believe that

the people who leave New York-most often to rear their middle-class families in

nearby suburbs-actually are losers unworthy of employment in the great

corporate towers of Gotham. And that is a frightening thought, because it shows

the new Mayor as an isolated, insular product of Manhattan’s society circuit,

with little appreciation of how life is lived in other parts of his new empire,

those provinces where an upsurge in crime or a bad economic downturn will lead

to streets clogged with moving vans.

Rudolph Giuliani-a native of Brooklyn whose family moved to, yes,

the Long Island suburbs when he was a child-understood the importance of

keeping the city as middle-class-friendly as possible. The results speak for

themselves. The exodus from New York during the early 1990’s, of which I was a

part, slowed during the Giuliani years precisely because he understood the

importance of making the city safer, more accessible and more family-friendly.

He didn’t dismiss those who looked beyond the boroughs; he listened to their

complaints, and did his best to resolve them.

Mr. Bloomberg, however, comes from a world that views the Sunday

Styles section of The New York Times

as society’s version of the Daily Racing

Form. As they move from party to party in the comfort of their private

automobiles, they surely cannot understand why anyone would prefer the suburbs

to New York–that is, New York County, or more specifically, Manhattan south of

96th Street.

Of course, one of the great

secrets of Manhattan life is how dependent it is on the very suburbanites Mr.

Bloomberg regards as intellectually challenged. We already know about the

heroes of Sept. 11, who represented the best of New York-even if they didn’t

live here. The other casualties of Sept. 11 further proved the point: the young

traders from the New Jersey suburbs of Middletown and Basking Ridge and Summit.

Were they not deserving of employment in elite Manhattan, home to the best and


And what of the reporters and editorial-board members with whom

Mr. Bloomberg will soon be fighting? They may

pride themselves on being combative in a New York kind of way, but more

than a few spend their evenings in bedroom communities and small towns beyond

the boroughs. This fact may be used to support Mr. Bloomberg’s thesis about

where the best and brightest reside and where they don’t; however, it surely is

worthy of note in seeking to understand the intimate links between city and

suburbs. Thousands who consider themselves genuine New Yorkers-who make

important contributions to the city’s intellectual and economic life, who if

asked on a London street corner where they come from would reply “New

York”-actually live elsewhere.

New York taxpayers may grumble

about this, and with some justification, but it’s a fact all the same. New

York’s political boundaries are at odds with its intellectual and psychic

boundaries, which is why two football teams representing New York play their

games in New Jersey, and why so many tributes to New York post–Sept. 11 were

delivered to people who “merely” worked in the city. It seems possible that Mr.

Bloomberg and his circle do not understand this, and that doesn’t bode well for

the next four years.

New Yorkers-the best of

them-will leave if they feel unsafe, if their children are poorly served in

public schools, if their taxes are too high and service delivery too spotty.

Mr. Bloomberg and his crowd may regard such flight as evidence of low IQ.

Others would suggest that those who leave under such circumstances are a good

deal smarter than those who boast of their authentic New York credentials in

the back seats of their town cars. Will Mr. Bloomberg Be People’s Mayor, or Live in Bubble?