Mayor takes crunch from the Big Apple

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The taming of the Big Apple continues apace. Times Square has lost most of its sex joints and addicts. The taxi drivers are under orders to be nice and speak English too. Now, it seems, the City That Never Sleeps is to be told it must sleep. Or at least let others sleep.

No, the subway trains are not being stopped at midnight; the elevated tracks in Queens will still rattle and roar at three in the morning just as they do at three in the afternoon. Nor are we talking of a curfew on the traffic that seems to be at rush hour pitch at all hours of the night.

But the babble that is part of what defines New York the city - the horns, the buzz of the clubs, even the hum of a million air conditioning units, all that must cease. Or if not cease, it must be lowered to volumes that allow those folks who prefer to tuck in at midnight actually to rest.

That is the message of a new ordinance passed by the City Council this week that will triple fines on people found responsible for excessive decibel emission. Make a racket when the moon is up and your wallet will burn.

This is one bill that Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor (did I hear dictator?), will be rushing to sign.

He is up for re-election next month, and making New York "livable" is his ticket to another four years in Gracie Mansion. A ticket, by the way, that the grateful voters are almost certain to grant him.

To whom will the ordinance give pause? To dog owners, for sure. If your mut barks at night, the fine may reach $525 (pounds 332). A loud TV could cost you $1,050 (pounds 664). You thought the cable bill was bad? Let you car alarm sound for more than three minutes and your pain may top $2,100. Similarly scorching fines are promised to bars with the volume turned too high on their music and drivers who like to lean on their horns. (Here, that means everyone).

Many city dwellers will applaud the measure, of course, especially those in so-called residential areas that have still not been able to withstand the spread of the clubs and bars. "New Yorkers are never going to be listening to crickets at night," said Councilman Gifford Miller. "We're just trying to make it a little saner".

But bar owners are protesting. "This is going to kill business," remarked one yesterday. The New York Nightlife Association barked: "We're not saying nightclubs should be exempt from noise codes. But there has to be a certain amount of tolerance. The city that never sleeps gets its name from licensed nightclubs".