New York – Some businesses and homeowners on Eighth Avenue between 35th and 38th Streets in Manhattan say they are tired of what they see as problems with drugs and homelessness.
Sometimes the group’s sanitation team finds dozens of needles, said Barbara Blair of the nonprofit Garment District Alliance.
She and business owners say the problem is making retail customers and employees feel unsafe, which they say means less profit.
“If you have six guys who look a little sketchy hanging out in front of your store all day,” Blair said, “or they break out into fights and flood your store … nobody wants to go in anymore. “
The Garment District Alliance is now working with property owners in the area, who have jointly hired private security.
But in this case, private security means heavily armed, uniformed off-duty NYPD officers.
“Unfortunately … in a city with such an excellent police force, landlords have to pay for private police officers on duty,” said Steve Kaufman, president of the real estate firm Kaufman Organization.
The Kaufman Organization is one of three real estate firms currently paying a total of about $8,000 a week for private details.
“I feel like this is the best option for our business,” Kaufman said.
Matthew Mandell, assistant manager at GFP Real Estate, agreed, saying: “People don’t feel safe around them.”
He said their retailers would “send pictures of people taking drugs in front of the building… [and] Pictures of homeless people sleeping in front of their doors. “
A collection of owners told FOX 5 News that between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, a pair of hired individuals will walk the three blocks of 8th Avenue — one an off-duty police officer and the other a non-official police officer. Armed private security.
Despite two separate afternoon visits to the neighborhood, the FOX 5 newsgroup did not see either of these pairs.
A homeless man named James told us that the police and private guards seemed to be “focusing all their energy on beggars who didn’t hurt anyone.”
He said guards and police would tell him “don’t beg … don’t stand in the street.”
“I said, ‘This is a free country—what do you mean I can’t stand on this block?’
That’s when he said they tried to move him. But James said there was “nowhere to go”.
“If you’re homeless, it’s like you should disappear and die.”
Halfway through the interview with James, the Fox 5 crew noticed that the business in front of them—a 7/11 store that wasn’t a tenant of the business that hired the security guard—significantly turned up the volume on their outdoor speakers playing opera music.
Kaufman said he understands the perspective of some homeless people, and he believes his city’s Department of Homeland Services and the NYPD are “working hard.”
But business owners do think the city could do more.
“I think people are choosing the streets over the shelters,” Matthew Mandel said, “because the shelter system isn’t supposed to be like that.”
In the two months since hiring the off-duty staff, business owners say it’s working.
“It seems to be doing well,” Kaufman said.
“If people feel like someone is paying attention — even if they’re just standing there in a police uniform,” Mandel added, “I think it makes a difference.”
Fox 5 tried to ask NYPD officials about the issue at a Wednesday press conference, but was told there would be no digressions.
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams, said in a statement that public safety is the mayor’s “top priority,” but said reducing crime “won’t happen overnight.” happened in between”.
He added that over the past 25 years, off-duty police have helped New Yorkers by complementing “the fantastic work that our police officers do on the streets every day.”