NEW YORK: When the lights went out in New York City on August 14, a general sense of calm pervaded. Instead of images of fires, broken store windows, and miscreants making off with home appliances, the footage was of compliant, if sweaty, urbanites peacefully streaming toward their homes. Stories of petty crime and profiteering trickled out, but the general good nature of the blackout made even the gougers selling the $10 bottles of water and $15 batteries seem like lovably roguish entrepreneurs.
More often, the coverage focused on how New Yorkers made the best of a bad situation. They drank in candlelit bars, camped out in public parks, canoodled in darkened apartments, and in the case of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, used the good vibes as a way to show the world how the city no longer deserves its image as a churning pot of crime, immorality, and rudeness just about to boil over. You already knew that, of course, unless you were dozing through years of stories about the plummeting crime rate and vast improvements of city services. That the news that the city is in many ways a better place to live isn't news at all didn't stop the mayor.
In press conference after press conference, he expertly brought home what the blackout was not: a repeat of the 1977 power failure which triggered a rash of arson and looting, and long served as a symbol of urban decay.
Skeptics would say that the mayor, in praising his constituents for not using the dark as an excuse to take blunt objects to their neighbors or set their surroundings ablaze while strapping filched Xboxes to their backs, is redefining the concept of low expectations. But we at PRWeek think his salute to New Yorkers, and the consequent flood of press about how the city has survived not only the blackout, but also the recession and September 11, warrants him a PR Play of the Week.