Police responding to the corner of 73rd and Broadway. Photo via 20th precinct.
By Alex Israel
Local residents and NYPD representatives are speaking out about a group of people camping out on the street at 73rd Street and Broadway.
During the public session of Community Board 7’s January full board meeting on Tuesday, several local residents—including members of NYC Moms for Safer Streets, and residents of The Ansonia at 2109 Broadway (between West 73rd and 74th Streets)—shared stories of obscene taunts, harassment, and public exposure by several unidentified homeless individuals.
The locals said the group, described by one man as “an encampment of very aggressive folks,” has been “terrorizing” those in the area since scaffolding went up. Specific complaints included members the group allegedly exposing themselves to children on the street, shouting obscenities to those walking by, and cluttering the sidewalk with blankets and other belongings.
And a police union, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, tweeted a photo of the encampment to criticize the mayor.
Homeless 73rd Street and Broadway…happening NOW…once again you spew words that are meaningless. You’ve done nothing to help the mentally ill and only support the criminal element of this city. 311 is a farce..the people in the 20th precinct are unable to pass on the sidewalk. https://t.co/Cdx0MwqIE2 pic.twitter.com/qm5ySdtpJM
— SBA (@SBANYPD) December 28, 2019
After the union’s tweet, the 20th precinct sent officers who “inspected & found multiple violations & dramatically reduced the footprint of the encampment.”
Conversation about the group has also made its way to Nextdoor, a social networking platform for local communities, according to screenshots shared by a local tipster. “They pushed an elderly man yesterday to the ground,” reads one comment from the network on December 27, 2019.
“Imagine the harshness of living on the streets in any season but particularly winter. I would be shouting obscenities loud and clear if I had their misfortune,” reads another comment, which inspired a debate about homelessness.
Some of the local residents who turned up to the meeting were similarly sympathetic to the situation, and urged the board to take the issue of homelessness more seriously by addressing it at a systemic level.
“We’d like to see the community board join us in pushing for measures which will address these problems,” said a representative from NYC Moms for Safer Streets. “This includes innovative solutions to provide help and services to those in our homeless community who will accept it, and more tools to address those on the streets who threaten safety and security of our residents,” she said, adding a request of more funding for violence prevention, youth counseling services, and after-school programming.
Others echoed the requests in the board to help allocate additional aid to the homeless community.
Following the public session, CB7 Chair Mark Diller invited NYPD Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin to the floor to address these concerns. Malin is the commanding officer of the 20th precinct, which covers the Upper West Side from 59th up to 86th Streets.
While the local officers have built positive relationships with some of the neighborhood’s homeless figures (for example, Carl, a man who often sleeps in the area around 79th Street and Broadway, is “liked”), Malin explained, he has not found that to be the case at 73rd Street and Broadway.
“They are really aggressive, they’re really nasty,” he said, outlining several attempts by the precinct to clear out the corner through “enforcement operations,” in some cases alongside the Department of Homeless Services.
Despite these attempts, which have included summonses, the group continues to reappear. “If you want to capture them on video, please do,” said Malin, encouraging people to share their experiences to social media to create more awareness (and help make the case in favor of an officer who was reported to the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board by a local resident for apprehending a member of the group).
“I want people to see that this is a problematic location, and we are addressing it,” he said. “We’re going to keep on it, we’re going to keep at it.”
UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Deputy Inspector Malin. He said Carl was “liked” by officers, not “loved.”