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Mayor Bloomberg And The Hispanic Pulse…Getting in Step With the People… He Shows Up, And Surprise! Loosens Up

Mayor Bloomberg And The Hispanic Pulse


August 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

In recent days, Mayor Michael Bloomberg marched in parades with Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and with Ecuadoreans in Queens. He went to the Dominican Republic and danced the merengue. The mayor typically begins remarks before Hispanic audiences with a smattering of Spanish, which he has studied for years. The fact is, Mr. Bloomberg has a personal history of engaging Hispanics, dating back to his establishment of a Spanish-language arm of the media empire he ruled before becoming mayor. But little of this seems to have impressed those voters.

Hispanics stand out among the New Yorkers most disenchanted with Mr. Bloomberg. A New York Times/CBS News Poll found that 74 percent disapproved of the job he was doing. The ranks of the disenchanted were even higher among the city's largest Hispanic faction, Puerto Ricans.

A lot has happened since 2001, when Mr. Bloomberg won about half of the city's Hispanic votes. Working-class Hispanics have been hit hard economically. While the rate of unemployment citywide is 8.8 percent, it runs in double digits in some Hispanic neighborhoods. Off-the-books, low-level jobs that many immigrants depend on, like housekeeping and construction, have become harder to get. College tuition is up, as are sales and property taxes. Those immediate problems weigh more heavily on people than the long-term efforts the mayor has undertaken that address Hispanics' concerns, like planning for more affordable housing and struggling to improve city schools.

A lot more can happen before the next election – last time, Mr. Bloomberg may have benefited from anger against his opponent, Mark Green, who had beaten the only Hispanic mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, in a contentious Democratic primary. Mr. Ferrer has not yet indicated whether he wants to run in 2005, and no one knows who will wind up as Mr. Bloomberg's Democratic opponent. In the meantime, though, the mayor will need to address the fact that nearly half of the New York Hispanics polled said he did not care at all about their needs. To do that, he will need to show that beyond dancing, he is not out of step with them.

Getting in Step With the People

By Bryan Virasami and Glenn Thrush

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Newsday, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Fresh from his day trip to the Dominican Republic, Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit two Hispanic parades yesterday, focusing again on an ethnic community in which his popularity is slumping.

Bloomberg, who drew criticism for failing to attend the Bronx Dominican Day Parade on July 20, was warmly received yesterday at both the Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Ecuadorean Pride Parade in Queens.

"It's a wonderful day," said an upbeat Bloomberg, sweat soaking through his shirt. "It's a chance for people to both say how proud they are to be New Yorkers, but also that they don't forget where they came from."

The two parades capped a week of courting Hispanics that included the trip to the Dominican Republic where he paid tribute to the victims of Flight 587 and attended the Pan-American games.

The polls have said Bloomberg is lagging with Latino voters - a key component of his November 2001 election - and he was lustily booed at Manhattan's Puerto Rican parade two months ago. But he received hearty applause and shouts of "Hola, Mike!" in the Bronx and Jackson Heights.

Bloomberg has been in a barnstorming campaign mode since mid-June, when the city budget was adopted, and he visited all five boroughs yesterday. He presided at a bicycle race in lower Manhattan, attended the Queens parade, sped to the Bronx, toweled off and changed his shirt, then gave a speech honoring Jackie Robinson at a Brooklyn Cyclones game. He topped it off with supper in Staten Island.

"Don't want anybody to be left out," he told reporters.

Many at the Ecuadorean parade were thankful the mayor recognized the city's Ecuadoreans, which are estimated at 100,000 and growing.

William Sanay, his wife and three young children left that country three months ago. At the parade, however, the family felt they were home.

"I miss very much my country, my roots, my people," Sanay said as music blasted. "This parade, it's fun for me."

Sanay, 37, of Kew Gardens, brought his wife, Maria, two daughters and son to the Jackson Heights parade, which some say had the largest turnout in recent years.

Thousands of people, many wearing traditional yellow, blue and red colors of the Ecuadorean flag, lined the parade route on 37th Avenue to watch dozens of floats, live bands, entertainers and elected officials march.

"Today, everyone is Ecuadorean in Queens," Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), the Puerto-Rico born former cop, said after marching. "It's a growing community and it's a strong community."

Census 2000 figures show that 57,716 Ecuadoreans live in Queens, a 63 percent jump from the 1990 number of 35,412 people. The 2000 figures also show that 101,005 Ecuadoreans live in the five boroughs compared to 78,444 in 1990, a 29 percent jump.

The two- and three-deep crowd that lined the route may be one of the largest turnouts, said Felix Cujaran, who runs a merchandise store on 37th Avenue. Cujaran, 52, who hung his Ecuadorean flag over the police barricade and watched with his family, said he was impressed by the turnout.

