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Newly Revealed Bloomberg Emails Give Glimpse Into NYC Mayor Stint

Michael Bloomberg
Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg in December 2011
Photo: Kristen Artz/New York City Mayor’s Office

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Praise from Bill de Blasio. A plea for money — in Spanish — from Jeb Bush. Flashes of humor and earnestness.

Those were among the nuggets THE CITY mined from a review of nearly 1,600 emails in which Mike Bloomberg sent a note or a response from his email account during his 12-year tenure as mayor.

The batch included hundreds of missives that he simply forwarded to administration staffers and hundreds more that were merely duplicates.

Those emails — filtered through a private law firm hired by Bloomberg before being delivered to the city archives — crack open a telling, if limited, window into his time at City Hall as he seeks the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

Relationships: Rudy and Two Bills

A number of the emails provide insight into Bloomberg’s dealings with powerful people, in New York and beyond.

He appeared to communicate directly with Microsoft founder Bill Gates about anti-smoking initiatives, with then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt on a pending education collaboration with the city, and with then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who solicited funds for an education reform project in Idaho, which Bloomberg later gave $200,000 toward.

“Alcalde, necesito tu ayuda en Idaho” (“Mayor, I need your help in Idaho”), reads the subject line from the Sept. 9, 2012, email from Bush to Bloomberg.

When a City Hall staffer alerted Bloomberg in March 2013 that a group of alumni from the administration of former mayor John Lindsay was seeking to name the South Loop in Central Park in his honor, Bloomberg responded, “Must find something for Rudy [Giuliani] first.”

Two emails from then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also surfaced from 2010 in which he hailed Bloomberg’s salt-restriction efforts and his January 2010 State of the City address.

“Great speech,” reads the subject line from de Blasio’s private email account to the mayor’s account on Jan. 21, 2010. “I liked a lot of what you put forward yesterday, and have said so publicly.”

Bloomberg responded, “Thanks. work in progress.”

De Blasio also praised Bloomberg’s defense of a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero.

“I just wanted you to know that I admire how you handled this, and have been publicly supporting your position,” de Blasio wrote Bloomberg in August 2010.

“Thanks. It’s a shame we even have this issue,” Bloomberg responded.

Bill de Blasio, fresh off his 2013 mayoral victory, meets with then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Bill de Blasio, fresh off his 2013 mayoral victory, meets with then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
New York City Mayor's Office

The emails also include exchanges with then-correction union president Norman Seabrook, one of only two labor leaders to endorse his first run for office.

In one email, Seabrook noted he’d be attending a September 2002 Medal of Courage award event at Gracie Mansion — and asked if he could bring a “third guest, Jimmy Rodriguez,” of Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe fame.

“He offers to give a complimentary dinner at his restaurant for all the winners if he can attend,” Seabrook said.

“Should be done,” Bloomberg said as he forwarded the union leader’s message.

This February, Seabrook was sentenced to 58 months in federal prison for taking a $60,000 bribe in exchange for investing $20 million of the union’s money in a risky hedge fund.

In 2004, Rodriguez closed or gave up his four restaurants.

The Decider: ‘Make Them’

Bloomberg was known for hiring people he trusted to get the job done — and for telling those officials, “Don’t f— it up.

But some emails provided to the archives highlight Bloomberg’s hands-on approach to mundane matters, along with his principled stance on social issues and public service.

When hedge-fund manager Grange Johnson emailed the mayor about “aggressive begging” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and in midtown in November 2012, Bloomberg responded the next day, “Specifically where?”

He then forwarded the subsequent details to then-Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs.

Bloomberg sent a number of emails to himself that appear to identify deficiencies he observed personally, such as a missing “subway station sign” and issues at the 49th Street off ramp from the FDR Drive.

In July 2008, Bloomberg emailed his parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, asking him to “Check park at 5th [Ave.] and 120th [St.]. Filthy with condoms all over.”

Within 90 minutes, he got back a report of two problem areas in the park from officials on the ground.

In April 2013, the mayor emailed Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner at the time, to ask how long a restaurant was allowed to post a “grade pending” sign before it could be closed.

It turns out he was asking about his favorite diner, Viand Cafe on the Upper East Side, which Farley said had done “very bad” on its initial inspection.

