David Usborne: We're not so safe in Gotham after all

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

A poet pal who lived for years in Manhattan and then moved briefly back to his native London insisted over dinner last week that the two towns had switched places. London was now the Wild West, a place where the danger of being robbed or mugged always lurked, whereas the once intimidating Gotham had become tourist-tame and safe. What he was saying about London surprised me. As for the New York part, I fear he may be a bit out of date.

Mostly, I still navigate the streets at all hours here without giving the slightest thought to being assaulted by anything larger than a rat (although the recent story – look for it on YouTube – of a rat sniffing its way across the face of a sleeping passenger on the Number Six train was pretty horrifying). Until recently, I never worried much either about being the victim of theft. It helped that I live in the more or less genteel environs of Gramercy Park.

This, it turns out, is pure complacency, however, as three events in the past few days have demonstrated. There are no street signs on the borders of my zip code telling ne'er-do-wells they aren't welcome; nor is Gramercy some kind of gated community – unless you want to penetrate the actual park, that is, which is a whole different story. In other words, vigilance is required.

In our small building, we are learning this the hard way this winter. First it was the man upstairs advising all 10 other apartments that a pair of snow-dampened size-13 boots he'd left on his landing overnight had taken a walk. Then one of the brass knobs on the building's front door disappeared. Finally, a ceiling light that was waiting to be hung in one of the public areas vanished from the lobby, brand new and still in its box.

You wonder what people would want with size-13 boots, a door knob or even a lone light fixture. More obvious was the motive of the man who saw the door ajar on the townhouse owned by friends down the block. Indeed, there is nothing we don't know about this scoundrel – aside from his identity that is – because of the security cameras that captured him edging into the hallway, scoping its contents and then making off with a bicycle recently bought for over $3,000 (£1,900). (Clearly it was all graphite, made by Boeing, or perhaps Nasa.) The video tape was handed over to the local police precinct without delay but no one has high hopes of seeing the bicycle again.

You have to admire the determination, however, of Paolo Zampolli, a very wealthy fellow who lives in a flat overlooking Gramercy Park itself. In recent days, according to New York magazine, he has taken to driving around in his favourite Rolls Royce Phantom festooned with large posters offering a reward of $50,000 for anyone with information that will lead to the recovery of two watches that were stolen from his apartment.

Actually three watches were taken, but one was successfully retrieved by police from a jewellery shop on East 47th Street in the diamond district. One of those still missing – a Patek Philippe – was a gift to his ten-month-old (spoiled?) son. Hopefully the reward gambit will work. More importantly we'd all like our mini Gramercy crime wave to die down.

Raking in the money rather than the snow

It's snowing outside, which was not in the forecast. Let's not go back to how it was last month when the first monster blizzard even had CBS anchor Katie Couric helping to push a friend's car out of trouble in Central Park on her way to work – a Maserati, no less, belonging to Barry Diller, the husband of Diane Von Furstenberg. There is still snow about in Manhattan, but not in the crazy amounts we had before. It was last Monday when the city decided there had been enough of a thaw to reinstate the normal parking laws. They oblige drivers to move their cars from one side of the street to the other at least twice a week, in order to allow the sweeper trucks to come through. The real reason is that everyone forgets to do this sometimes and instantly gets a ticket.

Thus when the city was completely snowed in, not only was it spending a fortune on snow removal, it was also losing one on parking fines it couldn't levy.

On a normal day, the city can harvest as much $240,000 this way. But on Monday of last week, the parking police took in $437,000 with nearly 10,000 tickets, in part because a lot of drivers still couldn't get their cars out of spots walled in by ploughed snow and ice. Now that's robbery.

Denizens of Manhattan are going nowhere soon

I am one of those people who doesn't mind reading the '36 Hours In...' page in the travel section of the New York Times, even if it's usually about a place I will never get to. It was mildly shocking to open the paper yesterday, though, to see that the featured destination of the day was none other than Brooklyn. My first thought: gosh, this is cost-cutting taken too far – the paper must really be on its knees. Everyone else, though, had a different reaction: this was finally an admission from the Grey Lady herself that for most denizens of Manhattan, all of the other boroughs of the city, even Brooklyn, may as well be foreign lands. Staten Island, where on earth is that?

d.usborne@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker