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Under a scaffold near the Lincoln Tunnel is a mattress and a desk. A few meters away, a sofa and a tarpaulin. Not visible to the camera, a man was sleeping in the middle of it all.
It was a similar scene in Hell’s Kitchen at the corner of 55th Street and 10th Avenue.
Meanwhile, in Times Square, the homeless seem to be spread out where pedestrians walk and generally congregate.
On top of all that, dozens of hotels have turned into citywide shelters as part of a municipal program to safely house the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hell’s Kitchen community activist Holly-Anne Devlin calls the program a fantastic initiative, but believes that the drug traffickers have also moved to take advantage of it.
“They seem to either be selling drugs in shelters, outside shelters, and this causes a lot of harassment, crime. The neighborhood does not feel safe for many citizens, “said Devlin.
She said that she had recently taken photos of a needle and what appeared to be a bag of heroin near a cardboard slum on 43rd Street and 11th Avenue.
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Mario Messina of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association in Midtown also gave Grymes photos with similar concerns.
“There are people who defecate in the streets. There are people who sell drugs on the streets. There are people who use payphones as an office. I mean, it’s amazing what’s going on, “said Messina.
Grymes asked to speak on camera with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s homeless focal point, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, but only received a written statement.
A spokesperson said that in any hotel the DSS uses, it provides additional security, in part to limit gatherings outside.
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Regarding the homeless homeless, the spokesperson said that outreach teams work daily to offer help, but that many suffer from mental illness and addiction.
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“They are human beings. They deserve to be supported. They deserve to be treated, “said Messina.
Devlin said she had worked constructively on potential solutions with the NYPD, the office of the chairman, Corey Johnson, and others. She hopes that the situation will soon become safer for everyone involved.
CBS2 contacted the NYPD, but did not immediately respond. President Johnson said his office is working with restaurants, residents and shelters to improve conditions.