corporate surveillance

Security State of Bloomberg

Not too long ago, an invitation to lunch offered a view of New York City's future. It looks secure, and rather loose at the same time. Since a good spot to meet and eat in midtown refused to present itself during a brainstorm, a member of a news service directed a friend to pick her up at the office.

"Welcome to Bloomberg," yipped an eager young fellow in a headset, lunging at the unprepared visitor stepping over the threshold of the new mayor's eponymous media company.

The keyed up greeter was one of several customer service sentinels strategically posted along the elevator bank on the 15th floor, the main reception area of Bloomberg's Park Avenue headquarters.

These chipper sentries mark the second stage of the organization's security gauntlet, their purpose to intercept and orient non-staff arrivals. Already, in a separate lobby downstairs, a phone call had been placed to the hostess, an ID check executed, and a pre-produced pass adhered to a jacket identifying the visitor and her official Bloomberg sponsor. After passing through an electronic sensing apparatus that read the badge and displayed its contents to a security guard, it was on to the elevator, no doubt equipped with a closed-circuit camera.

At the time no notice was taken, all thoughts on lunch and upcoming chitchat.

But jolted by Harry Headset into the present, or make that the future, noshing reveries swiftly ceased.

Given the controlled Orwellian setting that stretched behind him, Harry could easily have announced, "You are now entering the State of Bloomberg."

For this Bloomberg central command is certainly a state, of mind and being, with its well-defined borders, and its distinct cult of personality.

It's a Disneyland of Mike, the internal TV station projected on monitors in the glass-walled halls with floors lit from below, and a colorful kaleidoscope illuminating an interior glass stairwell.

"Right this way, have a refreshment," the zealous one's script apparently read, with direction to propel new arrivals toward a kiosk of refrigerated drinks and bowls of fresh fruit just past the lobby's freestanding cylindrical aquarium. The short leash implication was that moving about in any other fashion is discouraged. The visitor planted herself on the couch and waited to be rescued by an in-house contact.

A young staffer flitted by in patent leather, high-heeled shoes. Not just open-toed or sling backed pumps, both marginal head office taboos, but barely-there, day-at-the-beach, boudoir thongs. Nothing professional or urban about them. Apparently the sexy thongs were appropriate footwear (along with the rumored dress code of short skirts for women) for an ironclad outfit like Bloomberg.

A visitor cannot sit on the couch too long, unclaimed and banana-in-hand. After about ten minutes the greeter reversed his warm welcome, demanding "Who are you here to see exactly?"

Pressing his headset closer to his ear, he listened to an information feed of unknown origin and import, frowning.

The employee lunch date appeared, apologizing for her lateness.

"I had to go back for my ID badge," she explained, "I can't leave the office without it."

She meant this literally, as glass doors that operate like firewalls refuse to open without sensing the thing.

This photo ID badge has an open sesame effect other places, too. Due to the big man's hefty contributions to the arts, it affords free access to museums and cultural events all over the city. But the mysterious lack of the Bloomberg LP attribution has caused problems with its use in the outside world.

"The last museum I went to, they just stared at me when I held it up as my ticket."

Conversation temporarily halted during a quick pre-lunch trip to the restroom. No visible surveillance in here. But the volume of piped-in music in bathroom was so high it precluded speaking in a natural voice to another person, which must automatically cut down on intimate discussions of the latest in brazen footwear.