Since Ed Koch introduced the “pooper-scooper” law back in 1977 and then into the Dinkins (I give credit where it’s due in this instance) and Giuliani years with quality-of-life laws, the crackdown on windshield washermen, hookers, turnstile jumpers and the revitalization of the subway, Jackie O’s rescue of Grand Central Station and the transformation of Times Square-42nd Street into the second coming of the Great White Way, New York city has undergone an incredible and hard fought renaissance over the course of three long, tumultuous decades.
But with the economic crash of ’08 and the destructive, anti-free market policies of the current administration, even New York’s famed resilience has been sorely tested as businesses shutter at a staggering rate I’ve not seen in my 55 plus years. Now, I live on the dividing line of Greenwich Village and SoHo, one of Manhattan’s most desirable and expensive locations (these days, virtually all of Manhattan is the latter, if not necessarily the former). Through the city’s ups and downs, millions of tourists flock here each year. It’s also a magnet for film and television production, mostly because the essence of what classic old New York City, at least in an architectural sense has changed very little over the years.
And then in late 2013, from Park Slope via Managua, came comrade mayor Bill DeBlasio, a man who is not shy about his “progressive” bona fides (he openly defied his own country and went to Nicaragua to help our enemies, the Communist Sandinista rebels). In just under two years, crime is through the roof, and with it a tidal wave of homeless people and panhandlers. Along with handcuffing the police and kissing Al Sharpton’s manhole cover, his lax attitude on quality-of-life issues is infuriating New Yorkers, to the extent that bums and derelicts are now openly defecating and urinating in the streets unmolested. If nothing else, DeBlasio has managed to unite his liberal base with the ever-shrinking conservative residents in a common hatred of what his incompetence and ideology have done to good old Hymietown (though the left will never blame the ideology).
But this post is not necessarily about DeBlasio. Rather it’s about a bedraggled, filth-encrusted homunculus who literally camps out alongside the supermarket I frequent. True he has been there since before DeBlasio, but his story is emblematic of what just a few short years ago we New Yorkers thought we’d never see again, and certainly not in the Village.
The vagrant, who goes by the name Delfine Vizearra, cooks, panhandles and heeds nature’s call at 505 La Guardia Place, where he has built a personal shanty out of tarps and boxes.“My normal day is, I come out at 4 a.m., get all the newspapers,” he told The Post. “I cook my own breakfast. I make my own coffee. I have a small kitchen with gas.”
“I can’t believe they allow him to stay there,” a Morton Williams worker said. “We have called the police many, many times.” A resident at 505 La Guardia, a co-op, said others want the city to send him and his braid packing. “A lot of people want to see him go,” the resident admitted.
505 LaGuardia Place is on the same grounds as Silver Towers which, along with Washington Square Village across the street, are owned by NYU and used as faculty housing. Now, the guy doesn’t bother me personally but it galls me that he is living illegally on the supermarket’s (or NYU’s) property and the police have done nothing about him. And it looks as if he is given succor by the residents of the adjacent co-op so he ain’t going anywhere. Actually, his “shelter” is across from 505 while he parks himself in front of the market just up the block during the daytime.
At the same time, we have the tragic tale of Eric Garner who died while resisting arrest selling “loosies” or loose cigarettes. It’s one thing to cook your eggs al fresco on someone else’s property, but it’s quite another to deny Bill DeBlasio the city’s cut from the sale of those coffin nails. Then again, if the price weren’t over $12.00 per pack because of all the taxes put on them, the poor would be able to afford them and not be forced to look for other alternatives like the late Mr. Garner to satisfy their nicotine jones.
I suppose one way to look at it is that it’s a lesson in self-reliance. In the case of Garner, he found a willing market for a product and he filled that need, except that his enterprise was illegal, it pitted him against an all-powerful state and he lost. In the case of the NYU troll, he’s gone totally off the grid. True, he contributes absolutely nothing to society but, well. Huh. I guess I can’t think of any upside at all. At the end of the day the illogic and the schizophrenia of New Yorkers is quite maddening. On the one hand, they bitch about the degradation of the quality of life in the city but they actively encourage this guy – no matter how seemingly benign – living in their midst. And when you let someone like this guy stay, you attract more and more just like him.
And, as they say, there goes the neighborhood.