If I were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I wouldn’t be worrying about the possibility (inevitability?) of disenfranchised Americans rioting.
It’s the return of the squeegee men to the Big Apple I’d be concerned with.
From Bill Hutchinson and Edgar Sandoval of New York City’s Daily News today:
Squeegee men, the aggressive panhandlers who wash your car windows whether you want them to or not, are back.
Armed with buckets and $5 squeegees, a squad of men waded into stalled Times Square traffic Sunday to lather up windshields, swipe them clean and beckon for tips from drivers – some annoyed by the intrusion…
For some, they’re a powerful symbol that the busted economy is bringing back the bad old days.
“I’m walking and I see a man cleaning a car window. It took me back in time. I had to do a double take to make sure I was seeing right,” said Reggie Thomas, 44.
I’m guessing Bloomberg will take a page out of his predecessor’s playbook to deal with the squeegee scourge. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani wrote in his autobiography Leadership:
We attacked crime immediately, but we knew it would take time to show results. Reducing the number of crimes would not be enough: people had to see improvement. We had to get people to feel safe.
That’s how the idea for addressing the squeegee man problem appeared. There were men who would wander up to a car stopped in traffic, spray the windshield, & wipe it down. After the unsolicited “cleaning,” the man would request payment.
My belief was that treating small crimes was a way to establish lawful, civil behavior & a feeling of safety. The police chief said we lacked a legal basis to move them as long as they were not threatening drivers or demanding money. I said, how about that they are jaywalking. When they stepped off the curb they violated the law. Then, in giving them tickets, you could investigate whether there were outstanding warrants & so on.
In under a month, we reduced the problem dramatically. New Yorkers loved it & so did all the visitors who brought money into the city.
Here in the Windy City, I’ve haven’t seen too many squeegee guys around (I-55 exit onto Cicero Avenue comes to mind, but that was some time ago). I have to wonder if it’s only a matter of time before they come out en masse here.
Hutchinson, Bill and Sandoval, Edgar. “Squeegees return as New York City is awash in windshield swipers in sign of (desperate) times.” Daily News. 19 Sep. 2011. (http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/09/19/2011-09-19_city_awash_in_windshield_swipers_in_sign_of_desperate_
times_under_squeege__again.html). 19 Sep. 2011.
Giuliani, Rudolph. Leadership. New York City: Hyperion, 2002.
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