It may have been Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last opportunity to deliver the State of the City address, but, one thing was clear, it was no swan song.
Addressing a crowd seated adjacent to the entryway at downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center — arguably the largest development to come to fruition while he occupied City Hall and, as he said, “the latest sign of just how hot Brooklyn has become” — the mayor spent a full hour going over the achievements of his nearly 12 years at the helm of the city of New York, and promised to keep pushing forward during the last 320 days of his administration.
There was definitely a feel of theatricality to the entire event. Banners were festooned around the area set aside for the speech proclaiming the administration’s high points, and there were performances by the Brooklynettes and their junior counterparts, not to mention cellophane bags of popcorn for speech-goers to munch on.
Thus setting the stage, the mayor primed the pump for both his elaborate recap and his announcements, which ranged from the clearly popular (support for gun control, immigration reform and the DREAM Act – all of which engendered loud applause) to the considerably less so (a long defense of stop and frisk as well as of the city’s position in the protracted school bus strike).
Probably the most discussed announcement beforehand was a proposed ban on Styrofoam take-out containers, something that the mayor said he would work on with the City Council. Explaining that the material as “virtually impossible to recycle and never bio-degrades,” Bloomberg contended, “it’s not just terrible for the environment. It’s terrible for taxpayers,” increasing the cost of recycling by some $20 per ton, “because it has to be removed.”
Another major announcement was the administration’s decision to promote electric cars, adding 50 to the city’s fleet of vehicles and pushing for a third of New York’s taxis to be electric by 2020. In addition, Bloomberg said the city would “pilot curbside vehicle chargers that will allow drivers to fill their battery in as little as 30 minutes.” The goal, he said, is to “create[e] up to 10,000 parking spots for electric vehicles over the next seven years.”
A third was the announcement of “an executive order waiving all city fees for Sandy-related repair work,” with Bloomberg promising to work with the City Council “to waive all fees that require legislation. We need our businesses to recover as quickly as possible, and we’ll make sure government doesn’t stand in their way.”
Bloomberg also announced the creation of a panel to “design eight new high schools based on the most promising college readiness strategies.” These schools, he said, “will enroll students primarily from five neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and low rates of college readiness,” including Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn.
For Brooklyn, impending projects include the launch of Greenpoint Landing, “a new community … with more than 5,000 new homes, parks and open space, a marina, a public school and shops,” and the transformation of the old Domino Sugar Plant into residential space, as well as a new 50-acre media campus for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in conjunction with New York State and Steiner Studios, and the development of “an intensive computer science training program for our adults who want to learn IT skills.
“Why not do it right here in Downtown Brooklyn?” Bloomberg asked. “There are now 500 tech companies just between here and the Navy Yard. We’ll work to connect more New Yorkers to the jobs they’re creating.”
In addition, Bloomberg cited projects nearing completion: Among those, in Brooklyn, “the next phase of the BioBat Center at the Brooklyn Army Terminal;” “two new sections” of Brooklyn Bridge Park; the opening of the SIMS household recycling plant in Sunset Park (largest in North America, according to Bloomberg and “powered by one of the largest solar installations in our city and the largest wind turbine to operate here since the Dutch built windmills in new Amsterdam”) and Steeplechase Plaza, which will open this summer in Coney Island.
“Over the past 11 years,” Bloomberg contended, “we have beaten the odds, and the obstructionists, over and over again, not just here in Brooklyn, but in neighborhoods all across the city.” The result, he said, includes projects such as Barclays Center, as well as a “record low” number of murders and shootings, as well as record low “incarceration rates,” “job growth…exceed[ing] the national average in all five boroughs,” and the addition of 750 acres to the city’s parkland.
But, he added, his administration will not rest on its laurels. “Our goal,” Bloomberg said, “is not to spend the year cutting ribbons. It’s much bigger than that. Our goal is to advance projects – and start new ones – that will keep our city on the right course for decades to come.”