The first battle of the 2009 mayor's race may be over being perceived as the candidate most closely aligned with Mayor Bloomberg.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a longtime critic of Mr. Bloomberg, appears to be laying the groundwork for a campaign that will link him to the popular mayor's legacy.
During a speech in Manhattan yesterday, he praised Mr. Bloomberg's leadership and willingness to lean into problems.
Mr. Weiner also pledged to ensure, as much as possible, that the Bloomberg administration's overall development agenda succeeds if he is elected mayor — with the possible exception of the city's plan to redevelop Willets Point, a 61-acre site near Shea Stadium that Mr. Weiner has not taken a position on yet.
"I like the ideas of reform that he brings to government every single day. I don't always agree with him on his policies, as many of you know, but I do believe that at the end of the day the question for the next mayor is, 'Are you going to keep that spirit of innovation alive?'" Mr. Weiner said. "And the answer for the next mayor has to be, 'Yes.'"
Mr. Weiner's comments, made at a Crain's breakfast forum at the Grand Hyatt New York, are a sharp departure from earlier statements he has made about the mayor, in which he argued that Mr. Bloomberg hadn't done enough to create jobs, protect the middle class, and wrestle more for the city out of Albany. He told The New York Sun in June that the mayor gets a pass from "a lapdog press corps."
Mr. Bloomberg appeared pleased by Mr. Weiner's pledge, calling it "one of the nicest things he's ever said" about the mayor's initiatives.
"I can only hope that if he is my successor, then he does that. We think we're doing things right," he said.
Another likely mayoral contender, the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, has forged a close working relationship with the mayor in advance of a 2009 campaign, aligning herself with him on key policy issues, including congestion pricing.
Mr. Weiner, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens and finished second in the Democratic mayoral primary in 2005, used yesterday's speech to present his case for keeping New York a center of the "middle class" by cutting taxes for those New Yorkers, advocating for "affordable" housing, keeping the city safe, building top-notch public schools, expanding access to health care, creating new jobs, ensuring that New Yorkers have a safe and reliable transportation system, and fighting for the city to gain more authority over its fate from Albany.
He argued against opening low-cost stores, such as Wal-Mart, in the city, saying that neighborhood shopping streets should be valued and protected.
He detailed his thoughts on the challenges facing the city in a 17-page booklet titled "Keys to the City: Keeping New York the Capital of the Middle Class."
Mr. Weiner said the city needs to lower taxes for businesses willing to create jobs in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, and said New Yorkers should focus on keeping companies from leaving the city for nearby locales, such as Jersey City or Stamford, Conn., which float financial incentives designed to lure businesses.
"We should watch very carefully what they are doing and realize that in many cases they are doing it better," he said.