In a front-page story that must fall into the category of faux exposés (“fauxposés”?), The New York Times today tries to play gotcha with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The self-proclaimed “short Jewish billionaire from New York,” has always boasted that when it comes to his championing of public transportation, he practices what he preaches, regularly taking the subway to work. It’s been his favorite photo-op, standing amid the masses, clutching onto the pole. And many mornings, though with less frequency now, he can be found on the 4/5 express line that goes up and down the east side. But not — we find out today - every morning. And the real shocker is that, when he does take the subway, he does not enter at his closest stop, but is taken in an SUV to an express stop twenty-two blocks away.
Now, it’s obvious that it’s more than a little hypocritical for the mayor to tout public transport - more often than not with a tone of self-righteousness - but at the same time be ferried through Manhattan’s most congested streets in two gas-guzzling monsters. But, he is, after all, the mayor. And I just had to wonder if it’s the best deployment of The New York Times’ resources to pay a reporter to stake out the mayor’s house for five weeks. Especially since the point of the mayor’s subway riding has never been to prove that he is “your average straphanger,” the reality the article seeks to unmask. The point has simply been to bring attention to the subway system. I don’t know about you, but I’d hope the mayor of my city has more important things to do than show that he too can wait in the sweltering underground everyday to transfer from the local to the express train.
At the very bottom of the piece, the reporter even has room to include this point, one that would seem to undermine the entire exercise of scrutinizing the mayor’s commute: “At least one public transit advocate interviewed yesterday said it did not matter how long the mayor actually spent on the subway — but that he was seen using the system.” If anyone were going to rain criticism on the mayor, it would seem to be the public transport advocate, no? Instead, he only has this to say, “To me, I think it’s terrific that he has made a point of taking the subway in a more public statement way.” Gotcha!