I am a pro-choice Democrat. A woman’s right to a safe abortion is a key issue for me. When I vote Tuesday, I will do so knowing that this right is enshrined in New York law and Rep. Lee Zeldin has repeatedly vowed not to change it.
A lifelong New Yorker, I spent many years of my youth in the Village attending New York University. In the undergraduate years, I was a “Bridge and Tunnel” student, riding the subway from my home in Russian (or is it Ukrainian?) Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
It was the early ’80’s, and NYC was in the midst of a turbulent time. Ed Koch was mayor. The dirty and dilapidated subway cars were smothered in graffiti. Crime was rampant. I watched my back.
My mother worked in what now is considered fashionable Chelsea. It was assuredly not fashionable back then. Even as a tween, I was catcalled by the vendors hawking miscellaneous cheap goods along Seventh Avenue.
The environment was electric but tense. Bernie Goetz had just shot four unarmed black teenagers on the subway. I later passed him on the street, feeling the immediacy of the violence. I was certainly not living a sheltered life.
Then came the case of the Central Park Jogger, a young woman raped and beaten while running in the park. I was a freshman in college that year. My girlfriends and I were scared. If it could happen to the jogger, it could happen to us. Some of my collegemates routinely carried mace and pepper spray. We walked city streets in groups.
New York City crime, in general, was sky high — we were surrounded by stories of rapes, homicides and assaults. But there was one major difference from now: Our leadership, from governor to mayors, seemed to be on our side. Residents were not being told that the streets were actually safe, that crime was just a figment of our imagination. It felt like everyone was on the same page.
It’s hard to be nostalgic about the ’80s, but at least our leaders were in concert with citizens in the outrage. They were not gaslighting us, denying our legitimate concerns about personal security to further the narrative that the city was safe and the Democrats were the ones keeping it so.
Back then, everyone agreed the victims were the victims and criminals were the criminals. Now the tables have turned. Democrats seem to either willfully ignore the victim, like the downtown jogger raped and beaten last week, or exclusively focus their empathy on the perpetrator, like the mentally ill man who in the summer attacked a woman and killed her dog in Prospect Park.
It’s hard to deny that crime is skyrocketing. According to the NYPD, between 2021 and 2022 major crime in NYC has increased about 30% — and this does not account for myriad quality-of-life issues. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about a beating, subway shoving or slashing, even children being punched in the face walking down the street.
To tell residents that it is simply our perception or to blame it all on guns is insulting and frankly unforgivable.
To minimize her administration’s lack of will and/or inability to deal with city crime, Gov. Kathy Hochul has tried to deflect. She says crime is up around the country, not just in New York. But she never mentions that’s because of the uniform Democrats’ failed policies. Look at San Francisco. Look at Portland. We need real change, not minimizing and more of the same.
Kathy Hochul says Lee Zeldin is “hyperventilating,” trying to scare New Yorkers. I would argue he is affirming reality and not gaslighting us.
She is right about one thing. New Yorkers are scared. We do not want to live in the New York of the ’80s. We want clean, safe streets for our children. We want someone who cares about women’s safety and engages constituents to collaboratively solve the issues before us. We want a pragmatic administration that sees things as they are, not as they wish they were.
So Tuesday I will vote for Lee Zeldin and hope that at the very least, disrupting one-party rule — doesn’t matter which party it is — brings positive change for the Empire State.
Natalya Murakhver, a NYC Democrat, is co-founder of Restore Childhood, a nonprofit dedicated to ending COVID mandates for children and restoring athletics, art and academics across the United States.