"There is a new feeling in this town," Mayor Edward Koch says. Sometimes he calls it a renaissance.
Not every New Yorker would agree with Koch, but the mayor undeniably has brought a new spirit to City Hall - where he is not afraid to be blithe, witty, corny or angry in public.
"He's also trying to convey a close a New Yorker-a middle class New Yorker," Koch's press secretary, Maureen Connelly, said yesterday.
"He's also trying to convey a closeness to the people," she said, but she rejected the idea that Koch works to create political symbols.
The mayor ended one of his longest-running efforts at contract with the people yesterday when he decided to continue using as his official car a 1974 Chrysler which he once called a deathtrap.
Last week, Koch said he would like to use a city-owned 1972 Cadillac which would be roomier and, he hoped, would not break down as frequently.
Koch invited citizen's opinions on which car he should use. His staff counseled Koch to stick with the Chrysler to avoid a backlash, because he has billed himself as a supporter of subway travel and has stripped several subordinates of their limousiness.
Koch announced yesterday that the opinions were 451 to 365 in favor of the Chrysler and that he would keep it although he would have it repaired.
Koch described the car episode as "comic relief." During a Sunday television program on which he answered citizen's questions he said, "I wanted to liven things up a little."
"There's so much gloom and doom," Koch said. "Don't we need a few more light moments?"
But Koch's automobile decision clearly showed the limits on lightness for a New York mayor. At a time when New York is seeking federal loans, and is opening union negotiations with a warning that there isn't money for sizable raises. the mayor cannot afford the symbolism of a Cadillac-even one that's six years old.
Koch's mayoral style involves praises of New Yorkers' resiliency as well as talk of a new municipal spirit.
"They're like street rats," the mayor said when a magazine asked him about New Yorkers. "They can survive almost anything."
The mayor keeps the city's fiscal problem front and center during his public appearances and he makes plain his craving for federal help.
"I hope he'll do better," Koch said when asked whether President Carter is being helpful to New York.
In his first 60 days as mayor, Koch has also shown he intends to work hard at contact with people. He attends gripe sessions in various neighborhoods. City hall staffers are under orders to answer mail promptly. The mayor has held two telephone call-in shows.
Koch has made clear that he's going to be very visible, and very ready to fire back when he feels he is being unfairly accused.
"I resent it bitterly and I reject it."
Koch often points out that his city unfairly accused.
"I resent it bitterly and I reject it," Koch told a questioner Sunday who accused him of having said that he owes nothing to the black community and of not appointing blacks to city management positions.
Koch often points out that his city is far larger than other American cities. "You can't compare New York with any other city. Our prolems are so huge."