Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

The Next Phase of Quality of Life:
Creating a More Civil City

Wednesday, February 24, 1998


Over the last five years, New York City has turned around. We've gone from being a City with more than 2,000 murders every year in the early 1990s to a City with fewer than 800 murders last year—the lowest number of murders in 31 years. Overall crime has dropped 44 percent over the last four years.

If you would have asked people five years ago whether this was possible, they would have doubted it. I would have had my doubts.

Five years ago, if you would have said that we would have been able to move over 340,000 individuals off the welfare rolls, bringing the total number of individuals on public assistance below 800,000 for the first time since 1968, most New Yorkers wouldn't have believed that was possible either.

Five years ago, if you would have said that this City, which had lost over 320,000 private sector jobs in the early 1990s, would register the fastest percentage job growth in its history, many New Yorkers would've said that was much too optimistic.

And if you would have taken any single one of these accomplishments, and presented it to New Yorkers as a possibility for the future, many people would have said that they would settle for reducing the murder rate alone… or reducing the welfare rolls… or creating so many private sector jobs… because all of these achievements, and more, would seem too much to ask for.

But that attitude was precisely part of the problem. When you make very little improvement and expect little of yourself, you tend to settle for whatever single improvement you can get. But when you believe that your work is never done, achievements aren't reasons to rest or be satisfied. Achievements are proof that we can make a difference, and they make it incumbent on us all to go forward and do more.

We have transformed the City in so many ways because we refused to take the pessimism of the cynics to heart. For example, when we began our effort to reform adult zoning laws, the cynics were out in full force. But we didn't set limits on what we could achieve. We came together and worked hard to go further than the old expectations allowed. And our hard work and optimism has paid off. For instance, just yesterday New York State's highest court unanimously upheld our adult zoning ordinance. This is a major victory for the quality of life of people all across the City, because it will allow people to restore and maintain their neighborhoods, and protect generations of New Yorkers against future encroachment from sex shops and the destabilization that they cause. Apparently the courts don't always listen to the cynics.

At base, together we have changed the philosophy of the City by committing ourselves to one fundamental idea: a constantly improving quality of life for the City and its people. When we began talking about quality of life in 1993, many people didn't understand the importance of this issue. People belittled it. But we remained committed to this essential ideal. We concentrated on quality of life as a part of our overall goal to create a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous City. It was then, and still is, an integral part of that overall vision.

We only achieved the drastic reductions in crime then because we focused not only on murder… not only on rapes and shootings… but on so-called "petty offenses." We realized that it is essential to create a social culture in which we always reinforce our shared commitment to the city.

Today, after we have achieved a 44 percent decline in overall crime and a 60 percent decline in murder, 185,000 new jobs, and all the fundamental changes that have happened over the last five years, the old critics of quality of life—those who didn't understand it at first and doubted its value—are resurfacing, because we are bringing our quality of life strategies to new levels. Once again, many of the same cynics and some new ones belittle, for example, important initiatives like traffic safety enforcement and regulation of fireworks. But these initiatives are an important part of the process of moving a city toward re-emphasizing the concept of mutual obligations, of citizens' respect for one another. Maybe they don't realize that these initiatives save lives, and contribute to improving the quality of everyone's life.

Indeed, the criticism of the cynics ignores the reality that quality of life, from the beginning, was not an isolated campaign but an intrinsic part of our overall strategy to increase public safety, revive the City, and create a common social culture. And it is working.


Quality of Life: What it Means

Quality of life is a process, not a destination. It's a way of living, not a goal. Quality of life doesn't mean simply reaching a single goal or even a set of goals. Fundamentally, it means believing once again in our ability constantly to improve the City.

A city, and especially a city like New York, should be a place of optimism. Quality of life is about focusing on the things that make a difference in the everyday life of all New Yorkers in order to restore this spirit of optimism—a spirit which hardly existed five years ago in New York City.

If people don't see improvements in their individual lives, if they have to put up with incivility and disrespect for their rights every day, they will remain basically pessimistic about the future of the City, even if overall crime is dramatically down. But if a sense of tangible improvement reaches millions of lives, and millions of people understand that the City cares about their annoyances and is working hard to protect their rights, then more and more people begin to feel the true optimism of the City, and the City is moving in the right direction. We begin to feel that together, we all have a stake in the City.

