Editorial: 12 Years of Mayor Bloomberg (December 29, 2013)
The cost to him for having the tanks cleaned out every week for the past 12 years: around $62,400.
The mayor likes to nosh, too. So he paid to feed his staff daily a light breakfast (coffee, bagels, yogurt) and a modest lunch (tuna salad, PB&J, sliced fruit).
The bill for his entire mayoralty: about $890,000.
Mr. Bloomberg, above all, enjoys hassle-free travel. When he took his aides anywhere, from Albany to Athens, it was by private plane.
The price tag for all that jetting around: roughly $6 million.
When Mr. Bloomberg leaves office at midnight Tuesday, he will bequeath a litany of record-shattering statistics on crime reduction, sidewalk safety and skyline-altering construction. But perhaps the most staggering figure is the amount of his own money that he devoted, day in and day out, to being mayor — much of it unseen by the public.
An analysis by The New York Times shows that Mr. Bloomberg has doled out at least $650 million on a wide variety of perks and bonuses, political campaigns and advocacy work, charitable giving and social causes, not to mention travel and lodging, connected to his time and role as mayor. (His estimated tab for a multiday trip to China, with aides and security in tow: $500,000.)
In the process, he has entirely upended the financial dynamics surrounding New York’s top job.
In the past, the city paid its mayor; Mr. Bloomberg paid to be the city’s mayor.
In moves that would make a financial planner’s head spin, he rejected the $2.7 million worth of salary to which he was entitled (accepting just $1 a year) and, starting in 2001, turned on a spigot of cash that has never stopped gushing. He poured at least $268 million of his personal funds into three campaigns for mayor.
He donated at least another $263 million to New York arts, civic, health and cultural groups, personally and through his company, Bloomberg LP.
Campaign donations? He handed out about $23 million of them.
He even chipped in $5 million to renovate an official mayoral residence that he never inhabited. (He preferred the familiar privacy of his own nearby mansion.)
“A modern Medici” is how Mark Green, the former public advocate, described him, reaching back to 15th-century Italy for any kind of precedent.
Mr. Bloomberg’s all-expense-paid mayoralty was, depending on the vantage point, exhilarating (for his aides), infuriating (for his rivals) cost-saving (for his constituents) or selfless (for the beneficiaries of his largess).
But for anyone who interacted with the billionaire, his gilded approach to governing was a breathtaking thing to behold. Guy V. Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president, recalled the time Mr. Bloomberg invited him to see the new commuter ferries that would bear Mr. Molinari’s name.
Mr. Molinari had assumed that the invitation would mean visiting the boats in the humble waters of Staten Island. Mr. Bloomberg had a grander plan: He whisked Mr. Molinari to Wisconsin on his pristine private plane to view the factory where the ships were being built.
“It’s a beautiful plane,” Mr. Molinari said, “and I remember asking him, ‘What does it cost, a plane like this?’ ”
The mayor’s reply: $28 million.
“I thought to myself,” Mr. Molinari said, “how many people could just take $28 million out of your bank account to buy a plane?”
In the eyes of Chris McNickle, a historian who has written about the city’s mayors, Mr. Bloomberg’s financial might made him the most potent mayor since the birth of modern New York City in late 1800s.
Because he was largely liberated from the demands of campaign donors, interest groups or political parties, “his power was both intensified and expanded,” Mr. McNickle said.
To calculate Mr. Bloomberg’s spending, The Times relied on public documents, travel records, philanthropy databases, conversations with vendors and interviews with his government employees.
The $650 million minimum estimate is undoubtedly low. Up-to-date annual reports were not available for several Bloomberg-financed organizations and a wide range of expenses were impossible to firmly establish, like the dinner parties he hosted at his townhouse, meals he bought for government aides and landing fees paid at foreign airports.