Mayor Mike's war against obesity has employed a wide array of weapons, including posted calorie counts at fast food restaurant chains, an end to transfats in baked goods, 1,000 new permits for street carts selling veggies and, most recently, a ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces. But here's another tool he might want to consider: banning eating around the city's landmarks and tourist hot spots.
Rome has done it, although the move was done to improve civility, not waistlines.
But if the mayor were to do something similar here, it could have a slimming effect, especially for tourists. After all, they're the ones visiting the Statue of Liberty, lining up for an hour for views from the Empire State Building's Observation Deck or lolling on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We New Yorkers are in Brooklyn, watching indie rock bands at dive bars in Greenpoint or lining up for TWO hours for a slice of pizza made from locally grown-and-ground semolina flour.
Why should New Yorkers be the only ones basking in the warmth of Bloomberg's benevolent, compassionate gaze? Why should visitors have to wait for their own elected officials to concern themselves with their bad habits and poor health?
By banning eating and drinking around cultural sites like the Met, Mayor Bloomberg will give tourists a reason to avoid the food vendors who sit around the perimeter of those majestic steps like fishermen around the rim of a trout-stocked barrel. He spares them the carbohydrate coma from a 450-calorie soft pretzel and its 1,000 milligrams of salt. He saves them from the dirty water hot dog.
The mayor doesn't need to stop there. He can target tourists in other ways, like hiking cab fares for distances under ten blocks. They can walk it, just like real New Yorkers do!
How about requiring diners at Carnegie Deli and Stage Deli to view ultrasounds of their hearts before they are allowed to eat one of these tourist traps' huge sandwiches? ("Overstuffed with at least one pound of meat!" Carnegie's website crows.) Seeing their tickers laboring on their behalf (especially after all the walking tourists will now be doing) should be enough to have our overweight out-of-towners ordering steamed broccoli and Iceberg lettuce with a sprinkle of lemon juice.
We shouldn't wait for a visit to Rome to do what the Romans are doing. For one thing, most of Rome may be sold off by then to help resolve Italy's debt crisis. (One antiquity, 76-year-old media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, announced Wednesday that HE'S leaving the scene. He won't run for re-election next spring.) We should do what the Romans do right now By banning eating and drinking around our tourist hot spots, we'll help tourists experience the city like a real New Yorker does: prodded, cajoled and banned into changing our unhealthy ways.