As New York City grapples with an unprecedented epidemic of New York Post reporters roaming the streets in search of homeless people to interview, Mayor Bill de Blasio has so far refused to lift a finger to address the scourge.
"I don't want them near my kids," says Kaitlin Driver, who was sitting in Tompkins Square Park yesterday with her two sons, Kemper, 6, and Daniel, 4.
"They're loud and rude and shove their iPhones in your face. We moved here six years ago, but they won't shut up about the 'Bad Old Days,'" Driver said.
"And the stench! They smell like Axe body spray and ketchup."
Samad Khalil, who works at a bodega across the street from Tompkins, said the park had become a popular gathering spot for Post reporters.
"All night, the shouting," Khalil said, adding that he used to give the journalists cheeseburgers but stopped after one of them threw a bottle of urine at him for refusing to say he hates the 9/11 Museum.
"I've seen them have sex with each other in the daylight over there," Khalil said, pointing to a bloodstained carpet on top of a broken box spring. "Thrusting and moaning—it's disgusting."
A spokesperson for the Health Department said that while the number of Post reporters on the street usually increases in the summer thanks to a corresponding rise in stories about the joys of catcalling and fecal matter in public pools, this year's spike is "severe."
The spokesperson added that while the reporters usually do not pose any serious threat to New Yorkers, it's advisable to "keep your fingers away from their mouths."
Upper West Side resident Stephanie Walker says that while she has never feared for her life in the presence of the tabloid journalists, she can't help but feel uneasy.
"I can't even dock my CitiBike without some Post reporter begging me for a quote about the last time I ran a red light or rode on the sidewalk," Walker said. "I give them what I can and move on. It's just sad."
Kevin McCombs, who lives in Hell's Kitchen, said last week he nearly walked into a Post reporter defecating into a baby stroller someone had left on the curb.
"I offered to let him go up and use the bathroom but he just kept shouting 'Thanks Obama!' over and over," McCombs said. "He was definitely off his meds."
At a press conference yesterday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton admitted that the Post reporters were a problem, but that there was little he could do.
"They might be slovenly, some of them, but the vast majority are not engaging in illegal behavior, not engaging in violence, but are now being seen by the public as somebody to fear,” Bratton said.
"They’re there, they might be sitting in a park somewhere, you might not want to be sitting beside them, but they have every bit as much right to be in that park as you or I to sit on that bench…They have the First Amendment."
James Morris, a homeless man who spends most of his time on the Upper West Side, said he had been interviewed by Post reporters 53 times in the past week.
"It's clear they don't have a shred of dignity left," Morris said. "Someone should help them. It's messed up."