New York is safe, the crime stats say. So why doesn’t it feel that way?
Last week, local news Web site Bklyner reported that large gangs of students from Lincoln HS, in Brighton Beach, are terrorizing nearby businesses and residents. The students harass the locals, chasing them into their buildings or blowing marijuana smoke at their children. Owners are afraid to open stores during the hours the students will be in the streets.
This isn’t the kind of thing that happens in a truly safe city.
No, it isn’t murder or robbery — but it’s exactly the kind of assault on ordinary Brooklyners’ quality of life that can make urban life needlessly stressful. The de Blasio administration is taking a pass on tackling such disorder, and no one should be surprised if, in a few years’ time, the symptoms escalate into something worse; the “bad New York” of the 1970s and ’80s didn’t come about overnight, after all.
It’s hard not to notice crimes being committed in plain sight, and no one seems to care. The smell of marijuana isn’t new in the Big Apple, but now it’s prevalent everywhere, including on playgrounds on Saturday afternoons — and even when police officers are around.
Mentally ill people behaving violently on the subway, or urinating on the streets in broad daylight, are common. Instead of doing anything about it, the mayor issued an edict telling police not to call them “emotionally disturbed persons.” Thanks, Mr. Mayor, that bit of language policing is sure to fix the underlying problem.
“Nearly 900 city inmates may be freed even before bail-reform law takes effect,” read a recent headline. Such bits of news give New Yorkers discomfiting pause — and for good reason: One teenager who had robbed pedestrians of their jackets and phones at gunpoint was released on no bail only to be picked up last week on new charges of robbing a 14-year-old at knifepoint.
One of the most visible signs of the deterioration of order is how subway farebeaters get away without prosecution. We can’t afford to let people use the transit system for free, yet they do so with impunity.
On Friday, Bill Ritter, an anchor for Eyewitness News on Channel 7, reported on Twitter that he watched a guy jump a turnstile. The scofflaw had “an L.L. Bean hat. Expensive earphones. And a nice cell phone.” Ritter wondered: “Has fare beating become a kind of game?”
The real answer is: Why pay when there are no consequences?
Many of us remember the New York of no consequences. I do. When I was a teenager in the 1990s, we would walk through the unlocked gate at the D train station at the Avenue H stop in Brooklyn — and smile at the MTA employee in the booth as we did.
The New York of that time was decrepit and crime-ridden. My friends and I didn’t feel like we owed the city our train fare, and anyway, no one was going to stop us. We saw blatant disrespect from adults toward police. I recall NYU students blowing marijuana smoke into officers’ faces on St. Marks Place, and it set the tone for us to behave similarly. The kids from Lincoln HS today are also learning from the adults around them that they can do whatever they want and face no ramifications.
In 1994, Rudy Giuliani became mayor, and my friends and I began paying for the subway lest we risk arrest. It took enormous effort and vigilance to bring about the orderly New York City we now take for granted.
Our leadership is intent on taking us back — in the name of “progress.” Mayor Bill de Blasio has always been blasé about crime. After nine separate shootings occurred in Brooklyn in one weekend in 2015, he notoriously called for an end to “hysteria” over crime — the urban echo of former President Jimmy Carter’s “inordinate fear of Communism.”
But New Yorkers aren’t hysterical. We are perplexed at the crazy changes made by this administration. Actions should have consequences, and citizens shouldn’t be afraid in their own streets. Politicians can’t keep pointing to the fact that the murder rate is low, not when disorder encroaches urban life at every step.
Law-abiding New Yorkers deserve leaders who care as much about us as they do about PC language norms and the rights of criminals.