New Yorkers have mixed feelings about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legacy as his days at city hall wind down, but amid questions about what's next for the billionaire mayor, he is winning high praises on the international stage for his long record of philanthropy and stewardship of the Big Apple.
Bloomberg on Monday was named the first-ever recipient of the $1 million Genesis Prize, which the award’s organizers have described as the “Jewish Nobel Prize.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will formally present the award to Bloomberg next May in Jerusalem.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group, a charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires, set up the award earlier this year to honor “exceptional human beings” committed to the “betterment of mankind” who will inspire the next generation of Jews.
In a statement, Bloomberg said he was “deeply honored” to receive the prize. He’ll donate the $1 million prize to a philanthropic cause that he’ll announce next year.
“Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy,” Bloomberg said. “The Genesis Prize embraces and promotes those same values and ethics — a common thread among the Jewish people worldwide that has helped move humankind forward for centuries."
According to the group, Bloomberg was picked from more than 200 nominees around the world as the inaugural recipient because of “his track record of outstanding public service and his role as one of the world’s greatest philanthropists.”
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg sets a very high bar as the first recipient of the Genesis Prize," Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, one of the judges for the award, said in a statement. "It is a great honor for the entire Jewish people to celebrate his achievements, his commitment to improving the world, and in particular his city: New York. His pursuit of the agenda centered on health, innovation and social justice has been unwavering.”
Bloomberg has long said his goal is to be remembered as one of New York City’s best mayors, but his popularity has taken a hit as he prepares to leave office in late December. His handling of the city — including his support of the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic that allowed police officers to randomly search people without cause — became a key issue in the Democratic mayoral primary.
Public advocate Bill de Blasio won the primary by positioning himself as the anti-Bloomberg in the race, arguing that income inequality in New York had created a “tale of two cities” for residents under the mayor’s stewardship.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist poll found 45 percent of registered voters in the city believe Bloomberg is doing an “excellent or good” job as mayor, compared to 52 percent who rated his job as “fair or poor.”
That’s major nose-dive since his ratings four years ago, when he successfully fought to overturn term limits to seek an unprecedented third term at ciity hall. Back then, the same poll found 68 percent rated Bloomberg’s job performance as “excellent or good,” compared to 32 percent who said “fair or poor.”
But Bloomberg has professed not to read the polls, and he’s vowed to stay out of the limelight as he winds down his final months in office.