New York City has never seen a mayor like Mike Bloomberg; a man who didn't need to raise any money for his campaigns, which in turn meant he didn't owe anyone anything. That just doesn't happen in politics. And not only did he not take any money for his three races for mayor, he actually spent his own money on services for people of the City of New York, to a tune of $650 million. Mike Bloomberg loved his city and did everything he could to make it the best place to live and visit in the world! When I saw the press' coverage of his presence at the de Blasio's inauguration, I felt the need to write this.
I certainly had my fair share of differences, both publicly and privately, with Mayor Bloomberg. He knows that I adamantly disagreed with the way in which the NYPD used "Stop & Frisk" and he also knows that I was a vocal opponent of the use of horses for the Central Park carriages. I was upset and shocked with his treatment of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as he of all people should have understood how money corrupts politics and allows for politicians to be legally bribed while they support corporations over people. All of his power and success has been derived from the fact that he couldn't be corrupted by money and lobbyists, so I wished he saw Occupy through a different lens. But, through it all, I remained a loyal supporter, because I respected his independence and I knew his heart was in the right place.
I recognize the tremendous work he did for New York City while mayor for 12 years. I was impressed by his commitment to the environment and his enthusiasm for making New York City more green: the Highline Park is a beautiful addition, the Citibike program is working well and we are on pace to reduce our carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030. I was inspired when the mayor created the Young Men's Initiative, investing $30 million of his own money into uplifting young men of color. His laser focus on the economy and jobs kept New York City from falling into a deeper recession during the economic downfall of 2008. Although poverty still remains a critical issue for too many people in our hometown, New York City is the only major city in America that did not experience an increase in poverty since 2000, and the life expectancy for those living in poverty was raised by almost four years during Mayor Bloomberg's tenure. He did one of the greatest services to our health and our children's health by banning cigarette smoking in restaurants and public buildings. Almost every other city followed his lead after that. The Bloomberg administration was the largest single funder of arts and culture in the nation, allocating $1.8 billion to fund arts organizations citywide and $3 billion in capital investment for construction projects, creating 1 million square feet of new cultural space. Although I am a Queens native, the support to move the Nets to Brooklyn has made that borough stronger and economically more competitive. And last but certainly not least, he made New York City the safest big city in America, as crime fell faster, further and with greater duration than in any other major city. This an area where there is always room to improve, as one homicide is far too many -- but I give credit to Mayor Bloomberg for his tenacity on bringing the homicide rate to a record low in 2013.
It is not just his accomplishments that I am proud of, it is the character of the man. When a Muslim group received a tremendous amount of criticism and threats because of their plans to open a community center near the World Trade Center, he stood by their side and adamantly defended their right to do so. He created Mayors Against Illegal Guns to counter the NRA and the gun lobby's assault on the safety of our children and our communities. When Congress was dragging its feet on immigration reform, he went to Washington to give them a kick in the ass. His generosity is unmatched, as the Bloomberg Foundation continues to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the important organizations that are doing critical work in our city and around the world.
I was proud to support Bill de Blasio very early in his campaign, but I believe as we we begin our term of "more progressive politics" in New York City, we have to remain independent of lobbyists who will seek to manipulate the system for corporate profit over people's growth. That is one of our mantras, but let's remember the good that fiscally conservative Mayor Bloomberg brought, as we do so. We know his work is not done, and even as he re-enters private life, we will support his endeavors and his mission to make this world a better place for all.