This is what the idea of a civil society is all about. As I mentioned in my State of the City speech, Jonathan Foreman cogently argues in the current City Journal ("Toward a More Civil City") that forging a more civil society is about sharing a commitment to one another and to the City… about having a basic respect for each other. It's about understanding that our actions have repercussions. What we do has an effect on other people, and on the City as a whole. It's our obligation to think about the consequences of our actions.

It's important to have a civil society in the smallest of towns, where mutual respect often becomes the anchor of community. It's even more important in as large, dense, diverse, vibrant, and complex a city as New York City. If we don't act in a civil manner here, we can't thrive as individuals or as the Capital of the World.


Where We Were, and How We've Turned Things Around

The sum of all the quality of life initiatives is that an increasing number of people are optimistic about the City's future, because these are the kinds of improvements that help people believe in the continuing improvement of the City. That's why more and more people want to live in New York City, and why we are attracting more visitors than ever before—people eager to experience a cleaner, safer, and more vibrant City.

Some people romanticize the way things were five or ten years ago. They have nostalgia for the old Times Square, for example. They think it was somehow charming to have graffiti on every wall and sex shops on every block. But remember what it was really like. Remember the fear, and the disrespect for people's rights that went unchecked in that climate. It seemed like no one cared. Families never would have taken their children to Times Square. The renewal of Times Square is a symbol for what has happened all throughout the City. There are hundreds and hundreds of other examples.

People who insist on romanticizing the disorder of the past should realize that the reason they have the luxury of this nostalgia is that today things have improved. We didn't become the City people most want to live in and visit by encouraging an atmosphere of disorder and disrespect for the rights of others.

We've come this far because we have focused on people respecting the rights of others. We have made the "Broken Windows" theory an integral part of our law enforcement strategy. This theory says that the little things matter. As James Q. Wilson describes it, "If a factory or office window is broken, passersby observing it will conclude that no one cares or no one is in charge. In time, a few will begin throwing rocks to break more windows. Soon all the windows will be broken, and now passersby will think that, not only is no one in charge of the building, no one is in charge of the street on which it faces.. so more and more citizens will abandon the street to those they assume prowl it. Small disorders lead to larger ones, and perhaps even to crime."

In other words, if a climate of disorder and lack of mutual respect is allowed to take root, incidence of other, more serious antisocial behavior will increase. There's a continuum of disorder. Obviously, murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other. A city in which an increasing number of people respect and are willing to accommodate the rights of others is a city that's moving in a progressive direction.

The broken windows theory works. Just last week police officers noticed a man who was acting suspiciously. After keeping a close watch on the man for a time, the officers caught the man recklessly jaywalking. He was served a summons, and when they took him to the precinct they discovered that he was wanted in connection with a number of robberies. We might not have gotten this dangerous man off the streets if we hadn't caught him committing a lesser offense.

And in fact, last Wednesday when the Police Department conducted a comprehensive quality of life sweep North of 57th Street in Manhattan involving both transit and precinct units, they uncovered a variety of serious offenses. In this sweep, police made four felony arrests: for grand larceny, drug possession, assault, and promoting gambling. [There were 66 misdemeanor arrests, four violations, 244 A-Summonses, 44 B-Summonses, 166 C-Summonses, 36 E-C-D Summonses. They conducted 16 Bus Checks, and 70 subway vertical patrol checks.] They found violations and crimes including disorderly conduct, open container possession, littering, trespassing, loitering for prostitution, public urination, possession of a controlled substance, loitering for drugs, unlicensed possession of a knife, obstructing sidewalk, gambling, and a wide range of traffic, parking, and environmental control violations.

The fact is if you concentrate on the little things, and send the clear message that this City cares about maintaining a sense of law and order, which is another way of saying people respecting the rights of other people, then the City as a whole will begin to become safer. The very reason laws exist in the first place is so that people's rights can be protected, and that includes the right not to be disturbed, agitated, and abused by others.

We didn't focus on these things to the exclusion of paying attention to murder. We didn't settle for one or the other. We committed ourselves to tackling the big crimes and the small ones, to make it clear to all New Yorkers—and especially to our young people—that the law matters.

Consider the problem of graffiti, for example, which we have been addressing over the last five years as it has never been addressed before, with a comprehensive, multi-agency approach.

I don't understand why people used to romanticize defacing public and private property. The law clearly says it is a crime to destroy the property of another person. Beginning with Roman law up through English common law to modern jurisprudence, much of the development of humanism has centered on a respect for property rights.

