Haven’t seen so many beggars in New York since I don’t think the 90’s. Almost every time I get on the F train there’s some cat making the rounds. In Park Slope, the boys are out in front of the busier bodegas in the afternoons and early evenings, hustling change.
This morning on the uptown 6, this young guy with a square Irish face got on shaking a little box. “Give me your money! I’m silver!” He was indeed silver, painted head to foot – from his boots up his pants and up over a shabby suit and right up to his buzzcut hair – painted like one of those statue men you see in tourist spaces in London and I guess here – but no one gave him any money and he sat down, pouring the coins out of his pocket. “I gotta go all the way to the Bronx to do this!” He said to no one in particular, looking around to see if anyone would meet his eye. I don’t think anyone did. Couldn’t tell if he was a real beggar.
Still a long way from the bad old days of the early to mid-90’s when I first lived here, when on the rush hour 2 or 3 the beggars would come in waves, the one leaving by the front door, the other coming in the back. Legless, armless, eyeless, mentally disturbed, drunk, dishevelled, drug-addicted, mumbling, shouting, pestering. Sometimes, it was truly amazing. Truly amazing to see this tide of broken humanity in one of the richest, most powerful cities in the world. But if the recession really kicks in where it hurts – I don’t mean the bankers, who can afford to cut back and take a couple years off before their dubious services are needed again – but among the truly poor, the mentally infirm, who are always one step away from total destitution – will we see those days again?