New Yorkers can stop scratching their heads over how outbound Mayor Michael Bloomberg will spend his time once he leaves office in a few weeks. As The New York Times revealed this weekend, the Mayor and over half-a-dozen of his top aides will be taking their show on the road with a roving city-government-for-hire. Dubbed the Bloomberg Associates, this all-star “urban SWAT team,” funded entirely by Bloomberg’s own billion-dollar pockets, will assist and reshape urban areas across the globe by helping local governments tackle troublesome, long-term challenges, entirely free of charge.
Headed by George A. Feritta, the chief executive of NYC tourism agency, the newly formed team plans to work with four to six cities a year to export and adapt strategies developed under the 11-year Bloomberg administration to struggling urban centers. From relatively affordable initiatives like smoking and trans-fat bans, bike lines, and pop-up pedestrian plazas, to larger policy shifts in the realms of environmental sustainability, economic development, security and law enforcement, the charitable consulting agency will tailor Made-in-New-York measures to cities “from Louisville, KY to Mexico City,” according to the Times. With an annual budget reportedly in the tens of millions and nothing to ask for in return from local municipalities, one can be sure their services will be in high demand.
While the organization’s staff will eventually reach around 25 personnel, only a few high-profile deputies have been announced thus far. On board are Amanda M. Burden, Director of City Planning, Janette Sadik-Kahn, Commissioner of Transportation, Kathrin Oliver, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment, and Kate D. Levin, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, with the possible addition of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, suggested by the Times.
The organization will work closely with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Mayor’s colossal charitable foundation, and will be housed side-by-side within a large townhouse around the corner from the Mayor’s Upper East Side home.
“We have heard this huge demand and need from other cities to learn from New York City,” Burden told the Times. “Under this Mayor, New York is the epitome that cities look to of how to get things done.”
This won’t be the first time that Bloomberg will have lent his big-city governing expertise to other mayors and urban administrations. Last year, New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu received a $4.2 million Innovation Delivery Team grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help the city implement new measures to combat its surging murder rate. As a result of this effort, which included a newly created team to address gang activity and a midnight baseball league to occupy trouble-prone young men, the city’s murder rate has fallen 17 percent.
The mission of the Bloomberg Associates formally establishes the Mayor’s long-touted beliefs that investment in cities is becoming ever more crucial as urban populations continue to grow, providing a platform for the businessman-turned-urban-advocate to spread his most successful, if still debated, policies to the cities that need them most.