Times Square has been overrun with homeless people, drug dealers, and squalor, according to the New York Post, and “a lot of people are worried about it collapsing,” says William Bratton, the NYPD commissioner who helped then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani clean up the area in the 1990s.
“Unless they start getting it together for a rebuild, it might actually collapse,” he told the Post.
Raymond Kelly, the city’s police commissioner from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2013, told the Post there’s been “a lot of change for the worse” in Times Square since the coronavirus pandemic.
“You can feel it when you walk through there,” he said.
Crime is down in the entire Midtown South precinct, which includes Times Square, according to Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.
But Bratton says the current situation is troubling.
“We had a lot more to work with than the current commissioner and the mayor have in 2023,” Bratton told the Post. “There was a lot more of a criminal justice system back then. The courts, district attorneys, and the police were pretty much united about doing something about crime in Times Square. So, you had a collaboration that is not in place today.”
By contrast, “we [now] have a number of district attorneys not wanting to deal with a lot of … the so-called ‘broken windows’,” signs of social disorganization and lead to crime, he explained — referring to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
“Until we get better collaboration between various elements of government, we’re not going to see it improve dramatically,” Bratton warned.
Sidek Mohammed, who has sold nuts at a kiosk on the corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue for 16 years, told the Post Times Square is “not safe,” and described a recent incident where a disheveled man aggressively shoved a small child “very hard” in broad daylight.
“Anytime, that kind of thing can happen here,” said another business owner, Syed Hossain, 53, said. “I feel bad because I know it’s not supposed to be that way.”