Pandemic Politics: Nearing End, Mayor Blames Virus for New York’s Crisis of Crime & Disorder
The presidential race is rocketing toward the finish line. But it’s not the only game in town. In New York City, Left and Right alike are eyeing the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wretched tenure. The stakes are high.
A year ago—long before Covid-19 hit the U.S.—Judicial Watch warned that New York was slipping toward a crisis of crime and disorder. Statistics told part of the story. Shootings, up; gun arrests, up; hate crimes, up. A resurgent left-wing political class was about to unleash new laws that would put more felons on the streets. Quality of life was unraveling. “Throughout the city,” we noted, “anecdotal reports of unsettling incidents—harassment, menacing, petty theft, public urination, graffiti, dope smokers, turnstile jumpers—are increasing.”
Mayor de Blasio at the time was trampling through the fields of Iowa in a delusional quest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Dismissive of concerns back home and courting the Left, he promised he would keep the city in “the vanguard of progressivism” and “improve the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers.”
What a difference a year makes. Term-limited out of office in 2021, de Blasio today is a ghost of his former self, a fading force in local politics, seemingly broken and bewildered by the city. His pledge to improve the quality of life of New Yorkers is in ruins.
These days, no one disputes New York is in crisis. Covid-19 is only part of the story. The mayor was slow to take the virus seriously, delayed closing restaurants and schools, and engaged in a long-running feud with Governor Andrew Cuomo that may have cost thousands of lives. Read ProPublica’s report on that devastating debacle here.
Cuomo appears to have steadied the state, keeping infection rates low. But the mayor continues to steer an erratic course and crime continues to rise. According to NYPD statistics, murders in New York City are up 40% from last year. Shootings are up 91%.
In August, there were 242 shootings in the city, up from 91 in the same month last year. In September, 152 shootings, compared to 67 last year.
Murders increased 79% in September compared to a year earlier—51 dead in September 2020, 29 in 2019.
Crime on New York’s subways—an economic lifeline of the city—is increasing. New Yorkers averaged more than 5 million trips on weekdays before the pandemic. Those numbers have plunged by more than 60% and train travel has grown more dangerous. “So far this year,” says the New York Times, “the number of reported homicides, rapes, burglaries and robberies in the subway are higher than the same period last year, according to Police Department statistics. Incidents of vandalism have also spiked.”
The mayor blames all this on the pandemic. “We saw the violence start in earnest in May and into June, into July,” de Blasio recently said. “The original cause of this is all the effects of the coronavirus.”
That’s clearly not the case, as statistics from 2019 and early 2020 show. The Left’s failed experiment with criminal justice reform, an effort to empty jails that put repeat offenders back on the streets, is another factor in the city’s decline. As Judicial Watch reported in March, before the pandemic hit, progressive forces rammed through the state legislature an insane reform package that eliminated cash bail for a wide range of offenses—from assault, arson and child abuse, to manslaughter, robbery and riot—and removed judicial discretion in holding suspects.
The reform legislation took effect January 1 and crime rates jumped. Numbers for January and February of 2020 show a 35 percent increase in robberies and a 64 percent increase in stolen cars compared to the same period in 2019, the New York Post. Shootings went up 19 percent. Burglaries went up 21 percent.
Public outrage was swift and legislators quickly backtracked. The reform package was overhauled to tighten restrictions on violent crimes and repeat offenders, but the new iteration is seen as piecemeal by both sides. The fight over emptying New York’s jails is not over.
Other blows hit the city before the pandemic as well. In education policy—New York’s school system is the largest in the country, with 1.1 million students and a budget of $34 billion—de Blasio plunged the city into turmoil with the appointment of a radical chancellor, Richard Carranza. A tireless class warrior, Carranza has attempted to ram through a left-wing agenda under the banner of “diversity,” seeking to impose racial quotas, eliminate programs for gifted students, and undermine admission standards to elite high schools.
I recently wrote an article for the New York Post about my experiences with the Carranza mob. Read it here.
And in another deeply worrying sign of trouble, New York’s economic picture is grim. Job losses are dragging the city down. “More than one million residents are out of work,” reports the New York Times, “and the unemployment rate is nearly double the national average.”
But the Left presses on with an anti-growth agenda. Last month, progressive forces in the New York City Council killed a waterfront development project, Industry City, that would have created 20,000 jobs. The reason? Opposition to “big business” from environmental and community groups. Establishment Democrats, terrified of rising progressive forces in the party, jumped on board when it became clear Industry City was going down. Read more about it here.
If Industry City sounds depressingly familiar, it’s because the same thing happened a year ago in Queens. Progressive forces led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez killed a development deal with Amazon. The tech giant was set to bring 25,000 jobs to the city. Ocasio-Cortez hailed the death of the deal as a victory against “corporate greed.
The race to succeed de Blasio already is underway and his would-be successors in Democrat-dominated New York are all tacking left, hoping for a repeat of recent progressive victories. As New York goes, they know, so goes much of urban America. The mayoralty of New York City is one of the biggest prizes in American politics. Radical Democrats are determined to seize it.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: [email protected]
Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: [email protected]