Governor Pataki may be the political puppeteer pulling the strings at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - but it was Mayor Bloomberg, who has little role in the contract negotiations with the Transport Workers Union, who was the public face of the effort to criticize the union and stand up for New Yorkers and businesses harmed by the illegal strike.
When the union threatened to strike, Mr. Bloomberg cautioned that no one would win from a strike. When the strike seemed imminent, Mr. Bloomberg detailed a comprehensive contingency plan.
When the workers walked out, the mayor began bunking at the Office of Emergency Management and walking over the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning with other foot-bound New Yorkers. He appeared at City Hall with a fleet of commissioners each day, updating the city on the state of affairs, and using harsh words like "thuggishly" and "selfish" to describe the union's behavior.
Yesterday when the union decided to go back to work, Mr. Bloomberg said he didn't regret anything, he said.
"I was not pleased with Roger Toussaint and his leadership, and said what I said, and I meant it," he said. "I described the behavior of the union leadership, which hurt this city, and I've been careful to save my criticism for the leadership of the union, and I stand by everything I said."
Political observers differed on whether the mayor performed well enough during the three-day transit strike to gain points politically.
A professor of public affairs at Baruch College, Douglas Muzzio, said he believed the mayor would emerge from the crisis with more political capital.
"He was feisty, firm, vigorous, you know. He was the fighting mayor, he was the bridge-crossing mayor," he said. "All in all, the mayor did well. He was sort of the public spokesman."
Mr. Muzzio said New York's already popular mayor would emerge from the strike as an even more popular figure, while the governor, who was largely absent from the public spotlight and less outwardly aggressive than the mayor during the strike, would probably lose popularity.
"At least publicly, it looked like you had the incredible disappearing governor," he said.
A political consultant, Norman Adler, said Mr. Bloomberg might have lost points with the public with his explosive rhetoric.
"I think the mayor probably got pretty high marks for the way the city conducted its affairs, but I think that by being so aggressively critical of the workers, that kind of eroded some of his positives," he said. "It remains to be seen if he was harmed in his ability to be the mayor of all New Yorkers."
A professor of public affairs at Columbia University, Steven Cohen, said politically, the strike was "a draw" for the mayor.
He said Mr. Bloomberg's tough stance made him appear "principled."
But, he said, "All the decision makers, all the people in charge just look like they're incompetent. This is bad for the union, bad for the city, bad for the MTA, and bad for the state."
He continued: "Most people, when they think about the strike, are going to think about walking in the cold and traffic jams and lost business. They're not going to think about anything else.