De Blasio orders vagrant sweep, 80 cops to bring Midtown workers back
bill de blasio
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Mayor Bill de Blasio finally realized that defunding the police didn’t work out as he hoped — and has now ordered the NYPD to make Midtown Manhattan safe again so workers will come back after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns.
At least 80 uniformed officers and supervisors are expected to flood the area within the next two weeks after being redeployed from around the city to combat violent vagrants and other safety issues, sources familiar with the plan told The Post.
An NYPD deputy inspector will be in charge of the newly created “Business Improvement Unit,” which will be based out of the Midtown South Precinct, sources said.
The plan didn’t originate from the NYPD but was developed in response to a series of recent meetings the mayor held at City Hall with his staff and police brass, sources said.
It followed months of pleading by business leaders and others for the mayor to crack down on criminals and vagrants running amok around Penn Station and elsewhere.
As an example of the long-festering problem, a Vornado Realty maintenance worker said there’s “a whole crew” of vagrants who lie on the sidewalk near 34th Street and Eighth Avenue “every morning.”
“The people come out of the stations shocked. You can see in their faces, they can’t believe what they see,” the workers said.
“I am finding vomit, feces, needles. There is no one here controlling them.”
Recently, the situation has raised concerns that it will keep people who’ve been working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic from returning to their offices.
“They are afraid for their safety walking from the train to work, and they are afraid to ride the train,” one source said.
A Midtown office supervisor said that without a dramatic turnaround, it could cost the city “hundreds of millions of dollars” in business.
“There are too many random assaults by people wandering through the street,” a source said. “The attacks are being done by people who were just dumped in Midtown with no one providing any services.”
A real estate industry source summed it up: “We need action.”
“In order for New York City to come back, we need a critical mass of people,” the source said. “In order to get that critical mass, we need people to feel safe.”
Sources said de Blasio finally caved to pressure from special interests including the Times Square Alliance and the 34th Street Partnership, as well as Vornado Realty Trust, Brookfield Properties and the Related Group, developer of the Hudson Yards complex.
The mayor was also alarmed by last month’s hate-crime attack on a 65-year-old Asian American woman who was kicked to the ground and stomped on her way to church in front of Midtown building workers who didn’t intervene, as well as by the shooting of a tourist struck by a stray bullet near Penn Station, sources said.
The situation developed after de Blasio and the City Council agreed to slash $1 billion from the NYPD budget in response to demands by anti-cop activists who maintained an “Occupy City Hall” encampment for a month last summer.
As a result of the cuts, the NYPD disbanded its 86-member Homeless Outreach Unit.
That move led cops to close out thousands of complaints without taking any action because they no longer had jurisdiction, The Post revealed in December.
De Blasio also shifted enforcement of street-vendor rules from the NYPD to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, leading to a surge in sidewalk peddlers.
Under the NYPD’s plan, the redeployed cops will be assigned to foot posts across Midtown and accompany workers from the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection when they go out into the field, sources said.
“The mayor and the local politicians didn’t want the police to deal with the homeless and peddlers but now that their plan failed miserably, the mayor is asking the police to help clean up the mess they created,” a Manhattan cop said.
Another source said, “The mayor’s plan failed and privately he realizes it.”
Paul Dimino, third-generation owner of the Sea Breeze Fish Market on Ninth Avenue, called de Blasio “an idiot.”
“Defund the police in New York City, it’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” he said.
“We’re telling homeless drug addicts, ‘Come here, we’ll take care of you and you can do whatever the f–k you want.’ It’s stupid.”
Dimino, 46, said that before the pandemic, “it was all tourists here, little restaurants, the neighborhood was getting nicer.”
“Now, I wouldn’t advise anyone to come here. It’s dangerous as hell!” he said.
“There were 40 cops on this corner the other night because guys were brawling outside the dollar pizza, hitting each other with 2-by-4s and shovels. It’s insane!”
Dimino added, “I grew up here, saw the pimps and the hookers — and this is worse!”
Earlier this month, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent the de Blasio administration a letter demanding to know “which non-profit agency — if any — is responsible for working with the homeless individuals who are ‘living in’ or constantly visiting Penn Station.”
“There needs to be an all-out effort on this topic,” Brewer told The Post.
The acting president of the Times Square Alliance, Tom Harris, said in a prepared statement, “Security concerns in and around the central business districts, major transportation hubs and tourist destinations of New York City need to be addressed as we plan to welcome workers back to Midtown in addition to tourists who we are anxious to see return as restrictions are lifted and more people are vaccinated.”
The 34th Street Partnership denied contacting de Blasio’s office and declined to comment further.
Spokespeople for Vornado, Brookfield and Related declined to comment or didn’t respond.
In a prepared statement, City Hall press secretary Bill Neidhardt acknowledged the planned NYPD operation, which he referred to as “a group with special training to serve in a supporting role to” employees of the Sanitation Department, City Cleanup Corps and Department of Homeless Services “working in recovery efforts.”
The NYPD didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy
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