Following yesterday's fatal Metro-North accident in The Bronx, Gov. Cuomo was front and center to address the media at the scene but Mayor Bloomberg was nowhere to be found for more than 12 hours.
While there are larger priorities than seeing the mayor as emergency workers toil away in the background, it was simply odd not to hear from Bloomberg when elected officials – including Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino – spoke out about the deadliest rail crash in the city since 1991.
In a 12-year tradition of ducking and covering, the mayor's press secretary yesterday morning wouldn't say where Hizzoner was at the time of the derailment – pointing to Bloomberg's public schedule for yesterday, which only included a taped radio address.
But the worst-kept secret in City Hall is that the mayor – via his private plane -- often goes away on weekends to his home in Bermuda. Considering how Bloomberg likes to boast that he's never gone on vacation since becoming mayor, this flies in the face of good PR.
Rather than acknowledging that he sometimes leaves town, the mayor insists that his private time is his private time and the public doesn't have the right to know where he is when he's off the clock.
But the challenge of being mayor of New York City is that you're never really off the clock; it's the most public job north of the White House. And it's simply jarring and a little weird not to see the mayor on TV when disaster strikes and then there's no explanation forthcoming about his absence.
The mayor insists that he's not a first responder, that his job isn't to fix the railroad or put out a fire. And while that may be true, to be mayor of New York isn't to just be a good city manager; it's to lead.
Although he's been in office since 2002, Bloomberg has never really embraced the part of the job that had La Guardia reading the funny papers to kids on the radio during a newspaper strike or Ed Koch cheering commuters as they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge during a transit shutdown. Bloomberg's efforts at fulfilling that role have been half-hearted and mostly fallen flat.
While not everyone can be a born hugger or a great quarterback, the policy of not saying where the mayor is during his "private time" serves neither the public well nor, ultimately, the mayor. There are many sensible policies of the Bloomberg administration that Bill de Blasio should strongly consider continuing when he enters office next year. This isn't one of them.