Michael Rubens Bloomberg, New York City’s 108th mayor, is concluding his 12-year, three-term turn as mayor of Gotham. The city he leaves behind on January 1, 2014 is a far different city then the one he took the helm of immediately following the September 11th attacks of 2001. The impact his leadership had on the city will benefit generations to come and, as the New York Post quoted a 75-year old man as saying recently “New York has never been more beautiful in my lifetime.”
His reach has extended to nearly every area of city life, from crime to development, education, health, arts, rezoning, city parks, housing, jobs and infrastructure, and his impact can be seen in the new and improved Manhattan that he whipped into shape for his constituents.
Bloomberg’s legacy will fall heavily on three specific areas; public safety, public health and education.
Regarding the health of New Yorkers, Bloomberg began with a cigarette ban in 2002. The ban focused on smoking in restaurants and bars and was then extended to public spaces such as beaches and city parks. In the past two months the ban has been extended to include e-cigarettes and the legal age requirement to purchase tobacco products has changed from 18 years of age to 21.
Following the success of the smoking ban was the ban on trans-fats and the requirements that fast-food chains and other restaurants list the caloric value of their menu items, to keep New Yorker’s better informed of what they put into their bodies, thereby giving them the option of making a more educated choice when it came to nutrition. Less successful was the ban on sugary drinks and soda.
Still, the numbers speak for themselves. According to the Office of the Mayor, the smoking rate in Manhattan fell from 21.1% in 2002 to 15.3% in 2012, signifying a 27.5% decrease in smoking overall. Furthermore, there has been a 50% decrease in teen smoking since 2002, thus illustrating the effectiveness of the Bloomberg anti-smoking initiatives.
And just to drive the point home, life expectancy is getting longer in New York City, where men live an average of four years longer than they did in 2001 and women live up to three years longer as well. Today’s average life expectancy for New Yorker’s is 80.9 years, which is an increase in three years since 2001.
In the education arena, Bloomberg has made significant progress. After an initial bumpy start with charter schools, the mayor was actively involved with the Department of Education. During Bloomberg’s tenure he added 129 new schools to the city, which makes an addition of 20,000 seats. And the graduation rate is on the rise as two thirds of Manhattan high school students graduated within four years in the 2012-2013 school year. This marks an increase of 12.8 % from the year 2005, the first year such data was available. Graduation rates are now at 66% across the board, up from 46.5% in 2005.
Crime is at an all-time low, 36.8 % down in fact, and the Office of the mayor reports that murders are down 65% while shootings in specific have decreased by 55%. Furthermore, there has been a 13.7% drop in traffic fatalities. Presently, there have been 329 murders this year, putting the city “on a pace to record the fewest killings since the 1950s,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Bloomberg has also made the city more appealing to both residents and visitors. There are currently 300,000 more New Yorkers today than there were in 2001 when the mayor took office. And tourism is improving dramatically; in 2012 54.3 million visitors to New York City which is a 54% increase since 2001.
And what else could make a city but an ever changing landscape? Bloomberg has added 800 areas of new parkland, created the Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, which is a five-acre open space on the full-30-acre site that will one day house 5,000 new apartments, 60% of which are deemed affordable.
Many New Yorker’s are at a loss as to how to accept his departure but they can certainly revel in the numerous gifts he has bestowed upon his fellow New Yorkers. He has given them a better, safer, greener, beautiful and booming city.