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Here’s an economic-development idea for Gotham’s political class: How about we stop shooting and stabbing our tourists?
In the past few months, visitors from Kansas to Belgium have braved a pandemic and lockdowns to visit our city — and the Big Apple has repaid their love with violent crime.
The latest victim is Chris Ruby of Kansas City, who came into town as part of his 2021 goal of seeing a baseball game in every stadium. After taking in a Mets game last week, Ruby was on Eighth Avenue, walking from Penn Station to his hotel, when a stray bullet wounded him. A week earlier, a young couple and their baby from Belgium were walking in Lower Manhattan when a madman attacked them, slashing all three.
All four victims of these two attacks survived. Ethan Williams, 20, wasn’t so “lucky.” Last October, the Hoosier was sitting on the stoop of his Airbnb in Bushwick when he, too, was hit by a stray bullet. He died immediately.
New York should want to keep its visitors alive and in one piece just because it’s more hospitable that way. But we also have a hard-headed economic reason: We need our tourists more than ever.
Office workers have proved they can work at home and are in no hurry to come back — plus, Gov. Cuomo is about to raise taxes on the executives who make the decision whether to stay or to go.
But Zoom can’t replace in-person tourism, and people around the world have been cooped up in their houses for more than a year. They want to come see us, as these hardy early arrivals show.
And we need their money. In 2018, the 65 million people who came to Gotham for business or pleasure spent $46.4 billion, including $13.5 billion on hotels, $10.2 billion on food and drink and $5.5 billion on entertainment, according to NYC & Co, the city’s tourism arm.
That’s 400,000 jobs, or two-thirds of the more than 600,000 local jobs still missing after last year’s mass layoffs. A full 52 percent of the city’s leisure and hospitality jobs were still lost as of February, meaning 237,500 out-of-work people. That’s a big reason why our unemployment rate is 12.9 percent, twice the nation’s.
If you are a local who misses Broadway or a favorite museum, you should care, too — Manhattan cultural institutions can’t survive without out-of-towners.
If you are in Kansas, though, thinking of taking a trip later this year, and you read a headline in The Kansas City Star blaring “Stray Bullet Hits Kansas Tourist Near NYC’s Times Square,” are you going to pick our city as your first post-COVID trip? How about if you’re watching the Indianapolis local news, and see a story about honoring Williams with a local skate park in his name?
Because the family attacked in Lower Manhattan were Orthodox Jews, that crime made global news in the Orthodox community. As borders open up, Chinese and other Asian visitors may be reluctant to return, too, fearing our recent spate of hate crimes.
In 1990, it was the death of a Utah tourist, Brian Watkins, in a Manhattan subway station that spurred The Post to implore then-Mayor Dinkins to “do something!”
What could New York City do now? Our leaders could have prevented at least two of the recent crimes with a functional criminal-justice system.
Brannovan Martinez, quickly arrested after shooting Ruby, was loose pending assault, harassment and drug charges from January. The area where he allegedly shot Ruby is increasingly troubled, with a stabbing death nearby last November. In a different era, police would have used disorderly-conduct and other low-level arrests to deter the small-time nuisances. The low-level toughs spend much of their time dealing drugs or getting into shoving matches with each other — until they shoot someone.
Darryl Jones, who allegedly attacked the family in Lower Manhattan, was on parole for a 2011 robbery and attempted murder. Neither man just “snapped” without warning. (Police have made no arrests in the Williams case.)
With Manhattan still mostly empty, several pols, including Cuomo, have floated the idea of converting empty hotels into highly subsidized “affordable” housing. This self-defeating proposal assumes the tourists will never come back. A few more shootings and stabbings, and the grim prophecy may fulfill itself.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor of City Journal.
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