Romanticizing graffiti is nothing more than showing contempt for the basic property rights of other people and rejecting the principles that have defined civilization for centuries. It's the obligation of society to say that if you want to express yourself creatively, you must do so within the context of other people's rights.

A city with an increasing amount of graffiti is a city in which the rights of its people are being disrespected. And conversely, a city with decreasing amounts of graffiti is a city in which the rights of people are being respected.

The question comes down to this: do we want our children to grow up in a City that turns the other way when property is destroyed? We've been committed to teaching the right lesson by example.

The NYPD has intensified its enforcement against vandalism. Arrests have increased from 32 in July to October 1994 to 305 in the same months of 1997, totaling 1,530 for all of last year. The Department of Transportation has eradicated 21.5 million square feet of graffiti since July 1994.

The Department of Probation's Community Service Unit cleaned over 2,700 sites just last year. The citywide cleanliness rating of graffiti our parks has risen from 81 percent in the Fall of 1993 to 97 percent in the Fall of 1997, and last year alone the Parks Department cleaned 3.7 million square feet of graffiti. And we'll continue to intensify our already enhanced enforcement through the NYPD's Graffiti Unit, the use of the Civil Enforcement Unit—which in some cases holds parents responsible for graffiti by juveniles—and the employment of closed circuit cameras in certain locations.

All of these facts are impressive, but the real difference is the feeling that you get when you walk around the City. It's a feeling of shared respect and peace—not disorder and contempt for public and private property.

We also launched the Quality of Life Hotline (1-888-677-LIFE) in September 1996 and have received thousands of complaints each year since. We signed the noise pollution bill into law last November, which is providing a powerful tool for addressing the problem of people and businesses who create excessive noise.

Those are just a few examples. Everybody knows about the squeegee operators, about the great work of the sanitation department—which has made our streets cleaner than they've ever been in the history of the cleanliness rating system—and about the ever-improving condition of our parks.

Overall, the City has become a place where more and more people are coming to take responsibility for themselves and their actions… where people respect and accommodate one another. That is the transformation that's improving the lives of millions of New Yorkers.


The Task Ahead

We are proud of what we've accomplished, but we are by no means satisfied.

The basic philosophy of quality of life requires that we constantly move on to new areas of improvement while maintaining the gains we've already made. That's why today we will continue to focus on the improvements we've already made to maintain those gains, and also to address critical new quality of life issues such as traffic enforcement, taxicab safety, reckless bicycle riding, noise pollution, littering, aggressive panhandling, overall courtesy between city employees and residents, and civility in our public schools.

  1. Traffic Enforcement

    Of these important initiatives, traffic enforcement probably has the greatest potential to save lives.

    New York City is a great functioning City. That's a wonderful thing. But it has certain consequences. There's give and take that has to happen every day in order for us to get along, especially on our streets, which are probably our most important public space.

    Our streets are relatively safe. Per capita among large cities we have one of the lowest rates of traffic fatalities in the country. But the number of deaths went up last year, so there still is serious reason for concern. In addition, we have too many pedestrian fatalities.

    To address this more effectively—not only in consideration of those injured in accidents on our streets but in consideration of all New Yorkers, who simply deserve to feel safe crossing our streets—we will initiate a vigorous, intensified traffic safety plan.

    Our enforcement philosophy will focus on dangerous driving. I have asked Commissioner Safir and the Police Department to issue a new police strategy to improve traffic safety, to be completed within the next several weeks.

    As part of the strategy, we will remind all of New York City's drivers that there is a speed limit on our streets. To make an immediate difference, we will post the speed limit throughout the City, just as it's posted everywhere else. And when cars exceed the speed limit, we will pull them over. New York City should be a place where safe driving rules are applied as stringently or more stringently than anywhere else—not where they are routinely disregarded.

    The speed limit on City streets is 30 miles per hour. Studies show that when there's an accident involving a car and a pedestrian, a decrease in vehicle speed from 40 to 30 miles an hour increases from 40 percent to 70 percent the likelihood that the pedestrian will survive that accident. A city with fewer cars speeding and driving chaotically will be a city with an improving quality of life for children, the elderly, visitors—and ultimately everybody in the City.

    Foreman points out in his article that enforcement efforts have historically been directed not at the City's interior streets but at our arterial roadways and highways. Police Commissioner Safir and I agree with this point, and believe that we must redirect some of the focus to interior parts of the City—with the goal of reducing speed on our streets to make the City safer for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

    Today, cars often drive at 45 or 50 miles an hour or more. Cabs are often the worst offenders. I hope you publicize this as a warning: we will enforce the 30 mile-per-hour limit on the City's streets. To illustrate this point in dramatic fashion, we will soon devote a day to showing zero tolerance for those who exceed the limit. I'll reveal more details on this plan in the next few weeks.

