State police traveled down to Times Square this weekend to pressure the “desnudas,” the topless performers on Times Square. It seems Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again one-upping Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is being publicly bullied into restarting a new round Giuliani Time in 2015 — fighting off the performers and the homeless.
Surprising? Hardly. After all, de Blasio hand-picked Giuliani’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton, before he marched into City Hall claiming to be a champion of progressivism. De Blasio probably thought that his somewhat odd pairing with Bratton might stave off some criticism from the right.
No such luck.
Twenty months in, not even half of his first term, and the chorus of media doomsayers that claim the city is becoming a pre-Giuliani nightmare is deafening. The latest symbol of a city that isn’t “orderly” enough are women who are (legally) topless in Times Square, where some of the same voices were shrieking about supposedly violent and shady Elmos and Spidermans at the crossroads of the world last year around this time.
Just a month ago, there was a media-fueled scare-gasm about homeless people in the city’s ritziest neighborhoods — even bathing in our prized fountains. The police unions even lent a hand, directing their members to take pictures of people being, get this, homeless.
This city has a long history with “cleaning up” Times Square. It was where Bratton and Giuliani symbolically “took back” the city from scofflaws and to make way for the bright lights and unbroken windows of corporate stores. It is perhaps the epicenter of modern-day gentrification in the city.
But it’s 2015 so maybe before Cuomo and Bratton, with some media outlets and police unions instigating renewed quality-of-life crackdowns, unleash law enforcement to scrub the city clean of performers, breasts and homeless New Yorkers, we can stop to think that those of us who find other ways survive in this expensive city aren’t simply “disorder” to be swept under the rug — or into a jail cell.
Disorder is in the eye of the beholder. The broken windows theory was never about windows, it was about people and getting rid of those they could convince us not to care about — like the homeless. Why not work to get homeless people permanent housing?
Instead of tearing them up, why not accept that public spaces will be used by the public, even the quirky ones? If Times Square can have 200 foot billboards of male models in just underwear, why can’t woman walk around topless? If bikers can zoom down Manhattan streets, why can’t black kids dance on the train?
It makes no sense.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.