The primary function of the New York Post is to instill a vague fear into upstanding residents of Breezy Point, Bay Ridge, and the Upper East Side that New York City is constantly descending toward chaos, and today, its front cover accomplishes that with flying colors. The bad old days are back!
Why? Because cops are killing people in the streets. Kids from black, poor neighborhoods, thrown into the criminal justice system before they know left from right. Segregated schools. Poverty. Violence.
Oh, not that? You mean because some guys are going around, washing car windows, and asking for money afterwards? "Terrorizing city streets," the Post writes. Those guys are the problem.
The squeegee man, for a certain kind of grizzled, old, white New Yorker, is a potent symbol of the city as it was two and three decades ago. In the '80s and '90s, they'll tell you, squeegee men roamed midtown, scrubbing your car whether you liked it or not, and if you didn't pay up, they'd uh, be really mad about it. Now, they're back—at least a few of them are—and people are terrified:
Maria Berrios, 49, who has lived in Midtown near the Lincoln Tunnel for 30 years, was stunned to see a squeegee man at the corner of Dyer Avenue and West 36th Street about two weeks ago.
"He looked like he learned how to do it way back in the day. He just picked up his bucket and went back to work," she said.
"I haven't seen those guys in 20 years. I'm a grandma now — the last time I saw one of them, my kids were in the car."
"When I seen that one, I was f- -king shocked," she added, noting he hides his squeegee gear and "pretends to direct traffic" whenever cops come by.
Livery driver German Perez, 43, of Bayside, Queens, said, "I don't feel secure when I see these guys around."
The only way to be rid of this scourge, it would seem, is a full-scale crackdown. Let's get the police commissioner who handled them the first time around to come back—the guy whose broken windows-style policing sent a clear message to petty criminals: change your dastardly ways or you'll be locked up forever. Or choked to death. What we need is a police force that will arrest hordes of people who are already on the brink, who depend on stuff like selling loosies and washing windows to get by, with no regard for anything beyond keeping the rest of us safe from panhandlers, subway dancers, and pot smokers.
That guy already is running the police department, you say? Damn, maybe the bad old days really are back.