Mr. Bloomberg's visit, by contrast, was carefully planned, in the sort of media stagecraft that has become such a staple of modern governing: a symbolic show of solidarity. And the mayor, new to politics five years ago, approached the task with businesslike determination that did not mask his fury at the transit workers' early-morning decision to walk off the job.
Where Mr. Koch had buoyantly bantered with commuters, Mr. Bloomberg hardly interacted with his fellow travelers as he steamed across the bridge - and could not have even if he had tried: He was penned in by a thick ring of television cameras, bodyguards, officials and reporters. Occasional shouts of "Get it settled" or "Give 'em hell, Mike" from fellow bridge strollers could barely break through the jockeying mass of humanity.
And Mr. Bloomberg said as much later at a City Hall news briefing, at which he ticked off the strike's toll to the city with a list of grim statistics and some of the most heated oratory of his mayoralty. In a suit and tie and standing behind his lectern in the City Hall Blue Room, Mr. Bloomberg seemed far more at home than he had earlier in the morning.
"The leadership of the T.W.U. has thuggishly turned their backs on New York City and disgraced the noble concept of public service," he said.
Discussing the city's bitter but ultimately successful labor negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the sanitation workers, among others, he said, "For all of the acrimony they never walked out on the job, walked out on New York and hurt the people that they work for."
When a reporter noted that this was unusually strong language for a mayor who avoids pounding his lectern, he responded, "Nobody's ever deliberately tried to hurt the people of this city during my watch, in such an explicit ways - this is just unconscionable."
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
The members of the TWU are not thugs, they are the people who make New York work. They, not the bond traders or your employees, who are the heart and soul of the city. When they don't work, we feel it.
But you are using racial code words to demean the working class of the city. Men and women who work day and night, rain and snow and 100 degree heat. To demean them, to question their sincerity is offensive.
Maybe such language makes you feel like a big man, but to most New Yorkers, you might as well as called then ungrateful niggers.
Because the TWU is made of people who are New York's winners, people who graduated high school, served in the military and then came home to serve this city. To suggest that they are on par with the criminals who endanger their lives and the lives of riders is a grave insult. No other union has been so insulted and demeaned by the leadership of this state and city. Yet, they are to be bullied into going back to work?
Well, calling a man a nigger gets his back up and when you use the word thug, in this context, you mean the same thing. The more you talk, the longer the strike will be. Because they won't be bullied by cheap words written by soft hands.
You are not man enough to bully people who work with live electricity, dodge city traffic and work on rail cars in the snow. So you might want to get off your hind legs and realize you are dealing with men, not peons.
Some of the same people you're vilifying thought you deserved a second term and voted accordingly. They thought you had the city's interests at heart. But obviously, you rather protect the MTA than the 7 million riders of New York.
You and your editorial page allies need to realize that 52 percent of New Yorkers support this strike. A majority. A majority of people walking to work in the cold, who understand if they can't get a contract, no one can. We are the friends and families of the TWU, they are not thuggish strangers to us. They go to work in the cold, in the rain, in the heat when we sit in offices or work at home. They, not the overpaid management of the MTA makes New York work.
You might want to remember that before you insult working New Yorkers again.