The Rockaway Beat
Michael Bloomberg is worried about his legacy – how he will be treated by history.
I believe that, when all the truth be told and all the scandals are tallied, he will be widely known as the worst mayor in New York City history.
That’s a tough legacy for a billionaire who started strong, took on the public schools as his seminal issue and then bought himself a third term by bribing or buying out City Council members such as James Sanders Jr., church leaders, the heads of non-profits and the owners of the daily newspapers. Let’s go to the metaphorical videotape.
The mayor promised that he would improve the public schools. He said that he should be fired if he did not do at least that during his first eight years in office.
At the end of those eight years he crowed that reading scores were way up, crime in the schools was down and more students were graduating than ever before.
Then, the roof fell in. It turned out that the astounding gains in the reading and math scores were just that.
When the state, embarrassed by the public spotlight on the mayor’s contention that more than 85 percent of the city’s schools were A schools and that nearly three-quarters of the city’s students were meeting standards in grade level work, it quickly put the cut scores back where they belonged.
The experts outside the city had found that the state had reduced the cut scores – the number of right answers necessary to reach Level 3 (grade level) – so far that almost anybody could achieve them. The state put the cut scores back where they belonged and the bubble burst. It has been well documented in this space that one Rockaway school, for example, went from an A to an F school in three years. What was extolled as a major triumph of Bloomberg’s school plan in 2008 is now a failing school, scheduled for a phase-out plan.
Most of the schools are back near or at the same level of achievement they were when Bloomberg took over.
And, in fact, some of the students in Bloomberg’s small schools – set up to replace the larger “failing” schools, are doing worse than they did in the original closed school. Bloomberg’s only “successes” in the school area are marginalizing and demonizing the school union and turning the schools over to his business friends and cronies.
We have also learned that the graduation rate is due less to more kids reaching standards than to schools lowering the standards so far that even those who never attend classes regularly graduate under a “credit recovery” plan that allows them to miss two years of work and then make it up in two hours by completing a computer-generated project. So much for building his legacy on improving the public schools.
Forget the schools, his proponents say. He is a great businessman and brought that talent to ruling the city.
That’s a laugher.
After spending $105 million of his own money, here is what manager Bloomberg has wrought.
City contracts to computerize the time-card and personnel systems have imploded, leading to a billion dollars in overruns and indictments of managers who used the projects as a cash cow for their own use, delivering nothing to the city but headaches.
A campaign consultant, an operative from another political party that did not run a candidate against Bloomberg, is found guilty of stealing $1 million from the mayor without him suspecting a thing (if you believe what the mayor said on the stand).
When a blizzard buried New York City during the Christmas season and millions of people were buried in on unplowed streets everywhere but Manhattan, the mayor told them on television to “use the downtime to take in a Broadway show, because Manhattan was open for business.”
He appointed Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, as a deputy mayor for operations. Goldsmith lives in Virginia and knew nothing about New York City. During the blizzard, he was a no-show, monitoring the city agencies by cell phone. He lasted 16 months. He appointed Cathleen Black as his new Schools Chancellor even though her only experience with the schools was as an executive for Rupert Murdoch. She once commented that we could cut down on school crowding by having fewer children. She lasted 95 days.
His transportation commissioner, Jeanette Sadik-Kahn, has angered communities throughout the city, including Rockaway, by reducing driving lanes in order to place bicycle lanes in their place. In many areas of the peninsula, Sadik-Kahn places “Shared Bike Lanes” where trucks, buses and cars share one lane of a two-lane road with young bike riders – what many believe is a recipe for disaster.
Then, there’s his deputy housing department commissioner, who was arrested for taking kickbacks and bribes from those developers who wanted to build low-income housing in the city, and a man who was for a short time, the city’s liaison to Arverne By The Sea.
Bloomberg’s former finance commissioner, a former Wall Street type who was a friend of Bloomberg’s, botched tax exemptions and property evaluation reviews.
His NYCHA commissioner continues to tell the world that the agency responds well to emergencies such as elevator breakdowns, when anybody who lives in public housing can produce evidence to the contrary. He seems not to understand the common man.
When asked last week about a horse that had died pulling a carriage in Central Park, the mayor said that the horses were lucky to have a job.
What will Bloomberg’s legacy be? Unless he bribes his biographers, which is highly likely, he will be seen as an outof touch nanny billionaire who tried to give the city and its public schools to his friends and almost succeeded.