Swarms of New Yorkers left the city early Friday for the holiday weekend, leaving behind the tourists and the hustlers who prey on them.
In Times Square, a Buddhist monk challenged a bogus Buddhist allegedly scamming people for money on Friday. They wound up in a Buddhist battle royal. A witness told the Post that the fake monk tackled the real one, clinging to his leg while bashing his own head on the ground as confused tourists looked on. Was this some kind of strange New York street theater?
Nope, business as usual. Fake Buddhist monks are making a comeback, adding to the list of parasites bugging tourists and locals in Times Square, and increasingly, throughout the city.
On Friday, my family stayed in town for a night of Coney Island fun and fireworks. The Parachute Jump was electric blue, the lights from the rides were dazzling, and the boardwalk was filled with the happy faces of couples, children, and -- oh no, costumed characters hassling them!
But unlike Times Square, with its tourist crowd, Coney was filled with real New Yorkers. And when Spidey and Elmo tried to pull their scams, they were nearly trampled by the fast-moving locals.
As a lifetime New Yorker, I'm aware that these street hustlers are nothing new. But I don't remember it being quite this bad. Creepy Cookie Monsters, nearly naked "desnudas" accompanied by their pimps, oops, I mean, "handlers," and fake monks scamming tourists for cash -- a bit much, no?
Add these shakedown artists to our familiar subway con artists -- "recently released from prison," "recently lost my bus tickets and need only $17 to get back home," "recently (fill in your own scam pitch here)."
And don't get me started on the screaming phony subway preachers.
Yes, they have their rights, and yes, begging in the streets isn't illegal. But don't we have the right to ride the subway or walk the streets without being constantly accosted? The city can go after "aggressive" panhandlers, but the definition of aggressive is too often unclear.
"I don't like the situation . . . and we are going to address it in a very aggressive manner," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
But what does he really mean?