Monday, February 3, 2014

Hamill: It's only been a month, but I don't miss Michael Bloomberg


Bill de Blasio's transition as NYC Mayor has been fine. Mike Bloomberg should be commended for lying low.

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Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – out of sight, out of mind.

Frank Franklin II/AP

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – out of sight, out of mind.

I was gabbing on the phone with a friend the other day about the cruel winter, the snow and City Hall, and he casually said, “You know what’s weird? I don’t miss Bloomberg. Do you?”
Without hesitation, I said, “No. Matter of fact, I don’t even think about him.”
“Right? You think after 12 years of hearing his voice day after day, you’d miss him. I don’t miss him. That’s not a knock — I actually liked the guy in a lot of ways.”
I told my friend I did a whole column on all the things I liked about Mayor Mike Bloomberg, from the smoking ban I first opposed, to the restoration of Coney Island, to supporting the Barclays Center, to his tireless crusade against guns.
“But I haven’t thought about him in weeks until you just brought him up,” I said. “I think getting a blizzard in the first week of his term helped Bill de Blasio. He took control with a steady hand, some folksy humor, with shots of his son shoveling snow. It helped that his daughter came clean about her problems with drugs, which every family in New York either deals with or lives in dread of.”
To his credit, Bloomberg has stepped off-stage and remained in the shadows. He hasn’t commented, even after taking some low blows at de Blasio’s inauguration. I admire a fighter who takes his punches, even ones below the belt, without moaning.
Bloomberg left office and shut up.
And except for one hiccup when — heaven help us — the Upper East Side didn’t get plowed immediately in the second big snowfall, de Blasio’s transition into City Hall has been smooth.
Sure, he’s dragged his feet in appointing some new commissioners. But the City That Never Sleeps is still wide awake. I like that he passed the chance to buy ducats to the Super Bowl and decided to watch the game at home with his kid like the rest of us.
I like the way he talks to the press, with civility, rather than berating professional journalists in public. He’s a big, imposing dude, but de Blasio never comes off as a bully.
We’ve had enough of that phony tough-guy politician stuff. It’s easy to act like a tough guy if you’re New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who wouldn’t last 60 seconds in a street fight at his girth — when you’re surrounded by armed bodyguards. It’s creepy watching Christie go after guys at town hall meetings or on the Jersey boardwalk, mouthing off like some mob capo with his torpedoes flanking him.
It comes out of the same nasty wheelhouse as the gridlock on the George Washington Bridge. That’s why I don’t believe him when he denies knowing about it. And if he really didn’t know — contrary to news that broke on Friday — he should wear a traffic cone as a dunce cap for the rest of his term.
When Bloomberg told reporters they were asking “stupid” questions, it made him look like a bully. A money bully who bought his power in a hijacked third term, thumbing his nose at the law that evidently was only for the “little people” who didn’t have his checkbook.
I also remember Mayor Ed Koch going after a guy on the Brooklyn Bridge one time, baiting him during a transit strike while standing in a flying wedge of burly cops. And Mayor Rudy Giuliani swaggered around like a power-drunk bully, causing a racial chasm in the city just because he wanted certain politicians of color to know he was the boss.
This politician-as-bully syndrome probably led Rep. Michael Grimm (R-S.I.) to threaten a slightly built NY1 reporter for daring to report that the troubled congressman refused to answer questions about corruption charges. Enraged, the congressman went after the reporter like he was a perp and Grimm was still a G-man.
He looked like a punk.
Say what you want about Mayor David Dinkins, he was the last mayor we had with good manners. I guess it’s no accident that de Blasio worked for him. Our new 6-foot-5 mayor is no pushover, but he doesn’t throw his weight around by bullying the press or the public.
After a month in office, after two major snowstorms, after a horrific death of a little boy who fell through the cracks at the Administration for Children’s Services into a grave, the mayor has acted with humility, humanity, humor and grace.
He’s already kept his campaign promise to reform stop-and-frisk.
The transition has been fine. New York is still New York. Bloomberg should be commended for lying low.
But when my friend asked if I missed him, I was surprised that I hadn’t thought much about the man who’d run New York City since 2002.

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