Student Voice Editor
It is perhaps the most sought after office in the land after the presidency. It deals with eight million constituents and 51 council members, appoints seven deputy mayors, contends with a $70 billion annual budget and a myriad of unions and requires being New York City’s biggest cheerleader. Not to mention that it means being called “hizzoner” in the press.
In November, New Yorkers will vote for their next mayor. In the Republican corner is Joseph Lhota, the former head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the authority that everyone loves to hate while relying on it every day. In the Democratic corner is Bill de Blasio, coming from the office of Public Advocate, the office few people know about.
Both are scrambling for City Hall’s top job in the hopes of making their own mark on the city and, believe me, after Michael Bloomberg they have some big shoes to fill. But I’ll get to that later.
More importantly, they are running for what former Mayor John Lindsay called the “second toughest job in America,” after the president.
De Blasio, who was struggling for months until Anthony Weiner’s quixotic campaign died the death of a thousand texts, managed to jump over the long perceived front runner Christine Quinn to win a hard fought nomination, while Lhota cruised to an obvious victory in his party.
After last week’s debate, I was impressed by Lhota’s performance, who has to make up a 40-plus point deficit. I was willing to give Lhota a pass about the fare hikes because he had little choice, since the state usually raids the MTA coffers and rarely gives anything back to the agency.
De Blasio, apart from defending his position on crime, which he did quite well, unfairly lumped Lhota with the Tea Party. I could tell Lhota isn’t clearly one of them.
Nevertheless, the campaign has been shaken up by both sides throwing barbs at one another and hoping one will latch on something or anything. So much for playing the Mr. Nice Guy card.
If the two have anything in common, the candidates, especially Lhota, are trying to prove to the voters not only that they aren’t from the fringe elements of their respective parties but also that they can get themselves as far away from Bloomberg as possible.
Apparently, Bloomberg has gotten the hint and has stayed out of the race as much as possible.
So it is no surprise that both are trying to appeal to the center, which is good, in my opinion. If Washington has taught us anything, it is don’t go for the fringe; there is no benefit to it.
Of course what the candidates have to realize is that Bloomberg’s legacy is going to be something that will have lasting consequences for decades to come.
That is why this race is unique. The Bloomberg legacy will live on for over a generation and perhaps he will be mentioned in the breath of another reform-minded Republican, Fiorello LaGuardia, whose name is still fondly remembered by both Democrats and Republicans in New York. Of course, we won’t fully know how far this legacy will go until we pick the 109th mayor of New York and see what either man does with the Bloomberg legacy.
Before they do that we must take stock of the 108th mayor of New York, Bloomberg himself.
One good thing that Bloomberg can count on is that he will leave office with a simple majority approving of his tenure as mayor, despite the gaffes. I highly doubt a majority of the city will cheer good riddance. If anything it will something of a lukewarm handshake.
So after 12 years of Bloomberg’s tenure of being mayor, New York is no longer the city of violent crime, dirty subways and financial mismanagement. Instead the desire to live in or visit the Big Apple is at an all-time high. The city is safer, the budget is balanced and the subway has gotten cleaner, well at least the cars are and yet there has been a hidden cost to this.
While the city has gotten better it has also gotten to be unaffordable. More people are leaving New York, not because it is too crowded, not because it is unsafe but because it has become too expensive.
This may not seem as dramatic as rising crime rates or the lack of basic services like the police department but it is a dramatic change nonetheless. While other issues like education and the environment are also important I think the affordability issue should be attacked first.
New York, like other municipalities, desperately needs a middle class to stay there and never leave, however at the moment they are leaving faster than a traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel.
What will be left is a small concentration of the rich and the super-rich, who just buy multi-million dollar condominiums but barely ever live here, and the urban poor, who will be forced to rely on shrinking public assistance due to the lack of advancement out of poverty.
A worst case scenario is a Detroit-esque collapse that will come about slowly but will ultimately be devastating to the city. Assuming New York doesn’t become Atlantis first due to climate change.
While I’m not against the rich living in New York, I really don’t want us having to be so reliant on them that it is at the expense of the rest of the populace. Things need to be put back into balance so that all can live here.
I myself want to live in New York as long as possible and believe me when I say that it does not come cheap. I also want my children, when I have them, to grow up here and stay here themselves. In short, I want to create my own New York legacy.