NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about some of the accomplishments his administration made over the last 12 years as his three-term mayoralty is coming to an end.
“No matter what you do, no matter what hand God has dealt you, you probably are better off in New York City than you would be any place else,” Bloomberg said on Dec. 6 at the Partnership for New York City’s annual meeting.
Bloomberg began by pointing out the many “small things” that his administration improved upon that impact every New Yorker’s day-to-day life. These include making taxi cabs available in all five boroughs, with a number of them being wheelchair accessible, and cleaning up the bus stations that used to be covered with graffiti.
As for the big picture, he believes that after 12 years, New York is simply a better place to live.
“In New York City, women can walk the street in any neighborhood during the day and most neighborhoods at night without looking over their shoulders,” Bloomberg said. “You cannot do that in almost any other major city in this country.”
In 1990, New York City had more than 2000 murders. In 2005, there were 539 murders, the lowest murder rate since 1963, when the NYPD first started to track crime stats. Last year there were 419 murders, a record low for the city. 279 murders have been reported as of October this year, and 2013 is well on its way to becoming the year with the lowest murder rate in 60 years.
“The Bronx of today has the same population as the population of Dallas Texas, except Dallas Texas has two to three times the murder rate that the Bronx has,” Bloomberg said. “The great challenge that Bill Bratton and Bill de Blasio are going to have is taking what Ray Kelly and a little bit of Mike Bloomberg have started and take it to another level.”
In addition, life expectancy is three years greater in New York City than it was 12 years ago, and 2.5 years greater than the average across America. Bloomberg considers this one of his greatest achievements.
“When people say what are you most proud of, I guess I come back to this three year increase in life expectancy because it includes all of the other things in one number.”
These other things Bloomberg refers to include the drop in the crime rate, but more importantly the public health initiatives his administration launched such as the smoking ban, the trans fats ban, restaurant grading, and the attempted large sugary drink ban.
“If you have friends that live elsewhere in the country and you really love them, you should get them to move here,” Bloomberg said.
Another achievement Bloomberg emphasized was education reform.
The city spends an average of $20,000 on each student and while the rest of the country spends an average of $8,000. The Department of Education, with much controversy, implemented the school accountability system and teacher evaluations. Underperforming schools were closed down and smaller schools were created. Charter schools flourished. As Bloomberg announced this week, high school graduation rates increased by more than 40 percent during his administration.
“We are the poster child in America for what to do with an inner city school system,” said Bloomberg.
Finally, the mayor briefly touched upon economic development and environmental improvements. Since the recession, New York City gained back 300 percent of the jobs that were lost, compared to 70 percent gained back across the country. Greenhouse gas emissions have gone down, and 871 acres of parkland were added since 2001.
Though much of the speech was a pat on the back for his own leadership, the mayor summed up the achievements by crediting the commissioners he appointed.
“I never asked where they went to college, I never ask who they voted for, what party they’re in, all I cared about was could they do the job,” he said. “And they’ve really delivered. We’re really lucky to have had them.”
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.