Bill de Blasio and his conjugal co-mayor, Chirlane McCray, have conspired to blow almost a billion bucks on services for deranged New Yorkers, of which there are many, yet it seems things are getting crazier. Why is this?
The latest iteration of an all-too-familiar tale finds a street peddler with a long history of mental illness shot by police Friday after skulling a cop with a metal chair in a Brooklyn nail salon.
Saturday morning, the peddler was dead, the cop was in a medically induced coma and mutterings of police over-reaction were hanging in the air.
For once, such concerns are not unreasonable. Eleven civilians have been shot dead by officers in 2019, compared to four last year — and the obvious question is: Why such a sharp increase?
This question deserves a deliberate inquiry and an honest answer — which de Blasio is unlikely to provide, if only because the finger of blame points more squarely at City Hall than it does at One Police Plaza.
There are no easy answers, as always. Mental illness has been an intractable urban problem for going on to a half century; culture and case law have evolved to favor the mentally ill when they come into conflict with the community in all but the most extreme circumstances.
This leaves victims on their own.
The irony is that all too often the mentally ill are their own victims — even as that’s regularly lost in horrendous collateral damage.
Nobody really disputes this, and virtually everybody says something should be done about it — even the mayor and his missus. That’s why Bill handed Chirlane the mental health portfolio on Day One — along with a virtually open-ended draw on the municipal fisc.
Thus was born ThriveNYC — a classic example of an ill-directed, over-funded, ego-infused fiasco made possible by the fact that nobody, ever, wants to say no to the boss.
Friday’s nail salon tragedy was among ThriveNYC’s more obvious failures — the dead peddler’s family said it had been trying to get him help for some time, only to be dismissed — but it is far from the only one.
The problem, writes urban mental illness expert DJ Jaffe, is the mayoral make-work project’s misallocated priorities.
“Only 12% [of Thrive’s near-billion-dollar budget has been] focused on adults with untreated serious mental illness,” says Jaffe. “As a result almost 40% of the most seriously mentally ill in New York City go untreated.”
In other words, there’s plenty of dough to address angst and ennui — but bi-polar Brooklyn peddlers, deranged subway pushers, babbling park-bench homesteaders and the man who crushed the skulls of four fellow vagrants are on their own.
As is the city.
There’s no doubt that public disorder is increasing in the city, never mind the official stats. And while not all of the city’s ever-more-numerous and increasingly belligerent street-dwellers and cop-fighters are mentally ill and untreated, enough of them are to mark ThriveNYC as just another de Blasio administration failure.
No surprise there.