    As part of our overall shift in enhancing traffic enforcement in the City's interior roads, we will also concentrate on a wide range of other traffic violations that endanger the safety of pedestrians and of other drivers. Far too many cars in New York City disregard traffic signals. By expanding the Red Light Violation Monitoring Program, we will escalate enforcement so that when cars run red lights, they pay the consequences. In addition, cars, buses, and trucks must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks when pedestrians have the legal right of way. Every breakdown of the rules of the road contributes to a climate of disorder, a climate in which drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists begin to fear each other rather than one in which we all respect one another and try hard to make our streets work for everyone.

    We will also work to install more traffic-calming devices, like speed bumps, in front of schools and senior centers, to make sure that our most vulnerable pedestrians are protected. We should also put stricter speed controls in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, because those who walk in the most crowded parts of our City need to feel that the streets are safe for them. And we should put more taxi-stands in place throughout the City, so that we can minimize the reckless habit of taxis cutting across lanes to pick up a fare.

    When we decide to put a new signal or another traffic device on a street, we'll do it efficiently. Between July and October 1997, 85 percent of traffic signals were installed within six months of approval—up from 0 percent in Fiscal Year 1996.

    When pedestrians see drivers run red lights or make illegal turns, they are much more likely to disobey the rules themselves. And when pedestrians disobey the rules, they contribute to an atmosphere that says drivers don't need to pay attention to the rules. Everyone needs to be more respectful of one another, because we all need to use the roads.

    As the third essential component in our new traffic enforcement initiative, we will also step up DWI enforcement by increasing the number of checkpoints and reminders, making this issue a top priority throughout the Police Department. Last year we made over 6,800 DWI arrests throughout the City. That's an achievement, but far too many people are still victimized by this senseless crime.

  2. Raising Taxi Safety Standards

    Next, we'll step up enforcement at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Many hard working residents become cab drivers to make a better life for themselves and their families; and they do it with dedication and commitment. But as with any other group -- whether it be politicians, lawyers, police officers, or reporters -- some people act irresponsibly and create a bad reputation for the others. We will make every effort to have cab companies and cab drivers put safety first.

    We will immediately initiate an intensive, three-point effort to raise the quality of our cab drivers—because reckless cab drivers endanger everyone else on the road.

    First, we will introduce state legislation to toughen the standards for getting a Class E or Chauffeur's License from New York State. Currently, it's just too easy to convert a regular, Class D license, to a chauffeur's license. Basically, all you need to do to get this upgrade is request it, and pay a fee. The State should require an additional, more demanding driving test, including defensive driving skills, for people who make their living driving taxis—because they are entrusted with the safety of tens of thousands of passengers every day.

    Second, the City will move to toughen standards for the issuance of a taxicab operator's license (also called a hack license). We've already done a great deal to intensify standards over the last few years. For instance, in the past, the written test the City used to give to all prospective cab drivers was administered through taxi schools—yielding a 2 to 3 percent failure rate. Now, the test itself is much tougher, and it's proctored by personnel from the City's Taxi and Limousine Commission, yielding an average failure rate of between 27 and 30 percent.

    Currently, in order to be a taxi driver in New York, an applicant must have a chauffeur's license, and must also pass an English proficiency test, be fingerprinted for a background check, graduate from taxi school (for either 40 or 80 hours, depending on the demonstrated degree of English proficiency), and pass that final exam. TLC has also done away with providing temporary or trainee licenses to applicants before they complete the entire process. That's a pretty strict system. But we should put even more controls in place.

    We will establish a new requirement that all drivers pass through a probationary period before being granted the privilege of a permanent license. After driving on that probationary license for six months, the driver will be reviewed a second time before receiving a permanent taxicab operator's license. If during the probationary period the driver proves to drive in an unsafe manner, or to be otherwise unqualified, the City will deny that driver a taxicab operator's license. And as we work to ensure that all our cabs are driven in a safe and professional manner, we will seek to require all applicants for a taxicab license to be drug and alcohol tested -- just as public bus drivers, school bus drivers, and subway operators are tested to ensure public safety.

    Third, we will ask TLC to consider raising the minimum insurance requirements for taxis to more realistic levels to determine whether the current levels are unfair to passengers who are injured in accidents.

