Democrats address ‘consternation’ about life after Bloomberg

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For about an hour this afternoon in midtown, at a luncheon hosted by Crains New York Business and the Partnership for New York City, the Democratic mayoral contenders took turns telling a crowd of business leaders that New York would be just fine after Bloomberg leaves office.

"There is consternation about the post-Bloomberg era regarding who is the future mayor," said a moderator, Kathy Wylde, who is the C.E.O. and president of the Partnership for New York City.

Bill de Blasio, the public advocate and a frequent critic of the mayor, took issue with Wylde's first question, which was that business executives and most New Yorkers were looking "for a certain continuity" after Bloomberg leaves office.

"I'd like to respectfully dispute the premise," de Blasio said.

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He cited a growing income gap in the city, as well as the difficulty of getting approvals from the buildings department and the general performance of New York's public schools.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is the mayor's closest ally in city government and has predicated her 2013 bid on being the preferred Democrat among the sorts of people who are members of the Partnership for New York City, accepted Wylde's description of the private sector's concerns. 

She predicted a smooth transition after Bloomberg, while reminding the audience of her own role in running the city during the latter Bloomberg years. 

"We understand there is nothing you can do to manage your way out of a bad economic situation if you didn't manage the good times well," Quinn said.

She spoke about prepaying billions of dollars in pension costs with money saved earlier.

"That puts us in a much stronger, almost springboard position as a city to move forward as we are turning this corner," she said.

Bill Thompson, the former comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee, repeatedly spoke about the need for a five-borough agenda, and not just one centered on Manhattan, where, incidentally, he, Quinn and Bloomberg reside.

The other major theme Thompson spoke about was diversity. He said the next mayor had to "listen to people from all across this city, a diverse group of individuals."

Also: "No. We don't want to tax people out of the city of New York."

At the far right of the stage was John Liu, the city comptroller, whose mayoral prospects were damaged when a campaign treasurer and a fund-raiser were charged with concealing the source of some $16,000 in campaign donations. Liu has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

"There's probably a lot of perceptions about me in this room," Liu said at one point toward the end of the hour-long event. "I have spent most of my career in the business world, corporations. Most of my career has not been in government. I'm new to government."

Liu was first elected in 2001 to the Council, where he served until becoming comptroller in 2009.

Liu, who worked at PriceWaterHouseCoopers before entering office, said the next mayor needed private sector experience to boost the economy and create jobs.

He put a new spin on his personal biography. During the 2009 campaign, he was accused of fabricating parts of family history after his mother disagreed with his characterization that they worked in a "sweatshop."

Today, in describing the red tape faced by small businesses, Liu said, "My mom had a small store for a couple of years, and when I was in high school I worked in it."

He said while he was there, "I saw the kinds of correspondence that we got from the city of New York. It was so difficult to understand. You would think that 20 years later, some of the changes would have been made, but yet as I talk to entreprenuers throughout the city, they’re still getting the same kinds of notices. It’s sad that nothing’s changed over the last several decades."

To close the event, Wylde, speaking on behalf of the business executives in the crowd, said, "We don't think anybody can do this job or [run] the city alone. We think they need partners ... The business community is very eager to be a full partner with whomever is our next mayor."