So if you regularly ride the New York subways, you’ve heard speeches something like the these a couple of times a week from somebody shaking a filthy paper coffee cup full of coins at you:
“Ladies and gentleman, your attention please. I got AIDS. My wife is in the hospital with TB. I’m homeless. I got three kids to support and one of them is in a wheel chair when he fell out a window on the other two, who are on crutches. I’m a Viet Nam veteran. I lost my job. All I’m asking is that you give me a dollar, a dime, even a penny will help, anything you got….”
“I am part of da United Effort To Help Da Homeless Inc. If you’re carrying a cheese sandwich you don’t need, a ham sandwich you don’t need, a happle you don’t need, anything like dat, we will pass it on to some hungry people. Udderwise, please donate money…”
“I ain’t out there robbing nobody or killing nobody like other people….all I want is money to buy food. Do you want me to have to mug you for it?”
You’ll also occasionally hear people around you muttering, “Why doesn’t the mayor do something about this? This is against the law.”
Well here’s why he’s doing nothing – or at least nothing effective. According a story by Leo Standora in the New York Daily News, during a press conference somebody asked the mayor about panhandlers in the subway. His immediate reaction?
“Bloomberg got irritated when the question of panhandlers came up in a press conference.
He cut off the questioner, saying, "There aren't very many panhandlers left, in all fairness to the MTA. Come on."
Yeah, right. Come on, Emperor Mike. There are also the quartets that come through crowded cars, elbowing riders out of the way to sing do-wop songs or to play mariachi music, followed by some aggressive passing of a hat. There are people with sunglasses banging passengers' shins with white canes while holding out a cup or a hat or a bag.
And did I mention the insane homeless who can empty a car during rush hour while they lie across seats, reeking unbearably of days-old sweat and excreta in their pants, picking lice and bedbugs from their hair and clothing, while laughing insanely, or cursing, or glaring menacingly at the passengers halfway down the car who are trying not to inhale?
Nope, the mayor, who claims to ride the someway to work regularly (although he takes a limousine, escorted by a security detail, to a subway entrance in midtown rather than walk to the one near his private mansion)…the mayor hasn’t noticed any of this.
Maybe he’s just out of touch. Maybe, as the New York Daily News suggested, the security detail that precedes him into the subway at 59th and Lexington (his home is on East 79th Street, a mile and two subway stops to the north)…maybe the security detail scares the panhandlers away. Maybe he’s secretly blind and has cotton stuffed up his nose and in his ears.
Or maybe he’s been hoodwinked by his staff, or maybe even by leprechauns or fairies, into believing those aren’t really beggers, they’re tailors who are sewing him a new suit of clothes. After all, the expensively-tailored Bloomberg did in effect declare himself emperor, overturning a term limits law that he had himself supported so he could run for a third term.
Given the Bloomberg bait-and-switch record on term limits and other matters, my guess is that he’s simply a liar.
So is he so out of touch that he doesn’t see or hear about the legions of panhandlers in the New York subways? Or does he see them but pretend they don’t exist? As my pal Hotwire Kellington from down the block during my Brooklyn childhood used to say, “Youse pays yer taxes and youse takes yer cherce.”