Friday July 31, 2015
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By Andrea Peyser
July 20, 2015
I am pissed off!
This is the view from an outer borough: One day last week, a deranged, apparently homeless man screamed bloody murder outside the Marriott hotel in Downtown Brooklyn.
“I need a dollar!” he shrieked. “I need two dollars! I need to feed my kid!”
There was no child present. But the man, who appeared to be in his 30s, bore the unmistakable aroma of cigarettes and urine. He singlehandedly drove the horde of lunchtime pedestrians from the hotel’s plaza.
There was no cop in sight.
On Smith Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, one afternoon, a disheveled man who looked to be in his 20s demanded spare change, but not from people exiting the F subway train station. He targeted women pushing small kids in strollers, causing his vulnerable marks to scatter as if avoiding a virulent disease.
The scourge has grown intolerable. Emboldened vagrants all over the city terrorize mothers, frighten children and erode the quality of life for everyone. The official neglect that perpetuates these offenses to our senses is not just a form of neglect — it is cruel to avoid forcing people to move inside.
If that malodorous man using the sidewalk as an al-fresco urinal on the Upper West Side were your son, would you allow him to disgrace himself? If that scary dude bedding down in a Brooklyn Heights park were your father or grandfather, would you avert your eyes? If that woman holding up a baby like a human prop on the subway in The Bronx, seeking pity and spare change from strangers, were your sister, the kid your niece, would you enable this woman’s begging?
Well, city officials have pinpointed the perpetrators of his large-scale assault. Hint: It’s not the folks commonly referred to as “bums.” It’s Post reporters.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who said he does not support the City Council’s misguided plan to decriminalize minor offenses such as public urination, nonetheless blamed Post scribes for “exacerbating” the schizophrenia of a raving lunatic observed relieving his bladder openly on the Upper West Side. The guy was cuffed by cops and hauled off to mental hospitals — twice — only to be released back onto the street.
“You might not want to be sitting beside them,” Bratton said of the homeless, “but they have every bit as much right to be in that park as you or I to sit on that bench.”
The Post’s recent coverage of the city’s deteriorating quality of life began this month with a column by John Podhoretz on the street people multiplying on the Upper West Side.
A quick trot to Brooklyn reveals that harassment-by-homeless is not confined to one side of the East River. On Saturday, The Post found a throwback to the bad old days, a squeegee man, accosting drivers in Crown Heights.
This is not a crisis of poverty or lack of affordable housing, but mainly one of mental illness and substance abuse. Yet officials refuse to act.
Cops have been directed by higher-ups not to roust homeless folks unless they commit crimes. But as the man who turned city streets into a toilet knows, the definition of “crime” is elastic.
Yet the homeless appear to be unwelcome anywhere near Mayor de Blasio.
This past Wednesday, Post reporter Kevin Fasick posed as a vagrant near Gracie Mansion, and a cop asked him to move on. Street people were cleared from Washington Square Park hours before Hizzoner visited that day.
The mayor toured the homeless encampment in the East Village, Tompkins Square Park, on Thursday and asked outdoor residents for advice. One woman told him he needed to make more affordable housing available, which would not solve the homeless problem. Minutes after Hizzoner left, cops nabbed a homeless man in the park after he allegedly trashed a magazine shop.
The mayor has said he has a “real concern’’ about the homeless — but he downplayed the problem, saying the number of street people has “gone down a bit.” He does have a solution.
First Lady Chirlane McCray, he said, was to unveil “a very bold plan” to tackle substance abuse and mental-health issues suffered by many people without homes.
But first, he is headed, at taxpayer expense, to the Vatican Monday, where he’s set to meet with Pope Francis and deliver a speech Tuesday on income inequality and climate change. I’m sure homelessness will still exist when he gets home Wednesday.
But with every aggressive panhandler I encounter, with every scary individual who crosses paths with my teenage daughter, I’m losing my patience.
This has to end.