Bloomberg on bars, sidewalk smoking, square, Lopez
By Lincoln Anderson
Mayor Mike Bloomberg carved out a moment in his busy schedule on Monday for an exclusive interview with the publisher and editors of Community Media. Bloomberg gave his opinion in response to several questions pertaining to matters of relevance to Downtown Manhattan residents.
Noting that bars and nightlife are a perennial concern in areas like Greenwich Village, west Chelsea and the East Village and Lower East Side, The Villager asked the mayor if he supported creating a City Liquor Authority to give the city more control over the issuing of liquor licenses to establishments. Bloomberg expressed skepticism this could ever happen, however, feeling its simply an issue controlled by the state.
In fact, asked generally about the proliferation of bars and clubs, the mayor quipped, only half in jest, Im in favor of it, referring to nightlife.
Another gripe of those living near bars and clubs is the new smoking ban instituted by the mayor, which forces smokers outside onto the sidewalks, which, in turn, residents charge, has increased the noise they hear. Yet, the mayor said, hes immensely proud of the smoking ban prefacing his comments by noting that it hasnt led to a drop-off in business, either, as some in the industry had direly predicted.
The smoking law has been one of the great things that ever happened to the bar and restaurant business, he said. Employment in that industry has gone up, I think, virtually every month for the last two and a half years since we put the smoking ban in. Sales tax in that industry has gone up every quarter. Liquor shipments have gone up every quarter.
As for complaints about sidewalk smoking, he said, Hopefully people will stop smoking. Cold weather will probably discourage a lot of that. Youve got to be really addicted. Theres no easy answer. You have a right to a smoke-free environment. And you should not have to choose between your health and your job.
Asked if he supported a symmetrical Washington Square Park with the fountain moved to line up precisely with the arch, he deferred to his new deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, on that subject, and said he was confident Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has the matter well in hand.
He said his deputy mayor and Parks commissioner will make sure that they listen to everybody on the hot-button park issue.
Finally, on the question of whether, as some have speculated, Councilmember Margarita Lopez may be in line for a job with his administration partly in return for crossing party lines to endorse his re-election, he vehemently denied any quid pro quo. He didnt say, specifically if Lopez who will be out of office due to term limits in a few weeks would get a job with him.
I never had a conversation with her, ever, he said. Or for anybody. There has never been the person that has had the nerve to bring up the subject of a quid pro quo with me or with any of my people, as far as I know
. Nor would I ever have that conversation. I think Margaritas very smart. Id love to find something for her in the administration.
Asked about Lopezs unresolved campaign finances from 2001, in which the Campaign Finance Board contends she made $45,000 in impermissible late payments to workers and volunteers, among other violations, Bloomberg said, Shes got to work it out with campaign finance.
As for Lopezs Scientology connection, in which members of the religious cult made significant contributions to her 2005 borough president campaign after she steered hundreds of thousands of city dollars to a Scientology-connected detox center near Ground Zero, Bloomberg only said he always felt Scientology was for kooks.