During his 12-year run in office, Mayor Bloomberg had fewer issues more contentious than education.
But with 11 days remaining in office, it was a school in Queens that Bloomberg chose last Friday to discuss and assess what he has termed a very successful mayoralty.
Bloomberg and outgoing Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott met for more than 30 minutes with students and staff at the Bard High School Early College in Long Island City, located within the main building of LaGuardia Community College.
“I wish I could have gone to a school like this,” he said. “They didn’t exist.”
Bloomberg, who will pass the baton to Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio on Jan. 1, took the opportunity to praise Walcott for his handling of the New York City school system, calling it the largest municipal agency in the country.
The mayor said that the four-year graduation rate at city high schools is at 67.6 percent, an increase of more than 25 percent since 2005.
“And schools like Bard have led the way,” he said, segueing into a talk of 650 new schools in the city since 2001, including 81 in Queens alone, with 63 new buildings adding more than 41,000 new school seats.
He defended the smaller and charter schools that his administration has supported.
“In a world with more globalization, more technology and more challenges, the competition has never been greater,” he said. “But so are the opportunities.”
His Honor also was unabashedly proud to tout his administration’s record on public safety, with crime down in the borough by more than 37 percent since 2001; murders down 33.3 percent; shootings down more than 27 percent; and traffic fatalities lowered by 19 percent.
On the economy Bloomberg, said Queens has seen the building of 52 hotels on his watch, the most of any other borough. He said there are an additional 9,000 new businesses and 46,000 jobs since 2002.
Queens, Bloomberg said, with its racial, ethnic and international mix of immigrants from around the world (“No one knows exactly how many native languages are spoken here”), is the embodiment of what is great about the city and country.
“When people want opportunity, they come to the United States,” he said. “There is more opportunity than anyplace in the world ... This is the place where the world comes.”
“Because in New York City, we have a true melting pot,” Bloomberg said. “Everywhere else has a mosaic.”
And as high as Bloomberg’s hopes are for the students’ futures, some of his own goals are somewhat more mundane.
“I intend to live long enough to speak Spanish like a native, and hit a golf ball like a pro,” he said. “Which means I’m going to die at a very old age.”
But ultimately the founder of Bloomberg LP, the international financial and media conglomerate, returned to the students and their own hopes and aspirations.
“As you know, I’m a numbers guy,” he said. “And the numbers say you are going to have a real future. The rest is up to you.”