Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Some Ideas for The Mayor

Dear Bloomie,

I'm delighted to read about your growing interest in ecological issues, so I thought you would be a good person to tell my idea to. Because my union halls and credit union are all smack in the middle of Times Square, I've been spending a lot of time down there during daylight hours, and it occurred to me that it might be really cool if once, for a twenty four hour period, all the neon, all the electrically enhanced advertizing, all the giant Katie Couric heads looming over the area might be turned off. All of them. During daylight this might not look like much (though we might be pleasantly surprised) but I bet the dramatic impact at night would be spectacular. I have to look more closely next time I'm in the area to make sure there are still street lights, I'm not advocating a crime spree in the area (just curious, how did it work during the blackout of 2003, I wasn't in town), but as long as there are still street lights, we'd end up just going from neon, surface-of-the-sun brightness to normal city night. Maybe to get the maximum effect from the moment, the signs should all be turned off after dark, kept off through the next day, then allowed to come back on the following evening.

I don't know how much money this would actually save. I don't know who would benefit directly either, since I assume each business pays the electric bill for its own signs. I'm sure also that some advertizing firms would get their corporate knickers in a twist over this, saying they paid for x number of days of wretched excess, and by god, they better get x number of days, but couldn't they just get an extra day? Couldn't the non-lit day not count?

I realize too that a lot of those ginormous signs are probably fluorescent lights to begin with, which of course cost less to run than incandescent, but even if the money and carbon dioxide saved wasn't enormous (and come on, it's not going to be slight, is it), I think the emotional and visual impact would be. Just having the whole area suddenly go dark, it could be a huge promotional stunt. I bet if you asked, Al would be delighted to get involved as well.

In fact, I suggest combining this with another idea I've had for some time. I don't know if you've spent any time in Copenhagen, Boulder, CO, or Ithaca, NY, but all three cities have walking streets and they're really cool. I mean really. So why not shut down a stretch of one of the avenues, and turn it into a walking street for that twenty-four hour period? Again, I think the area that would have the best impact would be Broadway between, say, 50th St. and 30th St. I realize this may cause all kinds of hassles, probably extra police attention, etc, but come on, you do that sort of thing over much greater stretches of road several times a year. Would it really be worse than the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade? The Puerto Rican Day Parade? Gay Pride? I don't know if 5th Ave is better for this sort of thing for some reason, I don't mean to tell you your job, but a twenty block radius, even just ten, from 50th to 40th, would be really amazing and at Broadway it would include the greatest number of theatres. I was down in the area for a play on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and let's be honest, many of those side streets all but become walking streets as it is, since the crowds are so huge. Frankly I think this would probably be easier to control than most parades, because there you have to control the crowds and allow for floats to move down the center. This would simply be closing the road to cars and taxis; maybe some special arrangement could be made for public buses, but again, what sorts of arrangements does the average parade require? Combining these two events really would make a huge impact in terms of cutting back on emissions, and it would create a festival atmosphere, without adding tents or stands. I suppose you could do that too, if you wanted to, but just having those area restaurants, theatres and other businesses open, I bet they would do huge business. Maybe you could allow the restaurants to seat people outside, thus increasing their business, and the festive, out-door feeling of the event as a whole.

I realize there must be lots about this sort of thing that I don't know, but as I keep pointing out, street festivals and parades happen in different parts of the city all the time. This would be taking some of the most congested areas of the city in terms of pedestrians and vehicles, and letting the pedestrians have full run of the place, just for a day. To be honest, I think one of the avenues should be turned into a permanent walking street (I figure 9th Avenue would be the least disruptive), but I know that reveals what a whacked-out tree hugger I am. Yes, I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Times Square as it is. Seriously, if you added just a few signs in Japanese and some flying cars, you'd have the city of Blade Runner, and I don't mean that as a compliment . I mean, great movie, but I wouldn't want to live there, would you? I would love it too if incentives were provided for signmakers to return to older, less technologically demanding forms of catching the eye. At Broadway and 50th, the Snapple sign makes use of a technique I fell in love with when I first saw it in Dublin. Words are posted permanently, then the rest of the sign is covered with little metallic tags on hooks. When the wind blows, which of course it does constantly, the tags ripple and the light and color of the sign changes. Just on the basis of this alone, I'm more inclined to buy Snapple (except that it's overpriced sugar water with no legitimate claims for nutrition). Conversely, at Broadway and 46th, the Bank of America sign is so huge and covered with bulbs, anytime I'm waiting for a light to change on that corner, I wonder if I'm going to get a migraine. Seriously. And I haven't had one in over twenty years (see, my Mom and I each learned this great biofeedback technique that is supposed to get rid of migraines when they come, and we both found it seemed to cure us permanently of them, which is really cool, I can teach it to you if you want sometime, assuming you get migraines, though I should admit the same technique didn't seem to work for my sister, so maybe it's not fool proof...), but that sign, yowtch. Makes me adamant never to do any business with Bank of America. Okay, but I'm getting ahead of myself, am I not? These are long term goals, and I really want to focus just on this one day. One thing at a time, right?
So please, give this some thought. I bet it would garner you and the city all kinds of positive attention, would bring even more people to the area, and probably generate a huge profit without too many out-of -pocket expenses in advance for anyone. Just think about it, and let me know how I can help.



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