You Can’t Stay Here: An open letter to Mayor Eric Adams

I am trying to end my time in Philadelphia. It has been difficult. I’m trying to sell my house, and no one wants to buy it. Well that’s the way of the market, I suppose. Interest rates and so on. Maybe the basement is damp. Things invisible and visible, that’s what is happening.

I am a mentally ill man. I have spent time in psychiatric care. When I bought this house, it was a great salve to a real fear of mine: that in my muttering, and not bathing, and great cruelty to myself, I would wind up failing to meet my obligations to myself and a landlord, and wind up, somehow, on the streets. That from there, without access to my medications or my psychiatric care and my family, my condition would worsen. That I would meet a gruesome end, in the cold of the street. Perhaps a far off fear, but a real one, that haunted me. Fears are made of the visible and the invisible, what we can see and what we can’t. What is happening and what isn’t.

I am trying to move back to New York City. THE city, we used to call it in my youth in its suburbs, in Westchester. My wife and I, we both love New York so much. It is a kind of infection and a kind of home, something between the two. It is under our skin. It is an invisible and visible thing. We want to get back to it. We are trying to sell my home so that we can return, to my larger home, to the city I love.

In a front page news story, the New York Times reports that Mayor Eric Adams wants to ramp up the City’s ability to coerce the visibly mentally ill on the street into treatment. (Mental illness is also a visible and invisible thing.) The new directive cites that it will affect those who show “unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings.”

Sometimes I get so scared I scarcely know or care where I am. I throw myself to the ground. I talk to myself to soothe myself, to work out a pain inside me. I may strike my face. It’s been a few years, but I can feel these behaviors, just under my skin.

In the front page news story, when discussing the Mayor’s reasoning for his new policy, that might violate the Americans With Disability Act, which will force hundreds into the hospitals – the mayor and governor have ordered 50 whole new beds to be added to the psych wards; Mayor Adams is quoted as saying, “We’re going to find a bed for everyone,” – the newspaper cites “feelings.”

“[A] series of random attacks in the streets and subways has left many New Yorkers feeling that the city has become more unpredictable and dangerous.” (emphasis mine)

“The mayor has defended his focus on public safety and has argued that many New Yorkers do not feel safe. . . ” (emphasis mine)

In my time in psychiatric care, I have learned a lot about feelings. They get votes, not a veto, we say. Let them come, and let them go, we say.

I move through New York and I am happy. I move through New York, and I see sights and sounds and people that fill me with joy and great wonder. I move through New York, and I am safe. So I wonder. Which of us, Mr. Mayor, is showing “unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings?”

Published by Mordecai Martin

A luftmensch, a Jew, a way with words, all in one.

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