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Ease Up, America: New York’s Still Rude With PM-Courtesy Commandments, a list

May 21, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Despite a new civility campaign that implores, ″C’mon, New York, Ease Up,″ the inhabitants continue to hog pay phones, fight over cabs, curse Jersey drivers and bump, elbow, knee and shove each other.

″Courtesy? You got the wrong town, man,″ said Thomas Abato as he tossed some change in the general direction of a newspaper vendor.

In a city where courtesy often seems limited to the ″It’s Our Pleasure to Serve You″ message on the blue and white cardboard coffee containers, selling people on civility ″is the ultimate marketing challenge,″ says Ron Burkhardt, whose advertising firm is trying to do just that.

The courtesy campaign is directed by a group called New York Pride, which held a news conference Thursday to unveil an advertising campaign.

″The city is in trouble, in crisis; it’s aching now,″ said co-chairman Herb Rickman, sounding as if maybe he should ease up himself. ″Government alone can’t save this city.″

″New York has become a rough, tough place to live in,″ he added, ″largely because of little incidents, little irritations″ in the subway or on the street. Partly as a result, he said, tourism is down and residents and corporations are moving out.

The campaign attracted international attention when it was announced at another news conference 2 1/2 months ago, but until this week little had actually been done to promote civility.

The campaign includes:

-Television spots showing typical New York scenes - women fighting over a taxi cab, men sticking fingers in each others’ chests, a bicyclist brushing past a pedestrian - as the soundtrack plays the song ″Try a Little Tenderness.″ At the end, two men lift a fallen woman from the street.

-Radio spots in which a grumpy bank teller tells a customer to get in line. Asked ″Which line?″ he barks, ″See that short one over there? That’s not it.″

-Print ads featuring a large close up of a cab driver’s snarling face and the message, ″It’s about time we changed the face of New York.″

-Posters and window stickers with the quasi-trapazoidal ″NEW YORK PR 3/8DE″ logo, and the promise ″Courtesy Shown Here.″

-A telephone line, 800-HAPPYNY, for reports of politeness or courtesy. ″You can call up and find out who’s being courteous and who isn’t,″ said Mark Simone of WNEW radio, who is focusing on the topic on his program.

A supermarket chain is giving free merchandise to any customer who is not thanked by a check out cashier, a cab company is training all its drivers in etiquette and Diamond District merchants are displaying the courtesy posters in their store windows.

On Friday, however, New Yorkers were up to their old habits.

They grumbled when they arrived at the Central Park tennis house at 7 a.m. to discover the courts would not open on time because it had rained the night before.

They grumbled at dozens of subway stations along the J and M lines after a shooting on a train halted service during rush hour.

They grumbled at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 60th Street, where pedestrian traffic was halted briefly when a blind man hooked his cane through a woman’s shopping bag, prompting some nasty language by the latter.

″New Yorkers are cynical,″ said Emery Jackson, president of We Care About New York, an agency which coordinates volunteers. ″I don’t blame New York Pride for trying, but I don’t think public service announcements will inspire them to be less curt.″

Spokesmen for public service agencies were asked if the civility campaign in having any effect.

″How could I possibly gauge such a thing?″ asked a harried Al O’Leary, spokesman for the Transit Authority, who had a big meeting Friday morning. ″Get real, babe. I gotta go.″

″People have been in a bad mood because of all the rain,″ said Vito Turso, spokesman for the Sanitation Department. ″Try us next week.″

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