A day after Mayor Bloomberg stunned New Yorkers by declaring that "there aren't very many panhandlers left" on subways, the billionaire defended the claim and expanded it beyond the transit system.
When asked about the comment seeming out-of-touch, Bloomberg told a reporter he's been taking the subway longer than she has been alive.
"You have no idea what this subway system used to be like," he said. "Today there are dramatically fewer panhandlers, not just on the subway. We should be celebrating the progress that we've made, rather than trying to find reasons why it isn't perfect."
The mayor, who rides the subway accompanied by his security detail, made the original remark about panhandlers on Monday during a news conference at City Hall.
A person asking about cell phone service in the subways mentioned panhandlers, and Bloomberg, appearing irritated, interrupted the question.
"There aren't very many panhandlers left, in all fairness to the MTA, come on," he said.
Bloomberg added that the MTA has "worked very hard to fix that."
Advocates for the homeless and hungry said panhandlers are common in the subways, and said Bloomberg is living in another world.
Joel Berg, head of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, called the remark "absurd" and said it "bears no relation to reality."
"I'd love to live in whatever city the mayor lives in -- it's an entirely different one from the one that I and eight million other New Yorkers live in."