Year 5: The Liberation of New York Has Begun

Hurrah and huzzah! At last we have a civic administrator who recognizes the deleterious effects of cramming too many people into too small a space! Let the keepers of wrecking balls come forth so that they might turn this squalid urban island, this den of iniquitous mixing of races, genders and creeds, into something neat, clean, orderly and uncongested! Something like Long Island, circa 1960!

As well you know, Rudolph Giuliani’s latest jihad is directed at those infernal purveyors of hot dogs, pretzels, soda pop and similar delights. Their equipment, viz., a cart with a grill and an umbrella, has been judged the cause of congestion on many a Manhattan sidewalk. And congestion, with its attendant suggestions of disorder and chaos, has been declared to be unacceptable in this Year 5 of the Giuliani Liberation.

Until recently, if these merchants of minute steaks were accused of contributing to congestion, it was of the sort associated with heart blockages. But our Mayor, bless him, realizes that these vendors create human traffic jams, resulting in another sort of artery-clogging. So he has proposed removing them to those places where City University students, welfare recipients, cabdrivers, skeptical reporters and David Dinkins reside. (Presumably, that locale is within sight of the nuclear test City Hall is planning in order to demonstrate that it is serious about enforcing jaywalking laws.)

As an uncertified claustrophobic, I’m delighted that somebody recognized this obvious but unspoken violation of our much treasured quality of life. Friends, we’re not simply talking about vendors. No, no, the issue is much greater than a bunch of immigrants standing over grills in all kinds of weather, trying to earn an honest living through the preparation of food known to be favored by all sorts of others. (See list above.) Yes, friends, we’re talking crowds. We’re talking about too many people and not enough sidewalk, not enough elevators, not enough subway cars, not enough square footage, not enough New York. We’re talking 10 pounds of taters stuffed into a five-pound bag. That’s right, pal, we’re talking urban congestion.

Now, those trained in the old ways of viewing urban problems–that is, anybody who has not submitted to municipal re-education since 1994–no doubt would argue that congestion is an unavoidable part of city life. Such people very likely would point out that urban congestion, while a problem dating back to the days when Caligula was late for an orgy because he couldn’t find a place to park his chariot, actually isn’t as bad as it was, say, a century ago.

Why, back when the tallest buildings on the Lower East Side were four-story walk-ups, that little patch of Manhattan was the most congested place on earth. Hundreds of thousands of people packed into a few square miles. What with the pushcarts and the buggies and the truants and the jaywalkers, why, the Lower East Side circa 1895 makes a walk through vendorland in Year 5 of the Liberation a proverbial stroll through the privatized park!

The only response to this sort of argument is this: What does the Lower East Side, circa 1895, have to do with the competition for tourist dollars in Year 5 of the Giuliani Liberation? A hundred years ago, people came here with all their earthly possessions in a cloth sack. What did they care about pushcarts slowing down the pace of commerce?

Nowadays, people (as in tourists and business travelers, who are the people we in New York City care about most and for whom we make important public policy decisions) arrive here with cell phones and personal trainers, and such people are put off by crowds gathered on street corners, snaking their way past a portable grill laden with foodstuffs of suspiciously non-European origin. In the words of one of New York’s image-keepers, we are competing with Disney World, friends, and be assured that the Disney people would never allow greasy food carts to block the progress of big spenders. It wouldn’t be good for business, you see.

So we must fight congestion, and if the food carts must go, then so be it. Other congestion-causers soon will follow. (See list above.) By Year 8 of the Giuliani Liberation, the streets will be cleared of the undisciplined, the unqualified, the unartistic, the unmanageable and the unwilling-to-accept-mayoral-edicts-without-question, and at last pedestrian traffic will flow like blood coursing through a vegetarian’s veins. There will be no waiting for elevators, no disorderly jockeying in subway stations, no sneaky apartment-hunting strategies.

What a fine city this will be when congestion is a thing of the past, and we will never again have to brush up against a food cart on our way to conduct important matters of business, such as the consumption of a fine, orderly lunch paid for by the American taxpayer. Ah, we can dream, can’t we? Nice, orderly dreams, with all the girls on one side of the street and all the boys on the other, and everybody walking in order of height.

What a vision for the future!

Year 5: The Liberation of New York Has Begun