Time magazine named him its "Person of the Year," New Yorkers will likely consider him their city's greatest mayor ever, and the keenest memories will be of Rudolph Giuliani in front of microphones, the destroyed World Trade Center at his back.
But what did Giuliani do as mayor that made him so great? Vincent J. Cannato argues in a New York Times article that Giuliani saved New York by narrowing its focus, "by making the public's expectations for city government more realistic." Before him, New York mayors acted like minor-league presidents, assuming responsibility for residents' social needs.
Giuliani focused instead on making public spaces safer, more attractive and orderly. "He believed that if people could see an improvement in the physical condition of the city, if they felt safer, if public order was restored on the streets and subways, then New York could once again prosper," Cannato writes. "Sure enough," he adds, "as crime declined and the city's civic tone improved, New York soon regained its confidence." Posted 1/1/2002
Postscript: New York benefited tremendously from having two mayors who served, together, 20 years in office and maintained a laser-like focus on what cities do best (preserve public order, deliver quality services, develop sustainably, while keeping the fiscal house in order). We're talking here of Giuliani and his successor, Michael Bloomberg. As for the latest mayor, Bill de Blasio . . . well, we'll see.
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