A section of New York City’s once-bustling Midtown neighborhood appears to have been taken over by junkies brazenly shooting up in broad daylight.
The pedestrian plaza at Broadway and West 40th Street used to see a constant stream of suit-clad professionals rushing in and out of their sparkling skyscrapers.
But when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, those buildings emptied out and an eerie quiet set in, inviting an influx of addicts that have turned the plaza into a shooting gallery littered with used needles, according to area workers and business owners.
Officials at City Hall have acknowledged the unsettling situation and branded it ‘entirely unacceptable’, but locals say it’s only getting worse as nothing is being done to address it.
DailyMail.com visited the intersection on Wednesday and captured shocking images of a woman injecting a substance into her arm before laying down for a nap on a bench.
The New York Post first raised alarm about the burgeoning ‘shooting gallery’ on Tuesday and published a photo of the same woman wearing the same clothes as she pierced her arm with a needle.
While it cannot be said for certain whether the woman was using drugs, locals said it wasn’t an uncommon sight in the plaza.
‘They’ve taken over the tables, blatantly using needles and shooting up heroin all day long,’ a local worker named James told the Post.
‘There’s no police action, there’s no reach-out. There’s nobody preventing this, and you know we’ve had multiple calls to 311 but nobody really responds. It’s becoming a real problem.’
The lack of law enforcement attention was highlighted in another photo obtained by the outlet which showed an NYPD officer walking by the alleged junkie without batting an eye.
A third image showed four people huddled around a table with drug paraphernalia in clear view.
The NYPD told the Post that they’ve only received one drug complaint in the area in the past month, and that the suspects were gone when officers arrived.
James said that he’s personally contacted the city’s 311 line, but he referred to those calls as ‘futile exercises’.
Construction worker Edgar Rivera, who’s been working near the intersection for the past few weeks, said he’s come to recognize many of the addicts.
‘It’s almost always the same people you see around,’ Rivera told the Post. ‘It’s always the same ones all the time.
‘They are here every day, they start in the early morning. We see them sleeping on the floor.
‘Sometimes the ambulances come around here to help them out. It’s always the same guys.’
Another man named Jeff who has worked for a private sanitation company in the area for about six years confirmed that the situation has worsened in the last year.
‘It’s gotten really bad,’ he said. ‘I’ve been seeing more syringes, discarded syringes, ever since they started coming in.’
A spokeswoman for City Hall called the situation ‘entirely unacceptable’ when approached by the Post on Tuesday.
‘We will do everything we can to connect these people with drug treatment and help so they can get their lives back on track,’ the spokeswoman said.
She said plans were in place to send outreach workers with the city health department to clean up the area by providing syringe disposal kits, naloxone to reverse overdoses and connecting addicts with treatment services.
DailyMail.com has reached out to City Hall for clarification about when those outreach workers will be deployed.
Locals, meanwhile, don’t sound very optimistic about how effective the outreach will be.
The Post spoke to a security officer with the Garment District Alliance on Wednesday who said: ‘There have been outreach programs out here, but most of the time they don’t accept the help.’
That officer, who was helping power wash the pavement in the plaza at the time, said he’s worked in the area for seven years.
DailyMail.com has also reached out to the city health department for comment about the purported outreach plans.
The apparent rise in brazen public drug use comes as New York City is roiled by an alarming surge in criminal activity, with gun violence doubling in the past two months compared with the same period last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed the recent spike in shootings on the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that people grew stir crazy after weeks under a strict stay at home order.
But NYPD leaders placed the blame squarely on de Blasio, accusing him of losing control of the city after he bowed to demands of Black Lives Matter protesters and slashed the department’s budget by $1billion.
Police officials have also charged that the crime surge was driven in part by the recent release of thousands of prisoners from Rikers Island under a new bail law and due to coronavirus concerns.
Former New York Governor George Pataki bemoaned the state of the Big Apple in an interview on Sunday, saying that the violence is a ‘regression to those dark days when criminals ruled the streets’.
‘When I took office, New York was the most dangerous state in America. People got used to safety over the last 20 years. They don’t remember the time back when we were so dangerous,’ the Republican said during a radio interview with John Catsimatidis on 770 AM.
‘I’m worried about the future of New York. We’re going backwards. It’s tragic. We’ve got to change it.’
President Donald Trump has also voiced his concern over the rise of violence in New York and threatened to send in federal officers if local leaders couldn’t buckle down on the shootings.
The violence is now fueling fears that many of the thousands of people who left the Big Apple when the pandemic set in will no longer want to return.
And if they don’t come back, the city and state would take a massive hit in income and sales tax revenue on top of the enormous cost of the coronavirus response and the sustained shutdown.