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New York Mayor Bloomberg touts own record in farewell tour

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The subway delivering New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the latest stop on his legacy tour was running late.

Bloomberg, who is set to leave office on December 31, was touting the extension of a major Manhattan subway line, which he said will help complete the transformation of the western edge of Midtown Manhattan from a "no-man's land" to a hot new neighborhood.

As the clock of his tenure runs out, Bloomberg is taking a victory lap to cap his three terms in office. Stops include the city's outer reaches to show off areas that were once desolate but now are thriving.

The changes have come as the result of a surge in development outside the city's traditional business centers as well as an historic drop in violent crime, administration officials have said.

"The momentum in this city is the legacy we're really leaving," said Bloomberg, addressing reporters more than 100 feet beneath 34th Street.

Bloomberg, who hails from Boston but came to New York in the 1960s to start a career in finance, recalled the crime-ridden, graffiti-covered subway cars of years past. These days, violent crime on subways is rare and cars are kept clean.

The extension of the 7 line, which runs across Midtown Manhattan and into Queens, is the "perfect symbol" of New York as a city where "big projects can be done," said Bloomberg. It has also been a pet project for the mayor, who said the two drilling machines used to bore into the underground rock were named for his daughters, Emma and Georgina.

The larger redevelopment of the area, which is home to the Jacob Javits Convention Center, since 2005 has taken in $11 billion in private investment for offices, hotels and residential buildings.

Opinions from people on the street were mixed.

At a nearby bus stop, Charlie Jones, 35, a health insurance claims examiner, said he wasn't convinced that average New Yorkers have benefited from the city's changed landscape as Bloomberg has argued.

"He turned New York City into a corporation," Jones said. "He did good with the businesses, but for the little people? Not much."

Dharmenera Patel, 44, who has owned a news kiosk in the neighborhood since 1994, expressed a concern that was more specific to his own business. He said he worried the subway line would limit foot traffic and hurt his business.

"A lot of people will just take the subway," he said.

But a block away, Fazela Hosein, 47, an assistant manager at a local deli, pointed to the city's historic drop in crime and said she thought Bloomberg's legacy will be positive.

"He's done good here," she said, adding that she is looking forward to the increased business a subway line could bring.

Work began on the station in 2007 and the project, the first city funded subway extension in over 60 years, was also "basically on budget and on time," Bloomberg said.

(Editing by Edith Honan and Gunna Dickson)

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