In his 2014 inauguration speech, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged, using a Dickensian theme, to “take dead aim at the tale of two cities.” But he also recognized that “our city government’s first responsibility is to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Nearly seven years later, economic inequality under Hizzoner hasn’t changed. But the unequal distribution of serious violent crimes has worsened. There remain two distinct New Yorks, and as crime ticks up, the difference between them is growing more pronounced.
Through Aug. 30, the city’s 290 murders and 1,004 shooting incidents represent year-to-date increases of 33.6 percent and 87 percent, respectively. Manhattan has seen 52 murders and 135 shootings this year. About half of those shootings took place in just three of the borough’s 22 precincts — all in Harlem.
In those precincts, killings are up more than 100 percent, year to date. By contrast, precincts covering the West Village, Upper East Side and Upper West Side have seen just two murders and three shootings combined.
In Brooklyn, where murders are up 72 percent — more than double the citywide increase of 33.6 percent — we see a similar disparity. Just four precincts — covering East Flatbush, Brownsville, East New York and Crown Heights — account for more than 57 percent of the borough’s 114 homicides and just under half of its 441 shooting incidents through Aug. 30. Meanwhile, the precincts serving Park Slope, Kensington, Brooklyn Heights and Greenpoint have seen a combined total of just three murders and 15 shootings.
Of the 16 precincts in Queens, just two — serving the Rockaways and Jamaica — account for a third of its 150 shootings. Forest Hills and Douglaston, however, have seen no murders and only one shooting all year.
In the Bronx precinct serving Highbridge, 10 murders and 34 shootings have occurred — more gunfire than the entire borough of Staten Island has seen this year. In tony Riverdale, those numbers are just one and six, respectively.
Of 20 precincts compared in this article, the 10 high-crime precincts have seen 105 murders and 369 shootings, while the 10 low-crime ones have seen just six murders and 25 shootings.
De Blasio’s campaign speeches obscured how the risk of victimization by criminals was unequally distributed across the city. He insisted that the representative victim of New York’s two cities was “a black teenager” feeling the need to slide off “his hoodie on the way home from high school, hoping this will be a day when the police let him pass without incident.” If the crime data are any guide, that teenager is more likely to be worried about walking past local gang members without incident. And the gang members are probably less worried about the police than they’ve been in some time.
The mayor has had a hand in both phenomena. One of his first official acts was to drop the city’s appeal to US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s flawed ruling against the NYPD regarding its stop-question-and-frisk practices. Shortly afterward, de Blasio smeared the department when he spoke of having to “train” his mixed-race son on how to minimize his chances of being brutalized by police. Those comments prompted hundreds of uniformed officers to turn their backs on the mayor after the double murder of Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in December 2014.
The mayor’s decision not to appeal Scheindlin’s ruling led to a federal monitorship and a sharp reduction in the number of stops recorded by the NYPD. That reduction, however, didn’t satisfy critics, who set their sights on reducing searches pursuant to legal consent.
The City Council passed (with the mayor’s support) the Right to Know Act, which requires NYPD officers to apprise subjects of their right to refuse consent to a search. The mayor also backed legislation that would subject any officer to criminal penalties for applying pressure to the diaphragm of a suspect — even accidentally — while making an arrest. And he has just slashed $1 billion from the NYPD budget.
The mayor has also lent his support to decarceration efforts — approving the move to close and replace Rikers Island and signing off on a plan that will cap the city’s jail capacity at 3,500 inmates, a figure 70 percent lower than the average daily jail population between 2008 and 2018.
Taken together, the mayor’s decisions have likely contributed to the city’s massive ongoing crime wave. More damning, this past June, 97 percent of the city’s shooting victims were nonwhite. His Gotham is a tale of two cities. Guess which one he lives in.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Photo by CribbVisuals/iStock