When did Central Park at night become a good idea?
Recently, I've been reading about people being mugged in Central Park at night. The papers and the unfortunate victims act surprised and cannot fathom why this is happening. Really? Central Park at night? When did this become a good idea? First off, in case these people don't know, when you pay rent in New York City, it's for your apartment, not the actual city itself. People are out there looking for a good opportunity to make easy money through any means and a person walking in Central Park sounds promising to me.
I am not an insensitive person. I'm very sorry that anyone had to be victimized and know this experience is awful. Nobody deserves to be subjected to this feeling of fear. Also, the idea of having to adhere to the criminal elements of Gotham City isn't fair to those of us who enjoy walks in nature-like environments. Many New Yorkers work until it's dark and don't have the opportunity to stroll through the park at noon. I get it but get that there has been a 40% spike in muggings in Central Park since last year. This is a city of 19 million which puts about 401.9 people living in a sq. mile.The following are facts from the NYC Coalition for the Homeless:Each year 100,000 New Yorkers experience homelessness. That's approximately 1 in 20 New Yorkers. 1 in 4 children live in poverty. 40-50% of the homeless have a chronic mental illness. There is no accurate statistic as to how many drug addicts live in New York City. Over half of the homeless mothers in NYC have a history of domestic violence. Homelessness has increased by 11% since last year and right now NYC has the highest number of people seeking shelter on record. According to New York Magazine 2006-11-06 "Mind The Gap" article, information from the U.S Census Bureau states that Manhattan is home to the wealthiest people in the country with an average income of $188,697.00 a year. We are also home to the poorest in the country with an annual income of $9,320.00. There has been a wage growth in high income brackets in Manhattan which, also happens to be the fastest wage growth among the nations 10 largest counties. Manhattan is the richest of those counties and the richest New Yorker, oil tycoon David H. Koch is worth 17 billion dollars. Wait...the vomit has to creep down from my throat. Ugh! Alright let's continue. The poorest New Yorkers estimate to about 1.5 million, with incomes below the poverty line, "collectively are worth less than Mr. Koch's net worth." 72 of Forbes 400 richest Americans live in NYC and they're each worth at least a billion dollars. In 2009 NYC is #1 for most billionaires living in one city. We have 55 billionaires living in NYC.
You don't have to be a socio-economist to figure out where I'm going with this. There are a lot of desperate people in this city. There are many New Yorkers who are experiencing hopelessness, anger and resentment. There are many New Yorkers who have been subjected to violence, are uneducated, who have total apathy towards others that is only fueled by the knowledge of such extreme wealth in New York and are willing to rob people because often times, they don't think that they have anything to lose! Central Park is an easy choice for these muggings. Even the Central Park Polar Bears, Gus and Ida go inside when it gets dark in the park.
Central Park opened in 1859 and I'm willing to bet that in the first week, someone was mugged. If we can go back 100 years ago and ask an NYC citizen if they would walk around the park at night, they'd probably respond with a prompt, "HELL NO!" I've read about how one local resident is now taking cabs home until the culprits of the recent muggings are caught. As if there are only 3 criminals in all of NYC. No wait, 4, but they caught Madoff. Another resident fears that park crimes will go back to the way it used to be in the 70's. Honestly, if it did, we may never know. Our mayor happens to be a billionaire, too and though the city is safer than it has been in decades, don't think he doesn't have the finest public relations company working for him and keeping us distracted and unaware of how bad it might really be. Come on. It's human nature to not want to look bad, Mayor Mike is not immune.
Common sense is the key here and unless you're trying to recreate Charles Bronson's character in the Death Wish movies, my suggestion is to take walks in the well lit streets and save the parks for the day light hours. It's survival of the fittest and self preservation that would prevent most people from trying to wrestle with a hungry crocodile, most people...not the 62 year old man who went traipsing into the park at night with his blackberry, Visa card and $100.00 in cash. That even tempts me and I pride myself on being non violent. But then again, some people like sky diving, others like to run with bulls, and there's those who like to tempt the cannibals of Papua New Guinea, maybe it's a sense of thrill, a roll of the dice, a sport that I'm not getting. If that's the case, well then awesome. I don't even think the guys of Jackass have the bravado to try this one so Kudos to those brave souls and God Bless.
I understand that there will be a higher police presence in Central Park now. The police force has gone from 40, 800 officers in 2001 to 36, 838 today and those numbers are threatening to get lower and we have to put more cops in the park to protect the people who are choosing to risk their safety whereas maybe those officers would serve better else where. But what do I know?
When I first moved to NYC, I got lost. I lived on the west side of Manhattan and somehow got turned around and ended up on the east side. I'm sure the martini that I'd had didn't help my cause but at some point, I got the cunning idea to walk through the park. Did I mention that it was only 7pm? I went in about 100 yards and became seized with fear, felt tears coming to my eyes, started trembling and I think at one point may have even wanted my mom. Those were a frightening 30 seconds before I turned around and high tailed it out of there. I was doing something dumb but caught myself before I went any further. Had I continued on, I probably would have even made it through the park and home safely. But I wasn't going to take my chances, neither should anyone else. Wake up people! It's not a perfect world and if I saw a crime, I'd call 911. If I could prevent a crime I would like hopefully I may be doing right now. I love Central Park, it's magical and New York is the city of my dreams but part of getting to have the perks of this city is by being a smart New Yorker. Lately, the muggings have caused a few scuffs and scraped. Next time it could be a life. Take it from Gus and Ida, polar bears and residents of Central Park and don't go wandering around where things can go bump in the night.