NEW YORK — Self-styled victims of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's war on incivility launched separate protests in Manhattan on Wednesday--one group by taking to the streets and the other by doing the opposite.
The city's cabdrivers were the ones who mainly stayed home, in a 24-hour strike meant to dramatize their anger at the mayor's proposed crackdown on bad driving.
Meanwhile, Manhattan sex workers staged a march on the newly Disney-fied Times Square, complaining that Giuliani is puritanically trying to zone them out of business.
Tactically, the cabbies couldn't have picked a worse day for a strike. After more than a week of rain, Wednesday was sunny and in the 70s.
The strike was stunningly effective in the sense that the city's 12,187 licensed yellow cabs, which normally make up about half of Manhattan's street traffic, were almost nowhere to be seen.
But on such a glorious day, they weren't much in demand, either. Even the subways seemed practically empty.
Outside the taxi union's strike headquarters on the edge of Times Square, driver John Rosen griped that Giuliani, in his zeal to punish discourteous, reckless, drunk or drug-impaired cabbies, is making life hell for even the good ones.
"Sure, there are bad drivers," Rosen said, "but in the last three or four months, Giuliani has unleashed a blizzard of cops on us, giving us heaps of tickets for trivial offenses."
Giuliani wants mandatory drug tests, tougher regulations and increased fines for traffic violations by cabbies. It's part of a broad series of "quality of life" initiatives that have burnished the mayor's reputation as a control freak.
New Yorkers responded mainly positively to earlier Giuliani crackdowns on panhandlers, "squeegee men" and subway fare-beaters, but many reacted with ridicule and scorn to his attempts to rein in jaywalkers.
The mayor, in a Wednesday morning press conference, shrugged off the taxi demonstration, but he warned cabbies not to follow through on plans to form a protest convoy to City Hall next Thursday that could cripple morning rush-hour traffic.
Drivers obstructing traffic will face arrest and loss of their coveted licenses to operate, Giuliani said.
As a cluster of cabbies spilled out their grievances to reporters on the sidewalk outside strike headquarters, they paused only to hoot and curse at rival limousine drivers and the few passing cabs ignoring the strike.
Bicyclist Eric Zaccar, whose business card identifies him as a "playwright, lyricist, screenwriter and designer of dreams," pulled over to the curb to say that the lack of cab traffic was making Wednesday "a pleasure for biking."
A few blocks away, an assortment of workers from the sex trades enlivened lunchtime for a crush of tourists in the heart of Manhattan's entertainment district.
Carrying placards reading, "I strip and I vote" and "More booty, less Rudy," exotic dancers, porno book dealers and peep-show operators said that the mayor's campaign to restrict their industry threatens not only thousands of jobs but a vital part of the city's tourist appeal.
"Sailors whose ships dock here will be slitting their wrists," joked Bill Dobbs, a lawyer and gay-rights activist who acted as spokesman for the protest.
Sex workers have a lawsuit pending in federal appeals court to block new city zoning laws barring strip bars, adult bookstores and other X-rated businesses from much of Manhattan. Giuliani considers the industry a nuisance and doesn't want it anywhere near schools, churches or upscale commercial developments.
In the Times Square area, much of what used to be the city's red-light district already has given way to glitzy theme restaurants, mega-stores and music theaters built by such entertainment titans as Walt Disney Co., Sony Corp., Viacom and Time Warner.
"Giuliani's brand of censorship won't stop with turning Times Square into a bland, vapid shopping mall," said Cindra Feuer of the group Sex Panic! "If the court upholds the zoning plan, the mayor will turn the whole city into a cultural wasteland."