It seems that everyone is considered a potential criminal in New York these days—even S. I. Newhouse.
On a recent bright Sunday afternoon, a group of pugs frolicked at “Pug Hill,” an informal weekly gathering near the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park. The Condé Nast scion, who’d brought his black pug Cicero, chatted amiably with other owners, a distinctly Manhattan mix of club promoters, Wall Streeters, filmmakers, and socialites.
But just as the day seemed to be erasing memories of some of the worst spring weather this side of Seattle, two cops atop a pair of horses galloped up and threatened $100 tickets for everyone. The offense? Letting the short-legged dogs—who run with the alacrity of an obese person after an Extra Value Meal—off the leash. “I’ll be back to check on you,” one of the cops thundered as Newhouse giggled uncomfortably, “and your dogs better have their licenses!”
Smokers, pug lovers, business owners (ticketed for overly wordy awnings), milk-crate sitters—is no one safe from Nanny Bloomberg?
Clearly, few New Yorkers envy Bloomberg his choices. And some are still glad to have an CEO in charge of our cash-strapped city. But the summons-happy micromanager seems completely out of sync with the municipal mood. These aren’t squeegee men he’s targeting, after all. And the policy recalls life at Bloomberg LP (no longer run by the mayor, of course), which recently encouraged its employees to stand up while talking on the phone as a way of boosting productivity.
Even the cops are complaining. “The NYPD has become a summons machine,” said PBA president Patrick Lynch recently. “With Giuliani’s ‘zero tolerance,’ there was a sense that the policy would benefit everyone in the city,” adds Walter K. Olsen of the Manhattan Institute. “With Bloomberg, it’s more like nannyism.” Or New York as Singapore (minus the clean streets).
If anything, the ticketing feels like an anti-quality-of-life campaign, the kind of thing to drive natives—and tourists—away. “Bloomberg wants to bring money into the city,” says comedian Sandra Bernhard, “but he’s got it ass-backward!” Mike Stuto, owner of the Hi Fi Lounge on Avenue A, is one of the nannied-to-death natives: He was ticketed because a compulsory sign warning pregnant women not to drink was obscured by glassware.
For tourists like L.A.-based producer Brian Linse, the endless run-ins with the law have an almost tragicomic edge. “My partner and I were having a glass of wine at a café on Bleecker and MacDougal when we noticed that six cops were pulling cars over,” he says. “They were handing out tickets to people not wearing seat belts. So we asked the manager, ‘What’s happening?’ and he said, ‘You guys need to come in now. After 1 a.m. we can’t have alcohol outside.’ ”