Popularity-Challenged Mayor May Do 20 More Pedestrian Malls

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On Wednesday there was finally a break in the clouds hanging over the Bloomberg administration. Rather than budget cuts, a blizzard fiasco and the need to dump his schools chancellor, the mayor had good news: he said the air is cleaner in Times Square since he banned cars.

If you feel like you need to breathe, the air is cleaner and healthier since Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner created a pedestrian mall.

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“That cleaner air, of course, makes a huge difference in the health of more than a quarter million pedestrians who pass through Times Square every day,” Bloomberg said.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Mayor Bloomberg

Of course it was lost on anyone that the popularity-challenged mayor made the announcement standing with former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity in New York is very high, and because good clean air numbers might help to offset driver dissatisfaction.

In announcing the project the mayor promised a 17-percent increase in traffic speed on Seventh Avenue, but it turned out to be just 4 percent, and a 35-percent increase in traffic speed on Sixth Avenue. The reality there was just 15 percent.

What’s more, Clinton, an active environmentalist, actually gave a shout out to drivers, explaining that when he visited Times Square, “I got what …  I got what the objection to some were on this driving.”

Clinton said Times Square has changed totally since he first visited it in his college days.

“I saw a hooker approach a man in a gray flannel suit,” Clinton said.

Political pundits said the mayor needs some good news to announce these days.

“It’s the four ‘Bs’ — blizzard, bikes, budget and Black — and you’ve got to somehow get away from that with something you can claim an ‘A’ for or an ‘A-plus.’ That’s what he’s doing,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.

The mayor said he finds the air quality results so encouraging he’s considering building 20 more pedestrian malls throughout the city. Drivers ought to love that.

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Officials say better air quality will cut down on childhood asthma, premature deaths and hospitalizations for respiratory diseases.

Clinton joined Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion, the official mayor’s residence, to announce that they are merging their two climate groups – C40, a coalition of cities led by Bloomberg, and the Clinton Climate Initiative, a project of Clinton’s foundation.

C40 and the Clinton Climate Initiative both seek to cut carbon emissions through programs that reduce energy use in buildings, promote mass transit and reuse greenhouse gases emitted by landfills.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb with Clinton and Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Former President Bill Clinton at Gracie Mansion - New York, NY - Apr 13, 2011 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Former President Bill Clinton at Gracie Mansion - New York, NY - Apr 13, 2011 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

Both Clinton and Bloomberg praised the recent environmental record of the oft-criticized People’s Republic of China.

“China is hellbent for leather to stop polluting,” said Bloomberg.

Clinton says China sees money and jobs in the environment.

“The Chinese are now leap-frogging Germany, Japan, and the United States to become the number one producer and consumer of photovoltaic solar. They’re looking at solar thermal, the larger units. They’re doing more in wind energy,” said Clinton.

Clinton says China has become, in his words, “a great responisble citizen.”

Think the mayor is just doing damage control? Proud of his accomplishment? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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