De Blasio’s New York: Squeegee Men Are the New Squeegee Men

by Tim Cavanaugh

“Times Square’s costumed menaces are the new squeegee men,” writes legendary New York Post columnist columnist Andrea Peyser.

The Staten Island Advance editorial board adds, “Much like the notorious squeegee men of the 1980s and 1990s, these colorful street characters believe that they’re entitled to compensation – the more the better – for the ’service’ they perform.”

In the Daily Snooze, Steve Zeidman laments that so-called broken-windows policing, instituted in the early 1990s by then- (and now-) Police Chief William Bratton, resulted in “massive arrests for minor crimes beginning, notoriously, with so-called ’squeegee men.’”

With Bratton back in charge of the NYPD, Al Sharpton surging, and Big Apple chaos again a front-burner issue, 2014 is feeling distinctly like the early 1990s (with the crucial distinction that now everything sucks and then everything was awesome and by the way I was 20 years younger). But what all these columns share is a conviction that the notorious squeegee man — who ambushes drivers emerging from Manhattan’s tunnels with muddy-water windshield-cleaning services, and whose banishment was the original indicator of a return to normalcy in the Rudy Giuliani administration — is a thing of the past.

This picture I took Sunday evening, mere yards outside of the $13-a-trip Lincoln Tunnel, suggests that actually it’s squeegee men who are the new squeegee men. He’s even wearing a Koch-era “I Love New York” t-shirt:

I haven’t lived in New York in almost 20 years, and I’m open to the claim this may just have been a rogue operation. And I think Mayor Bill de Blasio’s selection of Bratton was a sign that de Blasio may actually know what he’s doing. Bratton’s tenures at three major-city police departments have consistently correlated with positive policing outcomes, and like Rod Steiger in Dr. Zhivago, he has an amazing ability to thrive no matter what political regime is in charge. But I can say for sure that the squeegee man is not dead. Watch your windshields!

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