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Affordable housing is always a problem in New York City, especially on the Upper West Side, so that nice young couple who pitched a tent on a subway grate in the north median at Broadway and 86th Street had themselves a pretty sweet deal for a while. Alas, it couldn’t last; as it turned out one of the campers was involved in a South Street Seaport murder case, and the cops made everybody move on Wednesday afternoon.
As plagues go, a couple of urban campers don’t measure up to frogs, hail, locusts or a progressive in City Hall. Then again, without a progressive in City Hall, there likely wouldn’t be tents in the Broadway median, either.
Mayor Bill de Blasio hammered the Upper West Side hard during this pandemic year, cramming boutique hotels full of lunatics, junkies, panhandlers and petty criminals — and then was nowhere to be found when the neighborhood convulsed.
It wasn’t just Zabar’s shoppers who were horrified: East Side, West Side, all around town — everybody got a full ration of community trauma. Also, Brooklyn and the subways; don’t forget the subways.
Or the crime. Or the trash-littered streets. Or all the other dark memories of pre-Giuliani Gotham, suddenly come roaring back to reality.
But none of this is news, you say. Why dredge it up now? Because of the tent.
It will likely be gone by any given sundown. Nomads are nothing if not nomadic, and living on a Broadway subway grate really is mocking the gods. But the fact that it was there at all this week demonstrates that chaos and disruption are the new normal in the Big Apple.
It was never going to last, nomads being nomads. But the fact that it was there at all this week demonstrates that chaos and disruption are the new normal in the Big Apple.
Really. There were no tents on Broadway Wednesday night, but there could be 10 by the weekend. Yet would there be any at all if the mayor hadn’t turned the slightly threadbare Lucerne on West 79th Street into Hotel Hellscape last year?
If that isn’t intent, what is? And, again, the new normal.
But it isn’t just de Blasio, and it isn’t just vagrants. Among the other insanities that marked the city’s cultural flight from reasonable law enforcement was Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s announcement two years ago that he would no longer prosecute transit fare-beaters. Doing so disproportionately impacted petty criminals, he said, so better to let them go their way.
So now a Metropolitan Transportation Authority insider says that some 15 percent (and rising) of daily riders are fare-beaters — and good luck cramming that genie back in the bottle.
Of course, it took a village full of idiots — de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the City Council, four of New York’s five DAs and the state Legislature — to reverse the hard-won public-safety gains of the Giuliani-Bloomberg administrations.
Murder was up 95 percent in 2020. The figure is 35 percent above that so far this year, and it takes one of those digital clickers to track all the shootings. Riders are terrified of the subways. Roving bands of protesters routinely block bridges and principal thoroughfares. Panhandlers and crazy people routinely harass those tourists brave enough to return to the city’s iconic public spaces.
And if this isn’t a new normal, why are people treating it as if it is? Especially the city’s mayoral candidates.
Oh, sure, there’s some talk about crime here and vagrancy there, but everybody’s nibbling around the edges, and the viable candidates are either obsessed with race-infused ideology and other stupid stuff or paralyzed by fear of social-media cancellation.
Some sound bites sound reasonable, but most are vapid, and none reveals any understanding of what is happening to the city right now. Those who may understand lack the courage to speak the truth about it.
Picture a candidate who declared — in full throat and without equivocation — that subways aren’t for sleeping and neither are subway grates, that cops should be looking out for madmen on subway platforms and not chatting amicably with vagrants. It’s hard to imagine that such a candidate wouldn’t catch some traction.
Unless the city has totally given up, which would be far scarier than a tent on the Broadway median.
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