NEW YORK – Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said goodbye Thursday to the city where he battled crime, his critics and the Sept. 11 crisis across eight years in City Hall.
"Although I have to leave you as mayor soon, I resume the much more honorable title of citizen of New York, and citizen of the United States," Giuliani said, standing on an altar one block east of ground zero.
Giuliani, 57, leaves on the highest note of his administration: his acclaimed handling of the city following the terrorist attacks that collapsed the World Trade Center and killed more than 2,900 people.
The mayor explained that when he took office, he was determined to take a different approach than his predecessors — even though he knew it would cause "hostility and anger" among his critics.
"When I became mayor of New York City in 1993, it seemed to me that I had to do something different than other mayors," Giuliani said. "It seemed I had to totally change the direction and course of New York City."
During his time in office, Giuliani helped drastically slash the city's crime rates, renovated Times Square and made New York a tourist attraction once again. He also was named Time magazine's "person of the year" for 2001.
But his relationship with the city's minority communities was strained, particularly after the fatal police shooting of one black man, Amadou Diallo, and a brutal attack by police on another, Abner Louima.
Giuliani, comfortable in front of a friendly crowd, took a hand-held microphone and walked out from behind the podium as he spoke. He joked with the audience and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik in between covering his career in office.
He spoke at St. Paul's Chapel in lower Manhattan, a pre-Revolutionary War Episcopal church one block east of the ruins of the trade center.
The mayor described the church as "hallowed ground," noting that George Washington prayed there following his inauguration in 1789. He also pointed out that the church emerged unscathed from the Sept. 11 attacks, without even a single window broken.
Giuliani, a Republican, was barred by term limits law from seeking a third consecutive term. His last day in City Hall will be Dec. 31, with the man he endorsed — billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg — taking over on New Year's Day.
Giuliani was expected to swear Bloomberg in at a brief ceremony around midnight in Times Square.