NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The calls for help from business owners and residents in fear over a dangerous crime spree are getting louder.
A Wild West like scene stretches the single block from West 43rd Street to 42nd Steet on Ninth Avenue, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported Friday.
If you see this once envied Hell’s Kitchen real estate from Chopper 2, you miss the repeated, violent fist fights and fires set with flames fanned by people living on the street.
It gets worse. Exclusive video from Father’s Day shows a store worker getting sprayed in the face with a chemical. Police say a man did it in order to steal expensive liquor with his accomplices. The employee did not want to be interviewed.
But, hardware store owner Felix Atlasman is eager to speak, shining a light on a block he’s known since the 1980’s and barely recognizes.
“I’d like to clean this up, but I’d probably get arrested for moving furniture that’s not mine,” said Atlasman.
Atlasman’s store is essential, and was allowed to let customers inside. But, he keeps the gate down and brings customers what they need out to the sidewalk.
“Pepper spray is my best selling item. It used to be light bulbs,” said Atlasman.
Pat Squitieri, a security guard, said he believes unstable people who are prone to trouble are among those housed by the city in Times Square area hotels.
“We’re not the police,” said Squitieri.
The NYPD said specifics on crimes in this single block are not available.
Overall, crime is down in Midtown South this year compared to the same time last year.
But, a closer look reveals burglaries in the precinct are up 117.7 percent. 172 this year, compared to 79 in the same period in 2019.
Robberies are up 11.3 percent. 59 this year compared to 53 in the first half of last year.
Police say empty commercial spaces are vulnerable targets.
Assembly member Dick Gottfried said he heard complaints and saw it for himself. He said more enforcement is needed.
John Johnson, who’s lived on the block since the 1970’s, said the problems might sort themselves out when theaters reopen and tourists come back.
In the meantime, Johnson wants police and politicians to step up.