Home News Cleaning up Midtown: Eric Adams and Alvin Bragg join forces

Cleaning up Midtown: Eric Adams and Alvin Bragg join forces

The things Rudy Giuliani got wrong could fill a book, but when Giuliani was mayor, he got plenty of big things right. One of those was the enduring lesson that “quality of life” matters mightily in New York, which is to say that it isn’t just crime stats but close-up, harder-to-measure indicators of civic well-being that powerfully shape people’s impressions of Gotham.

Another was that Midtown — and especially Times Square, where, circa 1993, quality of life was pretty depressing — has outsize importance, and can in fact be transformed. In Giuliani’s day, the transformation was from a place dense with porn shops and open-air drug dealing to a tourist-friendly playground where a family could feel safe strolling after taking in a show. To those who mutter “Disneyfication,” we call this a lifesaving rescue.

The Crossroads of the World is at another crossroads today. It isn’t nearly as stark as the one back then — tourists have been coming by the planeload again postpandemic, and they seem to return home with positive impressions. Though work-from-home has permanently changed commuter flows, many more workers are back in the office than three or four years ago. Crime in the Midtown South and Midtown North precincts is down compared to last year and two years ago in most major categories.

But most is not all. Robberies and felony assaults are up substantially over last year, over two years ago and 14 years ago in Midtown North. In Midtown South, felony assaults are up over last year and way up over two years and 14 years ago. We’re not cherrypicking years to compare; this comes right out of the CompStat summaries.

Harder to measure but also serious are other indicators of disorder. That includes ugly streets with far too much unnecessary scaffolding. It includes vagrants ranting or panhandling aggressively, camped out on the streets, treating sidewalks as toilets and using drugs in the open.

Generally speaking, these are not problems warranting a simple “crackdown” — a person grappling with heroin addiction or serious mental illness can’t just be warehoused — but they do demand a multifaceted and humane response that takes concerns of the many residents of and visitors to Midtown seriously.

We hope that is precisely what the new Midtown Community Improvement Coalition announced by Mayor Adams and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg will bring. The push promises to coordinate the efforts of more than 20 city agencies and community partners from the NYPD to the Health Department to Homeless Services and Sanitation and Transportation.

Quoth the Adams press release, the coalition “will deploy teams to conduct regular walkthroughs to observe issues in real time and speak with local community members and businesses on the ground. They will also identify specific individuals in the area who may need connections to services, such as housing or medical care, and make referrals to the appropriate city agency or service provider.”

Easy to say, harder to do. What we and the city must demand is clear and easily accessible metrics showing how all of this works (or doesn’t) so that strategies can be calibrated or scrapped over time.

Who knows, if it actually works, perhaps the city can bring a similar strategy to improving the quality of life in other neighborhoods.


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