NEW YORK—The red digits on the countdown clock in City Hall flashed zeros—the days left in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.
On many occasions during his 12 years in office the mayor has relayed the numbers on that clock. They ran down toward zero twice before and then restarted when he was elected for another term. On Tuesday, the zeros were a reminder that the mayor who governed by numbers is no longer there.
Some numbers will remain after he is long gone. They compose his legacy, which speaks for itself.
The number of murders dropped to 333 this year, down nearly 50 percent since he took office. City high school students are graduating at a record rate—66 percent—up from 42 percent since 2005, when the state began tracking the stats.
Greenhouse gas emissions: down 19 percent since 2005. Life expectancy: 80.9 years.
But as Bloomberg descended the 11 steps of the City Hall colonnade to street level on a nippy evening, something unquantifiable was in the air. The City Hall plaza, already transformed in preparation for Bill de Blasio’s inauguration on Jan. 1, was full of people who came to bid the mayor farewell.
Bloomberg walked down the steps and across the plaza through a narrow tunnel formed by people, cheering and clapping, which led all the way to the City Hall subway station. After shaking hands with firefighters, he ducked into the station and took the express train to Grand Central Terminal.
A Proud Ride
On the train, Bloomberg said he cleaned out his desk at City Hall and left a personal note to de Blasio.
He spoke about his plans after leaving office.
“First thing is, have a vacation,” Bloomberg said. “I haven’t had one in 12 years. Whether I can go 10 days without getting fidgety, I have no idea. We’re going to see.”
Talking again about his legacy he steered his answer to the numbers. But when asked what he was proud of that couldn’t be counted, the mayor paused, cheeks flushing.
“People really are happy and optimistic and being part of that is what’s really important,” Bloomberg said. “Numbers are numbers and we had things that weren’t as good, but if the people are happy that’s still important.”
Some of the mayor’s staffers rode the train with him, some clearly proud, their chests puffed. “Look at people, look in their eyes, they are proud to have worked as part of the administration,” Bloomberg said. “I was proud to work with them.”
Bloomberg plans to spend time in Northern Ireland, where two of the 10 top-rated golf courses in the world are located.
As for New Year’s Eve, he’ll spend it with family and friends and not on Times Square as he has every year since taking office. There will be Chinese food. There will also be no press, which Bloomberg said he won’t be missing.
“I never miss anything. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. It’s going to be a better day than today. I’ve always thought that,” Bloomberg said. “It’s just different.”