One needs to walk only a block or two in any direction in America’s largest metropolis to witness the borderline dystopian cesspool that New York City has become. Litter. Garbage. Filth. Homeless people are camped on sidewalks, benches, and storefronts. Drug addicts casually light up and shoot up al fresco. Blaring taxi and limousine horns pierce the air at all hours of the day and night. Bicycles speed the wrong way on one-way thoroughfares (often through red lights), weave through moving traffic, menace pedestrians, and mock the taxpayer-funded Vision Zero street-safety boondoggle.
New York has become a mecca of modern urban bedlam. Yet its corrosion has escaped many oblivious New Yorkers who are seduced by the prospect of government handouts, numbed by political correctness, or too deeply buried in their electronic devices to notice. The problem, of course, starts with Comrade Bill de Blasio, a mayor schooled in the ideology of Nicaragua’s Marxist-Leninist Sandinista regime, to which he paid a solidarity visit in 1988. De Blasio equates law and order with racism and views the public coffers as one giant social-justice slush fund. The results are abysmal. It’s as if Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani never had rescued New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg never had advanced his predecessor’s achievements. Some 8.5 million New Yorkers are trapped in de Blasio’s time machine back to the squalor of the David Dinkins era.
Homelessness is up 40 percent and has become an epidemic on de Blasio’s watch, despite his campaign pledge to reduce the problem. The average length of time spent in shelters is up 30 percent. Taxpayers are now spending approximately $1 million daily to fund homeless-hotel staycations at an average room rate of $175 per night. De Blasio has turned New York into a magnet for the downtrodden and lessened any incentives for those living at the margins to elevate themselves out of destitution.
Even worse, the focus on homelessness obscures the problem (and any possible solutions) by concentrating government attention and taxpayer dollars on “affordable housing,” as if barefoot vagrants who soil their tattered rags and scream gibberish at startled passers-by merely lack attractive lease terms. Many of these people on the streets and in the subways are slaves to intoxicants or mental illness and can be prone to violence — a beggar on the No. 2 train last week walloped a passenger in the head with a metal pipe, leaving him with a fractured skull and broken eye socket.
This crisis is so serious that the Manhattan Institute convened a May 8 forum titled “Bring Back the Asylum?” Several psychologists and social critics lamented the madness of letting lunatics wander around America’s largest city with little or no medical supervision. “If you’re well enough to walk into Bellevue, they’ll tell you you’re not sick enough to be admitted,” explained DJ Jaffe, author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. He added: “If you’re mentally ill enough to go there, the police won’t take you there until you’re a danger to yourself or others.”
The mayor also regularly touts historically low crime numbers. While technology has helped police keep serious-crime statistics at bay, quality of life has plummeted. The NYPD brass and City Hall pay lip service to “broken windows” policing, but it’s clearly just a public-relations game that doesn’t reflect street-level reality. Behaviors that previous administrations would have battled instead have been decriminalized, such as public urination and public drinking. Crime data stay artificially low because police avoid making certain arrests — which the incident witnessed below perfectly illustrates. Meanwhile, the city whose mayor fashions himself an environmental warrior increasingly devolves into an open-air sewer, with whiffs of bodily excretions befouling the air.
De Blasio’s New York has developed a free-rider problem — literally: District attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn last summer stopped prosecuting fare-beaters on public transit. NYPD arrests for turnstile jumping were down 61 percent in May, year on year. The result? As City Journal’s Seth Barron recently wrote in the New York Post,“official ridership numbers are down while the trains feel more crowded.”
Even rodent proliferation can be laid at de Blasio’s feet. Rat sightings increased 79 percent during his first term, thanks to the mounds of garbage that adorn most blocks. The problem is exacerbated by homeless people who rip open trash bags to snatch plastic and glass bottles to sell to recyclers, leaving behind a citywide rat buffet.
De Blasio also recently fulfilled a campaign pledge by instructing police to stop making “unnecessary” arrests for public marijuana use, another act of arrogance that, like de Blasio’s fugitive-city policies, defies federal law. New York’s lead Drug Enforcement Administration special agent, James Hunt, blasted this initiative, saying that as long as marijuana remains illegal, the feds at least “will not stop enforcing” the law. The lax policy towards smoking illegal pot in public is another twist of irony, given the city’s war on legal tobacco smoke and vaping in virtually all public spaces.
In broad daylight, a woman half-huddled beneath a purple blanket, poorly concealing the fact that she was injecting drugs into her arm.
This past Sunday vividly confirmed the flagrant use of harder drugs by shameless vagrants, two of whom squatted outside a bar, still under construction, a block and a half below Manhattan’s Union Square. In broad daylight, a woman half-huddled beneath a purple blanket, poorly concealing the fact that she was injecting drugs into her arm. Her companion made no effort to shield himself: A syringe jutted unapologetically from his forearm. Pedestrians stopped and stared at this stomach-turning scene, which unfolded at 4:30 on a warm, sunny July afternoon, amid plenty of foot traffic.
A call to 911 drew three police cars and six cops to this spot in about two minutes. New York’s Finest confronted the zonked-out pair and urged them to beat it, which they did. “We just asked them to leave, and they’re leaving,” one policeman said. “But if they want to stay, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
NYPD officers such as this one gripe consistently that they are hamstrung and unable to do what they were trained to do: enforce the law and jail criminals. Police want to police. These cops, some of whom are friends of this article’s authors, are disgusted by the rampant drug use and anything-goes mentality that have wormed their way into the Big Apple. But why should they place their careers, financial well-being, and freedom — and possibly their lives — on the line when the powers that be clearly won’t back them and are outright hostile to law and order? Every arrest is a potential action before the Civilian Complaint Review Board or even a full-blown civil lawsuit. CCRB complaints increased 4.7 percent in 2017, the first time in eight years. If crime is at an all-time low, as de Blasio brags, then why are these numbers on the rise?
De Blasio has normalized low standards and poor conduct throughout this once great city. But, as with any good radical ruler, Mayor de Bolshevik’s taxpayer-funded spin machine tells the public that this is the best of all possible worlds. Don’t believe a word of it. If you want the truth, just look, listen, and inhale.
Brett Joshpe is a New York City attorney, author, and entrepreneur. Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and contributing editor with National Review Online.