News / Economy

Wall Street Wistful About NY Life Without Bloomberg

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, Sept. 18, 2013.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, Sept. 18, 2013.
Reuters
When Michael Bloomberg steps down as New York City mayor at the end of the year, few constituencies will miss him as much as Wall Street.
 
For 12 years, Bloomberg has gone from tireless cheerleader for the financial services industry after the Sept. 11 attacks, to its strident defender against Occupy Wall Street protests over economic inequality and calls for higher taxes on the wealthy.
 
But now the business elite has reason to pause. An unabashed liberal, city official Bill de Blasio, is leading opinion polls to replace Bloomberg in the Nov. 5 election while pounding a theme of “a tale of two cities” - one rich and one poor.
 
“There is a great deal of wistfulness and preemptive nostalgia for Bloomberg within the industry,” said one Wall Street executive who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to be seen as publicly taking sides in the election.
 
The sense that victory is inevitable for Democratic Party candidate de Blasio over Republican Joe Lhota, a former investment banker and onetime mayoral budget director, was reflected in a Sept. 19 Quinnipiac University poll showing de Blasio ahead among likely voters by 66 to 25 percent.
 
While Bloomberg's critics have attacked him for his tough policing strategy that they see as discriminatory, and bemoaned  growing inequality, many on Wall Street say they see a city that is safer, cleaner, more prosperous and more livable than ever.
 
Robert Willumstad, former chairman and chief executive officer of insurer American International Group Inc  said the industry is concerned about change “because there is such a concentration of financial firms” in New York “and any bad legislation or bad governance could be dramatic because the bulk of big players are here.”
 
Interviews with a dozen Wall Street executives and others in business revealed concerns that the city's transformation will be threatened under a new mayor, and, at worst, that de Blasio will create a city that is unfriendly to Wall Street.
 
Lhota is a Harvard Business School graduate who served under Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, the man many New Yorkers credit with changing the city's image in the 1990s from dangerously crime-ridden to welcoming tourists and businesses.
 
De Blasio, who for the past four years has worked with a budget of just $2 million as public advocate, an intermediate official for residents and city agencies, is campaigning as the anti-Bloomberg.
 
He has criticized Bloomberg for allowing hospitals in under-served areas to shutter and proposed a tax on the city's highest earners to pay for an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs.
 
Another executive, who also requested anonymity because he did not want to share his political views publicly, said that while Wall Street would be happy to support Lhota, many “need some sign that this is a winnable race.”
 
Friend to the industry
 
Bloomberg arrived in City Hall in 2002 already a Wall Street insider - he began his career there, and was a self-made billionaire who financed his own campaign. His financial data and news business, Bloomberg LP, could count every major Wall Street bank as a significant customer. But it was the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, two months before his election, and Bloomberg's efforts to keep business from fleeing lower Manhattan that cemented the bond.
 
Weeks before Bloomberg's January 2002 inauguration as mayor, Bloomberg invited Kenneth Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, to his office to convince him that extra police and an array of security measures would ensure lower Manhattan was again safe for the company's employees.
 
American Express' headquarters had been in the World Financial Center, just across from the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center's twin 110-story towers. Nearly 5,000 employees had been moved to offices in Connecticut and New Jersey, and American Express was wrestling with what to do.
 
“Overwhelmingly our decision to go back to lower Manhattan was Bloomberg's reassurances that this would be a livable and safe place,” said American Express spokeswoman Marina Norville.
 
That marked the start of a uniquely close relationship between the Bloomberg administration and Wall Street that would stretch over three terms and weather the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
 
Indeed, on his first day in office, Bloomberg made the rare gesture of appearing at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell, cheers resounding from traders on the floor.
 
Years later, when being a cheerleader for Wall Street was an unpopular stance during the financial crisis, Bloomberg was not afraid to publicly defend employees of AIG and others.
 
“When much of the federal government ... was set to vilify everybody on Wall Street without depicting the good guys from the bad guys, Mayor Bloomberg on more than one occasion said that did not make sense,” said Willumstad, the former CEO of AIG.
 
Goldman Sachs Group Inc executives recall a similar tale. In March 2012, the day after a Goldman vice president, Greg Smith, publicly resigned from the firm with a scathing op-ed attacking the bank's culture in The New York Times, Bloomberg visited the investment bank's trading floor, shaking hands along with Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
 
A different kind of mayor
 
Bloomberg is occasionally spotted in the halls of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs. An avid golfer, Bloomberg plays with the likes of former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt, who is on the board of directors of Bloomberg LP, and former JPMorgan CEO William Harrison.
 
The mayor, who declined to be interviewed for this article, remains the majority owner of Bloomberg LP and the company has continued selling terminals to Wall Street. Bloomberg LP is a direct competitor of Thomson Reuters.
 
Bloomberg's vast personal wealth has also given him tremendous independence, freeing him from having to curry favor with donors. That freed him up to pursue an aggressive public health agenda, including a ban on smoking in public places, and to make significant changes to public education.
 
His largesse often benefited the city. During his first term, he reached into his own pocket to help make up a city budget shortfall, and has since helped fund various city projects. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group he co-founded in 2006, is largely funded with Bloomberg money.
 
But Bloomberg's wealth has also helped open a rift with advocates for those on lower incomes.
 
Earlier this month, Bloomberg said the city's income gap could be explained by the number of billionaires in the city and said it would be a “godsend” if more billionaires came to town.
 
“They are the ones that pay a lot of the taxes. They're the ones that spend a lot of money in the stores and restaurants, and create a big chunk of our economy,” he said on a radio show.
 
Even Bloomberg's fiercest critics acknowledge his sound fiscal management of New York. Bloomberg's decision to set aside a rainy day fund even when the city was still running a strong surplus was widely seen as buffering city agencies from more severe cuts once the recession hit in 2009.
 
Looking ahead
 
While Wall Street executives and industry leaders lament the end of the Bloomberg era, voters in the city of eight million people appear eager for change. A Marist poll from July found that fewer than one in five New Yorkers see the city as affordable for the average family.
 
The average price of a Manhattan apartment is $1.425 million, according to The New York Times, while the cost of renting a New York apartment - excluding Staten Island - is more than $3,017 a month, up from $2,088 per unit in 2002, according to REIS, a real estate research firm. The average rent nationwide is $1,062 per month.
 
But the city has also made strides. In 1990, when the city had 1 million fewer residents, crime reached a high of 2,245 murders. The murder rate has fallen from 649 deaths in 2001, when Bloomberg was elected, to 414 in 2012.
 
The city is also greener with new parks ringing Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront.
 
Less than two months before the election, some Wall Street executives are already looking back fondly on the years when one of their own was mayor of the city and relate more easily to Lhota than they do to de Blasio.
 
“Joe understands that the job is more about management than politics,” said Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot Inc , who has helped organize a few fundraisers for Lhota. “But that doesn't help him win an election.”

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8012
JPY
USD
117.52
GBP
USD
0.6346
CAD
USD
1.1249
INR
USD
61.875

Rates may not be current.