Phil Ochs was scathing in his attack on what was then known as “Limousine Liberals,” the ones who gave money and held parties for the “right” causes in their Park Avenue apartments or Hamptons oceanfront home. They said the right words, voted for the right people and gushed in their support of the downtrodden, as long as they stayed a safe distance away. It later produced an acronym, NIMBY, to express the phenomenon, not in my back yard.
Yet, in one of the most progressive areas of one of the progressive cities run by one of the self-proclaimed most progressive mayors, the uber progressive people of the Upper West Side of Manhattan don’t let history or their claimed values concern them. The homeless have infested their streets and when it’s about their children walking to some private academy through the homeless, when they have to step over them to get to Whole Foods, the life they worked so hard to achieve is threatened and they’re not going to take it.
500+ single homeless men including MICAH (mentally ill chemical abusers), registered sex offenders have been moved to 3 hotels in the neighborhood close to schools and playgrounds without any community vote or notice! If you are for this then please do not join this group but if you want to help take action then please join. NOTE: We are for homeless assistance & compassion but we are against registered sex offenders and drug use in our community. Homeless or not. IT IS TIME THE NEIGHBORHOOD HAS A VOICE AND A VOTE!
They’re for “compassion” as long as it’s not in their community, and there over 8,000 members at the moment. Stick these undesirables in some other neighborhood where they don’t live, where their children don’t go to school and play, and they will march with signs and chant with passion. But not their neighborhood.
I, too, live on the Upper West Side, but I view the controversy as a litmus test for our progressive swath of Manhattan. If we purport to care about societal ills like poverty and mass incarceration, shunning these homeless men surely goes against our values. It also flies in the face of data and evidence, which indicate that their views are based on fear and not reality.
Lauren Brooke-Eisen of the Brennan Center explains all the problems with homelessness, with mass incarceration, drug use and sex-registry laws. And she calls out the hypocrisy of holding progressive values while refusing to put them into practice when the city cuts a deal to put the homeless into hotels near their homes. None of this is new or controversial. None of this addresses the problem or the reason this group of otherwise woke and compassionate progressives loves humanity but prefers it be relocated to Red Hook.
And this was the problem back in the ’60s when Phil Ochs decided not to march anymore, and today when they realize that Black Lives Matter, but they’re still going to cross the street when they see a black guy walking toward them at night.
With our city’s unemployment rate hovering around 20%, a figure not seen since the Great Depression, we need to ensure that our housing insecure populations are given services and safe shelter. But a disturbingly high and vociferous number of residents in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in the country have decided to perpetuate America’s most hateful traits. Instead of helping both protect public health and break the cycle of poverty that becomes intractable without a safe place to sleep at night, they organize to protect their privilege. If we really cared, we would embody our progressive values when given the chance.
Eisen misses the point and proffers an argument that will never change any mind, a typical problem with the unduly passionate. Her fellow UWS progressives agree with her completely about “our housing insecure populations,” which is far less stigmatizing than calling the homeless “homeless,” and will likely be willing to pay good money to some white grifter to receive a tongue-lashing about their “privilege.”
But they didn’t follow the rulebook, go to college, get a job, get married, have children, for a future stepping over needles and feces, or so they could worry whether their child would be the next Etan Patz. No, it’s not a rational fear, but that’s the nature of fear, irrational and almost always grounded in alarmist lies and worst case scenarios. They want to see people helped; they just won’t pay the price of giving up their lifestyle, their sense of safety and security.
Calling it “privilege” misses the point. They want the homeless helped. They don’t want the homeless living in their guest bedroom. They will give money, march, chant and vote to improve the lives of the downtrodden. They don’t want their lives reduced to the circumstances of the downtrodden.
That Eisen says she’s prepared to live her values is wonderful. It’s an admirable thing to do. That others do not, however, compels Eisen to chastise her fellow progressives for their hypocrisy, for their refusal to let go of their privilege. They’re not going to be shamed into doing otherwise, and this is the Upper West Side of Manhattan, as woke as it gets.