When Farley noted the restaurant should have been posting a “C” letter grade since the prior month, Bloomberg responded, “Then make them.”

In another exchange, Bloomberg responded to a city employee who thanked him for his support of same-sex marriage with a made-for-TV political slogan: “Either you believe in equality, or you don’t. I do.”

When then-Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno wrote about concerns over piling garbage because of a union strike at Co-op City in The Bronx in 2010 — as well as concerns with how the powerful 32BJ union would respond if the Department of Sanitation intervened — Bloomberg responded, “If we should be picking up, do it.”

Select Praise for Crisis Management

Major crises during Bloomberg’s three terms in office rarely make an appearance in the emails reviewed by THE CITY, although it’s possible they turn up more prominently in other email batches or records that have not been made available.

In the cases they do surface, it’s often in the form of a constituent note praising Bloomberg — at a time when many others were voicing significant criticism.

In response to the city’s botched blizzard response in December 2010, a retired sanitation official wrote to “commend” Bloomberg for sticking with then-Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.

“After the head hunters get done, they will also agree,” wrote Michael Bimonte.

In the wake of revelations that then-Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith had been arrested over a domestic violence complaint at his home in Washington, D.C., Bloomberg’s administration was slammed for not revealing the incident when Goldsmith stepped down in August 2011.

But Judy Bergtraum wrote the mayor on Sept. 4, 2011, to laud him as an “honorable person.”

“Your decision was the right one for New York City and for Steven Goldsmith,” she wrote. “Furthermore, I don’t think you had a ‘responsibility’ to give this info to the public.”

Michael Bloomberg
Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks to NYPD leaders in April 2013.
Ben Fractenberg/DNAinfo

And when the NYPD became embroiled in criticism of its anti-terror activities in February 2012 — following an Associated Press expose on a program of spying on Muslim communities — the mayor’s defense of Police Department was hailed by the sister of the pilot of the plane that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

“I wanted to drop a note commending the mayor for his outstanding remarks on the Gambling [radio] show this morning,” wrote Debra Burlingame, a lawyer and activist. “This was far more than a defense of [then-Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD, it was a well-presented tutorial on the necessity, legal basis and moral imperative behind the NYPD’s anti-terrorism programs/policies.”

A separate email thread showed the mayor edited the remarks assembled for him in preparation for that show. Among his recommendations was adding a note about how New York City hadn’t experienced a terrorist attack after 9/11, unlike some other cities around the world.

Bloomberg also wrote to an aide, “Add the phrase ‘measured response’ someplace.”

No Apologies: ‘Close to Shameful’

Some critics assailed the billionaire mayor for appearing out of touch with the struggles of everyday New Yorkers — especially in times of crisis like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and after a blizzard paralyzed much of the city in December 2010.

He didn’t apologize for it publicly — and he didn’t do so in private either, emails suggest.

In the days after Sandy, Bloomberg insisted the New York Marathon would proceed as scheduled, despite massive flooding and power outages across the city. On Nov. 1, a constituent named Roy Flanders emailed the mayor to call his marathon stance “close to shameful.”

Flanders added, “I hope you reconsider.”

Bloomberg responded within 15 minutes.

“Have 40,000 people coming, many from out of town. Businesses need the revenues,” the mayor wrote. “NYC needs to show we can recover and go on (while helping those less fortunate).”

A day later, however, Bloomberg backtracked amid widespread criticism and canceled the marathon.

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg leads meeting during Superstorm Sandy.
Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg leads meeting during Superstorm Sandy.
New York City Mayor's Office

Two years earlier, after the blizzard, Bloomberg was lambasted for being out of town when it struck, and for the city’s anemic response.

But he downplayed that criticism when responding to an update of on-the-ground conditions sent by a Park Slope community board district manager.

“This too will pass,” wrote the mayor, “and we’ll be complaining about the heat.”

Just months before leaving office in 2013, Bloomberg received an email from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA player, thanking Bloomberg for his 12 years in office.

“You will be missed sir,” Johnson wrote on Sept. 11 of that year.

Bloomberg’s response: “Will be forgotten by 2/1/14.”

(Bloomberg Philanthropies is a funder of THE CITY)

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