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Graeme Bacque (
Tue, 08 Sep 1998 12:35:52 -0400

September 8, 1998=20

 Dateline: New York City=20

Shiny new Big Apple tastes bitter to some=20

Crackdown on crime, grime goes too far, critics say=20

By Kathleen Kenna=20
Toronto Star Washington Bureau

NEW YORK - Rudy Giuliani is America's Mr. Clean.=20

Want to stop traffic with a squeegee? Not in New York.=20

Panhandle? Snooze in a doorway? Not here.=20

Slap flyers on parked cars? No way.=20

No dirty water. No dirty people. No trash - on sidewalks or at peep shows.
No dirty words. And no dirty cabs.=20

Welcome to New York the Nice.=20

In almost five years as mayor, Giuliani has overseen one of the most
ambitious overhauls of any major American city in modern history.=20

He's cracked down and cleaned up and kicked out - from the mob to the
homeless - to reclaim a city once so corrupt and filthy and crime-ridden
that many complained its only ruler was fear.=20

The former prosecutor who won a take-no-prisoners reputation for fighting
organized crime has transferred that zeal to a ``quality-of-life'' crusade
watched by urban leaders from Toronto to Los Angeles.=20

Giuliani has won praise and enmity - some call him dictator, or worse - for
a law-and-order crackdown that has blanketed New York with new legislation
and hiked penalties for other offences affecting almost every part of urban

As a result, the metropolis once notorious as a crime capital is named by
the FBI as the safest big city in the United States. New York had the
largest sustained crime drop - 40.7 per cent - of any American city in the
past four years.=20


''The quality-of-life enforcement is the backbone of our ability to fight
crime,'' Police Commissioner Harold Safir says.=20

He acknowledges the startling police presence, especially in Manhattan's
tourist areas, as an expansion of the fabled NYPD to 40,000 officers, the
largest force in city history. But Safir credits New York's turnaround with
a philosophical change inspired by Giuliani.=20

``We're putting the broken- windows theory into practice: If you take care
of the small things, then you'll start to have an impact on the big
things,'' Safir says. ``In 1993 (pre-Giuliani), turnstile jumping was
almost an Olympic sport. That gave the message that if you didn't get
arrested for turnstile jumping, then maybe you wouldn't get arrested for
something else. The same thing was going on out on the streets.=20

``We had a city that was in disorder. The message that government and the
police were giving is that this is part of urban life. There's nothing we
can do about it. . . .=20

``Everybody was sick and tired of crime. Everybody was sick and tired of
the disorder. I wouldn't even let my kids come into the city. Now, people
come here because they know they're going to be safe and they're not going
to be harassed.''=20

The crackdown on the unkempt - from storefronts, to vacant lots, to rundown
buildings, to vagrants - fixes broken windows in property, in crime, in the
city's image, in its confidence.=20


Late last month, new tourism data backed that claim: New York saw a record
33 million visitors in 1997, up 4 million from 1996. It's the most popular
U.S. city for Canadians and travellers from overseas.=20

Residents chirp about the new-found freedom of walking downtown at night.=20

Tourists who recall ankle-deep garbage at curbs are amazed to walk through
litter-free neighbourhoods. They ask about the disappearance of street

Newcomers marvel about the city that elevated rudeness to a high art now
selling itself as, well, polite.=20

Even jaywalking, the New York crime considered almost a civic duty, appears
in danger of becoming a spectator sport.=20

Television host Rosie O'Donnell was introduced recently to Rudy's Rules
when she tried to jaywalk on Broadway.=20

Gawkers shouted the city's new punch line - ``We're telling Rudy!'' - until
a chagrined O'Donnell retreated to wait for the light to change.=20

Can this really be New York?=20

In a miserable downpour, hundreds of theatre-goers wait, politely, for
hours at a Times Square booth hawking discount tickets. Hearing them define
the Giuliani reformation is like listening to a Mr. Clean commercial.=20

``It's a lot cleaner and a lot nicer than it was. You didn't see people out
after dark before,'' Paul Kleiner, a New Jersey businessman, says. ``It's a
lot more touristic, but there's not as many people selling food and stuff
on the street and I always liked that. I always thought it was a big part
of New York.''=20

In the next few weeks, Giuliani is expected to announce new rules for hot
dog carts and other street vendors. His recent attempt to sweep them from a
144-block core of the city was dashed by an outcry about saving one of New
York's most beloved institutions.=20

