Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bad Neighborhood

"Face it, you live in a bad neighborhood," said the voice in the darkness. "Look, you sound like a nice lady. My advice to you is to get out of that neighborhood as fast as possible."

I sat on my futon in the darkness, straining to hear the policeman's voice on my cell phone over the earthshaking din that screamed out of a ground-floor apartment and rattled the entire building. I was angry that even the police could do nothing to stop the loud party that had been blasting away several floors below my window all evening. I was incredibly depressed to be confronted with the thought of moving at 230 in the morning, especially since I only earn enough to pay my rent, and not one dime more. How could I possibly afford to move? I felt trapped.

Morning finally arrived, hot and sweaty, and it was greeted by yet another impressive display of bone-breaking sound, except this time, it pounded out of an open car sitting by the sidewalk near the subway entrance.

What was going on? My suddenly peaceful block has been transformed overnight into a hellish envelope of deafening stereos and firecrackers and screaming kids and shouting adults that never stops. The cop had told me that the drug dealers, robbers, rapists and murderers had just returned to the area and the police could do nothing to control the situation because they only had six cars covering the entire precinct, which encompases a fairly large area and many thousands of people.

After last night, I feel incredibly unsafe in my own neighborhood, where I have lived for nearly two years. According to recent statistics, even though burglaries have decreased 8.3 percent across NYC, they rose by 19.8 percent this year in my neighborhood and robberies increased by 14 percent even though the rest of the city enjoyed a 8.2 percent decrease. What will happen to me if I am confronted by a robber? Will I be killed because I don't have any extra cash? Should I should get another cat sitting job so I can earn enough money to carry with me so I can buy my life from a robber? Or is my life even worth that added effort? (honestly, I'd prefer to spend the money on a nice meal, some laundry supplies or even a pair of shoes).

Even Mayor Bloomberg doesn't care; he showed up 25 minutes late to a recent neighborhood meeting, and when there, he gave his usual preprogrammed spiel about "modern New York is a place where a diverse population enjoys improving schools [as a college professor, I can tell you that our schools are shockingly bad], a recovering economy [uh, yeah, right, you're smoking crack, Mr. Mayor] and falling crime." He then tries to placate us with a host of ridiculous comments such as "We have to bring it [crime] down more, and we have a little problem in the 34th Precinct, which is actually where you are now."

Well, duh. We are (suddenly) painfully aware of where we live. The police tell us which precinct we are talking to every time we call them with a problem, which is increasingly often. At this neighborhood meeting, my neighbors complained to Bloomberg about serious issues; drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, burglary, car thefts, drag racing, menacing packs of pit bulls, and unresponsive police. Even though no one complained about porno shops, the mayor appears to be more worried about the porno shops in the Village than murder: a woman was murdered in my neighborhood a year ago and that crime remains unsolved. She was murdered while jogging early in the morning in one of the two neighborhood parks that are located two blocks from where I live, the very same parks where I have been told I should go bird watching early in the morning "because they are safer than Central Park".

Yeah, right. I never felt comfortable in those parks, so I always avoided them. But now I feel unsafe in my own neighborhood, even walking home from the subway on the sidewalks. What will I do when I have to return home after dark from teaching this autumn? Will I be assaulted on the train as that woman was a week ago? Or maybe I will instead be assaulted as I walk home in the dark from the subway terminus? If I am assaulted, how will I afford the medical bills, since I have no health insurance? Who can I trust to take care of my birds if I am hospitalized -- or worse?

I can't believe I sacrificed everything and worked so hard for my entire life only to find myself living near the poverty level, working as a part time temp while supplementing my meagre income as a cat sitter, with no friends or family or really, anyone to turn to. What was I thinking? Or maybe the better question is; was I thinking at all?

On the other hand, it is doubtful that my life is significantly different from what it would have been had I not struggled for my education.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

9 Peer Reviews:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Working hard for nothing sucks. I know from experience.

Nathan Peters

8:55 PM  
Blogger James said...

Wow, but again. I think I have a clue where this is all happening, in fact I used to date someone in that general area (not far from the G.W. Bridge) while I was in college, and even then it wasn't a place where someone white who didn't speak Spanish was exactly welcome.

