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New York Times quotes a mishna!

But, first, I got this lovely e-mail over one of the lists I'm on:
Garden in Transit is a historic community collaboration that will transform the streets of NY beginning in Sep. 2007 when up to 800,000 square feet (nearly 14 football fields!) of hand-painted floral panels created by up to 40,000 kids and volunteers cover up to 13,000 NYC taxis in what is possibly the largest ongoing public art project in the world.

Visit www.gardenintransit.org for more information on the project.
I actually found the more relevant website to be http://www.portraitsofhope.org/git/index.php, but the idea is still lovely. Wouldn't you like New York City to look a bit more like this?

Okay, so it's not quite as good as real flowers, but I think it's kind of nice. I really love public art. And public art that involves children is somehow even better.

Secondly (to further the suspense about the NYT quote from a mishna), here is a nice op-ed from Sunday's New York Times about the possibility of replacing New York City's 12-18 mpg Ford Crown Victorias with hybrid cars that average 39 mpg and will pay for themselves in gasoline savings within one year if you compare the cost of the hybrid cars with the current Ford Crown Victorias. According to the op-ed, "The city requires that most cabs be retired after three years," so something like 90% of taxis are going to be purchased anyway within three years. They might as well be low-emissions models.

Finally--oh, no! It's a Times Select thing and I can't find any way around this one. Anyway, the quote was from this column by Clyde Haberman this past Tuesday, and he quoted (only in English), regarding Mayor Bloomberg's plan to make New York City environmentally sustainable by 2030:
א,יד] הוא היה אומר, אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתיי?
מסכת אבות, פרק א--
He [Hillel the Elder] used to say, "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
--Pirkei Avot 1:14
Anyway, it was a nice column, and if I could figure out a way to post it for y'all to read, I would. I thought it was nice that the New York Times quoted a mishna, and that they picked such a nice one. I wonder how often that happens?

I assume that the Bloomberg plan is the same one that I referenced here. I haven't paid much attention to the details, other than the suggestions that people who drive into Manhattan from other boroughs pay $8/car. As someone who relies on public transportation, I think it's a dandy idea. Buses are very slow here because of all of the congestion, which also makes it stink to high heaven a lot of the time (that, and the garbage that piles up on the streets as evening approaches). Taxis would not pay the fee, and cars driving within Manhattan would pay a lower fee. Also, it would only apply to cars driving below 86th St. Someone (I forget who, probably someone who writes for the NYT) suggested applying the $8 fee only below 60th St., and I'm fine with that as well. (Here is another article that discussed the idea before Bloomberg officially unveiled it.)

Someone (again, probably either an editorialist--is that a word?--or letter-writer to the New York Times) said that this amounts to a regressive tax. I'm not sure I buy that. I actually don't know if studies have been done, but I would assume that wealthier people drive into and around Manhattan more than poor people do, and if poor people live in areas without access to public transportation (much of Queens? Brooklyn?), then they probably carpool into the city (I know some people who do that), so it would not cost each person $8/day. It is terrible that some neighborhoods don't have good, quick, public transportation access into the parts of Manhattan where many people work and shop. Bloomberg addressed that, though, when he:

Mr. Bloomberg also called for improvements in express bus service and other public transportation in neighborhoods with little access to the subway, and where people are most inclined to drive into Manhattan for work or shopping. He said the city would complete those improvements before anyone is charged in the congestion pricing system.

That's all for now. I'm curious to see how this plan will play out.

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Here is the full article:

Who Pays for Driving in Manhattan?

New York Times
Published: April 24, 2007

To pursue the future, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had to return to the past. Consciously or not, he went as far back as the first century. In the process, he discovered that it was possible to wow an audience with lines that have been around for 2,000 years.
History loomed large as the mayor presented his blueprint for an “environmentally sustainable” New York over the next quarter century.

As expected, he has both caught grief and heard hosannas for his most contentious proposal: a charge of $8 for cars and $21 for commercial trucks that enter Manhattan below 86th Street during weekday business hours. It’s the vaporizer solution: a way to break up congestion, all that traffic choking Manhattan streets.

