FIRST day as NYC's mayor-elect, Bloomberg visits a campaign stop, then to see a rival

Wednesday, November 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Billionaire Republican Michael Bloomberg, introduced by his predecessor and most important booster, arrived at City Hall as mayor-elect Wednesday after his dramatic victory in the mayor's race.

Bloomberg, following Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to the podium, said he would work with the outgoing administration to achieve a smooth transition _ a particularly important task less than two months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

``The big challenge ahead of us now is the transition,'' Bloomberg told reporters. ``The operative word is 'seamless,' and that's what we're trying to do to the extent that's humanly possible.''

Bloomberg said he expected assistance from Giuliani and his staff. The mayor immediately provided some, announcing that a five-member team from his administration _ including Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota _ would work closely with the Bloomberg team to ease the changeover.

Bloomberg started his first day as mayor-elect by thanking supporters on the streets of Brooklyn, then heading to the Bronx for breakfast with a former Democratic candidate.

Bloomberg, who spent at least $50 million of his fortune on his campaign, completed one of the most dramatic political turnarounds in New York mayoral history, defeating Democrat Mark Green on Tuesday.

``I feel elated, humbled and a little bit tired as well,'' Bloomberg said after sharing a plate of bacon with Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic party nomination.

Bloomberg had trailed badly in polls just weeks ago, but voters ended up following Giuliani's choice to lead the city out of the chaos left by the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg met with a shop owner in Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood who, during the early days of the campaign, had challenged him to return should he win.

Later, he had breakfast near Yankee Stadium with Ferrer, whom Bloomberg said he would ask for advice.

``I need all the help I can get ... and I can't think of anybody better to reach out to than the Bronx borough president, Freddy Ferrer,'' Bloomberg said. The mayor-elect added that he would follow through on a campaign promise to take a salary of $1 a year rather than the $195,000 pay.

Two weeks before the election, polls showed Green, a career politician, with double-digit leads over the Democrat-turned-Republican political novice. But 10 days before the voting, Giuliani endorsed Bloomberg, cut television commercials for him and by election eve was campaigning enthusiastically by his side. Late polls showed the race dead even in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 5-1.

The surge continued into Election Day.

With all precincts reporting in the nine-candidate race, Bloomberg had 719,819 votes, or 50 percent, while Green had 676,560 or 47 percent.

While Giuliani's popularity and Bloomberg's money were boosting the Republican cause, Democrats bickered away what had appeared to be an easy victory.

Green took the blame.

``The mistakes we made were mine,'' he told supporters as he conceded to Bloomberg just after midnight.

Bloomberg's election means Republicans will control City Hall for another four years. Giuliani held the job for eight years and will step down Dec. 31 only because of a term-limits law he briefly considered trying to circumvent.

Bloomberg, a 59-year-old divorced father of two, is the founder of a financial services company that carries his name. Before this year, he was perhaps best-known to readers of the city's tabloids as the wealthy escort for some of New York's most glamorous women and readers of financial pages for his business news service.

But the Boston-area native used his fortune _ estimated at $4 billion _ to secure the help of political veterans. Media guru David Garth, who helped make Edward Koch mayor, was on the team as was William Cunningham, a one-time chief of staff to former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and political aide to former Gov. Hugh Carey.

As the campaign wound down, both Koch and Carey gave their blessings to Bloomberg. Common Cause, the citizen lobbying group, said it was the most expensive mayor's race in U.S. history.

Green, the city's elected public advocate and a former aide to consumer advocate Ralph Nader, has been seeking a major electoral victory for years. He failed in a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1986 and again in 1998. He spent $12 million on the mayor's race, limited in part by his participation in the city's public campaign financing system.

As the campaign drew to a close, Green found himself in an unexpected battle for black and Hispanic voters, a traditional Democratic resource.

In a party runoff, Green narrowly defeated Ferrer, who was seeking to become the first Hispanic elected mayor. Resentment from that campaign lingered; exit polling found Green and Bloomberg running almost even among Hispanic voters while about seven in 10 black voters supported the Democrat.

Bloomberg portrayed himself as the natural successor to Giuliani, citing his success in the private sector as good experience for running the cash-strapped city. He has already said he won't raise taxes, but will freeze hiring and seek to trim expenses.