It’s time to give Mayor Michael Bloomberg a break.
Yes, he sought a third term and angered many of us who had voted twice for term limits. He became a scold, forcing us to count calories as we weighed our fixes at fast food chains and sending the city’s smokers out to sneak a butt on street corners.
Nor did he take the judge’s decision to defang stop-and-frisk as a gentleman, vowing instead to spend a bit of his vast fortune to change the minds of City Council members who voted to curb the practice.
But these still are not reasons to overlook his bold legacy. His contributions to the city have been vilified in a bruising election season, which is unfair to our billionaire mayor, whose vision has changed the urban equation for New York.
Bloomberg transformed the city’s waterfronts, pushing residential development in spots such as Long Island City. He restored parks around Queens as part of his MillionTreesNYC program. The sound of jackhammers breaking ground for big projects in Flushing and Queensboro Plaza originated at his desk in City Hall.
Bloomberg lost out on his bid to host the Olympics, much to the relief of some New Yorkers, but Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and the Barclay Center were built on his watch.
Crime plummeted during his 12 years in office and he led the nationwide fight against illegal guns. His efforts to reform the school system have been less successful, but he made the first major move to change the sclerotic Department of Education.
We will miss seeing the unflappable, unemotional mayor step up to the podium at a news conference to explain how the city was responding to a major crisis, such as Superstorm Sandy. No tears, no drama, just tough management decisions to restore the equilibrium of the city. We may even miss his version of Spanish laced with traces of a Boston accent.
A self-made man and political maverick unencumbered by allegiances to special interest groups, Bloomberg made his own rules and set his own agenda. He broke some along the way, but life is better for many of us in Queens and around the city as a result. We’ve grown accustomed to his face, as the song goes, but we’ve also taken him for granted.
The polls say New Yorkers want a new mayor with empathy. Bloomberg is not a warm and fuzzy guy. He’s a hard-driving corporate executive who tamed the city and ran it like a business. He got the job done and will be a hard act to follow.