INDIAN LAKE - Like any prominent elected official, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has likely endured his share of heckling over the years.
On Monday, he got an earful from an unlikely source.
"You're going down, Bloomberg! You're going down!" New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shouted repeatedly from his raft as the state's two biggest political figures readied for a much-hyped 3-mile whitewater rafting race on the Indian River.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chat as they walk down to the put-in spot on the Indian River for the Adirondack Challenge.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The second and last day of the Adirondack Challenge ended with Cuomo's team besting Bloomberg's by 18 seconds, although both men later told the press that "New York wins."
"The reason the governor put this together was to get some attention for a great part of the state, so more people know about it," Bloomberg said. "It's friendly competition. It's good for New York."
Monday's race, which featured about a dozen raft teams, was the finale in the Adirondack Challenge, an invite-only event launched by Cuomo this year as a way to promote tourism in the Park.
On Sunday, 25 rafts - filled with state and local appointed and elected officials from all corners of New York - followed the same course down the river's class 3 rapids, starting in one-minute intervals at a put-in on Chain Lakes Road and ending at the confluence of the Hudson and Indian rivers.
Bloomberg, 71 - sporting a New York City Sanitation Department T-shirt, shorts and sneakers - said he's been to the Adirondacks often to bicycle and ski, but never to raft. The mayor said he had gone kayaking once before, 15 years ago in Washington state with his oldest daughter.
"This was the governor's idea," Bloomberg said. "He called me up, and I said, 'Oh, I can't do that.' He said in his usual way, 'You will come.' That was the end of that. I'm mayor of a little city, and he's governor of a big state. You've got to do what he says."
By the time the news media rafts reached the finish line, both Cuomo and Bloomberg were on shore, shaking hands with their fellow competitors. Bloomberg was completely soaked. He said he didn't fall in the river during the race but jumped in for a swim when it was over.
"I don't think anybody was happy that I did that," the mayor said. "The security guys gagged."
Bloomberg said he enjoyed the roughly 20-minute trip down the river.
"It's beautiful," he said. "Dense forest and open areas. The rapids were a lot of fun to go through, but it really is very picturesque. One of the things that strikes you is how much water goes through there and how fast it goes. This is really big-country rafting."
At an awards ceremony Monday afternoon at Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek, Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Farber and state Sen. Betty Little thanked Bloomberg for participating in the challenge.
"We hope he enjoyed himself and will spread the word about how beautiful the Adirondacks are, and what a great destination the Adirondacks are, especially if we can get some of those 50 million tourists who visit New York to come up here," Little said.
Little said the event received "priceless" state and national media attention over the two days.
Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells presented Bloomberg with the key to his town and thanked him for helping to promote the Adirondacks.
"The next time I travel to New York City, I'll make sure to bring the North Country press with me to return the favor and promote tourism in the city," Wells joked.
"I think you should understand how much the governor has done to promote the economy up here and make sure that we take care of what God gave us, some of the great open spaces," Bloomberg said. "We need jobs. We also have to make sure we have something for our children, and I think we have the right balance up here."
Bloomberg, who's in the final year of his third term as New York City's mayor, said he'd visit the Adirondacks again after he leaves office. He also encouraged people here to visit the city.
"He is always there to help a neighbor," Cuomo said of Bloomberg. "He stepped up. He took the day. We appreciate it. You've done a tremendous benefit for this entire region, and we thank you."
Cuomo closed his remarks by debuting a new I Love NY television commercial that showcases recreation opportunities in the Adirondacks. He said it will be shown across the state and across the country using more than $1 million in state advertising funds.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.