Give us pizza or give us death!’ So chanted New Yorker Scott LoBaido a few weeks ago in downtown Manhattan before he started hurling large slices of pizza over the gates of New York’s City Hall.
LoBaido, a conservative artist and activist, was staging a lone and eccentric protest against a new green crackdown on coal and wood-fired ovens.
Opponents say it will badly hit the city’s already struggling small businesses — particularly its iconic pizzerias — which face paying tens of thousands of dollars to install oven filters that must be regularly inspected.
It may seem like a trivial issue. Yet the video of LoBaido’s pie-slinging stunt, in which he tells viewers that ‘the woke-a** idiots who run this city are doing everything in their power to destroy it’, quickly went viral.
And there is clearly a widespread and growing sense that New York — the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps and Capital Of The World — is missing some of its old swagger.
Its notoriously opinionated and hard-bitten inhabitants are increasingly cowed by progressive leaders, who have more than wood-fired pizza in their sights. As a result, the exhilarating and endlessly enterprising metropolis, about which Frank Sinatra sang, ‘If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere’ — and where I’ve lived for 16 years — is suffering from something of an identity crisis.
The city is suffering a crime epidemic so bad even ice cream and laundry detergent are security- tagged in shops, and endless anti-business measures are driving down earnings, but politicians appear more preoccupied by the culture wars: woke causes and green issues, such as air pollution.
Yet for all the concern about air quality, the authorities have only themselves to blame for the all-pervasive stench of contraband weed on its streets, a consequence of officials’ disastrous tinkering with cannabis legalisation on the grounds of ‘racial equity’, which has led to the proliferation of 1,400 illicit marijuana shops.
And a city that prides itself on being the ultimate temple of capitalism now finds itself with 22 per cent of its office space lying empty, a stunning figure that is likely to get worse following the introduction of a congestion charge of up to $23 (£17.60) for driving into midtown Manhattan.
If officials hope the fee will encourage commuters to leave their cars at home and take the subway, they may be in for disappointment.