It's no mystery that the directions our City is taking—homogenization, overdevelopment, affluence as a requirement of residency—have a lot to do with the predilections and biases of the man who currently resides in City Hall, Michael Rubens Bloomberg. Until now, I considered the foremost among those burg-shaping mayoral qualities to be: a very rich man's tendency to view wealth and wealthy people as inherently good (as represented by the growing number of rich people in the city); a belief that "progress" means tearing down old things and putting up new things, regardless of what the merits of the old things and new things might be (condomania); a certain I-know-I'm-right tendency to meddle in the personal lives of the citizenry (no smoking, no trans fats); a politician's urge to push through tenure-defining projects (the West Side stadium, the Olympics bid); and your average Big Shot brand of egoism (the unspoken message that he deserves to be President).
But while standing on the corner of 72nd and Broadway the other day, watching countless cabs with flower decals on them whiz by, the Jesus light suddenly shone down on me and I had a revelation. There is another Mayoral characteristic that is having its effect on our metropolis, and not in a good way. Simply stated: Our Mayor is a square.
Bloomberg is such a control freak that no one can doubt that nothing happens in this City without his say-so, including those tacky, dumb-ass, faux-bohemian flower cabs. Only a true square would think that those psychedelic taxis are cool. Only a terminally unhip cat would eye those steel-and-glass, Euro-trash, tin-crap Cemusa bus shelters and newsstands and think they represented the ultimate in sleek urban design. And what is more un-square than turning on the non-smoking sign in ever bar in the City That Never Sleeps? (Healthier, yes. Cool, no.)
One reason that Bloomberg is so tragically unhip, so socially maladroit, so un-New York, is, well, he's not from New York. He's from Boston! He didn't come to New York until after college, and then it was for work. Giuliani was born in Brooklyn. Koch was from the Bronx. Wagner and Lindsay were from Manhattan. Dinkins was from Trenton (close enough). They felt like New York guys, because they were New York guys. They appreciated what New York has that other cities just don't have. Like them or hate them as men, they had moxie and they has culture. Giuliani went to the opera. Dinkins was a tennis fanatic. Koch fancied himself a movie critic. These guys weren't tourists.
Bloomberg is a tourist. He's from Podunk, basically. He looks at New York and thinks is needs a good sweeping. He hates those ramshackle newsstands. He pretends to like to ride the subway, but doesn't really; as the Times revealed recently, when he does ride the subway, he's chauffeured to an express stop and then goes through a turnstile. No doubt, he regards the endangered Red Hook Ballfield food vendors as a messy sideshow that would be best replaced by a food court.
All those Bank of Americas and Duane Reades are there because Bloomberg thinks they make New York a better city. He really thinks that. As for culture, if he has any taste, I've haven't seen it. Sorry to be personal, but look at the way he dresses. Listen to the way he talks. Surely the worst voice of any politician since George Herbert Walker Bush.
Bloomberg is a businessman, a global guy. He's not a New York guy. No true-blooded New Yorker would think getting the Olympics for the City was a cool idea. A real New Yorker would think "What a pain in the ass! Who needs that international crap to make us look good? We're already the greatest city on Earth."
And so we have flowered cabs, the worst public art project since those crappy cow sculptures littered the streets. A lot of people tell me Michael Bloomberg is a great mayor. Yeah, I think, but of what city?