"I've never seen a parade like this," he said. "All the time I came to this parade, but this is the most people I've ever seen. This year is much better."

Bloomberg Shows Up, And Surprise! Loosens Up


August 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

There he is in Brooklyn, bearing a bouquet of red carnations and two boxes of chocolate-dipped cookies, making the rounds at the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults. In Queens, strolling the streets of Flushing with reporters in tow. In the Bronx, chatting with almost everyone in the joint while having a seafood lunch yesterday on City Island.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who was saddled with a reputation during his first year in office for rarely appearing in the city's neighborhoods, and rarely appearing on weekends at all, is suddenly everywhere. This summer, his public appearances tend to be anyplace but City Hall, and he has taken to spending one day a week blitzing a borough. Yesterday was Bronx day.

These daylong trips, with reporters invited along for the ride, look an awful lot like campaign swings. The mayor eats the food, presses the flesh, walks the streets. And the trips provide a glimpse into the ways that Mr. Bloomberg – who started at the top as mayor, without toiling first in the vineyards of politics – has evolved as a candidate.

He can still be a bit stiff, to be sure. Take his walk through the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx yesterday. Mr. Bloomberg spent nearly all his time talking to market executives and business owners, rarely pausing to shake hands with the many guys driving fork lifts or pushing handtrucks full of California carrots or lemons from Chile. He did not appear to hear when one worker shouted, "How you doing, Mr. Bloomberg?"

Mr. Bloomberg appeared better at ease during the next visit, at the Riverdale Senior Center, where he conversed breezily about the merits of bridge versus hearts; his mother, Charlotte, who is 94; and whether the good old days were ever that good.

"I didn't realize he was so attractive!" said Shirley Tosk, 81. "He's gorgeous!"

There is still a long way until 2005, but Mr. Bloomberg is laying the groundwork for his re-election race. His message is clear: he tamed the fiscal crisis, the tax increases are over and may be temporary, the city's best days are yet to come.

Now he is trying to build on the goodwill he earned for his handling of last week's blackout and to win back voters, who have given him record low approval ratings in recent opinion polls.

Mr. Bloomberg has shown signs of loosening up. He wound up getting some of the biggest laughs at a news conference he held recently with Whoopi Goldberg, tweaking her for naming her new sitcom, "Whoopi." "Now, I don't know how you can go and name something after yourself," said Mr. Bloomberg, of Bloomberg L.P.

Then there is his famous crush on Jennifer Lopez, which came up again yesterday when he said that he planned to enjoy the Latin New York Festival with dinner at Noche and a little comedy at Tito Puente's in the Bronx.

"Then it's probably off to a night of dancing at the Copa after," he said at a news conference. "I'm sure I'll make that one. What can I say? When you're out with J. Lo, you pretty much leave it up to her."

Adolfo Carrión Jr., the Bronx borough president, said that he had seen a change.

"I think he's shooting from the hip much more comfortably," Mr. Carrión said. "I think he's more comfortable in his own skin now. The challenge for this mayor, as we approach the second half, sort of the end of two years of his administration, is for people to believe that he really cares about them as working people."

But no one would ever accuse Mr. Bloomberg of being silver-tongued. He can still be awkward when speaking to large crowds, or in formal news conference settings.

When he gave an autobiographical speech about his success in business to the Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce earlier this month, the phrase "hard work and good luck" briefly came out of his mouth as "hard luck," prompting a few quizzical looks from other business people listening to his version of his own Horatio Alger story.

Earlier this month, answering a reporter's question about whether he had misspoken when he said he was confident that the property tax increase he pushed through was temporary, he said, "I don't know how you'd characterize misspoking."

And his Spanish, he is the first to admit, is "a work in progress," but that does not prevent him from risking it more and more, faced with polls showing that his popularity is lowest among the Hispanic voters who helped elect him.

When he came back from the Dominican Republic this month and marched in the Dominican Day Parade, he was asked by a Dominican television reporter to say a few words in Spanish. "Viva Dominican República," he said, to a startled look. The country he had been in just days earlier is known in Spanish as La República Dominicana.

Of course, it was not as bad as the gaffe that Gov. George E. Pataki, whose Spanish is considerably better than Mr. Bloomberg's, made recently when addressing the organizers of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Mr. Pataki stopped himself halfway through his opening remarks, when he suddenly realized that he had told the group that he was aroused to see them, when he simply meant to say that he was excited.

Mr. Bloomberg brushed aside the suggestion that he was back on the hustings. "It's a bit early for a campaign," he said. "I was just elected, I mean, you know."

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