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On Monday, the first day after the snowfall, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, speaking from his perfectly plowed, salted, and cleared East 79th Street, suggested New Yorkers "relax and take in a Broadway show."1, 2. I'd love to take in a Broadway show, but not only are ticket prices far beyond what most New Yorkers consider an affordable evening's entertainment (one current show has tickets from $76.50 to $289.00) but there were no trains running anywhere near my neighborhood, and my street hadn't been plowed, so I couldn't drive to another neighborhood with underground trains. On Tuesday morning, the F train started running again, and on Wednesday afternoon my street was plowed. (As of Thursday morning, we still haven't had any mail delivery.) Mind you, the snow stopped falling early Monday morning. To add insult to injury, the mayor then told New Yorkers that we were to blame for driving in the snowstorm and getting stuck. But the coup de grace came when he said that "people’s perceptions were based largely on whether their own streets were clear." Yes, and that's most of us! On Tuesday night, when my local F train became Brooklyn's only above-ground line back in service, I went to Park Slope. I walked along 8th Avenue from 9th Street to Garfield Place. Every residential street (with the exception of the one next to the hospital, thankfully) looked exactly like my own in Gravesend: unplowed.
What this episode indicates is something that many New Yorkers already knew about our plutocrat mayor: that he is not one of us. I don't mean that he's from Boston; most New Yorkers originally hail from elsewhere. I mean that he is not representative of us, he doesn't get us, he hardly even pretends. He doesn't value our opinions, and when he hears them, as with the snow, he attributes them to venal self-interest (which says more about him than it does of us). I can't say I disagree with all of his signature policies; his successful smoking ban in bars and restaurants, his push for calorie counts on menus, his increase of the bike lanes and pedestrian-only plazas, and his unsuccessful attempt to decrease the number of cars in lower Manhattan all strike me as improvements to New York City and our way of life. It's the way he does it, running roughshod over our feelings and opinions. Another recent example, besides the poor way he handled the blizzard, was his appointment of a media executive to head the Board of Education. Tone-deaf.
And so I invoke a sad episode in history for comparison. What made Marie Antoinette's statement historically significant was that it showed just how cut off she was from her people, just how little she understood life for everyday Parisians. For her, when the royal pantry was out of bread, she could simply have cake (another type of bread). But for the hungry of France, there was no such option. She could hardly conceive of such a life. And "Mayor Mike," while obviously not as distant (he did, after all, have a middle-class upbringing), is sufficiently distant nonetheless.
Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine. Will Bloomberg's political career suffer the same fate?