NYC GOP mayoral candidate argues decades of unarmed patrol experience outpaces Democrats' political play
How Curtis Sliwa used Guardian Angels group to take back NYC streets
As crime in New York City regresses toward the crisis level seen in the 1970s, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa argues his decades of experience leading the unarmed patrol group the Guardian Angels has prepared him far better than Democratic opponent Eric Adams to tackle worsening violence across the Big Apple a year after the onset of the "defund police" movement.
President Biden included Adams, a retired NYPD captain and current Brooklyn borough president, in a roundtable discussion on gun violence at the White House this week – even though Adams barely won his Democratic primary and there is still a general election in November, Sliwa told Fox News.
"To me, his invitation was purely political," Sliwa said. "It’s almost as if they decided we don’t want to hear from the Republican, even though in this arena Curtis Sliwa has more credentials than anyone who attended that White House conference, especially Eric Adams."
Sliwa, unlike other attendees at the roundtable, has a unique perspective as he is personally a victim of gun violence. He was shot five times in June 1992 on the orders of John Gotti Sr. to John Gotti Jr. and the Gambino crime family, and therefore went through four federal trials.
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"I understand the problems of gun violence having experienced it," Sliwa, who was once shot with a .38 Special handgun, said. "You say ‘gun control, gun control’ because that’s always what comes out of these sessions. That would have done nothing to have stopped the gunman."
Sliwa described a huge escalation of crime in the late 1970s as a result of cutback in the budget, New York City was on the brink of a "fiscal collapse." Fast forward to the present day after New York City first became the ground zero for the coronavirus in the U.S. last year, and then saw widespread "defund police" demonstrations. The current rising violence has also been largely attributed to NYPD disbanding its plainclothes unit in June 2020.
A 17-year-old newspaper delivery boy at the time, Sliwa was recognized by President Nixon at the White House for his bravery after allegedly saving six people from a burning building on his route, the NY Daily News reported in 1971, according to newspaper archives. Sliwa later was honored by the New York City sanitation commissioner for forming a neighborhood cleanup crew called the "Rock Brigade."
Speaking to Fox News, Sliwa described how as a night manager at a McDonald’s in the Bronx in the late '70s, he then convinced his staff to start patrolling the subway line they rode into work, as uniformed officers weren’t patrolling the 4 train, or what was known as the "mugger’s express."
The Guardian Angels was an unarmed patrol that made citizen’s arrests when necessary to prevent assaults, fights and things that could lead to further violence, Sliwa said. Having believed their work would earn them the Congressional Medal of Honor, Sliwa said he was surprised when New York City Mayor Ed Koch at the time "vilified" them, calling the group the "Hell’s Angels" as vigilantes.
Police unions also had their members believing our presence would affect their own job security, "so they began a period of harassment against us," Sliwa said. As the Bronx was burning down and people were evacuating, gangs who seized control also saw their patrol as adversaries.
"No matter where we turned, if it wasn’t gang members who were a problem for us, it was police," he said. "And yet all we were trying to do was keep people safe and secure."
In 1985, communities requested the services of the Guardian Angels, as violence continued in the parks and subway system, but their relationship with police remained strained. And the problem did not improve under another Democratic Mayor David Dinkins’ administration. It wasn’t until Rudy Giuliani became mayor that the Guardian Angels were really embraced.
Currently about 200 volunteers strong, the Guardian Angels continue to patrol the subway systems, as police often stay stationed on platforms or junctions instead of patrolling moving trains. The watch also been called upon by the Asian community to create patrols to combat the rise in hate crimes seen earlier this year in areas like Chinatown, Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Even what once were known as higher-end neighborhoods in Manhattan, such as Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Chelsea and Little Italy, have called on the Guardian Angels for assistance in recent months, which Sliwa said has never been requested before in response to the growing problems.
"I hold the mayor completely responsible for this because he’s taken a wrecking ball to our police department," Sliwa said.
Sliwa argued that Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected federal COVID-19 support that could have been used to bolster the police department twice, and Adams insinuated in remarks made at the White House he also would not necessarily use federal funding to hire more police if he becomes mayor.
"You can’t be for rectifying the crime problem if you’re not going to accept help in hiring police. Without more police, none of this can be achieved," Sliwa said. "Although Eric Adams professes to be law and order, how can he claim that title when he told the president, ‘No?’"
When contacted by Fox News about this feature, a spokesman for de Blasio said the mayor has never turned down federal funds for the NYPD.
"Curtis Sliwa is wrong. About most things really," de Blasio's press secretary Bill Neidhardt wrote in an email to Fox News. "New York City has never turned down federal COVID relief funds or federal law enforcement funds."
Agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are "housed directly in NYPD headquarters for crying out loud," Neidhardt continued. "Getting a basic fact like that wrong shows just how out of his depth Curtis is."
Sliwa said the NYPD is currently 4,000 officers short of the 38,000 needed to effectively function, pointing to how the force has been depleted by mass early retirements in response to low morale and skilled officers being recruited elsewhere. De Blasio's spokesman did not acknowledge those numbers.
"My response was, the city needs to take the money now, hire police officers, train them and get them out to the streets, subways and parks as quickly as possible because we’re in a crime emergency situation, and the one thing that’s not being addressed here is the hiring of more police," Sliwa said.
As COVID-19 vaccines have become more widely accessible, many corporate offices based in Manhattan are faced with the decision of calling back some or all of their workforce around September. But as Biden’s Department of Justice sends strike forces to New York City and elsewhere to combat gun trafficking, rampant violence on the city’s subway systems still poses a dangerous risk for commuters.
The subway system has homeless people using the underground area and trains for shelter, and emotionally disturbed individuals having psychotic episodes or dealing with drug or alcohol addiction often attack riders, according to Sliwa. Gangs also roam the subways, often instructing younger recruits to attack women, slash people or push them in front of trains as some sort of initiation.
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"If you don’t deal with those problems, you’re not going to be able to encourage people to go back into the empty office buildings and work because they’re not going to want to take the risk," he said.
The Guardian Angels also do outreach with homeless people and the emotionally disturbed, helping them find unlocked restrooms or escorting them to get their medication or mental healthcare at the hospital, as Sliwa argues that service is not being done by city or state agencies.
Fox News also reached out to Adams for comment but did not hear back before publication.