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Sh-sh! This Is New York In the '90s

The $525 Bark

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First Disney's Mickey Mouse started muscling the strippers out of Times Square. Then the Taxi Commission clamped down on rude and nasty drivers. Now, the noise police have arrived.

In a move surely destined to undermine New York's rowdy reputation as the city that never sleeps, the City Council this week voted to double and triple the fines for repeat noise offenders.

Got a dog that won't stop barking? It could cost you more than $500. Caught for a third time with a blaring boom box? You may have to fork over more than a thousand bucks. Gridlock's so bad you're leaning on the horn, again? You could be fined as much as $2,625.

"It may be an uphill battle, but short of issuing all New Yorkers earplugs, we have to start making progress," says Councilman A. Gifford Miller who wrote the ordinance.

For supporters, it's a victory for quality of life in the beehive-like island where more than 8 million people live, work, and often bump into each other every day. But to opponents, it's a triumph of the dulling of New York. Yet another attempt to sanitize the brash grittiness that is integral to the city's character.

"Noise is what makes this city tick and if someone doesn't like it they can just leave," says Duncan Levin, a native who recently moved to Washington, D.C., which he finds it "much too quiet."

New York is a city in transition, attempting to transform its mean streets into more mellow urban thoroughfares. But neither outsiders nor natives are quite sure what to think of this change.

The city's crime rate has dropped so low, it's now safer than Des Moines, Iowa. Since the Disney Corp. bought up most of Times Square, two imposing statues of Mickey and Minnie hover over the shuttered doors of porno shops and peep shows. And once Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signs the new noise ordinance, which he has pledged to do, any nightclub that gets too loud for the neighbors could face fines as large as $24,000.

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