“Stop excusing the looters — they’re destroying New York’s future”
Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman — icons of New York, windows smashed. But that’s not the worst part: It was clear that the office-building and retail managers and workers were bracing for more.
From Central Park South through Rockefeller Center through the Bowtie to Herald Square, hundreds of essential workers — most of them minority men — scrambled to sweep up the broken glass. Then, they unpacked lumber pile after lumber pile, block after block, to board everything up fast, before the looters strike again.
Midtown smelled and sounded like a woodworking shop — but instead of building something productive, property owners are bracing for destruction.
No major elected official — not Council Speaker Corey Johnson, not Comptroller Scott Stringer, not Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — has shown public solidarity with the retail owners, managers, and workers who are bearing the brunt of New York City’s failure to keep order.
Macy’s — which sponsors two of the city’s biggest events, the July 4 fireworks and the Thanksgiving Day Parade? Abandoned by the pols to a mob, because the pols are afraid of looking racist.
The optimistic view of this is: Well, so what? Stores have been closed for three months anyway, due to a lockdown that all responsible people (of all races) are still observing. Workers — 350,000 people worked in retail last year — were already on temporary furlough.
This thinking — quite common on woke, white, “urban Twitter” — is a fatal mistake. Chain stores such as Macy’s were already struggling pre-pandemic. Small businesses were squeezed between high local taxes and cheap online shopping.
Even before the rioting, for Manhattan retail to reopen post-pandemic was a big bet. Office workers and tourists are much their foot traffic — but they won’t be back soon. People who have lost jobs and income are unlikely to resume big spending.
Now, though, what’s the bet? You reopen your store mid-June, and a new wave of riots causes tens of thousands of dollars in damage? “Insurance will pay.” Maybe, maybe not — insurance often doesn’t pay for civil unrest. And insurance rates will soar.
A smashed and boarded-up Macy’s is also a sign to potential global tourists: Yeah, maybe as you make long-term plans to venture back onto an airplane this winter or next year, New York isn’t your best bet.
So we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of jobs, permanently at risk. And those $7.3 billion the city expects to take in sales tax for the upcoming fiscal year? That’s a lot of money that can’t fund after-school programs and public-housing repairs.
How to stop the looting? Here’s another disturbing development: As it goes on, more and more supposed urban advocates are saying it won’t stop till we’ve fixed racism.
We’ve gone quickly to arguing that looters aren’t nihilist anarchists but policy-change advocates. This is factually wrong — and racist. Crowds are groups of (mostly) young men across races, and they seem to be getting bigger. This isn’t 20 rabble-rousers; it’s hundreds of people each at simultaneous sites.
And what if the mayhem-makers don’t stop at businesses? As stores board up, looters will seek softer targets. How can the city’s museums think about opening, when they need to concentrate on securing their valuables from vandals rather than social-distancing logistics?
When do looters target the transit system, as they already did in January, in a “Decolonize This Place” smash-Metrocard-machines “protest” utterly ignored by pols and transit advocates?
It’s time for the responsible pols to say: No responsible person protests in this environment. We need more accountability for police, sure — something Albany and the City Council could do now, rather than forcing well-meaning protesters to risk COVID.
And we need to legislate and enforce more accountability for criminals. Anyone caught looting won’t be released the next morning, as they were this week. They’ll stay in jail during a pandemic, and face terror and riot offenses.
Or we can lose our city to a few thousand people who don’t represent black lives — and who are actually destroying black people’s (and other people’s) livelihoods for years to come.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.
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