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Last updated:
April 17, 2009.

The 5-Minute Activist

You can only read so many books and planning studies and sit through so many seminars and community board meetings before it is time to stand up and act. What to do? There are many things to do, but here's the two easiest. First: vote. Yes, it's a very low rung of involvement, but it only takes about twenty minutes or so once a year, and your vote can at least help keep out of office some of the worst candidates. The next step up we urge is to write a letter or letters. Letters have a lot more impact at the typical politician's office than the more easily sent e-mails. Keep each letter short and to a single subject. Be polite. Ask for a reply, then follow up. Make it easy for yourself -- set up a mailing supply area with plenty of envelopes, stamps, paper, etc.. Then cut and paste the texts from any of the suggestions below.

Here's addresses (or websites) for some of your elected (or appointed) officials:

President Barack Obama, The White House, Washington DC 20500
Mayor Michael C. Bloomberg, City Hall, NYC 10007
US Senate:
US House:
NYC City Council:

Here are a couple samples for inspiration:

LETTER 1: To Mayor Mike Bloomberg, City Hall NY 10007


Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

Our city buses, even the newer hybrids and natural gas buses, are some of the noisiest vehicles on our streets, often as loud as privately owned concrete trucks or gasoline tankers. Bus noise is especially harmful to NYC residents - your prime constituents - because buses are in every neighborhood, running on most routes at almost all hours. It seems the MTA has made no effort over the decades towards noise suppression, since the newest buses, including the hybrids, are some of the loudest.

Further, it seems that the electronic alarm that sounds when the bus is "kneeling" for passengers to board has been set at loudest possible, meaning that people across the street and down the block hear these shrieking, ear-piercing alarms everytime a bus has people getting on. This must be fixed immediately.

I urge you to press MTA chair Lawrence Reuter to adjust the kneeling alarms and to install better mufflers and noise suppression on the entire bus fleet. I also urge you to get the MTA to procure electric buses, like the kind they have in more sophisticated cities, such as San Francisco. These vehicles are no noiser than a passenger car and have no tailpipe emissions, to boot.

Thank you.

LETTER 2: To Mayor Mike Bloomberg, City Hall NY 10007
(SEND BY: ONGOING, or until NYC is auto-free)


Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

I am glad you have taken up the former Mayor's efforts to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers. However, your administration's efforts may be seen as no more than yet another crackdown on defenseless groups like the homeless, unless you are also willing to take on the rampant disregard for the law and for public safety displayed by thousands of drivers every day throughout the city.

Anybody walking around in the city for a mere five minutes will witness one or more vehicular crimes, involving speeding, running red lights, horn honking, making U-turns and threatening pedestrians in crosswalks. The noise and pollution, the hit-and-run car culture and constant anxiety of the pedestrian because of the presence of too many motor vehicles in this city are quality of life crimes that should be on the top of your list. Please let me know that you are going to make this a priority.

Thank you.
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