In 2001, the cozy B.B. King Club on West 42nd Street was adequate for rookie candidate Michael Bloomberg’s election night crowd. Last night, Bloomberg’s spare-no-expense campaign booked the city’s biggest meeting venue east of the Javits Center– the vast Metropolitan Ballroom at the Sheraton New York Hotel on Seventh Avenue. And still it was crowded.
By the time the grinning 108th-mayor of the City of New York took the stage at 11:10 p.m. to claim his whopping 20-point reelection victory over Democratic challenger Freddy Ferrer there was barely enough room for his thousands of supporters to raise a plastic glass in his honor, let alone wave one of those sporty “Mike for Mayor” wood-and-paper fans that were passed out like candy.
That wasn’t all attendees received. They dined at a dozen buffet tables spread around the room, all loaded with sandwiches, hot dogs, crispy chicken pieces (choice of sweet sauce or hot), cookies and canapés. You need kosher? They had kosher too, special tables with hot pastrami, pickles and salads. They washed that down at the open bars, stocked with a never-ending supply of beer, wine, soda, and bottled water.
Diners noshed as a Latin band played salsa tunes, an entertainment choice that suggested to many that the mayor’s campaign staff wanted to toss one last taunt in their take-no-prisoners campaign against Ferrer, who was seeking to become the city’s first Latino mayor.
But despite the gilt-edged trappings, the crowd in the Metropolitan Ballroom was, just as their candidate had promised, as diverse as the city itself. There were purple tee-shirted members of the building service workers union, carpenters in windbreakers, Hassids in long black coats, and young black and Hispanic men and women dolled up in their finest night-out-on-the town duds. They squeezed up against the usual troop of graying and dark-suited businessmen, but, for a change, it wasn’t their night alone.
There was the same diversity, albeit carefully prearranged, in the 300 people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the grandstand-style stage. Gay-marriage foe Simcha Felder, an orthodox councilman from Brooklyn, stood next to Lower East Side councilmember and lesbian activist Margarita Lopez, two cross-over Democrats who endorsed Bloomberg. Plumbers union leader George Reilly and hotel workers president Peter Ward stood near the labor-wary Republican congressman from Staten Island, Vito Fossella. Brooklyn State assemblyman Dov Hikind was next to Queens pastor Floyd Flake. Doctors union leader Barry Liebowitz stood alongside the red-satin jacketed Guardian Angels boss Curtis Sliwa. Liebowitz joyfully swayed and clapped his hands as members of a black gospel choir, arrayed as bookends on either side of the stage, sang “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” Sliwa, his red beret never slipping, stood impassively, his arms crossed on his chest.
Rudy Giuliani, whose two election night victory parties were notable for the near-uniform whiteness of his adoring supporters, stood next to Ed Koch, another former mayor and author of the noted book, “Giuliani: Nasty Man.”
“Who’s that great big guy up front?” asked a slim, bearded rabbi from Crown Heights in the crowd. “It’s MAGIC JOHNSON!” half-a-dozen people jammed in near him gleefully responded. Indeed it was the bigger-than-life Lakers legend who finally brought the key player to the floor, in the best NBA-style introduction, in a roar that could be heard even without the mic. “Let’s welcome Miiiiiiiiiiiichael Blooooomberg!”
The diversity on display at the Sheraton last night may be, in the end, what makes Mike Bloomberg genuinely different. It’s an achievement that he didn’t have to spend $70 million (and still counting) to proclaim, but a prized achievement nonetheless, one he noted from the stage. “Never has there been such a broad alliance,” he said. And he was right.