Mike Bloomberg Climate Change: Will His Plan For NYC Be His Lasting Legacy?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both loved and hated by the people of New York whom he has dutifully served for nearly 12 years, has received his fair share of criticism. However, love him or hate him, there is one thing you have to give him credit for: he thinks big. And while his third (and final???) term as mayor is winding down, it appears that his appetite for ambitious undertakings is not. In keeping with his signature-go-big-or-go-home attitude, Bloomberg has unveiled a $20 billion plan to protect NYC from climate change. But with less than seven months left in office the plan will be left in the hands of his successor, whoever that may be.

Bloomberg’s years in office have taught us many lessons about how to rule a sprawling metropolis. Learning the foreign languages spoken in your city will endear you to the people. Appointing inexperienced individuals to important positions will not. Do take public transportation! Don’t take away their soda. And while these are all certainly valuable lessons, perhaps the best of what Bloomberg has to teach us is yet to be seen. Maybe this ambitious, expensive, inevitably controversial environmental plan will demonstrate, in its success or failure, what is the true test of a mayoral legacy. Will it succeed? Will it fail? Will the far-reaching, all-encompassing style of Bloombergship stay, or will it recede into our local history with Mike at the end of 2013? Will we remember Michael Bloomberg as the man who set New York City on a ground-breaking path to environmental sustainability? Or will we remember him as the guy who took away our Big Gulps?

Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of environmental policy reform and having guided the city through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is well-positioned to take the helm of a climate change plan. That is he would be, if he were not about to leave office. The comprehensive plan is no small feat; it is a multifaceted approach to turning New York City into a grid of flood gates and levees. It will be costly, which many people surely won’t like. Moreover, it rests on the assumption that climate change is a certain and distinct threat. And there is no greater political downfall than a sure bet that never comes to fruition.

Thus the plan is politicizing not only in its cost, but also in the logic, the science, the theories upon which it lies. Bloomberg has, in his last months of office as the mayor of the largest city of the U.S., stumbled upon the nexus of the political strife of the country at large. It is where economic concerns meet ideological doubts. Debate, opposition, and ridicule often follow. Some potential contenders have already opposed his plan. Just as it has not yet been seen what will happen of his vision, claims of the certain destruction of climate change will likely not be realized for many years.

With the above in mind, one may wonder, what exactly is he thinking? Billionaire Bloomberg is in nobody’s pocket. In a world where the personal is politicized and the political is financial, Michael Bloomberg owes nothing to no one. He really believes his legacy is will save New York City from certain destruction. Meglomanical? Perhaps. Admirable? Certainly.