Have you seen Andrew Cuomo’s poster? The New York governor’s pandemic-themed design was apparently intended as a celebration of the state’s effort against coronavirus. It’s difficult to describe, but there’s a mountain in the middle labeled “111 Days of Hell,” a rope around it labeled “Pulling Down the Curve Together,” a river marked with dollar signs and labeled “economy falls,” a plane captioned “Europeans,” a wind-blowing devil titled “winds of fear,” and overhead, a banner positioned above a rainbow that reads (what else?) “love wins,” as a sun smiles and a blonde man on a crescent moon says, “It’s just the flu.”
I don’t have anything nice to say about it, except that it’s a helpful insight into a singularly incompetent and disorganized mind.
Without the labels, the design would be utterly incoherent, though with them, there’s a certain child’s logic. Nevertheless, it must remain one of the weirdest political stunts to come out of a crisis. But then, perhaps diversion is the point. For while the governor was getting ready to wow the nation with his 19th-century-style propaganda (did I mention there is a table at the bottom of the mountain labeled “New York State Leads Again”?), the rest of the country has been noticing that, in the wake of coronavirus, conditions in New York are getting worse, not better.
Yes, COVID-19 daily death rates are now by the dozen rather than the thousand, but New York City’s crime problem, at its worst since the 1990s, is spiraling out of control. In the first three weeks of June, there was more than double the number of shootings compared with last year. New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has suggested that these are crimes of desperation. She said:
Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent. And so they go out and they need to feed their child and they don’t have money. So, you maybe have to — they’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry that night.
Maybe! Or maybe it was the winds of fear what done it! Or that blonde man on the moon!
Then again, maybe not. Shoplifting has actually decreased, while horrific acts of violence (that have nothing to do with “bread”) are up. Consider some of the most recent instances: a man gunned down while washing his car, a teenager shot at a graduation party, five people shot at a candlelight vigil, a man shot dead in the lobby of a public-housing building, a father gunned down in a drive-by while holding his six-year-old’s hand, and an infant shot to death in a stroller.
The city’s response to the growing crisis has been to disband its plainclothes units — you know, the ones that are typically on the front lines in fighting violent crime. What does AOC think a city without policing looks like? Her answer: “A suburb.” Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, has decided to slash the New York Police Department’s budget by $1 billion and canceled the employment of 1,000 cops. Chuck Wexler, an executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit for law-enforcement reform, thinks that the most important thing is “trust-building,” and that “you can reduce crime, but if the public still feels that they don’t trust the police, then you’ve lost the moral high ground.” But this is the wrong way around. If the police don’t protect the public, why should the public trust them?
We already know how this goes. Crime only got worse after Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly disbanded the Street Crime Unit in 2002, following the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo. Reducing police presence is the exact opposite approach to that taken by Rudy Giuliani in cleaning up the city when he was mayor. Giuliani recently told Fox News that he “can’t walk the streets” without people coming up to him and saying “you got to run again, you got to run again, you got to run. [De Blasio] is terrible.”
Rather than face these problems, Cuomo and de Blasio would rather focus on a fictitious narrative that, in the fight against coronavirus, New Yorkers came out on top. But even that overlooks the mistakes made. Like many other places, New York was slow to respond to the crisis. It created more hospital capacity only after low-ranking socioeconomic areas became badly infected. Infected patients were put back into nursing homes, causing needless death. And when the Wall Street Journal talked to 90 front-line medical staff and officials from New York they identified mishandlings such as “improper patient transfers,” “insufficient isolation protocols,” “inadequate staff planning,” “mixed messages,” and an “overreliance on government sources for key equipment.” Another major theme to come up was underfunding for hospitals.
Now similar mistakes, such as underfunding and incoherence, are being made with crime. At this newest phase of crisis, New York needs real leadership and police presence — not middle-school art projects, nor impudent “maybes.”