Bloomberg took office two months after 9/11. The results of 9/11 - the city lost over 100,000 private sector jobs in one year. The city was devastated. Corporations were fleeing the city as were residents. Bloomberg created an economic development machine that roared through all five boroughs and brought over 400,000 new jobs. Just about the time the city recovered from 9/11, there was a national recession and Bloomberg guided the recovery. That recovery was cushioned by the fact that Bloomberg had raised taxes twice and the city had surpluses to help navigate the recession.
Very early in his mayoralty, Bloomberg made it very clear that he would not tolerate discrimination against Muslims. In 2002 shortly after Bloomberg became mayor, he announced he was against a city council bill that would ban the Palestine Authority from their offices in the city. A few years later in the hysteria surrounding the proposed building of an Islamic Community Center a few blocks from the devastated World Trade Center, Bloomberg became the first elected official in the country to say: “Stop this. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with terrorists.” He went on to say that every religion had every right to build there.
Bloomberg’s educational changes, such as supporting charters, made many teachers furious. What is not reported is that Bloomberg increased public school teachers’ salaries over 40 percent. He wanted to compete with attractive salaries in the suburbs surrounding the city. Because of the salary increases, he decreased the attrition rate of teachers. He extended the school day. He succeeded in adding 100 minutes of teaching to the work week in the first contract; in the second contract he increased that for 50 more minutes a week. He extended the school year by two days. No other mayor came close to doing this.
He made links between education and technology and built a technology sector with good paying jobs which he linked to higher education. One of the best improvements was he tripled the Career and Technical (CTE) High Schools. He also almost doubled the teaching staff in community colleges. And then he succeeded in opening an applied sciences center in downtown Brooklyn with several universities, an applied science and engineering campus that would take up two million square feet on Roosevelt Island, and he developed the East River Science Park into the largest bioscience center in New York City.
NYS had, over a period of time, built prisons upstate as an employment program for regions of the state that were fast losing their population. This included facilities for city juvenile offenders who might have been retained for a misdemeanor. City young people were being sent far from home in places that were reported to be abusive and violent. In 2010, Bloomberg working with state officials sought to bring juvenile offenders home from upstate facilities. Bloomberg succeeded in getting the young people into facilities in the city where the parents could visit them, the programming rich and the staff properly supervised. The recidivism rate declined sharply.
Bloomberg made many people angry because of “stop and frisk,” which he thought would keep guns off the streets, and keep young men of color from killing one another. What is not said is that Bloomberg opened a center to study poverty, the Center for Economic Opportunity. He experimented with many programs. One of his most successful was the Young Men’s Initiative, which connected Black and Latino men from 16 to 24 years of age to the tools they need to succeed, whether it was college or remedial work, employment training, etc. The program was extraordinary successful.
Bloomberg may not be the progressive that many of us would like, but he is not a racist and he has a proven track record of managing our largest city in the country.