To Michael Bloomberg: A Modest Proposal

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For New York, a vision of a better tomorrow

Well, Mayor Mike, it's official now. Rudy is really gone, and that hearty handshake you received from the more-than-a-mayor Mayor of the World/Person of the Year at the happily uneventful New Year's Eve inaugural in Times Square was about the height of your mandate as his successor.

Giuliani himself said once (while in drag) that he was a "Republican dressed as a Democrat dressed as a Republican." While, you, as we know, are a Democrat who dressed up as a Republican because the primary was easier. Never mind. It doesn't matter. Politics and partisan sabotage have not yet rushed back in to New York City, and New Yorkers are still ready to believe that the city can be reborn stronger and better than it was on Sept. 11. All this is in your favor.

But I make it a week, maybe two, before the handshake honeymoon runs out. You need to move fast, give us a vision, something to make New York in the New Year, well, new.

And have we got a resolution for you:

Ban parking in Manhattan.

Yes. Ban parking in Manhattan. Not all parking, at least not right away — just on the street, and just private vehicles. But take away those two lines of cars — please — that decorate nearly every curb in the city, and New York will be bigger, cleaner, richer and freer, all at the same time. How? Let's count the ways:

Less traffic. The two lanes of street formerly used by city-dwellers too finicky for public transportation will now be used for pick-ups and drop-offs only. Commercial drivers making deliveries will have easy access to the curb and will no longer clog the streets; buses will make their turns faster; cabs won't have to double-park just to grab a fare. The city's business will run faster and more smoothly, and everyone will get where they have to go in less time, with less stress.

More taxis. Some of those who can't (or won't) afford to pay to park at a garage in Manhattan (and that's most of us) will stay off the roads, which means more people will use public transportation, which should mean enough new income to the city to balance out the lack of parking tickets. (Better keep investing in the subway system.)

The rest will take cabs. More taxis means more decent transitional jobs for those displaced by Sept. 11 or any other part of the economic downturn that has hit New York City so hard. Less traffic means cab drivers will make more money working shorter shifts. (Mike, we may want to switch temporarily to a "zone" fare system to keep everybody calm until the market forces settle.)

Cleaner air. Self-explanatory, particularly if you do the smart thing and start giving tax breaks to cabbies who buy electric- or hybrid-powered cabs.

A stronger economy. When the streets are clearer and curbs are easier to get to in a delivery van, New York's businesses will run better. When the sidewalks feel wider, the air is cleaner, and walking in the city is pleasant in any neighborhood, New York's real lifeblood — its shoppers — will spend more time looking in windows, stopping for coffee, picking up something on sale. Everybody wins.

A better city. No, this isn't a pitch for Dean Kamen's Segway. New Yorkers are avid pedestrians and steel-nerved riders — a motorized scooter, methinks, offers them too little of either. But it is a pitch for the cities of the future Kamen dreams about — less cars, fresher air, more foot traffic and less sitting in midtown gridlock.

If the budget needs more revenue, you could always add 50 cents to the subway/bus fare, or hike the tax on parking garages — some New Yorkers will pay anything for a luxury. And something might be done with the tolls. But that's for the bean counters. Banning parking would rev all the economic engines that the city runs on, and eliminate the real source of economic dead weight, namely private-vehicle owners who are just waiting for an excuse to get out of town for the weekend anyway

New York is still the greatest city in the world, but imagine it even better — less traffic, cleaner air, wider streets, more efficient transportation. The national media (who lives here anyway) would love it. Tourists would love it. New Yorkers would love it.

And they'd love you for it too. Heck, with some planning and a great speechwriter, you could be the new Mayor of the Year by February.