Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City

Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City

Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City

Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City


New York mayor Michael Bloomberg claims to run the city like a business. In Bloomberg's New York, Julian Brash applies methods from anthropology, geography, and other social science disciplines to examine what that means. He describes the mayor's attitude toward governance as the Bloomberg Way--a philosophy that holds up the mayor as CEO, government as a private corporation, desirable residents and businesses as customers and clients, and the city itself as a product to be branded and marketed as a luxury good. Commonly represented as pragmatic and nonideological, the Bloomberg Way, Brash argues, is in fact an ambitious reformulation of neoliberal governance that advances specific class interests. He considers the implications of this in a blow-by-blow account of the debate over the Hudson Yards plan, which aimed to transform Manhattan's far west side into the city's next great high-end district. Bringing this plan to fruition proved surprisingly difficult as activists and entrenched interests pushed back against the Bloomberg administration, suggesting that despite Bloomberg's success in redrawing the rules of urban governance, older political arrangements--and opportunities for social justice--remain.


As of early September 2001, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to be elected New York City’s 108th mayor was in trouble. the billionaire ex-chief executive officer (CEO) of the media and financial services company Bloomberg lp had pitched himself to voters based on the notion that his enormous business success uniquely qualified him to be mayor. Despite the media-driven hagiography of ceos, portrayed as individuals with extraordinary capacities for leadership and action, many New Yorkers were dubious that Bloomberg’s managerial skill would translate to city hall. Among the doubters were members of the editorial board of the New York Times, the guardian of mainstream political opinion in New York City. in endorsing Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent Mark Green, the editors laid out a lengthy rejection of the “fundamental argument behind [Bloomberg’s] candidacy”:

He claims that as a successful entrepreneur, he is better qualified to be mayor
than Mr. Green, a career politician.… Even within the annals of businessman
candidates, Mr. Bloomberg is ill matched to the job he covets. His company, a
financial information service, has no stockholders, and no unions. It is a brand
new business, created by Mr. Bloomberg himself, its corporate culture and
decision-making structure devised to suit his character. New York City, on the
other hand, is a very old business indeed, with multiple layers of interests and
precedent weighing down every decision. Many of Mr. Bloomberg’s greatest tal
ents would turn out to be utterly beside the point. Others, like his penchant
for saying whatever he thinks, would come back to haunt him. Other than his
business successes, Mr. Bloomberg has offered little during the campaign. (New
York Times

Despite such sentiments, Bloomberg was elected in November 2001, though by the narrowest of margins and aided by a lot of luck and even more money.

Not only was Bloomberg elected—and then reelected twice, once overwhelmingly and once narrowly and contentiously—but his mayoralty became a major phenomenon. Time Magazine named Mayor Bloomberg one of the country’s five best big-city mayors (Gibbs 2005). Coming full circle, at the end of Bloomberg’s first term the New York Times wrote that he might . . .

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