February 13, 2004,
NEW YORK Only one theory explains the spectacular misrule of New York's Boston-reared mayor: Michael Bloomberg is a mole who is sabotaging Gotham from within, pro-bono Beantown.
Born five miles from Boston in Medford, Massachusetts in 1942, Bloomberg reached the Big Apple in 1966. His business successes provided deep cover until November 2001, when unsuspecting New Yorkers elected him to succeed the sorely missed Rudy Giuliani.
Ever since, Bloomberg's policies and behavior have hammered New York's economy and diminished City Hall. These actions, as Bloomberg's Massachusetts masters surely intend, make Boston more appealing every day.
The mayor's latest crazy scheme would turn the City That Never Sleeps into NYZZZzzz. Bloomberg wants to license most bars and clubs that play music above 90 decibels. Without licenses, such establishments would go dark at a puritanical 1:00 A.M.
"Bloomberg's proposal poses a very serious threat," warns Bob Zuckerman, the New York Nightlife Association's executive director. "We are almost a $10 billion industry. We employ almost 20,000 people...So anything that would curtail hours of operation means a loss of revenue, loss of tax dollars, loss of jobs."
Zuckerman says businesses that serve more than 75 people and feature bands, DJs or even jukeboxes would have to hire sound engineers to certify their volume levels, even absent neighbors' complaints. Decibels would not be measured outside establishments, where nuisances begin, but just three feet from indoor speakers. Even worse, two "indictments" in two years for assorted violations would revoke licenses permanently.
In Boston, "there is no such license," a senior Massachusetts official tells me. "Mayor Mennino is asking for special legislation to move the nightclub closing time from 2:00 A.M. to 4:00 A.M. but just during the Democratic convention, so delegates can stay inebriated."
Bloomberg's nightclub license, this civil servant adds, "is amazing when you consider how much of the New York economy that is trying to crawl back after 9-11 is tied to night life. Why would he do such a thing?"
Noise, in fact, has increased on the sidewalks of New York as smokers puff away outside bars, clubs, and restaurants where Bloomberg banned tobacco. As an asthmatic, my lungs smile. But my heart bleeds for the businesses that struggle or worse under Bloomberg's rigid tobaccophobia.
"This is turning the entertainment capitol of the world into Salt Lake City," says Pete Fogel, former music booker at Le Bar Bat, a Manhattan nightspot I patronized. Litigation expenses and sluggish revenues shut its doors December 21. Fogel called Bloomberg's smoking prohibition "probably 50 percent of the reason that it closed." He estimates that smoking restrictions halved the club's sales. Fogel also says many smokers no longer spend happy hours with co-workers at bars. Instead, they shop at local liquor stores, then enjoy drinks at colleagues' apartments.
"Bloomberg is making a joke out of the city," Fogel adds. "With a capitol J."
Bloomberg's other brainstorms are similarly grim:
His 25-percent property-tax-increase proposal gagged even Gotham's leftist City Council. They approved only an 18.5-percent hike.
Bloomberg boosted cigarette taxes from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack. Coupled with steep state tobacco levies, New York now boasts a black market for smokes.
Bloomberg's administration has embraced a 26-percent taxi-fare hike. Permits for 900 new cabs will boost the taxi supply without lowering government-decreed prices.
The mayor curbed trash collection last year. Not surprisingly, rat complaints rose 29 percent.
"The guy was fat," Bloomberg quipped about the late diet guru, Dr. Robert Atkins, while chatting with Brooklyn firefighters January 20. Bloomberg then speculated that Atkins died last April from obesity, not head injuries sustained after slipping on ice.
Instead of immediately apologizing to the "very, very hurt" Veronica Atkins, as she described herself on Good Morning America, Bloomberg told her to "lighten up." Bloomberg's distasteful feud with a widow over her deceased husband's waistline generated headlines for a week and burned political capital like unwanted calories.
*Bloomberg exhibited breathtaking ingratitude toward his supportive predecessor. For Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg told Vanity Fair last fall, "every single decision, everybody, every story, everything was always couched in terms of race." Giuliani, who employed the slogan, "One city, one standard," enacted colorblind contracting and procurement, among many race-free achievements. Bloomberg's statement was equally slanderous and graceless.
New York Republicans feel especially betrayed by Bloomberg, a life-long liberal Democrat who switched parties to run for mayor in the emptier Republican field. Despite billionaire Bloomberg's bottomless campaign coffers, a genuine Republican ,and true New Yorker should oppose him in next year's GOP primary.
Can Michael Bloomberg host of September's GOP convention and as phony a Republican as breathes be replaced? Perhaps. If GOP voters fire him, ex-Mayor Mike could return to Boston, stroll down Beacon Street and say: "Home at last."