The tear-choked words were not just due to his waxing nostalgic on his mayoral accomplishments. The emotion was also driven by his excitement at being a grandfather-to-be and how he knows the legacy he will hand to his grandchild, who is due the same time that he plans to step down, is that of a city that is a better place for future generations.
“In the decades ahead, mayors will come and go,” Bloomberg told the gathering. “There will be ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies.”
“But if we always remember our values, if we honor them, and work to live up to them, and defend them against attack, if we all pull together and stand up for one another, we will remain what we are today: The greatest city in the world,” he reportedly said. “That is my heartfelt hope. That is my wish for our future. And that is what I want, more than anything else, for my little grandson and all the generations to come.”
The speech, delivered at a downtown Brooklyn hotel, was the latest stop in the mayor’s victory lap before he leaves office at the end of the month.
Bloomberg’s speech resulted in two prolonged standing ovations, prior to the beginning of the speech and once it concluded. The crowd he spoke to has long been a supporter of his and his speech received a warm response.
Bloomberg beamed with pride as he spoke of the city’s murder rate drop of 49 percent since 2001. Additionally, he spoke of the 4 million private sector jobs created during his tenure, the 42 percent high school graduation rate increase. Additionally, he boasted about the 800 new acres of parkland that had been created during his administrative days at City Hall. Other accomplishments worked into Bloomberg’s speech included the widely publicized , smoking ban and the rebuilding of a post-9/11 Lower Manhattan.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg claimed New York City is the “only major city” in the country where the poverty rate has not increased since the 2000 Census. However, detractors have since pointed out that the poverty rate rose from 20.1% in 2010 to 21.2% in 2012.
“Today, there is no city in America with a stronger social safety net than New York, and there is no city that has done more to fight poverty than we have,” Bloomberg reportedly said. The Wall Street Journal expanded on this remark, noting that it was said to rebuke criticism from not just mayor-elect Bill de Blasio but from others as well, who have complained that the “city’s income inequality rate has risen on his watch and that he is out of touch with average New Yorkers.” According to the Journal, Bloomberg aides say the criticism has “stung the mayor.”
“New York saw no increase in poverty whatsoever,” Bloomberg defended in his speech on Thursday, adding that, “Of course, flat is not good enough.”
Without directly mentioning his successor to City Hall, Bill de Blasio by name, Bloomberg did imply that the mayor-elect was being handed a strong city in very good standing. “We still face great challenges and we always will,” the AP reported Bloomberg as saying. “But I think it’s fair to say that we have never been better positioned to meet those challenges.”
Other feats touted in the speech included cleaner air and the Young Men’s Initiative which Bloomberg launched two years ago to help young minority men. His personal foundation contributed $30 million to the project.
The Journal reported that Bloomberg is also pro-immigration and suggested that the city should welcome immigrants, even quoting Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus,” poem which is etched on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
“‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door,'” he said as his voice cracked with emotion.