As the Michael Bloomberg era comes to an end, what it will be remembered for remains as yet unclear. Bloomberg’s multi-term predecessors in City Hall were outsize figures: Ed Koch (1978–89) was known for his humor and self-promotion and for saving New York from bankruptcy (see “The Last Sane Liberal,” Winter 2012). Rudy Giuliani (1994–2001) was known for his pugnacious style, his successful anticrime crusade, and his achievement in making New York livable again. But after 12 years as mayor, Bloomberg is noted more for his less significant side projects—his national antigun advocacy and his efforts to crack down on smoking and unhealthy food—than for his major policies, which, in areas such as public safety and welfare reform, were unarguably impressive. The departing mayor plans to devote some time to his new consultancy, which will attempt to do for other cities what he did for New York. But New Yorkers can be forgiven if they lack a clear picture of Bloombergism as a governing philosophy, if such a thing even exists. What does the Bloomberg legacy add up to?
The early biography of New York’s first billionaire mayor is by now well known.