From Yankee Stadium to Bank and State
More cultured fellows might list their happy places as perhaps visiting a Tuscan villa or sipping Dom somewhere in the Bois de Boulogne. Me? I’m good with the South Bronx.
Specifically the rattle and hum on game nights, walking up East 161st in the shadow of Yankee Stadium to my favorite deli for pregame. And then the walk to the ballpark, happily absorbing the bustle of the de facto United Nations, right there where East 161st meets River Avenue.
This was one night last week, How I Spent (Part Of) My Summer Vacation. And as we walked around this cultural convocation, I was momentarily transported back to New London, wondering why the concept of what I’m about to share doesn’t apply here.
You couldn’t have played even a modest game of “duck, duck, goose” around Yankee Stadium without involving at least half dozen police officers. Translation: They were all over the place. The Fuzz were abuzz. Chatting with people, directing traffic and observing behavior, providing some order amid the happy chaos.
Straight up: It’s easy to feel uneasy now among crowds of people. But a simple police presence complemented the festive feel of game night.
Now I was back on Bank Street, wondering why the same concept, on a significantly smaller scale, never happens. It’s no secret that many folks from the burbs, who have money to spend, choose not to spend it in downtown New London. They do not feel as safe there as in other outposts, making them more likely to spend their money elsewhere. This is why businesses open and close.
An increased police presence would assuage some of those issues, creating more comfort, whose residual effect would be more butts in the seats for the business owners.
Just try having this conversation with city officials. It’s like you just popped a wheelie on their front lawn. Denial, moral outrage and the delusional application of a national narrative about police to our corner of the world. An A in rhetoric and an F in practicality.
Other city officials, who mistakenly believe that their circumstances are universal, say that because they feel safe downtown, everyone else should, too. Whether that’s naivete or arrogance, it’s hopelessly wrong.
Moreover, I’m not all that interested in why some people from the burbs feel unsafe here. I’m interested in a much more basic question: Do we want their money or not? If we do, we will take the necessary steps to make them feel safer. Until that happens, there won’t be enough of a monetary influx into downtown to keep the businesses — especially some of the new ones — afloat. It’s the same people spending the same money. They can’t spend it everywhere.
Did city officials just notice how peacefully Sailfest ran earlier this month? Among the reasons: an increased presence of law enforcement. It was hard not to feel safer. Why can’t the same concept apply nightly on Bank and State? Police officers simply walking up and down the streets, shaking hands and kissing babies. I’m not asking for martial law. Just a presence.
It's also hard to fathom why the downtown business owners aren’t banging the drum for this more publicly. If they want their businesses to succeed, they need more people with money to spend downtown. Increased police presence is a logical deterrent to crime. Common sense suggests they ought to be in the ears of city councilors and the police chief. Business as usual isn’t working.
We need more police. We need more of them deployed throughout downtown. Period. Until that happens, New London stays New London, where the wheels spin furiously with no traction.
Of course, Sailfest’s recent success became a postscript to bickering between the police union and the city. It’s New London, remember. If it’s your idea, it’s fabulous. If it’s their idea, it must be shouted down at all costs.
I’ve always believed that sports are among society’s greatest truth serums. Just watch how people act at a sporting event and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to who they are and what they believe. In this case, a sporting event in the South Bronx, not exactly the backdrop for one of those Corona commercials, became a blueprint for Step One in making downtown safer and more profitable.
But I get it. It’s an idea from The Dumb Sports Guy. Let the shouting down commence. Just spare me the blubbering when more downtown businesses open and close, open and close. It’s not hard to understand why. Now can we actually work together and do something about it this time?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro