Tag this one with “local government” and “you’re doing it wrong”…
If you’re an enterprising local politician, looking to step up to the Mayor’s sash, how to handle a neighborhood that’s rough enough for the local McDonald’s to regularly witness violence just outside — and sometimes inside — its doors? Especially if you’ve discovered that the violence in the neighborhood had gotten bad enough for the store owner to hire security to protect her McNugget-guzzling patrons Wednesday through Sunday night?
You’d beef up the cops, right? Try to tamp down on the rowdies and show a little police presence to keep things quiet, no? And you’d probably help the local neighborhood organize itself against violence, right?
Naw… just kidding. This is New York City!
So the answer is, no, if you’re Christine Quinn, front-runner in the polls to be New York City’s next bürgermeister, you march in the streets and lead a boycott against…
“We’re asking folks in the neighborhood not to support this McDonald’s until this McDonald’s supports the neighborhood. The first thing this McDonald’s needs to do is engage better security through the paid detail option that our police department offers.”
This is plain dumb.
The McDonald’s owner pays taxes to the city; her employees pay taxes to the city; her customers pay an 8.875% sales tax and 4.5% of that goes to the city. The purpose of those taxes includes providing local police to keep the neighborhood safe.
Asking for special money or additional fees from violent areas makes costs go up in districts where it’s already a challenge to do business. Demanding those monies, at the threat of public harassment from your elected officials, would seem to be more in line with Seinfeld’s Bizarro-land than Bloomberg’s New York. But there it is.
It bears repeating that McDonald’s restaurants do not create violence. The McDonald’s corporation, and its franchisees, do nothing to promote or foster violence. It ought to be obvious that there is no correlation between the placement of a McDonald’s and violence of this nature. McDonald’s don’t serve fisticuffs with their french fries or sucker punches with their shakes.
As a matter of fact, there are thousands upon thousands of McDonald’s across the country that open for business each and every day, serve hundreds of customers, and then close for the night without playing host to a street brawl. Amazing, but true.
The chain’s generally pacific tendencies and avowed policy of not-being-violent even empowered the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman to famously, if slightly inaccurately, laud the McMuffin macher’s role in soothing global tensions.
The problem, in fact, is that the neighborhood is a night-life and street-life mecca. There are forty bars within three blocks of the McDonald’s. It’s at the edge of a major University and is two blocks away from Greenwich Village’s largest subway hub encompassing the A-B-C-D-E-F-V interchange.
More than forty bars (red dots) populate the McDonald’s (green “A”) neighborhood.
“Sixth Precinct Lieutenant Maresca agreed that Village nightlife creates crime and quality-of-life issues.
“[The Village] is a nightlife destination, and we run into a lot of issues,” he said. “Unfortunately, with the volume of people we get here, it’s tough. It’s tough on the residents, and I understand that. And we can’t have a cop every place we want the police officers to be.”
Maresca said the precinct has 18 officers in its “cabaret unit,” four of whom patrol Bleecker, MacDougal and West 3rd streets in the central Village… In the 1990s, the Village had a much larger cabaret unit, of 75 to 80 officers on weekends, Maresca said.”
No, rather obviously to anyone other than a New York mayoral candidate, the problem is not McDonald’s; it’s not the McDonald’s owner; and it’s not the McDonald’s customers, menu, or decor. It’s the local area.
When I first came to New York twenty years ago, I witnessed a deadly assault at three o’clock in the afternoon at, as it happens, this very same McDonald’s. Four guys came in, grabbed a guy, took him outside and stabbed him with a broken 40-oz. bottle. And then stabbed him again and again until he lay bleeding across the sidewalk in front of the store. I stood, 21 years old and horrified beyond tears, at about the same viewing angle as you see in the video.
I ran back in to tell the cashier to call 911. She asked “Is he dead yet?” and didn’t move towards the phone or seem too interested in getting involved. So I went back outside to drop a quarter in the payphones to call the police.
I also decided to move to San Diego.
It will be a shame if our next twenty years in New York City are about retreating from safe streets and safe citizens. If Christine Quinn intends to make her Mayor’s race about boycotting and browbeating small business owners instead of policing better, it will take us back to a time of the bad old days that none of us really want to remember.