woensdag, mei 28, 2003

Discomfort of Life Crimes

"Well I see that the world is upside-down
Seems that my pockets were filled up with gold
And now the clouds, well they've covered over
And the wind is blowing cold"

-Tom Waits, Anywhere I Lay My Head

It's hard to miss all the great news coming out of NYC these days.

The draconian anti-smoking laws which went into effect almost two months ago are killing business. Among the 50 establishments surveyed by the New York Post, 34 reported declining business, some claiming that revenues were cut in half. Six businesses had laid off staff or cut back on employee hours.

"The administration has stuck a knife in the back of the only industry that is holding this city up," said Bill O'Donnell of the Corner Bistro. "This was a vibrant industry that generated a lot of money for the city, and they went and killed it."

Of course, anti-smoking czar, Mayor Bufoonberg, in a fit of irony, claims "They're [The Post] going to make up stuff no matter what.". As it is was pointed out, not two days after the bar story ran, anti-smoking activist Dr. Elizabeth Whelan told MacIntosh that Bufoonberg's initial claims that his smoking ban would prevent 1,000 bar and restaurant workers' deaths from secondhand smoke was "patently absurd." The real number she said would be closer to between "zero and hypothetically 10 to 15."

But wait! While Bufoonberg's claims were patently absurd, the latest bit of news, transforming NYC from fun city to fine city, is even more absurd. In a desperate attempt to boost city coffers, Bufoonberg has ordered cops to churn out money-making summonses.

To date, a pregnant woman was issued a $50 citation for sitting on the subway stairs to take a rest, a Bronx man was ticketed for sitting on a milk crate, a Manhattan woman was ticketed for using outdated blue recycling bags to throw away her trash, a New Jersey man was cited for his car's loose passenger mirror and a Brooklyn man was fined for having an oven in front of his building, a Brooklyn gym owner Michael Ganim got smacked with $12,500 in fines this month. His crime? His awnings contained the facility's logo, phone number, and "excessive wording" in violation of a lightly enforced 1961 zoning ordinance. So, Ganim ripped down his $20,000 awnings hoping to avoid this fine. A 22-year-old Israeli tourist received a $50 ticket for occupying two seats on a largely empty F Train to Jamaica, Queens. His arms and head had slid into the adjacent seat after Kashdia had dozed off. He woke up to find two officers writing him a summons. It's clear that Bufoonberg is really pushing a quality of life agenda forward but what isn't clear is whose lives are getting the quality.

While the city experiences cuts and layoffs in areas like fire-fighting, education and other essential city services, Bufoonberg's wealthy friends have avoided reinstatement of the tax on stock sales that once brought millions into the city’s coffers. He did ask for a commuter tax (a tax on non-residents who work in the city), but knew Pataki would never approve it. Instead, the Mayor implemented a property tax increase, much of which can be passed on to the city’s poor renters.

Quality-of-life complaints in Manhattan have skyrocketed over the past two months - and a lot of residents, cops and business owners are placing the blame on Mayor Bloomberg's smoking ban.

"We've definitely had more complaints since the smoking ban - noise, fights out on the sidewalk, harassment of pedestrians. You name it, it's gone up," said a cop who patrols Bleecker Street.

And of course, if you've got enough money to pony up $10 for a bottle of beer, you can smoke to your heart's content in the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel where it appears, the right payoffs have been made.

As Bob Herbert notes:

"So the Plaza seems committed to flagrantly ignoring the law. While the "little people" from the Bronx to Staten Island are dealing with the inconvenience of the ban — not to mention the reduced business for bar owners and substantially reduced tips for bartenders and waiters — the power crowd in the Oak Bar continues to light up in grand style, and the owners are cashing in.

For the Oak Bar, the ban has actually been a boon. Perhaps this is another one of those laws that apply only to the little people."

Next time around, if you're looking to see the quality of your life take an upturn, you might want to vote Bufoonberg for ex-Mayor.

Speaking of exes, that other great hypocrisy in the sky, (admittedly, not the smoothest transition) our exhaulted ruler and eternal savior George W. Bush is oh fer two hunting down his enemies. First Osama and now Saddam. Will the "real" Saddam please stand up? via Bush Wars.

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