Sunday, December 19, 2010

Promises Broken

Riding a bike in Central Park the other day I was stopped by a police officer who told me I was not allowed to ride on the grass. When I first came to live in New York, mountain biking was the rage and the hills and boulders of Central Park were covered with this new breed of bike and biker. Apparently, the rule now prohibits riding a bike anywhere in the park but on the roadways and only in the direction of traffic. But I see bicyclists cutting across the grass, using the walkways, traveling in the opposite direction on the roads every time I am in the park. According to these new rules, in order to cross the park, a bicyclist has to pedal from say 96 Street down to 59th and back up. Can that kind of law hold up? This goes to the heart of the convenience of a bike. Such rules are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce but, when they are broken, can be repaired with a fine.
Anyone out there ever cross against the light, J-Walk or see a pedestrian crossing in the middle of a street, probably on a cell phone? When you did, did you happen to notice any drivers on their phones?
Anyone (except those of us using the parking map) ever park illegally? Did you dunk the ball, do an end zone dance, call a friend to share your good mood when you got away with it? FedEx or UPS cannot even function without illegally parking and nobody really thinks they are going to take their business out of town. No, they agree to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking fines. They used to negotiate a rate with the city, probably still do. What is the parking fine reduction program by the DOT but a 25% OFF sale? All of which makes me ask, is it really illegal to park where parking is not allowed, or just very expensive?
Every week I see people cutting in movie lines or mechanics running up bills; businesses hiding their occasional incompetence (you still pay); drivers turning without blinkers, cutting people and cars off; traffic and parking laws broken; bootleg movies, handbags, and watches for sale; rotten fruit sold underneath good fruit; unsanitary deli kitchens; new bike lanes abused by cars and pedestrians or cars and pedestrians abused by unruly bicyclists; buildings that do not recycle; oil and toxic waste not properly disposed of (sometimes by millionaires); cars idling more than 3 minutes; litter thrown on the sidewalk; [fill in your examples here] and a city that looks the other way, usually for a fee. While we’re at it, who has forgotten the famous tales of the MTA lying about costs to get higher increases or the NYPD suppressing crime statistics, or suffered at the climactic scene the failed service of cable, cell phone or internet providers or experienced some other kind of professional (contractual) promise broken?
Remember the “broken window theory?” That was the nickname of a sociologist’s theory that a graffiti marred, homeless occupied, sidewalk littered neighborhood with abandoned buildings or “broken windows,” gave a “no one gives a shit” (my words) appearance to a neighborhood and actually promoted an atmosphere of lawlessness, actually increased crime. This was the cornerstone of Mayor Giuliani’s famous “Quality of Life” crimes program and which of our neighbors would not agree that the rebuilding, repairing of streets, parks and subways and the enforcement of these social crimes worked to reduce crime?
Yet we have a host of laws that cannot be, don’t even seem intended to be, enforced, and are often for sale. The fact is generally good citizens of New York break laws every day or see them broken. Good thing for us there isn’t a “broken laws” theory.

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