As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg prepares to leave office at year’s end after more than a decade, he leaves behind a legacy of trying to improve city life — often by telling New Yorkers what they can’t have.
Smoking. Trans fats. Big sodas (courts struck down that one). The Bloomberg Bans have for many come to define his 12 years in office. Collectively, they’re viewed as either an unprecedented and admirable body of work in public-health and environmental policy, or an almost stereotypically laughable example of a liberal nanny state at its worst. And with just days left in office, he’s not done either: the city council’s Sanitation Committee will hold a hearing Monday to discuss a Bloomberg-backed bill that would ban the use and sale of foam cups and plates that are commonplace in cafeterias at schools and delis.
Bloomberg, for his part, never shies away from taking the hard — and often unpopular — stance on what his citizens can and can’t do, convinced that history will redeem him and public opinion will eventually come around, as it did with his ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.
“A lot of elected officials are afraid to back controversial things. I’m not afraid of that,” he said in a TIME cover story in October. “You’re not going to hurt my business, and if you are, I don’t care. I take great pride in being willing to stand up.”
His late-game effort on Styrofoam aims to remove 23,000 tons of trash from landfills each year while saving millions on disposal and recycling costs.
Here’s TIME’s brief history of the Bloomberg Bans — most in which he got his way, but some in which his plans were stymied.
In 2002, Bloomberg banned smoking in New York City’s bars and restaurants. Then in 2011, he banned smoking in most outdoor areas, like parks and beaches. And just this month, New York became the first large city to ban tobacco sales to people under the age of 21, rather than the usual 18.
Bloomberg has hailed the measures as leading to historic drops in smoking rates in the city.
In 2005, New York became the first city to force restaurants and food vendors to phase out the use of artificial trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease and obesity.
In 2007, Bloomberg — who rides the subway to work every day and touts it as the best way to get around the city — proposed a “congestion charge” for the city’s midtown area, which would have made drivers pay $8 to enter the heart of the city. Bloomberg wanted more walking and cleaner air — but state lawmakers nixed the plan.
Menus Without Calorie Counts
This wasn’t so much a ban as an addition. In 2008, Bloomberg made New York the first city to pass a law that required food-service providers to show calorie counts on menus. Along with his trans-fats ban, Bloomberg credits it with leading to a healthier populace.
The mayor tried mightily to ban the sales of large-size sodas and sugary drinks, perhaps Bloomberg’s highest-profile public-health failure. The city’s health board, which he controls, enacted the restriction in 2012, and it was supposed to go into effect earlier this year. But a court later ruled that the board exceeded its authority.