Because he rolled out the Welcome Wagon for the Wall Street hooligans, Mayor Bloomberg stands accused of flip-flopping. Just last Friday, he charged that the same crowd was trying to destroy the city’s economy and take away jobs.
Let’s be clear: The mayor did not flip-flop.
He abdicated his role as mayor, and protesters immediately grasped the significance.
“Bloomberg said we can stay indefinitely! Big win!” was their message on Twitter.
It is indeed a big win for the protesters, and because they are playing a zero-sum game, it’s a big loss for New York. The losers start with downtown workers, businesses and residents, who are forced to further endure a fetid, noisy camp in what used to be a park.
Drugs and urine flow freely in the heart of capitalism, but the mayor says the campers can stay “as long as they obey the laws.”
That’s a curious standard achieved only by decriminalizing drug use, loitering, littering, public urination and scores of other minor offenses the NYPD routinely enforces elsewhere. If there are no laws, you can’t break them.
Taxpayers are losers, too, because they must shell out big bucks for police, sanitation and court costs, with the police overtime tab already passing $2 million.
These are the people Bloomberg is supposed to work for, but that is so passé in the third term. It’s government by mood. The mayor does and says what he feels like, day by day, minute by minute. Yesterday, he briefly revisited his Friday theme, that banks were important to New York and New Yorkers.
But consistency is not the mayor’s strength. His lack of attention to details has given rise to numerous scandals, dilapidated streets, soaring costs for high-tech fiascos and budget-busting pensions he promised to fix but now ignores.
Naturally, the mayor’s abdication on the protesters has launched a guessing game about his motive. A favorite choice is that his political team, always on the lookout for a sign of life in his presidential fantasy, decided he should stay neutral just in case.
From this view, the protesters are a free-floating national constituency that could be for sale and the mayor is always a willing buyer. Voting, after all, is just a transaction and he was ready to spend $1 billion in 2008.
There are hints he may be calculating again. Suddenly, numerous reports credit the mayor with being a supporter of First Amendment rights who backed a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Bloomberg’s pollster is also floating talk that 2012 could be ripe for a third-party candidate as Ralph Nader urges the mayor to run.
While the mayor’s enablers always can be counted on to promote their sugar daddy, the irony is thick. A few blocks from City Hall, a former member of his political team is on trial, charged with stealing $1.1 million from him, even though the mayor never complained and never asked for the money back. He tried to keep the shady deal a secret.
But we must be open to another mayoral motive in coddling the protesters. He invited them to stay about the time they hatched their plans for yesterday’s march on the homes of millionaires and billionaires.
The mayor, one of the richest people in New York and certainly the most powerful, was spared yesterday but could still be a target. Maybe, just maybe, he’s hoping his embrace of the protesters will win him an exemption, especially since he’s willing to let the hooligans camp outside other people’s houses.
If they take the deal, protesters would be passing up a rich target. In fact, because the mayor has at least six houses around the world, they could camp out at all of them and strike a global blow for whatever it is they want.
His Upper East Side townhouse alone is worth the GDP of a small country. Recently described as befitting a 19th-century robber baron, it contains tables worth as much as $90,000 each, a collection of old master paintings and a Chippendale couch valued at $1 million.
It’s on East 79th, a lovely block that’s perfect for a tent city. Campers could even name their liberated spot in his honor: Bloomville.
He so richly deserves it.