A new Midtown coalition will take aim at quality of life issues. Here’s how it works.

The shoplifters, unlicensed cannabis shops, illegal scaffolding and purveyors of general disorder in Midtown face a new foe: the Midtown Community Improvement Coalition, recently unveiled by government and civic leaders.

The coalition, announced jointly by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Mayor Eric Adams this month, brings together 20 government agencies, service providers and other government and community entities, to address public safety and quality-of-life issues, according to the organizers.

Their portfolio includes a litany of challenges in the sprawling commercial, tourism and business district, enumerated by the government leaders as “retail theft, substance abuse, the mental health crisis, beautification, illegal scaffolding, unlicensed cannabis shops, and more.” The effort includes deploying teams from the various agencies to conduct regular “walk throughs” to connect people needing help with resources.

“Midtown Manhattan is essential to the economic well-being of our city – and the entire region,” Bragg said in a statement. Adams said the coalition marks a “doubling down of our commitment” to improving the area.

Neither office provided a price tag for the collaboration. It comes at the tail end of another budget season in which leaders for some nonprofits complain the city hasn’t done enough to get help to the needy — including people living with untreated mental health issues, the unsheltered and new migrants lacking work authorization.

“You don’t pretend to give quality, enhanced quality of life and protect the public, when you’re taking everything away from the public that causes these issues,” John Mudd, president of the Midtown South Community Council, said.

Here’s more on what to know about the Midtown Community Improvement Coalition.

What area are we talking about?

The wide, diverse expanse generally includes Penn Station and the Port Authority, and runs from 35th Street to 45th Street, and from Seventh Avenue to Ninth Avenue, according to the officials. The area includes the bustling Times Square Theater district and the Garment District, and a host of major shopping and dining enclaves favored by tourists and locals alike.

What’s supposed to happen?

The officials aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel. In 2023, the city started a “Community Link” program, which has since convened five community improvement coalitions across the five boroughs. Over the last 18 months, the initiative is credited with responding to more than 800 complaints and conducting more than 600 “operations” to address quality-of-life concerns.

Participating agencies run the gamut of city services, including mental health, buildings, consumer and worker protection, environmental protection, health and mental hygiene, homeless services, parks and recreation, sanitation, small business services, transportation, narcotics prosecution, police and fire.

Likewise, in February, Bragg’s office launched a $6 million program to deploy so-called “neighborhood navigators” throughout the city, including in Midtown, to get help to “unhoused individuals who spend significant time on the street” and connect them with long-term services, including housing and medical care.

“We are thrilled,” said Tom Harris — president of the Times Square Alliance and a coalition co-chair — that the Adams administration and Bragg’s office are working together to implement “2024 solutions for the quality-of-life challenges we see on the corridor … that balance the needs of those suffering on our streets with those of residents and visitors to our neighborhood.”

Does this mean more police and more arrests?

Nobody’s emphasizing more police or arrests, though the NYPD’s part of the coalition. Harris said the goal is to reduce the number of people on the street who need services instead of displacing them. Rather than arresting individuals, he said, the aim is to find solutions to their problems and link them to needed services. While the NYPD says overall crime is down in the key area of Times Square, some high-profile crimes have put a spotlight on disorder in the neighborhood, including problems associated with illegal cannabis stores.

“They tend to be a magnet for disorder,” Harris said.

Got an example of a real-like problem the coalition might tackle?

Reconfiguring a sidewalk shed on 35th Street that was causing problems for public transportation and being used as cover for illegal activity, such as drug use, is one example cited by Harris.

“By getting the (many) agencies together, we were able to make modifications to the design of the shed,” Harris said. “That made it less of an attractive nuisance for people to hang out and do things that you wouldn’t want them to do in public.”

What are others saying about this new initiative?

Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance and co-chair of the coalition, said the group “sees the constant communication across city agencies and community partners as a critical step in the right direction toward addressing the issues and improving public safety.”

And Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said the coalition will “make a serious difference in some of the unique quality of life, public health and enforcement challenges seen in Midtown West.”

But Mudd, from the Midtown South Community Council, has his doubts.

“When they take away services and mental health programs and money where it’s needed, to cut the budgets where it’s needed, and when they promote development that destroys their society, they’re not doing anything,” Mudd said.

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