New York mayor Michael Bloomberg builds his British Empire in London
A remarkable article on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's growing links with London and affection for the city has been painted in a lengthy article in the New York Times.
Fast friends: Boris and Michael
It starts with the biggest development in London's financial district, " even Olympics-jaded Londoners call it grandiose: two bronze-and-stone towers, connected by sky-bridges atop the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman temple," says the NYT.
The project is Bloomberg Place, the future European home of Michael R. Bloomberg’s company and charity.
"But it is only one piece of the New York City mayor’s growing British empire," says the Times.
Bloomberg is also underwriting a major expansion of one of England’s most prestigious galleries, in Kensington Gardens.
He has the ear of London mayor, Boris Johnson, who sent aides to City Hall in New York "for tutelage in municipal management."
Mayor Bloomberg and his aides court London’s elite, says the NYT, holding expensive dinners for tastemakers and Downing Street officials.
"The buzz is so great that a chief aide to Prime Minister David Cameron impishly floated the idea of a Bloomberg candidacy, for mayor of London."
Once unshackled from the 24/7 needs of running New York, Bloomberg — his reign as mayor ends on Jan 1 — "is exporting his vast quantities of financial, social and political capital to this ancient city, where he has long yearned for influence."
"Manhattan is home, and Bermuda a weekend escape, but no place has captured the mayor’s imagination like London, a kind of Bloomberg utopia where guns are banned, drivers pay a fee at peak hours and bicycling is a popular mode of commuting."
The affection, it turns out, is mutual: Bloomberg wrote a blurb for a book Boris . Johnson wrote. “Mike’s had a lot of cut-through in Britain,” Boris said in an interview last month. “We endlessly try to find ways of entertaining him, but generally speaking, it’s the other way around.”
Bloomberg has paid for museum audio guides, stamped with his name, and sponsored the Royal Court theatre’s “Bloomberg Mondays,” with tickets sold at a discount.
He bought a box at Ascot- and once spent a night at Prince Charles’s home in Scotland, Birkhall.
The NYT reports that the mayor, who keeps luxurious homes himself, later told an aide to Johnson he had been unimpressed: “Won’t stay there again,” he said.
The New York mayor has held parties at his two-story apartment on exclusive Cadogan Square, but it's hard to spend a lot of time there. "Nowadays, he often spends less than 24 hours at a time in London, preferring to sleep on his private jet," says the Times.
Bloomberg Place, soon to appear on the London map, is currently a "mud pit crawling with cranes and bulldozers. By 2016, it will be home to a futuristic campus designed by the architect Norman Foster: it is to include a pair of undulating office buildings, pedestrian plazas, spaces for 390 bicycles and, if the mayor gets his way, branches of New York restaurants.:
“It’s not a timid building,” Foster said, on the phone from his home in Switzerland. “It will leave a large impression on London.”
In 2008, moments after he was elected London’s mayor, says the NYT, Boris Johnson was startled to receive a cellphone call from an American area code.It was the New York mayor.
Bloomberg has not let the 3,500-mile distance from New York prevent him from dabbling in British politics.
When David Cameron sought the prime minister’s office in 2010, Bloomberg arranged for top political strategists from SKDKnickerbocker to help out, says the NYT.
Bloomberg and his company have contributed nearly $1.5 million to English candidates and political parties. And he has spoken twice at gatherings of the Conservative Party.
“We could do a swap,” said Boris Johnson, who was born in New York. “When’s he standing down?”