    But more importantly, we will deal with another problem: sometimes, when a taxicab company is underinsured, its owners shield themselves from paying for injuries suffered by people hurt in taxi accidents by incorporating individual medallions under shell corporations that do not have appreciable assets, and therefore can't satisfy any potential liabilities. This kind of maneuvering may protect profits, but it doesn't protect passengers.

    We will provide clearer and more effective opportunities to pierce the corporate veil when shell corporations are being used in this way, so that we prevent cab company owners from hiding their assets, and their liability, behind shell corporations.

    First, we will require every applicant for a medallion to disclose to the TLC the identification of any other taxi companies that person owns so that the TLC will have a clear and easily accessible record of related corporations and their ownership. The TLC will be able to cross-check this record to help make sure the owners of taxi corporations don't avoid their legal liability for damages. If the applicant fails to disclose this information, he will be penalized, including the possible revocation of his medallions.

    In addition, I'll ask the TLC to consider requiring each new taxi corporation not only to have substantial liability and no-fault coverage, but also to have a bond to cover liabilities that go beyond the available insurance. This could have two benefits: first, since each new taxi corporation would have to post a bond, companies would be discouraged from setting up shell corporations; and second, the companies that would incorporate would have sufficient assets, and therefore would be financially prepared to deal with the consequences of an accident.

  3. Reckless Bicycle Riding

    When discussing our roads, we can't ignore the role of bicycles. Reckless bicycling also has a direct effect on life and death. Last year 24 bicyclists were killed on city streets. In many cases reckless bike riding causes serious accidents and injuries. And twice in 1997 and twice in 1996 bicyclists directly caused the deaths of other people.

    The law already prohibits the use of bicycles on sidewalks. We will fully enforce the existing ordinance, and we are supporting an amendment of the law (19-176 of the Administrative Code) that will create tougher penalties for anyone riding on the sidewalk. And if a bicycle is being used for commercial delivery purposes, the amendment would hold both the bicycle operator and the business owner liable for violations.

    I also support requiring large commercial bicycle messenger services to obtain licenses and, as a prerequisite to licensure, to obtain adequate insurance in case their riders injure pedestrians or others.

    In addition, the NYPD will enforce existing City Council laws requiring commercial bike messengers and delivery people to ride bicycles that clearly identify the business for which they work, requiring bicycle operators to carry photo identification, and requiring businesses to keep a log of all bicycle trips.

    Bicycle riding, like automobile riding, is subject to regulation to ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians, because bicycle operators—from delivery people to messengers to recreational riders—who refuse to obey the rules of the road are a serious risk to the safety of pedestrians, automobile drivers and everyone else. We have to be serious about making sure bicycle riders respect the rights of other people.

    Everyone has a right to use our streets, but if we don't learn to share, to respect and accommodate one another, the result is very simple. The civil order starts to break down, streets become chaotic, and people get hurt.

  4. Noise Pollution

    The other quality of life problems may not deal directly with matters of life and death, but they are of great concern to the people of the City. Noise pollution, for instance, is a major problem. Even in a city as exciting as New York, people should be able to sleep without being disturbed by car alarms, blaring music from a club, or other similar annoyances.

    Noise pollution happens to be harder to enforce than other quality of life problems, but we are going to do our best.

    The new noise pollution bill we signed into law last November, which raises fines and toughens restrictions against noise polluters, is providing a major new tool for prevention and enforcement. It will advance our already enhanced noise pollution enforcement efforts all across the City. For instance, from October 1997 through January 1998, notices of violation served by the Department of Environmental Protection increased by more than 22 percent over the same period the previous year. Since the start of Fiscal Year 1997, DEP and the Police Department combined have issued over 3,900 noise pollution summonses.

    In an ongoing effort to maintain and improve these gains, DEP is working with the NYPD to conduct intensive noise sweeps in communities across the City that experience chronic noise problems. New Yorkers should call the DEP Helpline (718) 337-4357, or the Quality of Life Hotline (1-888-677-LIFE), with noise complaints.

    To address specifically the nuisance of car alarms, we'll enforce the law stating that car alarms must automatically terminate within three minutes. If cars alarms fail to turn off after three minutes, police officers will act swiftly to serve a summons on the violator and have the car towed.

