The Atlantic

The Democratic hopeful has kept his distance from some of Bloomberg's policies but seems eager to embrace the current mayor's worldly outlook.

Michael Bloomberg doesn’t usually pose for pictures with New York City mayoral candidates Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio. In September, the mayor declared that he has decided not to endorse either of the men who want his job in City Hall – he wants to make sure his successor is "ready to succeed, to take what we’ve done and build on that," he says. At The Atlantic’s CityLab summit on Tuesday, though, the mayor was all handshakes and smiles. It was a small but notable signal: He’s ready to step down.

On the campaign trail, both candidates have been careful about how they align themselves with Bloomberg. Lhota has been more eager, praising the mayor’s policies on business development and public safety, while de Blasio has kept his distance, on education policy in particular. Still, de Blasio used very Bloombergian language to talk about the future of his city.

CityLab 2013
Exploring urban solutions to global challenges
See full coverage

"As of 2010, for the first time in history, more people in the world live in cities and the urban areas that support them than outside of them," de Blasio said. "This isn’t just a phenomenon at work in China, India, and other developing countries. In the United States, a similar development is underway."

De Blasio also framed the current mess in Washington in the larger context of the floundering nation-state, an approach Bloomberg has taken time and again. "National governments are failing to serve as catalysts for action, requiring cities to fill the void of creativity and innovation," he said.

Like de Blasio, Lhota invoked "innovation" as a touchstone throughout his speech. But less than a month out from the general election, even Lhota admits that the numbers don’t bode well for his campaign. “If you look at the polls, my current situation reminds me of the Grand Canyon: The spread between where I and where my opponent, Bill de Blasio, are, is extraordinary," he said. He pointed to a recent New York Times poll indicating that that New Yorkers actually agree with his ideas more than his opponent’s, even if they’re not planning to vote for him. He patiently outlined the points of his platform, laying out promises to reclaim unused Metropolitan Transit Authority property and kill the city’s corporate income tax.

But compared with Lhota’s stump speech, Bill de Blasio’s comments seemed geared toward another audience entirely: a group of elites who expect New York’s City Hall to set a strong example of municipal leadership for the world. Even if de Blasio hasn’t embraced all of Bloomberg’s record, he seems more comfortable with the role Bloomberg has carved out for his office: the default leader of mayors around the world.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of couples dancing in a park.
    Life

    The Geography of Online Dating

    When looking for love, most people don’t look far from home. That's what a big-data analysis of interactions on a dating site revealed.

  2. A photo of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris.
    Design

    Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration

    Flames consumed the roof and spire of the 13th-century cathedral in Paris. The good news: Gothic architecture is built to handle this kind of disaster.

  3. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.
    Equity

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.

  4. a photo of San Francisco tourists posing before the city's iconic skyline.
    Life

    Cities Don’t Have Souls. Why Do We Battle For Them?

    What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change.

  5. South Lake Union streetcar with an advertisement for Amazon passes by an Amazon office building.
    Equity

    Amazon’s Slow Retreat From Seattle

    Amazon has long fancied itself an urban enterprise. Is its pivot to smaller communities a way to avoid messy politics?