Off-duty NYPD officers hired by the Manhattan borough to protect businesses

Some businesses and property owners on 8th Avenue between 35th Street and 38th Street in Manhattan say they are fed up with what they see as a drug and homeless problem.

Barbara Blair of the nonprofit Garment District Alliance says on some days the group’s sanitation team finds dozens of needles.

She and business owners say the problem makes retail customers and employees feel insecure, which they say means less profits.

“If you have six men who look really weird and hang around your store all day,” says Blair, “Or they get into a fight and pour into your store … nobody wants to go in there anymore.”

The Garment District Alliance is now working with property owners in the area who have come together to hire private security.

But in this case, private security means off-duty NYPD officers, armed and in uniform.

Steve Kaufman, president of the real estate firm Kaufman Organization, says it’s “a shame … that landlords have to pay for private police officers in a city like this where we have a great police force.”

The Kaufman Organization is one of three real estate companies now paying a total of about $8,000 a week for personal details.

“I felt it was the best thing for our business,” says Kaufman.

Matthew Mandel, approval manager at GFP Real Estate, agrees, saying, “People felt unsafe in the neighborhood.”

He says their dealers will “send pictures of people doing drugs in front of the building… [and] pictures of homeless people sleeping outside their doors.”

The collection of property owners tells FOX 5 News that between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, a pair of hires will patrol those three blocks of 8th Avenue — one an off-duty police officer and the other a private, unarmed security guard.

Although during two separate afternoon visits to the neighborhood, FOX 5 News crews didn’t see either of these couples in action.

A man named James, who is homeless, tells us that cops and private security seem to be focusing “all their energy on crooks who aren’t hurting anybody.”

He says the guards and cops would tell him “not to torture himself…not to stay in the block.”

“I said, ‘This is a free country – what do you mean I can’t stand on this block?’

Then he says they are trying to move him. But James says there’s “nowhere to go.”

“If you’re homeless, it’s like you should just disappear and die.”

Midway through the interview with James, the Fox 5 crews noticed that the business they were standing in front of—a 7/11 store that is not a tenant of the security companies—had significantly increased the volume of their outdoor speakers playing opera music.

Kaufman says he understands the perspective of some of the homeless people and believes both the city’s Department of Internal Affairs and the NYPD are “trying.”

But business owners think the city can do more.

“I think people are choosing the streets over shelters,” says Matthew Mandel, “because the shelter system is not what it should be.”

In the two months since they hired off-duty employees, business owners say it’s worked.

“It seems to be doing pretty well,” says Kaufman.

“If people feel like somebody’s keeping an eye on things — even if they’re just standing there in a police uniform,” Mandel added, “I think it makes a difference.”

Fox 5 tried to ask NYPD officials about the issue at their press conference Wednesday, but were told there would be no off-topic questions.

In a statement, Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams, said public safety is the mayor’s “top priority,” but said reducing crime “will not happen overnight.”

He added that off-duty police officers have been helping New Yorkers for the past 25 years by complementing “the good work of our officers patrolling the streets every day.”

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