On Thursday, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce held its first-ever anti-crime summit. That the House considered this event necessary is a bad sign: if things were going well, it would have provided it with the police. The mayor retains a lot of goodwill, mostly because he’s not Bill de Blasio, but he has little time for impressive first results.
Eric Adams’ speech at the summit illustrated the problem: the mayor can’t decide whether he wants to declare victory or make a call for help.
He ended on a winning note, telling the crowd, “We’re in a good place, New York. “New York is back,” he said. “We are seeing a decrease in crime.” But he’s also smart enough to understand that you shouldn’t sell winnings to people who feel like they’re losing.
Crime in Midtown Manhattan No way down.
In Manhattan’s South Patrol District — the half of Manhattan with large businesses — criminal liability rose 13.3% year-over-year in the month ending January 15. This is 24.7% more than in 2019, before the pandemic.
These bad results brought down the entire area. Serious crime across Manhattan is up 5.3% year-over-year and 19.8% year-over-year.
And things are worse in Manhattan than in the city. Citywide, violent crime was down 1.3% year-over-year.
The very location of the summit, between Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, was appropriate if the purpose was to illustrate the problems. Just a block away, just 24 hours earlier, a gang of robbers had shot and killed an employee at an illegal marijuana store.
And even half a block away from it there is a huge shop window, which has been empty for a year now, because the pharmacy there has been closed for a quarter of a century due to mass thefts. As Joe Stein, “Asset Protection Director” at Walgreens, told the conference attendees, “When these stores close, you create blight.”
Manhattan’s Upper West Side was the site of the first subway homicide late last week, when a brutal convict on parole from the state fatally shoved a man; An elderly woman was tied up and killed nearby in her apartment.
When a moderator asked a group of business owners and private security guards if they agreed with the mayor that “New York is back,” the answer was laughter.
One speaker done assume that everything is “better”. Yes, they are a little better, because Broadway and the reopened tourist trade have led to foot traffic, and the police are more aggressive in cracking down on dangerous street hobos.
But when laughter is an instinctive response, New York must be better than terrible.
Much of the slow movement is not the mayor’s fault. As he said in his speech, state law “fetters” the police in connection with the closure of the city’s 1,400 illegal marijuana cash stores, such as the one in which a worker was shot dead last week. Thus, the incompetence of the Legislature in drafting marijuana regulations has saddled New York with hundreds of nasty stores that attract crime.
But Adams doesn’t think so. “Because of the way the rules were put in through Albany. . . we have to get around this,” he remarked, instead of calling on the governor and the Legislature to fix the rules – right now.
After the mayor left, a panel of the state’s most powerful elected officials revealed that they not in the mood for further changes to the hastily passed laws that have “handcuffed” New York City, be it criminal justice or marijuana “reforms”.
So they all agreed that the problem was “resources”. “We’ve made a change,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx). “Recidivists can be detained.”
Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, admitted that state changes in the evidence collection process forced his office to close important cases, including cases of domestic violence.
But he also hinted that the state could solve problems with cash. “We lack funding,” he said. “The first problem is resources.”
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinovits (D-Bronx) blamed police officers for failing to arrest the suspects. “It’s really none of their business to decide whether someone should be arrested,” he said of the NYPD.
To which NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey glibly replied that the police “arrest the same people all the time. . . . They wouldn’t be repeat offenders if the police didn’t arrest them all the time.”
Eventually, New Yorkers will get tired of making excuses, but they will blame the mayor. He needs to clarify who is “fettering” the city and how.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor for the City Journal of the Manhattan Institute.