Friday, August 5th 2011, 4:00 AM
At another time, or from another mayor, news of fistfuls of cash to help young black and Latino men would draw unmitigated praise from people in those communities.
But when radio host Mark Riley announced Mayor Bloomberg's $127 million effort to help minority youth on his WWRL radio show on Thursday, Riley's largely minority listeners flooded his lines with rants.
"They were very skeptical," said Riley who estimated that 85% of callers had a cynical take on the mayor's plan.
They grumbled that he was trying to boost his poll numbers, which are lower among blacks and Latinos than among whites.
They muttered that the $30 million the billionaire is spending from his foundation - together with $67.5 million in city money and $30 million from the Open Society Foundations - was just a fraction of what he spent on his 2009 campaign.
They noted some of the mayor's recent budget cuts hurt the same communities he's now trying to help - and said it was all just too late.
"I was surprised," Riley said. "I can be as critical of the mayor as the next person but ... if this money can produce better outcomes [for black and Latino kids], I don't really care."
Bloomberg's effort would put job training programs in housing projects, create options for people coming out of prison and target needy kids in schools.
It sounded like music to the ears of some local pols.
"I thought it was excellent," said City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), a co-chairman of the Council's Black and Latino Caucus. "Some people were saying 'Oh, you know, it's too late,' but the bottom line is, this is a good thing."
Even some of the mayor's critics were impressed.
"There comes a time in elected office where it's no longer just about popularity," said Roberto Ramirez, a political consultant who worked for Bloomberg's last two opponents. "Michael Bloomberg the man believes this is something worth doing."
Others say they'll wait to see if his effort succeeds.