NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg has gone after supersized sodas and transfats in his quest to curb obesity in New York. Now, in his final months in office, he’s targeting elevators.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg unveiled a new initiative that would encourage office workers to take the stairs instead of the elevator and promote the idea of “active design” in new and renovated buildings in the city, including open stairwells and floor plans that would force people to walk more during the day.
“Exercise is good for you,” Bloomberg declared at a press conference announcing the new design initiative.
The plan includes the creation of the Center for Active Design, a nonprofit group partly funded by the city that would suggest design changes in New York buildings and around the world to promote more physical activity.
For existing buildings, the mayor said he would also introduce legislation that would relax city codes that usually require doors leading to stairwells to be closed or locked in case of a fire. Officials suggested building owners could install a magnet that would hold a door open but automatically close it during an emergency.
City officials want occupants to be able to use the stairs instead of an elevator if they choose—though Bloomberg, who pointedly noted that he takes the stairs when he can, insisted he wasn’t trying to force exercise on people.
“What we’ve got to do is just make it cool–if you will–or socially more the norm to exercise, and that’s what you see here,” Bloomberg said. “The whole idea is not to change what you have to do, but to give you the idea and the impetus to do something that is in your best interest.”
Bloomberg’s far-reaching health proposals have prompted critics to accuse him of being a “nanny” mayor—a term that he has frequently mocked.
But perhaps anticipating criticism over his latest proposal, he brought up the “nanny” critique at Wednesday’s press conference, insisting his proposals have been popular and are why the city is growing.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Well isn’t all this nannygate stuff hurting business?’ And I pointed out we have a record number of companies moving here, we have a record number of private sector jobs here, we had record number of tourists coming here, we have a record number of people here. Stop me when you get bored,” Bloomberg said.
“I mean,” he added, “these are things that most people like.”
Officials were careful to note that many of the design proposals are just suggestions, not mandates. But Bloomberg argued that the designs not only would help New Yorkers be more active, but also would be more welcoming aesthetically. He said the city would not offer economic initiatives to building owners looking to comply with the suggestions.
“The economic initiative is you live longer,” Bloomberg declared.