NEW YORK CITY — A day after the city reflected on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg returned to Ground Zero to make the case — as he has been doing in the final days of his administration — that he is leaving the city far better off than it was when he was elected in 2001.
In his speech, delivered 10 stories above the reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial on Thursday, Bloomberg said his charge as mayor was “to restore our city, to recover, to rebuild, to begin anew."
“From the beginning, our goal was not only to recover and rebuild [Ground Zero], but to begin restoring a sense of normalcy to our city’s life, and to begin restoring the faith that New Yorkers had developed in our city’s future.
“Today, I think it’s safe to say that — together — we succeeded beyond what anyone thought possible.”
The speech comes just days after Public Advocate Bill de Blasio all but won the Democratic nomination for mayor, based in large part on his promise to break heavily from the Bloomberg years.
The mayor’s speech, delivered before some of the city’s biggest names in finance and real estate, argued that the rebuilding efforts in Lower Manhattan are a symbol of the resurgence of the city under Bloomberg’s stewardship — something the mayor warned could easily slip away without constant vigilance.
After 9/11, Bloomberg said, there were “serious people having serious discussion about whether we could recover at all.”
“The overwhelming sense of anxiety that once filled the air here in Lower Manhattan — and all across the city — has been replaced by a sense of energy and renewal,” Bloomberg told the crowd.
He acknowledged that the process of rebuilding Ground Zero had “not always followed a straight line.”
“But that’s the real world,” the mayor added.
Regardless of its delays, the southern tip of Manhattan has experienced a renaissance, according to the mayor, revitalized by the sort of economic and real estate development his administration has sought throughout the city.
“The renewal of Lower Manhattan as a community of schools, parks and small businesses also reflects the community renewal we’ve seen across our city over the past 12 years,” Bloomberg said.
According to the Downtown Alliance, more than twice as many people live in Lower Manhattan as did in 2001.
The city, for the first time since the 1950s, is seeing more people moving in than out, Bloomberg added. Tourism is booming, there are more private sector jobs than ever before, crime is at historic lows, and despite the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the city is in “far better shape than the rest of the country,” according to the mayor.
Yet, the mayor warned, the gains he said were made under his administration over the last dozen years were not necessarily permanent.
“The truth is, we have answered the questions about New York City’s post-9/11 future — but only for now,” Bloomberg warned. “The day that we believe that our progress is inevitable, the day that we take our safety and security for granted, the day that we believe the past cannot repeat itself, is the day those questions will return.”