Home News Harry Siegel: Kathy Hochul’s ‘High Anxiety’ reboot is godawful

Harry Siegel: Kathy Hochul’s ‘High Anxiety’ reboot is godawful

Gov. Hochul’s deployment of heavily armed National Guard members outside turnstiles across the city’s subway stations isn’t as insane and idiotic as it seemed when she announced it on Wednesday, with Mayor Adams conspicuously absent.

It’s even worse, the more she talks about it. 

As it happened, I’d just switched subway cars to get away from a guy sprawled out over three seats and mostly under a blanket after he lit a cigarette between stations when I saw the governor’s Friday morning interview talking in the same breath about how bad things feel but also how safe they are.

 “After we saw a spate of really high-profile cases — the conductor getting his throat slashed, another conductor getting hit with a glass bottle and it breaking, and people being shot and pushed on the subway track,” she told WPIX, “even though the statistics say that it is safer than it was before, and I commend the police department for doing that, when you have that high level of anxiety, now you’re dealing with a psychological toll that deters people from wanting to go on the subways.”

She also said “that’s what this is about, to get the psychology of the criminals to say, I think I won’t do this because I have a better chance of getting caught now.”

Whether this public psyop is aimed at good people who were afraid of the trains or bad guys with guns or knives afraid of a bag check they’re free to walk away from, it’s a joke. 

“High Anxiety” was fine as a Mel Brooks movie spoofing Hitchcock. The 2024 reboot, with soldiers outfitted in jungle camouflage and wielding long guns inside of random subway stations to somehow cover stranghangers’ psychological tolls, is strictly for the birds.

The subways are pretty safe, in my view, despite what Fox News will inevitably broadcast between now and November. 

But crime inside the subway system was up nearly 50% this January compared to the previous January before falling this February, and there were already three murders over a six-week span earlier this year — more than in any full pre-pandemic year this century. Ridership remains stubbornly down from where it was pre-pandemic as polling shows New Yorkers, who aren’t easily fooled, say they feel less safe these days.

However much the governor wants to improve her own numbers and buy some good will from the Transport Workers Union, which has opened a political war with her on multiple fronts, treating the city like an actual warzone isn’t the answer. 

Former National Guardsman, NYPD officer and Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo has a through rundown in these pages of what’s wrong with Hochul’s plan, if that’s the word for it, that gets to the heart of the matter: “Soldiers have none of the training and skills necessary to handle the myriad crimes and crises that spring up in the subways and require police.”

On WPIX, Anchor Hazel Sanchez asked the governor: “Why not invest then in more NYPD officers instead of bringing in the National Guard?”

Hochul replied that “I already have them at my disposal immediately. Going through funding requests goes through a budget process, it takes a lot longer. New Yorkers are worried right now.”

That’s almost funny after the governor, who will foot the bill for this National Guard deployment, spent the better part of a billion dollars covering overtime subway shifts for the NYPD over the past couple years. 

While she keeps digging herself a deeper hole, Hochul hasn’t mentioned the one reason why New Yorkers really might want to see soldiers with big guns inside subway stations: Last June, 69% of New Yorkers said they feared a “shooting in which a gunman targets people based on their race, religion or ethnicity.”

My friend Alex Brook Lynn, a lifelong New Yorker who’s seen the effects of mental illness up close, saw another potential upside to Hochul’s plan, which also includes deployments of state troopers and $20 million more for the overstretched outreach teams that try to connect street homeless people with services and support.

Maybe, she said, the soldiers could be an asset when needed, in a way that cops checking their phones have not been, to the outreach teams trying to help severely mentally ill people instead of leaving them to languish inside the subway system or rousting them into lock-ups that double as de facto mental wards.

Having rhetorically committed herself to this crazy plan, Hochul could at least try to develop something good from it. 

Siegel (harrysiegel@gmail.com) is an editor at The City and a columnist for the Daily News.


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