Midtown Manhattan’s shelter-lined ‘8th Ave. Corridor’ plagued by open drug use: ‘Strip of despair’

A stretch of Midtown Manhattan has become a “strip of despair,” where smacked-out addicts shoot up, light up and conk out at the feet of commuters and tourists, locals say.

“I see a lot of things around here,” one shop owner told The Post of the so-called Eighth Avenue corridor near Penn Station, where there is a cluster of addiction clinics and homeless shelters. “Fights, drugs — oh my God — bad things.

“I don’t know if they have knives or guns,” she said, explaining how people who appear to be both extremely high and severely disturbed regularly barge into her shop near the Port Authority Bus Terminal demanding money and harassing tourists.

The “8th Avenue Corridor” stretches between Port Authority and Penn Station NY Post Illustration

The corridor, which stretches for about 10 blocks from the Port Authority to Penn Station, serves as a gateway to New York City for hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors to the Big Apple each day.

But it’s also surrounded by at least four needle exchanges and clinics, numerous homeless shelters, along with the New York State Parole Board office and other social services for mental illness and addiction.

Fed-up locals blame the cluster of services for the area turning into a hotspot for crime.

Now, business leaders and workers have been fighting behind the scenes for years to get the city to clean up the neighborhood — and move along the troublemakers.

“It’s like a strip of despair,” said Leah McVeigh, who works at IMCD Lighting just off Eighth Avenue.

“It seems as if the city has decided to not care about it in a way that is inappropriate,” she told The Post.

It’s a problem that has persisted in the neighborhood for years, as The Post exposed back in 2021, and has turned Midtown South into one of the leading districts for drug arrests across the entire city, according to police sources.

Addicts shooting up in the open on the sidewalk along 8th Avenue is a common sight in the neighborhood G.N.Miller/NYPost

McVeigh’s office moved to a building off the Eighth Avenue Corridor in January 2022, and immediately experienced a “night and day difference” when employees began to find addicts passed out in their doorway, while dealers set up shop under construction scaffolding next door.

“From the minute we moved in, it was very clear that we weren’t in Kansas anymore,” she said, describing how employees ferrying expensive lighting equipment into the office are regularly confronted by shady characters offering help in exchange for money after late-night jobs.

“It only takes one crazy person for a bad thing could happen. The reality is that it doesn’t feel safe, it feels every single time like you are skirting potential disaster,” she said. “It is 24/7. There is not a safe time.”
McVeigh isn’t the only member of the community who lives on edge in the neighborhood.

There are a number of homeless shelters and drug clinics packed into the streets around 8th Avenue Stephen Yang

James, a 50-year-old university administrator, said he’s “learned to be vigilant” when walking the streets.

“I don’t feel good about it. We pay a lot in taxes for city services and I’d like to see the city step in to take a little bit more of an assertive role in trying to provide support for folks that need it,” he said.

Sherri Burda, 57, who has lived in the neighborhood since the 90s, said the current state of affairs along Eighth Avenue reminds her of a wilder time just after the crack epidemic ran through the area.

“Sometimes they might be mentally ill,” she said. “I see a lot of that and you don’t know who among those individuals have mental issues versus a drug habit or both. The combination can be dangerous.”

Neighborhood community board meetings have turned into something resembling support groups, as residents and business owners swap horror stories about what they see every day.

“I was in this public meeting with these people who have apartments on 37th Street, and they’re talking about trying to take their kids to school at seven o’clock in the morning, kicking their way through needles from the needle exchange on 37th Street,” McVeigh recalled hearing at one meeting.

“Even if they’re incredibly well-intentioned, I don’t see how you can put that many social services and homeless organizations together and not expect this,” she said.

The latest stats from the NYPD show the Midtown South Precinct — which stretches from Ninth Avenue to Lexington Avenue — has some of the highest drug arrest numbers in the city — rivaling Harlem and the South Bronx, sources told The Post.

There have been at least 423 drug-related arrests in the two square-miles of the Midtown South Precinct so far this year — an increase of roughly 100 busts over the same period last year.

Tourists arriving in NYC through Port Authority and Penn Station regularly step over passed-out addicts Stephen Yang

At least 1,888 drug arrests were made across the precinct all of last year, which was a slight decline from 1,244 made in 2022 but still part of a rising trend that’s been climbing since before the pandemic.

Things have gotten to the point that drug-dealing arrests made in Midtown South are being assigned to a special narcotics prosecutor, sources told The Post.

City Hall acknowledged that Midtown South is a problem, but said officials are actively dedicating resources to tackling the issues.

Residents have complained about stepping through discarded needles as they try to bring their kids to school

“So far this year, overall crime is down in the area, which is a result of strong police work, including holding those who break the law accountable, but make no mistake, our work is far from over,” a City Hall spokesperson told The Post.

“We will continue working to drive down crime and improve quality of life in this community and all communities across the city,” they said.

For the terrified woman with the business near Port Authority, she’s afraid that help might not come soon enough.

“When the tourists come in here to shop, they look afraid, you see it on their faces,” she said. “We are losing business because of this.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Woods and Craig McCarthy.

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