A clampdown on a less treasured but crucial institution - taxis - was
deemed long overdue until a cab strike crippled the city this year.=20

As much as New Yorkers welcomed tougher penalties for filthy cars and
sloppy, sometimes dangerous and illegally operating drivers, there's a
growing concern that the cleanup is out of control. Among the fine print in
the new 46-page rulebook for cabbies and limo drivers are hefty fines for
drivers who can't persuade passengers to use seatbelts and refrain from

``I always liked him because he was consistent. He always did what he
promised,'' Louis Louissaint, a 12-year cab driver, says. ``Now I call him
the bully mayor because he's going after the defenceless and little people
are losing their jobs.=20


``We needed to clean up New York cabs; we needed cops back on the beat. But
a lot of what he's imposed is unfair. A lot of people - immigrants like me
- could go out of business very easily,'' says Haiti-born Louissaint.=20

>From cabbies to hot dog vendors to social workers, Giuliani has been
attacked for targeting immigrants and the most needy. His drive to
privatize social services and make public agencies more accountable has had
a huge impact on New York, from layoffs of hospital workers helping the
very poor to the shutdown of City University remedial classes attended
mostly by minorities.=20

One of New York's most highly respected ministers, Rev. Calvin Butts of
Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, is among many criticizing Giuliani for
catering to the business community and wealthy re- sidents.=20

``The policies and the man are racist,'' Butts charges. ``His policies, on
health care - hospitals in particular - police, employment, education . . .
hurt primarily black and brown people but especially poor people.''=20

While Giuliani remains popular in public opinion surveys, his impeachment
or voter-ordered recall is suggested by Butts and a long list of those
protesting civil rights abuses during this administration.=20

``He has crushed the democratic process and is using police and the courts
to force it (quality of life mission) down the throats of New York like
he's a king or emperor. He's terrorizing our city,'' street artist Robert
Lederman says. He's been arrested about 40 times in four years for protests
- but never convicted - and led several winning lawsuits fighting
Giuliani's bid to control artists, demonstrators and others.=20

``I didn't think about First Amendment rights (freedom of speech and
assembly, for instance), until Giuliani started taking them away from me,''
Lederman adds, noting a recent court decision upholding the right of New
York artists to sell and show their work without city-ordered permits
sought by Giuliani.=20

One of Giuliani's most nationally acclaimed successes, the country's
largest workfare program, also is attacked locally as a human rights
disaster. The mandatory work-for-welfare scheme is copied across the United
States for reducing welfare cases, but faces many court challenges by
social justice groups alarmed by the disabled, sick and unemployable forced
to do manual labour in exchange for aid.=20

These groups contend the poor are humiliated by the city's most visible
workfare program, which makes welfare recipients wear orange vests while
picking up garbage.=20

``I think it diminishes us as a society,'' says Brooklyn lawyer Lester
Helfman. ``This mayor is particularly mean-spirited.=20

``Whatever merit may exist in (workfare), the result is that it's hurting
people. People who don't have the ability to work are being pushed off food
assistance, losing their food stamps and their Medicaid. There's an unreal
expectation about who can work.''=20

Human Resources Commissioner Jason Turner defends a program popular with
taxpayers for paring welfare recipients to less than 790,000 from 1.16
million - about one in seven - when Giuliani was elected in 1993.=20


``The New York public is overwhelmingly in favour of helping public welfare
recipients discharge their social obligations through work in the parks and
in the streets in those orange vests,'' Turner says. ``What those orange
vests represent is a tangible contribution that each individual is making
towards making New York a more livable city, something which is high
priority for this mayor.''=20

Brooklyn partners Shirley Vails and Ronald Wallace say the new and improved
New York ignores their plight as newly unemployed, first-time welfare

``Mayor Giuliani is messing with working people. He's picking on the little
persons,'' says Wallace, who claims to have been laid off when the
sanitation department displaced workers to create positions for workfare

``It's extremely difficult to find work, to find an apartment and you can't
make ends meet,'' Vails adds. ``We're decent people who want to make it. He
doesn't care about us.''=20

Contents copyright =A9 1996-1998, The Toronto Star.
User interface, selection and arrangement copyright =A9 1996-1998, Torstar
Electronic Publishing Ltd.=20