08 June 2009

Welcome to Bloomberg Beach

An excellent piece by Mike Lupica of the Daily News on Bloomberg's Times Square pedestrian plaza. He hits the nail on the head in pointing out that "Bloomberg Beach" is all about revenge and Mike getting his way. Love it.

The two policemen are standing in Times Square Sunday, or at least what we used to think of as Times Square before it became the newest summer tourist attraction of New York:

Mayor Bloomberg does in Times Square what he could not with congestion pricing

By Mike Lupica

Bloomberg Beach.

It is not yet Rockaway or Coney Island or Jones Beach or Main Beach out in East Hampton, but there's plenty of time, we haven't reached the first official day of summer yet.

Eventually, the city will embrace the way the furniture has been rearranged south of 47th St., literally and figuratively. Or else. If you don't embrace it, starting with the cheesy beach furniture, Mayor Bloomberg will get the City Council to pass an ordinance saying that you have to.

So, at the corner of 43rd and Seventh on Sunday morning, with the sun already high in the sky, one of the uniformed cops smiled and pointed to a guy sleeping in front of Sephora. At this point in the day, what the mayor fancies as a new plaza of the city - one of his new "pedestrian malls" - looked more like a shelter.

The cop said, "Ask yourself something: Who's gonna want to be the next person in that chair?"

Bloomberg Beach, don't you know, is the mayor's latest attempt to landscape the City of New York in a way that makes him memorable. And it isn't just Times Square, it is other patches of concrete that stretch all the way down to Herald Square and Madison Square Park.

But the most eye-catching spot right now in the mayor's memorable landscaping is Times Square, where the red-and-blue plastic chairs and the chaise lounges are supposed to make you feel more civilized and cosmopolitan than the Champs Élyssés in Paris.

I ask another cop, watching the scene from in front of the ESPN Zone, what he thinks of the whole idea and he shakes his head.

"Let's call it a work in progress," he said, as another street guy settled in for a nap in front of Starbucks. "Either that, or comic relief."

This is supposed to be about Michael Bloomberg's continuing attempts to do something heroic about midtown traffic, and a broader vision of his about the greening of the City of New York. That is the cover story, anyway.

This also has more than somewhat to do with Bloomberg getting banged around by Albany on his plan for congestion pricing last year. It would mean that Bloomberg Beach and all other areas like it suddenly springing up in Manhattan are really Bloomberg's revenge.

Because even more than tough questions from the media about term limits - the kind that can rouse the mayor to call the reporter asking them a "disgrace" - this mayor hates being told no.

Out goes congestion pricing? In come the cheesy beach chairs. It's like they say in football: You can't really stop Bloomberg once he gets fixed on something, you can only hope to contain him.

Of course the cop Sunday was right, this is still a work in progress. For instance: If you do get to Bloomberg Beach early on a weekend morning and are lucky enough to have your pick of chairs, on either side of Times Square, you just have to imagine that the roar of the hoses from the red Hotsy street-cleaning machines is actually the roar of the ocean.

It is more crowded on a nice Saturday afternoon, most of the chairs filled from 47th to 42nd, and a salsa band playing in front of the Sunglass Hut on 45th St. and a woman rolling out a yoga mat and posing for a photographer, and the crowd. Whether this is ultimately good for the city, and good for businesses in Times Square, is a jump ball.

"The sidewalks are a lot busier," Tom Kopie, a Queens kid working in the store Element, said the other day. "I can't say that we're a lot busier in here. But maybe it's a slow week." He shrugged and said, "Or a slow year."

But it is a busy time for the mayor as he moves up on a third term, acting as if he is running unopposed, acting as usual as if nobody is supposed to oppose him on anything. This time he didn't have to ask Albany about traffic, he went ahead and did what he wanted, as if everything from streetcorner to streetcorner belongs to him.

When you are about to be Mayor for Life, it's either Bloomberg's way or the highway. Or, in this case, the area just east of the Great White Way. Pull up a chair.


JM said...

From today's NY Times...

Poll Finds Lukewarm Support for Bloomberg

Published: June 8, 2009

Despite generally broad approval for the job Michael R. Bloomberg has done as mayor, a majority of New Yorkers say that he does not deserve another term in office and that they would like to give someone else a chance, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Cornell University and NY1 News.

With anxiety rising over a difficult economy, few surveyed have a lot of confidence in Mr. Bloomberg’s ability to lead the city out of the recession, a troubling sign for a mayor who cited his financial acumen as the rationale for his undoing of the term limits law that otherwise would have forced him from office.

In addition, some 51 percent say that the city is on the wrong track, while 40 percent say it is going in the right direction.

And though Mr. Bloomberg has sought to elevate his image nationally and internationally as a bold-thinking mayor with a record of innovation and results, New Yorkers in the survey struggle when asked to identify any particular achievement of his tenure. More than a third of those polled could not offer any answer when asked what was the best thing Mr. Bloomberg has done since he became mayor almost eight years ago.

Ted said...

The nice thing about being Mike Lupica, and not a journalist is you don't have to research facts before you report.

The suggestion to close parts of Broadway was made long before congestion pricing was shot down. It was part of a series of suggestions on how to improve traffic flow and make NYC more friendly to the drivers AND non-drivers.