Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered Wednesday his last major speech while in office, warning of out-of-control retirement costs for city workers. It brought a standing ovation from his audience of business leaders but shattered the post-election cordiality with the mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's final message is this: I'm leaving the city better than it's ever been.
"New York City has never been stronger than it is today," he said.
His successor, Bill de Blasio, may differ.
"I think he is simply trying to cement his legacy," de Blasio said.
It's a mixed legacy, de Blasio said.
On the negative side, he pointed out that Bloomberg leaves behind expired contracts with every city union.
"That's never happened before," de Blasio said. "No previous mayor ever let that happen."
Making matters worse for de Blasio, the mayor-elect's camp wonders if Bloomberg left enough money behind to settle with the scores of unions.
The current mayor sees it another way. He said that there's plenty of money, as long as city workers give back like state colleagues did.
He called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity, so important that he spent his last speech as mayor talking about it. The way he sees it, de Blasio could flaunt his progressive credentials to convince unions to give up retirement benefits.
"The costs of today's benefits cannot be sustained for another generation, not without inflicting real harm on our citizens, on our children and our grandchildren," Bloomberg said.
In his speech, the mayor referred to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's final address, in which he warned of a military-industrial complex. This generation's threat, Bloomberg said, is a labor-electoral complex - that is, a dangerous nexus of organized workers and elected leaders bent on a status quo bankrupting cities and plundering from the future.
The speech drew a standing ovation from business leaders and enraged statements from union leaders.
De Blasio's take? He will look for savings, like in health care, but he's also much more of a champion of organized labor, and he's after other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like bridging inequality.
Finally, he added, Bloomberg's suggestions can't be separated from another parting gift: all those expired labor contracts.
"As much as I appreciate Mayor Bloomberg's advice, I would caution that one should be careful about giving advice from that perspective," de Blasio said.