How a Banker Helped Save N.Y. (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)

New York|How a Banker Helped Save N.Y. (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)BIG CITYFelix Rohatyn was from a different era, when an ambitious rich man could be content to rescue a city and not run the world.Felix G. Rohatyn, center, believed in the commitment to public service — in his case, rescuing the city he…

How a Banker Helped Save N.Y. (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)

New York|How a Banker Helped Save N.Y. (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)BIG CITYFelix Rohatyn was from a different era, when an ambitious rich man could be content to rescue a city and not run the world.Felix G. Rohatyn, center, believed in the commitment to public service — in his case, rescuing the city he loved.Credit…Neal Boenzi/The New York TimesDec. 20, 2019On Tuesday morning at Frank E. Campbell, the Madison Avenue funeral home, Michael R. Bloomberg (former mayor, current presidential candidate) delivered a eulogy in memory of Felix G. Rohatyn — banker, writer, urbanist, savior, mensch. That Mr. Rohatyn had come to this country as a World War II refugee, that he had forged a singular life in public service in gratitude for what America had given him, that he listened passionately and brought discordant voices together to harmonize in the name of the city’s resurrection — this was the theme of Mr. Bloomberg’s warm appreciation.Historians have pointed out that there is an obvious through-line, for better or worse, from Mr. Rohatyn’s New York to Bloomberg’s. As a financier who chaired the public-benefits corporation created to rescue the city from insolvency in the 1970s, Mr. Rohatyn’s dominance marked the beginnings of a power shift in New York’s governance in which the wealthiest and their political supplicants assumed more and more control. And yet the line is hardly as straight as it seems. It bends and curves when it hits the volcano of arrogance that so often characterizes today’s moneyed class and the collective belief that if your portfolio is big enough you are entitled to manage the empire. When you consider that “leading the free world” was the expressed ambition of Adam Neumann, the departed head of the failed WeWork, the goal of simply becoming the president of the United States, shared by
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