In Times Square, the most densely tourist-populated place in the United States, a mentally disturbed man known as Mr. Kim begs cops to kill him. ‘I want to die. You have a gun? Shoot,’ he pleads. After the officers demur, he picks up a plank of wood and starts smashing it against the Pele soccer shop.
On Sutton Place, one of the most affluent residential areas in the city, a lone man squats on the sidewalk, intently reading a paperback novel next to a shopping cart that contains his worldly goods. He begs for cash with a sign saying he has lost everything. ‘Trying to survive,’ it adds.
In Greenwich Village, a well-dressed man leaves his office minding his own business when a menacing character attempts to sucker punch him. The 6’4′ suit ducks the punch, shrugs and walks away.
At Harlem’s famed 125th Street, at 2pm on a sunny May day, a middle-aged man sleeps off whatever he needs to sleep off on a bus stop bench outside a sneaker store, unaware that his naked backside is exposed for the world to see.
These scenes come from across Manhattan as it struggles to get back on its feet after the coronavirus pandemic cut off its lifeblood of tourism, sent many of its wealthiest residents scurrying to places as diverse as Vermont and Florida and upped the ante on homelessness, mental illness and crime – particularly random assaults and stabbings.
‘New Yorkers don’t feel safe and they don’t feel safe because the crime rate is up. It’s not that they are being neurotic or overly sensitive – they are right,’ Governor Andrew Cuomo declared on Wednesday.
‘We have a major crime problem in New York City. Everything we just talked about, with the economy coming back, you know what the first step is? People have to feel safe.’ Other city officials are more optimistic, talking up Gotham once again. ‘The ship has turned. We are headed towards recovery,’ Chris Heywood of NYC&Company, the city’s official tourism organization, told DailyMail.com.