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Hell’s Kitchen leaders have called for urgent action “after a complete failure of leadership from the Mayor’s office” with one leader suggesting action to “defund the politicians”.
At a board meeting today, the Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance (HYHK) called for immediate action to address what they described as a public safety matter. They were clear that the issues on the streets between W34th and W40th Street were no longer just a quality of life issue.
During the meeting, pictures were shared of the encampments in the area and specifically the out of control drug use on the streets. After showing one image (above) of heroin addicts passed out on W36th Street and 9th Avenue, Daniel Scorse, Vice President of Operations for HYHK, said: “The folks in these pictures are pretty serious heroin addicts. They’ve been living in the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel for a couple of years now. What you’re seeing here, the city allows. Drug use has become so bad in this area we now have a partnership with Housing Works to provide us with sharps containers. We’re picking up about 30 needles every morning in this one area. This is a danger to the public.”
The frustration is that there are so many meetings, but nothing is done. “The Community Board has had about 30 meetings so far with DHS and the Mayor’s office. We are having a complete failure of leadership from the Mayor’s office,” said Joe Restuccia, Executive Director of Clinton Housing Development and member of Community Board 4 (CB4). “The absence of management has created a public safety matter, and that’s how the community board is approaching it now. This is no longer a quality of life issue.
“We had a meeting about the W36th street shelter with 78 residents attending. I can’t even tell you how out of their minds that they were. There are 850 people living on 36th and 37th street between Eighth and Ninth Avenue that are mentally ill, chemically addicted and it’s created a huge market for drugs. This is a disaster and the Mayor’s office is not stepping up.”
Restuccia went on to call this “a very bad situation”, especially as the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has an open-ended policy. He continued: “DHS will not give us an answer. They say ‘sometime next year, they’re not sure’. The mayor makes one pronouncement, then DHS changes. The NYPD doesn’t connect. The police feel hamstrung. The police won’t act after the budget cuts. It’s Nero fiddling while the city is falling apart.”
Local artist Jordan Baker-Caldwell, who is a resident member of the HYHK Board shared: “I can attest to that as being someone who lives on 36th street. It is crazy. It’s like the end of a zombie movie. I’m not scared because I’m a big person, but I can imagine how others feel.”
CB4 member Jean Daniel Noland reported on the feeling of the community board. “We call for defunding the politicians because our local politicians — except perhaps for the Borough President — have not engaged sufficiently with this crisis. We have to understand the context, especially 36th Street, with the overwhelming number of homeless men that have been put into those hotels that increase drug use and other undesirable activity on all blocks. I’m not blaming the folks that are there, but it’s a larger problem, which unfortunately is not being addressed either by the city or sufficiently by our local elected officials. The board is bombarded constantly by people on 36th street. People are afraid to go out. It’s a crisis.”
W42ST has asked for a response from the Mayor’s Office to this story. We will update.