    To further tackle the problem, we're proposing a new initiative that will encourage neighborhood car alarm owners to enroll in a voluntary program with the local precinct in which they will register their home phone number with the precinct. The car owner will then put a sticker on the window of their car indicating the number of the precinct. When the alarm goes off and is creating a nuisance, the registration system will enable the towing company or neighborhood residents to contact the owner before their car is towed.

    We'll also deal with the excessive noise from clubs adjacent to residential neighborhoods through Operation Last Call, our multi-agency task force designed to address the nuisance of loud nightclubs.

  5. Littering

    Just as we've aggressively addressed and will continue to deal with the problem of graffiti, it's time to accelerate our enforcement against those who litter. Again, this is a question of having respect for other people, respect for the community, and respect for the common space that we all share.

    To give you an idea of the progress we've made already: for the last six months of last year, for the first time in the history of the City, all 59 of our sanitation districts were rated as acceptably clean. And over that same period our streets received the highest cleanliness rating ever. This is real progress over the last 25 to 30 years, but all you have to do is look around to realize is that there is still too much littering.

    Beyond whatever initiatives the City will implement, to make the greatest progress against littering, communities need to mobilize against this offense and take pride in their public spaces. It's a snowball effect. The more people who drop a cigarette box or gum wrapper on the street today, the more people will tend to litter tomorrow. And conversely, the more people who pick up trash today and instill a feeling of pride in their neighborhood, the fewer people will litter tomorrow.

  6. Restoring Civility between City Workers and All New Yorkers, and in our Schools

    We'll also encourage courteous behavior by all City employees. The job of City employees is to serve the people. So in dealing with the public, city employees must set an example of civil and professional behavior. From the top down and from the bottom up, we will reinforce this sense of civility. We will expand Commissioner Safir's CPR program, modified for the needs of other agencies, to agencies in direct contact with the public.

    At the same time, we expect the same respect from city residents. Just as I've said time and again the only way respect truly flourishes is when it is mutual. City employees can't be expected to treat people with dignity if they are not treated with dignity themselves. It's wrong to yell at, scream, or abuse civil servants -- any civil servant -- no matter their rank or status. I've tried to encourage this principle by making the message clear that I will not tolerate any of my commissioners being abused or mistreated as part of their job. They are professionals and they should be treated as such.

    Finally, we have to reach our children with the essential message of civility. After all, that's what all of this is ultimately about—conveying a good example to our children so that our City is transformed permanently. The best place to teach children these life lessons is at home—but the most important place to reinforce these lessons is in their very first social environment: our schools.

    We should first do this by example. In many ways, schools are microcosms of society. If a student shows utter disrespect for the rights of other students to learn, teachers and administrators have to send a clear and unequivocal message that society doesn't tolerate that kind of behavior.

    I also support the movement toward school uniforms because it encourages discipline, pride and mutual respect—the building blocks of a civil society. And I support dress codes for teachers, too.

    All around the country, in the public schools of the Edison Project, the largest private manager of public elementary schools in the country, one of the five curriculum areas taught—along with humanities and the arts, mathematics and science, practical arts and skills, and health and physical fitness, is the area of character and ethics. This includes, as it should, "traditional principles such as integrity, compassion, self-respect, and respect for others."

    We too should teach civility as a subject within the classroom—ideally, as part of civics classes. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a civics class anymore. That's a shame. Until civics becomes part of the curriculum again, we should make sure students learn the importance of civility in their history classes, with the understanding that the rules of civility, like the rules of history, apply today.



The basic principle behind all of this is consideration of the rights of others. That's the foundation of any city, and of any functioning society.

When we further the quality of life and advance New York City as a more civil society, when we constantly reinforce the fact that our actions affect one another, we'll realize together that inconsiderate behavior yields disorder and, more importantly, we'll realize the meaning of truly considerate behavior, which lifts the City up and brings us together every day.

We're not paying attention to the little things to the exclusion of the big things. The little things become the big things… and the big things, like crime reduction, job creation, and welfare reform, have a lasting impact on civility. If we weren't successfully addressing the fundamentals, we would not be able to deal with quality of life issues. And if we never addressed quality of life issues, the fundamentals would be impossible to change.

Because every time we remove items from the long list of complaints that has burdened New Yorkers for generations, we give thousands and thousands of people the opportunity to do something they wouldn't have done… to visit a place they might not have visited… or to aspire in a way they wouldn't have aspired before. It's really the same thing that happens with crime reduction on a smaller, but no less important, scale.

When this happens thousands and millions of times across the City, you have a New York City in which we are moving forward together with a revitalized spirit.

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