With crime spiking throughout Manhattan’s commercial neighborhoods, local business leaders are uniting to demand that Gov. Kathy Hochul act to address the chaos wreaking havoc across their communities and severely impacting their businesses.
Crime across Manhattan’s Midtown South districts has spiked more than 50 percent compared to the same time last year, impacting crucial commuter routes including Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, police data shows.
Grand larceny, theft, is up 45 percent on the Upper East Side which is home to prime shopping strips on Madison, Lexington and Third avenues. Organized groups of shoplifters, targeting high-end boutiques are what retailers say is driving the spike in crime.
For example, in February, the RealReal boutique on Madison Avenue was robbed by a group of seven criminals who stole watches and handbags worth an estimated $500,000. A Givenchy store was also robbed which saw thieves make off with around $80,000 worth of high-end merchandise.
Matthew Bauer, president of Madison Avenue BID, told the New York Post, “The organized crime in our district is our biggest issue. And the fact that there is a market for the goods that are being stolen from our stores.”
The rampant crime has prompted Bauer to unite with other local business leaders in Midtown to form a coalition and to plead with Gov. Hochul and other New York politicians to help them manage the mentally ill, drug addicts and brazen criminals who he says have been given free rein in his community.
In a letter by the Midtown BID coalition to Hochul in late March, delivered a day before budget discussions were slated to occur, the coalition wrote, “The deterioration of public safety and the quality of life in Midtown Manhattan needs and deserves a solution.”
The business group says that violent attacks, smash-and-grab thefts, harassment by mentally ill people and in some cases murders have tarnished the city’s image, making it look like a lawless city.
According to the New York Post, a March survey conducted by the Partnership for New York City, revealed that “personal safety” was the primary concern for New York metro employees when deciding on whether or not to return to their offices in Manhattan.
Times Square is experiencing a spike in crime as well, recording a 20 percent surge in crime in January compared to the same time last year.
Tom Harris, a member of the newly formed coalition told the New York Post, “There is certainly a perception that the city is not as safe as it used to be and that there are no consequences for minor offenses.”
According to police data, Midtown South, an area that stretches 14 blocks from 30th to 44th streets has recorded a 51 percent surge in crime this year compared to last year, however Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, says the crime rate is likely much higher. She said, most people don’t take the time to file a police report when they are “whacked on the head, rushing to the subway.”
According to the coalition, the spike in crime is being partially attributed to ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to house 1,200 of the estimated 10,000 homeless people in New York in congregate housing in the Garment District’s 53 hotels.
“The Garment District has a disproportionate number of methadone and needle exchange clinics because it’s largely zoned for manufacturing even though most of the sewing factories have long since moved out of the neighborhood,” the New York Post reported.
Blair said, “Because of how the city used this neighborhood during the pandemic, we have been disproportionately affected. What I see is public disorder, people running around and intimidating others and that is what is frightening to people.”
The spike in crime is prompting businesses in the districts to close early. Bauer said before the pandemic businesses would typically stay open until 7 p.m., now they are closing at 6 p.m. and are treating storefront windows with special film to “make it resistant to being bashed.”