Never before were people evacuated from New York City’s coastal zone. Never before were the subway and bus systems of the metropolis shut down. In face of the approaching Hurricane Irene, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did everything to avoid a disaster. Behind that is calculation: Bloomberg wants to go down in history.
From the beginning, two things were certain for Michael Bloomberg: Hurricane Irene is one of the biggest crises in the history of New York, and he, the mayor, will make sure that, in the course of this, the metropolis of 8 million will have as few victims to mourn as possible.
Since it has become known that New York was in the middle of the path of Irene, Michael Bloomberg was in action as crisis manager practically without pause. He was responsible for unprecedented decisions: Never before were people actually evacuated from New York’s coastal zones of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Never before were the subway and bus systems of the city shut down.
Day after day, Bloomberg drove home to New Yorkers not to take the storm lightly. “We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said on Friday. “Let's stop thinking this is something that we can play with,” he announced threateningly on Saturday.
Bloomberg’s continual presence in the media is justified — it is more easily understood if one looks back barely nine months. On Christmas, one of the worst snowstorms in living memory befell New York. The city administration was unprepared. It took days to clear the streets in the outskirts. Making headlines was a case in which neighbors shoveled out access to a house on Staten Island because a woman in the late stages of pregnancy lived there. Without the help, she would have had no chance of reaching the hospital in time. Such a disaster should never happen again.
The customary politician’s concern about re-election plays no role for Bloomberg. The mayor is in the middle of his third and final term of office. The 69-year-old likewise has no material worries. With a private fortune of $18 billion, the founder of the media firm Bloomberg is one of the 10 richest Americans.
What worries Bloomberg, however, is the wish to go down in history as one of the greatest New York mayors — if not one of the greatest Americans. He has already achieved much: New York has become a people- and environmentally friendlier city since his taking office in 2001, violent crime is decreasing, [and] there are practically no more racial conflicts.
Yet, the recession has hit New York hard; Bloomberg had to make hard cuts for schools and the police. Additionally, many New Yorkers resent to this day that he had the law changed in 2008 just to make a third term for himself possible. His approval ratings are miserable nowadays: Only 43 percent of New Yorkers still approve of his administration.
That is, in this respect, unfortunate when Bloomberg’s ambition reaches beyond New York. He cemented his reputation nationwide as a man in the middle and of reason. Bloomberg is conservative in questions of economics and, on the other hand, liberal in social matters: He advocated for gay marriage, for environmental protection, for strict gun control laws and against the death penalty.
He himself denies rumors that he wants to run as an Independent in the 2012 presidential election. At the same time, however, his associates do everything to feed such rumors to the media. A successful Irene crisis management would be helpful here.