Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed in his final State of the City speech Thursday, his 71st birthday, that he was determined during the next 10 months to move full speed ahead with his plans to remold the city and get in the face of critics of the NYPD.
For close to an hour at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Bloomberg extolled the accomplishments of the city under his 12-year watch and sketched out a series of public and private development plans -- some already under way and others on the drawing board -- that he intends to push forward.
In many ways, Bloomberg was setting the tone for the election season and the agenda for those who are vying to succeed him, said one city official who listened to the 7,000-word speech.
"Our goal is to advance projects -- and start new ones -- that will keep our city on the right course for decades to come," Bloomberg said. "And to do that, we'll take on the toughest jobs -- and the most politically difficult jobs."
Showing no reluctance to spark more controversy, Bloomberg provoked shouts of "lies" from City Councilman Jumane Williams (D-Brooklyn) when he resolutely defended the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk tactics, one of the political campaign year's hottest issues.
"I understand that innocent people don't like to be stopped. But innocent people don't like to be shot and killed, either," Bloomberg said. "Stops [and frisks] take hundreds of guns off the street each year."
The possibility of such stops deters bad guys from carrying guns and is a factor in driving the city murder rate and the number of shootings in 2012 to historic lows, Bloomberg told the crowd of city politicians and officials. To make police more responsive and accountable, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has adopted training to make sure stops are done "legally, appropriately and respectfully," the mayor said.
"We have a responsibility to conduct them, and as long as I am mayor, we will not shirk from it," Bloomberg said.
The mayor's posture on stop-and-frisk provoked Williams to shout that the practice doesn't work and that Bloomberg was lying. But Bloomberg didn't seem to notice Williams and went on without a pause.
Bloomberg received loud applause when he voiced support for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation and not a misdemeanor.
The mayor also said the NYPD is issuing desk appearance tickets for people arrested with small amounts of marijuana and is not keeping them in jail overnight.Later, Williams indicated he might have overreacted. But he stuck to his position that police had been using racial profiling during the controversial stop-and-frisks and the practice doesn't reduce crime.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Greenwich Village), seen as a front-runner as the Democratic mayoral candidate, told Newsday later that she disagreed with Bloomberg on the stop-and-frisk issue, but didn't elaborate.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said Williams' conduct was "inexcusable" and that stop-and-frisk was a viable, legal law enforcement tactic. However, he did say police had pushed the number of stops at one point to an unsustainable level.
Kelly later said Bloomberg realizes that public safety is a key underpinning for "everything great that happens in the city."Bloomberg also announced a plan to eliminate foam food containers in the city and to begin a trial program on Staten Island to recycle organic food waste.
Bloomberg said City Hall will push for a rezoning of the area around Grand Central Terminal to allow for new high-rise construction to keep the area a world-class business district.
He also said the city planned to move forward on cleaning up Willets Point in Queens and to begin creating a new community called Greenpoint Landing in Brooklyn with 5,000 new homes, as well as turning the old Domino Sugar plant into housing."We're taking a city built mostly before World War II and renewing it for the needs of New Yorkers today and tomorrow," Bloomberg said.