New York City’s low-comedy co-mayoralty was heard from again this week, as Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray announced a trial scheme to send social workers instead of cops to deal with outbursts of public derangement. Think of it as “Bill & Chirl’s Excellent Adventure Part II: Crazy Is As Crazy Does.”
Crazy, because the de Blasios have already shredded more than $1.25 billion on a mental-health contrivance, ThriveNYC, but have yet to document a dime’s worth of value for the effort.
Crazy, because the de Blasios offer no justification for the new program, to say nothing of operational details of any sort.
Crazy, because they announced a largely identical initiative just a year ago: Cops and social workers were to respond together to incidents involving mental illness. Then they simply forgot about it. This happens a lot on Planet Blas.
And crazy, because let’s face it, the first time an angel-dusted psychotic takes a rusty bayonet to an ill-trained social worker, with no cop on the scene, all that would be left of the program would be recrimination and litigation.
That last one is an ugly image, but well worth pondering: The NYPD has come a very long way in the 36 years since Eleanor Bumpers, a mentally ill grandmother, attacked cops with a knife in her Bronx apartment during an eviction — and was shot to death in response.
Back then, officers largely approached the mentally ill armed with hard weaponry and a strong sense of self-preservation. Violent confrontations didn’t happen every day, but they also weren’t uncommon. Today, the opposite is true: Cops are well-trained in dealing with mental instability, weapons are a last resort, and deadly violence is rare.
If that weren’t the case — that is, if police misconduct directed toward the mentally is indeed an institutional problem — the co-mayors would have been able to cite some examples Tuesday when they revealed their latest brainstorm. But they didn’t, because they couldn’t, and so that should be that. Right? Alas, wrong.
It is always a mistake to assume a de Blasio announcement is in any way connected to genuine need, coherent goals or realistically anticipated outcomes. Words are tossed out, usually followed by gobs of tax dollars, and then Mr. and Mrs. Mayor wander off toward their next distraction.
If this weren’t so — if, for example, ThriveNYC were a coherent effort to cope with mental illness — Gotham’s public spaces wouldn’t once again be crowded with howling-at-the-moon, self-medicating lunatics and aggressive cardboard-cup shakers. But they are. If you doubt it, take a trip to downtown Brooklyn, to Penn Station or to the Broadway median on the Upper West Side. You’ll see soon enough.
But what of the cash poured into ThriveNYC — again, $1.25 billion with 14 months left to go for Blas and his bride? What happened to it all?
Has there been a whole lot of grifting going on? Or are the de Blasios just everyday schnooks? Hizzoner spent much of his first term under investigation for campaign-finance grifting (DA Cy Vance let him off on the grounds that whatever the mayor might have done his lawyer said was OK, so it was OK.) Anything is possible.
And as for schnookery, well, the couple did honeymoon in Havana. What could be more schnookish than that?
Either way, here come the man and his missus for another helping of tax dollars, to be spread among the not-for-profiteers and related advantage-takers who fund so much of what passes for competitive politics in New York.
This explains political New York’s profound lack of curiosity about such programs.
Whether Bill and Chirlane eventually find employment in that world is an open question. He is going to need a job in 14 months, such low-grade back-scratching would be wholly in character — and it would help explain a policy initiative that otherwise makes no sense whatsoever.
The Big Apple has been in the deep weeds before, but never quite like this. Virtually everything the de Blasio mayoralty laid its hands on cratered long before the coronavirus arrived: mental-health administration, yes, but also policing, housing, schools and the maintenance of public spaces.
The city is on its knees now and would have been close to it irrespective of the pandemic, and the best the mayor can do is to propose vague solutions to problems that don’t exist. Typical, but crazy.
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