Een Engelsman, die al 18 jaar in New York woont, beschrijft hoe de stad door allerhande maatregelen uit het nabije verleden niet meer de stad is waar hij in 1990 voor koos. Met name de invoering van het rookverbod in 2003 was voor hem de druppel die de emmer deed overlopen.
In dit artikel beschrijft hij hoe New Yorkers het rookverbod overleven om de stad, met bedelaars op elke hoek van de straat, vuil, loeiende sirenes, luchtvervuiling en andere overlast, nog enigszins leefbaar te houden. Net als in Ierland, Engeland en Schotland worden de kroegen pas weer na sluitingstijd gezellig, als de ‘rookgestapo’ naar bed is.
Hoe liggen prioriteiten bij bestuurders, vraagt de auteur zich af, als ze zich druk maken om roken terwijl de stad steeds verder onder hun handen wegzakt naar een sociale hel…
Monday March 31, 2008
Five years on from the smoking ban, welcome to New York, says Ken Macmillan. No smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no fun.
I used to like living in New York. There was diversity, excitement, opportunity, tolerance and freedom. However, in the 18 years I’ve been a New Yorker, I’ve watched the city change into a city of over-policing, prohibition, persecution and sterilisation that neither makes sense nor appeals to me anymore.
I have survived and tolerated so much in this city – crime, evil landlords, high rents, a crash in the local economy, 9/11 – but the smoking ban, introduced in 2003, was the final straw.
It was during Mayor Giuliani’s term, in 1995, that the first move was made to prohibit smoking. Ludicrously, smoking was banned in restaurants large enough to comfortably accommodate smokers and non-smokers, while smoking was only permitted in small establishments and bar areas.
During his tenure Giuliani also aggressively pursued a war on art, street vendors, noise, topless-bars, petty-drugs, nightclubs, drinking outside and dancing in small venues. Giuliani was trying to clean up New York. Mayor Bloomberg cast the final volley, with little resistance.
Aside from the fact that I no longer had anywhere to go to smoke, friends of mine who owned or worked in premises that had permitted smoking prior to the ban claimed an average loss of 20 per cent, contrary to figures released by the Bloomberg administration. The ban hurt the owner’s profits and the staff who lived off their tips. Many old venues closed down. I would walk past bars that were empty at Happy Hour.
I dine out much less than I used to and don’t stay long, reluctantly stepping outside for a smoke, although now I am usually accompanied by much less self-conscious smoking accomplices. I usually decline a drink or dinner, if I am to be made to feel uncomfortable for being a smoker, or if it is too cold or wet to enjoy a cigarette on the street.
Many restaurants and bars permit smoking ‘after hours’, when Bloomberg’s ‘Gestapo’ are known to be done for the night, and the premises are clear of any potential ‘informers’ who might dial 311 (the City’s complaint hotline). A saucer appears for use as an ashtray and the staff and the faces of customers light-up as cigarettes are smoked with illicit pleasure inside.
I used to frequent an incredible French restaurant in the East Village, smoking at the bar with a colourful crowd of jazz musicians, writers, singers, designers, and photographers. Much like the bar in Cheers, everyone knew my name. It was my ‘local’. And not long after the smoking ban, regardless of our efforts to keep coming back, the crowd at the bar eventually ceased to exist.