You may want to consider moving to another boro, though with that comes the extra commute and the aggravation that brings with it. Moving may well be the only option, and quite possibly moving out of New York all together may be something it's time to seriously consider. I know that I've tried to be as positive about this as I could be, the "it" being your struggle with making it there, but I never read a post like this where you question your safety and your overall quality of life to the extent that you now are. As much as I am sorry to say this, it may in fact be time to consider being somewhere else, with new opportunities and possibilities, more safety, and an overall better quality of life.

9:39 PM  
Blogger jojo said...

I may tend to agree with James, Hedwig. Life is short. Often we expend the quality of it for the sake of many things that in the end just aren't worth it. I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds, but you seem like you're struggling much more than you deserve to be...

11:40 PM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

This is a very tough post to read and to have something to add or suggest. Moving seems to be the best option.
Self-defense classes can help you feel safer by giving you tools to use in the case of assault or robbery. But, overall living with that kind of threat is truly a soul-killer.

11:35 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

I have tried to think of something to say, too. On one hand, I really like my neighborhood and neighbors, so I don't want to leave, unless I can afford to move to a better (more desirable to me) area.

I love NYC for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I can actually support myself here (maybe not well, but I can at least pay the rent) -- which I could not do living anywhere else. Certainly I could not support myself in Seattle, which is the only other city I would currently consider living in given my current state of un(der)employment. But there, I would have to live rent-free (or nearly so) to survive, which I really don't think is a reasonable or realistic option.

I am just frustrated that the entire city of New York, from the mayor's office down to the cop I spoke with on the phone repeatedly that night appear to have given up on this neighborhood. This neighborhood is full of good people and their kids, and musicians and artists are moving into this area because it is so affordable .. the neighborhood is very diverse and energetic. Public servants who give up on any neighborhood are immoral and insulting. If the Mayor can't do his job correctly and cannot provide the support necessary for others to do their jobs, then he should get out of the office and let someone else in who can do the job.

And I am absolutely disgusted with my life right now (and sleep-deprived), that's all. I'll get over it.


9:04 AM  
Blogger Smilin' Jack said...

Hope you find your way through this. Short-term, earplugs may help with the noise (Slate recently had a review of the best ones.)

3:44 PM  
Anonymous tom said...

I know this is completely unsolicited, but as others have suggested, perhaps it is time to get out of the city. Life is indeed too short. And your health, sanity, and safety are just too important. Just saying...

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Rhonda said...

I can so relate to your post. I am going through the same thing. I have an education but can't afford to live in a better neighborhood at the time. We live in a very dangerous part of Richmond, VA. Murders, robberies, car theft, thugs, garbage, loud noise and drug dealing goes on as if it were normal. I feel very isolated and depressed about it.
We have decided to do a neighborhood watch and no one except two neighbors would join as they are afraid. Since my efforts in the past week to start the watch my house was shot at three times at 8:30 in the morning. Everyone tells me I should move. I agree but it isn't that easy in a place where rent for a house in any decent neighborhood that takes pets (won't give mine up) is 1000 dollars a month.
I continually have to call the police and I see the most bizarre things because lawlessness is a way of life here. You are not alone. We came to cities that have a high crime rate and ended up on the bad side of town. Some day I will move out and live in a small town and never return. I hate it here every day that I get up. I try to see the positive side of things but it is impossible to feel positive when drug dealers and thugs walk by your house giving you dirty looks every day and some have to make snide comments. If it weren't for my dogs I am certain I would have had a break in long ago in my house. I came from a middle class safe neighborhood and never experienced this side of life. Most people can't relate to this kind of thing becuase they have just never seen it. Hard to believe this is America. The police are impotent it seems as I have a crack house next to me that has prostitutes and druggies coming and going all hours and this has been for a few years now. The police have never cleaned that house out and nothing ever seems to be done. I don't think police like to get deeply concerned about the bad side of town. It is just too much of a risk for them to bother.

Don't feel alone and I am glad I read what you had to say because I needed to know there are others out there going through what I am.

Take care and hopefully you and I will make it out alive.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are not alone. I live in the suburbs and am trying to move but no one will buy the house. In this one week, there have been 2 carjackings and one shooting across from the school I work at. The carjackings were about a block away. This was once a nice suburb. I try and get involved but it is hard. I am getting tired. I try and maintain a good outlook but eventually you get worn down. When we move, it will be to a smaller town. Where neighbors aren't afraid.

8:28 AM  

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