With the pandemic emptying out the city’s streets, and the NYPD focused elsewhere, foul and filthy homeless encampments are popping up across the city — exposing the impotence of the vast social-service system that’s supposed to prevent such horrors.
One shantytown sprawls under the FDR Drive in lower Manhattan, stretching south from Catherine Slip to Pier 11, in what one resident called “a scene out of a zombie movie.”
Security guard Jesse Alberio, 56, who lives nearby, says, “It gets real intimidating! I won’t come out here at night,” adding that some of the vagrants sneak into his building “and s - - t in the stairwells.”
And they’re stubborn. Sanitation workers last Sunday rooted out an East Village camp on Second Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets — but the “residents” were back in under a day.
Locals say the “campers” just went across the street, waited under the marquee of the Orpheum Theater, then returned once the city workers left.
They even kept their amenities: a desk, a large headboard, a mattress — along with access to a city phone-charging kiosk.
“We had a blissful 12 hours of peace,” neighbor Vanessa Valdes said in an email to The Post. “They are back and rebuilding structures again. . . . What can be done?”
Mike Tarabih, 45, a cook at the nearby B&H Restaurant, says: “It’s too much. The blankets, the beds, the furniture. They make apartments on the sidewalk. Customers say, ‘No, I go somewhere else.’ ”
The day after cops finally broke up and cleared out the “Occupy City Hall” homeless camp, Mayor de Blasio declared he had a “zero tolerance” policy; “Anyone who tells us about an encampment, we’re going to have it addressed right away by Homeless Services, Sanitation, PD. Whatever it takes.”
And yet the shantytowns remain (or return after a brief pause), making New Yorkers feel unsafe in their own homes and ’hoods.
City and city-paid nonprofit workers either can’t or won’t do what’s needed. As long as the mayor refuses to see that tough love is the only answer, “zero tolerance” will continue to look more like “throw-up-your-hands acceptance.”