As the financial crisis shakes the Big Apple to its core, New Yorkers are looking for a hero to save the day. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is about to put on a cape and offer his services.
On Thursday, he is expected to tell the citizens of New York that he will seek to overturn the city's term-limits law, which restricts mayors to two four-year terms, and run a third time. He has waffled for weeks on whether he wants to stay in office, but with the meltdown on Wall Street, the former investment banker now feels he is the right man to lead the city.
There was outrage when former Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to extend his term after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. News of Bloomberg's announcement, however, caused excitement in some quarters of New York.
"I would support him if he wanted to run the city for the next hundred years," said Dean Jenks, a Lower East Side resident. "I think the guy's super. Like Superman."
In some ways, New York is facing a downturn of comic book proportions. People are scared, and there seem to be dark forces at work. In Tompkins Square Park, everyone had a nightmare scenario.
"We're facing a financial and political and social crisis," Abe Heckor said from a park bench. "Our budget's heading down the toilet."
John Johnson, walking his dog, knew the name of the villian: "Greed".
Sounds like a job for technocrat Bloomberg. The question is whether New Yorkers will accept him as their savior.
He has enormous political savvy, and he has shown calm in the recent market downturn. He's a gifted manager. Under his tenure, education scores have gone up and crime has gone down.
Marie Viscozul, rocking her baby in the park, said he has one qualification no other politician has: "He's a billionaire. He knows how to deal with financial crisis here."
That multibillion-dollar fortune and his sky-high approval rating seemingly would make it easy for Bloomberg to overcome election hurdles. But Bloomberg might have met his match with the city's term-limits law. It has been passed twice by New York City voters, and politicians are scared to mess with it.
Even people such as Johnson who rave about the mayor are skeptical about ditching the law.
"Too much time for one person starts to corrupt the whole system," Johnson said. "Maybe he'd be great in a third term, but I don't think he should run for it and I don't think he should take it."
It will come down to whether New Yorkers are scared enough about their city's economy and confident enough in Bloomberg to forget their affection for term limits.
But if Bloomberg wins and somehow doesn't save the city, the superhero act may wear thin. The last two New York mayors to serve a third term, Robert Wagner and Ed Koch, struggled through their final four years in office, showing that even a onetime hero can overstay his welcome.