‘Where can I buy Mace in the UES or UWS? It is no longer safe in my neighborhood,” popped up the message Tuesday on the “NYC Moms for Safer Streets” Facebook page.
The 2,700-member crime-busting group was launched last October by Upper West Side mom Elizabeth Carr after a shooting near a playground on West End Avenue.
Today, it reflects the growing unease plaguing New York neighborhoods where an eerie quiet has taken on an ominous undertone after 1,500 prisoners were released from city jails over coronavirus concerns.
“Your 5 a.m. run in the dark felt safe because the bodega on the corner was open and the doormen were spraying the sidewalk,” Carr says.
“Your subway ride with the kind of creepy passenger used to feel OK because there were 50 other people in the car with you . . .
“However, now we have a city that feels empty, because people have left or are staying inside. The quietness is eerie, leaving many feeling like something bad is lurking just around the corner.”
Among the concerns posted to her page in the past two weeks are “fairly aggressive money solicitors in Central Park, not keeping 6 feet away, not taking no for an answer,” and “people following individuals and screaming at them.”
“The streets are actually very creepy,” wrote another poster. “So desolate except for homeless. Nowhere to run into. I would not be out after dark. Stay safe.”
“My husband walks home from work in the middle of the night in the W60s and has noticed more sketchy looking people around,” wrote another. “We have speculated this has to do with the release of criminals.”
Despite assurances from Mayor de Blasio that only nonviolent, elderly or chronically ill inmates would be sprung, 329 prisoners accused of violent felonies were released from city jails in the three weeks to April 6, at least some under age 30.
With nearly 20 percent of NYPD officers out sick daily, New Yorkers anticipating a “Mad Max” future are taking matters into their own hands.
A West 68th Street block association has asked residents to take shifts with a neighborhood civilian safety patrol.
In Chelsea, a tenants association at London Terrace Towers has hired two private security guards after vandals smashed the windows of the local Gristedes.
Adding to the air of menace in the neighborhood is a wave of graffiti attacks on shuttered storefronts on Ninth Avenue, scaffolding that reduces the lighting on sidewalks where there is little foot traffic after dark now that people are sheltering at home — or have left the city.
Security guards will patrol from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to support the building’s night doormen “who are increasingly isolated and vulnerable,” the association wrote in a letter to residents, advising them to “keep their apartment doors locked at all times and not open the door to anyone who is unannounced.
“Hopefully these measures will keep us safe during these trying times.”
On the Upper East Side Tuesday night, NYPD 19th Precinct Commander Kathleen Walsh heard from frightened residents in a Zoom video town hall.
“Our streets are so empty at night, I am afraid when I take my recycling down,” said a resident named Lily, who had been told by her building super there was no money to install security cameras.
Other participants asked if they should organize neighborhood crime watches and reported “gang [graffiti] tags everywhere” around an abandoned lot on First Avenue.
Walsh did her best to reassure them, saying crime was down 50 percent, although burglaries had spiked, most being package thefts from building vestibules. Cops have made eight arrests in the past week “but unfortunately most of them are back out again.”
Looting of shuttered stores reportedly has risen 75 percent since the coronavirus outbreak, but as fast as cops arrest suspects, they are back on the streets.
As prison activists take advantage of the pandemic to accelerate their decarceration agenda, the city’s jail population has shrunk by more than 20 percent, to the lowest level since 1949, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice boasted last week.
“Advocate groups are now asking for everyone to be released,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea fumed Wednesday.
“We still need to keep violent criminals in jail,” he told Fox 5.
“There are people that believe no one should be in jail. And some of those very same people that believe that and stated that six months ago or a year ago are now using compassionate release to advocate for everyone getting out of jail.”
No one objects to the compassionate release of a few elderly or infirm inmates nearing the end of a sentence for nonviolent crimes. But violent felons were never part of the deal.
And where are they supposed to go when they leave jail? The city’s homeless shelters have their own coronavirus problems.
Jails are tailor-made for quarantine, especially now that they are half-empty and inmates can be separated. There is better medical care on Rikers than on the street.
The mayor’s fixation with decarceration has just made life for law-abiding New Yorkers more scary.
China’s ‘takeover’ of the UN
President Trump’s defunding of the World Health Organization should be a warning to the United Nations.
The WHO is just one of five UN specialized agencies now controlled by China. The others are the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Telecommunication Union and UN Industrial Development Organization.
Unbelievably, considering China’s track record in the area, the World Intellectual Property Organization reportedly was next in its sights.
“What China has been doing very, very aggressively over the last decade is to try to gain control of those [agencies] by electing people to the top . . . and also by using proxies, colonial type proxies like Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus] at the WHO,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro warned this week.
The world has been asleep at the wheel.
Isle of calm amid storm
Roosevelt Island is a relatively law-abiding oasis of generosity, according to Kevin Brown, the new chief of the isle neighborhood’s Public Safety Department.
Speaking in a Zoom video meeting Tuesday, Brown said that about the only crimes reported over the last 30 days were nine family disputes between husbands and wives or siblings “due to a lot of people just being at home.”
Apart from that, he said his department had been pleasantly surprised by residents donating their own masks to officers.