For decades, little has modified driving habits that pretty much everyone agrees are wasteful and unhealthful. Many people drive into Manhattan because they prefer to, not because they necessarily have to. Some don’t even mind traffic jams. In the age of cellphones and BlackBerries, the car can double as an office during a crawl through Midtown.

Mr. Bloomberg’s goal is to nudge these drivers into subways and buses, or force them to pay for refusing to change their ways.
Some critics have invoked the sort of language typically hauled out for attacks on the billionaire mayor. Two of their favorite phrases are “Manhattan-centric” and “elitist.”

They are right about the Manhattan-centric part. Until the center of New York commerce moves to another borough, what else could any plan be?

But elitist? The suggestion seems to be that everyone living south of 86th Street rides in limos and taxicabs. If so, who are all those people we see getting on subway trains and buses every day in Manhattan? And who are all those supposedly poor people driving in from other boroughs who somehow can afford to pay as much as $30 in Midtown garage fees?

Anticipating criticism, Mr. Bloomberg asked his Sunday audience at the American Museum of Natural History — granted, a friendly audience — to travel back in time.

Where, he asked them, would they have stood in the 1850s on plans for Central Park? Or in the 1890s on a proposal to extend the subways to empty stretches of northern Manhattan? Or in the 1930s on the “megaproject” called Rockefeller Center?

The mayor didn’t say so (he didn’t have to), but all those projects might well have been shot down had they come along today.

Central Park’s creation displaced 1,600 shantytown residents and led to the demolition of a black settlement known as Seneca Village. Want to bet that if Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux unrolled their park plans today, they would be denounced as elitists — racist elitists, at that? Rockefeller Center and the subway extension would probably also have gone nowhere in today’s climate of “don’t just do something, stand there.”

Not that there aren’t questions about the mayor’s proposal.
For instance, why does the “congestion pricing” zone stretch as far north as 86th Street? Previous incarnations of this long-discussed concept put the northern border at 60th Street.
Are there no ways to make the plan more palatable to New Yorkers living outside Manhattan?

A suggestion raised yesterday in a Daily News column by Samuel I. Schwartz, a transportation consultant, is to eliminate existing tolls “where they don’t belong” — say, on bridges connecting Queens and the Bronx.

ALSO, how can we be sure that the city and state will keep providing hundreds of millions of dollars a year for mass transit improvements that City Hall acknowledges are essential for this plan to work?

For that matter, there is no guarantee that the $8 and $21 will go exclusively to mass transit, as promised. Think of the state lottery. That money supposedly goes to education. In reality, it is lumped together with other state revenue. You could just as easily say that it pays for prisons and welfare.

But first comes the question of New Yorkers’ will to act. That was the point of the mayor’s traipse through history. And whether or not he meant to, he borrowed from Hillel the Elder, a Jewish sage of 2,000 years ago.

“If I am not for myself, who will be?” Hillel said. “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Mr. Bloomberg’s formulation went this way: “If we don’t act now, when? And if we don’t act, who will?”

That echo across two millenniums earned him the biggest applause of the day.
I think Mayor Nanny Bloomie is a very arrogant man. I also highly doubt he rides the subway that much. He's the mayor, I want someone driving him around so he can work and make calls and stuff. New Yorkers shouldn't want him wasting all that time on the subway.

We all have to wonder what Bloomberg is really thinking of with this congestion pricing tax scheme. Maybe he mostly just wants a new tax. Just wrap it up in ‘concern for the environment’, and then people can just demonize those who oppose it.

If he cares so much about traffic jams, congestion and air pollution, why does he let Park Avenue be blocked off? Why doesn’t he do anything about that?

It's true, Pershing Square Restaurant blocks Park Avenue going South at 42nd St. for about 12 hours a day/5 months of the year! This Causes Massive Congestion and Air Pollution!

But apparently it does not bother NYC’s Nanny-in-Chief Mike “Congestion Pricing Tax” Bloomberg?

It certainly supports his claim that the city is hugely congested.

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