How New York City Failed Jordan Neely

The tragic killing came in a climate of fearmongering and New York City’s long failure to support people experiencing homelessness.

By Nicole Narea and Li Zhou
May 5, 2023

On Monday, Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black, unhoused man experiencing mental health issues, was killed after being put in a chokehold for 15 minutes by a fellow New York City subway passenger. On Wednesday, the city medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide, and the killing has spurred widespread outrage as the subway rider who choked Neely, who has yet to be identified, was released without charges.

… There is no evidence that Neely had become violent. And those headlines assume that Neely would have become violent if his fellow subway rider had not intervened — assumptions that are, experts say, rooted in years of political fearmongering over a pandemic spike in violent crime in New York City. That wave of violent crime has subsided, but nonviolent crimes were up in 2022 and at the forefront of New York state voters’ minds in the midterms.

“When politicians constantly use New York City as the emblem of danger and violence and they exploit that to motivate their voters, why would we be shocked that people in New York are walking around on pins and needles and afraid all the time?” said Jeffrey Butts, a professor and director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

… The per capita violent crime rate in New York City is also lower than in many small towns in the South, Butts said

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Protestors chant at a vigil in the Broadway-Lafayette subway station Wednesday, May, 3, 2023 in Manhattan, New York. Barry Williams/NY Daily News/Getty Images