Is the New York I used to know gone for good?
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I worried constantly about unattended backpacks, mailbox bombs and transit terrorism — but never about being personally attacked. That New York City is gone, apparently.
As a 20- and 30-something young woman living in Manhattan some years ago, the city felt like my playground. Virtually nowhere was off-limits, too unfriendly or unsafe to visit.
The Theater District for plays. The Lower East Side for live music. Harlem for soul food. The Bronx for Italian. Queens for Mets games. Brooklyn for beaches.
My friends and I would walk the streets of Manhattan into the early morning hours, unalarmed by the emptiness or the occasional strangers we’d pass.
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Even as a young woman, I felt perfectly comfortable taking the subway alone at night and would hardly even look up from my magazine or cell phone.
In the 13 years I lived there, I never so much as had my purse stolen or a single uncomfortable subway encounter. In fact, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I worried constantly about unattended backpacks, mailbox bombs and transit terrorism — but never about being personally attacked.
That New York City is gone, apparently. In the years since I’ve moved out to the suburbs, COVID-19 and crime have ravaged the town I once felt so safe in, I left my door unlocked, just like they did on “Friends.”
Now, reading the crime section in the newspaper is like a walk down memory lane past all my old haunts, except the street is terrifying and unrecognizable.
There was a stabbing on W. 44th St. and Ninth Ave. that sent a man to the hospital — it’s being investigated as a hate crime. That’s just four blocks from where my office was, and the exact corner of my favorite theater district restaurant. The Theater District is now a crime haven.
Another night, two men were shot and wounded near Ludlow and Stanton Sts., where my friends and I would go to listen to live music at least one night a week.
The next morning, an ex-con released from prison a month ago attacked five people with a knife and a bottle during a meth-induced rampage on the Upper East Side, where I used to live for a time. One victim was attacked at E. 96th and Second Ave., two blocks from my friend’s old apartment. That victim was taken to the hospital I regularly volunteered at.
Later that day, a man slashed a woman in the leg at the M train platform at Herald Square — the very station I’d transfer at nightly to get the N/R when I lived downtown.
That was all over three days, and managed to intersect with much of my old life in Manhattan.
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That doesn’t even cover the Brooklyn subway rampage last week, which left 29 people wounded.
Or recent attacks outside Manhattan, like the gruesome murder of a Queens mother found dead in a duffel bag, stabbed 50 times; or the sexual assault of a 59-year-old woman on a Brooklyn sidewalk; or the shooting of a beloved Queens father who worked with disabled adults; or the fatal stabbing of a Bronx man outside his home. That’s all just in the past four days.
Cops say, and the numbers bear out, that shootings are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx — neighborhoods where residents are already struggling with all kinds of other challenges.
It’s no wonder some New Yorkers want out of what we all once agreed was the greatest city in the world.
A recent Morning Consult poll found that 40% of New Yorkers working in Manhattan said they want to leave the state, and a whopping 84% said conditions in the city have worsened in the last two years, particularly with violent subway crimes and homelessness.
It’s not just a feeling; the numbers back it up.
On the subways, a 68% increase in crime since this period last year. Hate crimes are up 41%. Overall crime is up 44%. Robberies are up 48%, with rapes up 17% and shootings up 8%.
It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to visit a city, much less live in one, with crime numbers going in this direction, with this kind of senseless violence around so many corners.
The new mayor, Eric Adams says of the crime surge, “The most important city on the globe has become a laughing-stock of the globe.”
But for those of us who love this town, once called New York City home and still want it to be great, no one’s laughing. It’s a tragedy.
New York City has survived a lot: the 1964 race riots, the crime-ridden 1970s and 80s and 90s, Son of Sam, the Crown Heights riot, the killing by cop of Amadou Diallo, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and now COVID-19.
But can it survive this new crime wave ripping through too many of the city’s neighborhoods, crippling transit, terrorizing locals and tourists alike, and tearing away the sense of safety that once made it so livable and loveable?
This once-and-always New Yorker hopes so.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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