NYC kids seek therapy after exposure to tramps and addicts

New York schoolchildren are going insane at the crazed drug addicts and crazed tramps they encounter every day — and flock to therapists to find ways to cope with the stress, The Post has learned.

“Many” children are now in therapy in neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen, according to mother Katie Hamill, 43, whose 7-year-old daughter is being treated for anxiety.

“My daughter has seen everything from fornication, masturbation, defecation, urination, you name it, she’s seen it. … consistent and constant. She’s in this constant state of panic,” said Hamill, who works in real estate.

The little girl gets upset when she sees “the dying people” — the junkies who look dead and who she doesn’t think will be helped, the mother said. And she sees way too much despicable adult behavior, including an addict trying to pull his hair out after getting high at a playground on West 42nd Street.

“My kid is asking me to move,” Hamill said. “We considered leaving the city. It is difficult.”

The city has funneled thousands of homeless people to Hell’s Kitchen to live in the area’s hotels after the pandemic began. The move resulted in high-profile crimes, including the brutal beating in March 2021 of a Filipino-American woman allegedly going to church at the hands of convicted murderer Brandon Elliot, 38, who was living at a nearby hotel.

An image of children playing in a playground.
According to parents, “many” children are now in therapy in neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen.
Stefan Jeremiah for New York Pos

In late August, police charged Nickolas O’Keefe, 33, an emergency shelter resident, with two unprovoked knife attacks, including one targeting an emergency room nurse who was stabbed in the back.

Compounding the drop in life expectancy are the state’s bail reform, which has led to the release of scores of dangerous convicted criminals, and the decriminalization of drug paraphernalia, which prompted the NYPD to stop incarcerating junkies who shoot in public.

Major crimes in all three counties that cover Hell’s Kitchen are up this year, with increases in Midtown North and South being nearly 60 percent. Robberies are up 57% in Midtown South and 20% in Midtown North. There have been 10 homicides in the three counties so far this year, double the number for the same period in 2021.

In Chelsea, mother Cindy Sanders, 47, said her daughter, who attends the city’s Professional Performing Arts High School, saw a therapist during a school program last year over a combination of concerns, including rising crime and the sudden spread of hobos.

“I think everything post COVID has increased the stress for them. So it’s very unclear what exactly is causing the stress and anxiety,” Sanders said. “Since they just came back from COVID the crime rate has been higher and the number of homeless people on the streets has also been higher. All of this I think combined created a lot of fear.”

A picture of a NYC mom taking her kids to school.
NYC mother Cindy Sanders said her daughter saw a therapist during a school program last year over a combination of concerns, including rising crime.
Robert Mueller

Sanders drives her daughters to school on West 48th Street to protect them from the legion of aggressive tramps, but even that hasn’t stopped her from being molested lately.

“A woman… started yelling at us in the car. My daughter was nervous getting out of the car and crossing the street to go to school,” she said.

Christine Capolupo, 38, a homemaker living in Hell’s Kitchen, and her father Alex Vado called police Wednesday when they saw a tramp sleeping on a bench at the Ramon Aponte Playground on West 47th Street near Ninth Avenue.

“It’s awful, especially like this street, in this area, it’s gotten so damn bad,” Capolupo said. “It’s like seeing them shoot up in broad daylight and crazy stuff. It wasn’t like that. It was pretty decent, the neighborhood. I do not know what’s up.”

The current state of the neighborhood is worse than it was in the bad old days, said a lifelong resident and mother whose two daughters are also in therapy.

“My child is like a lunge and hangs on me like he wants me to carry him and he is 8 years old. It’s not a way for anyone to live, especially kids,” said the stressed-out mother, who said her kids didn’t want to go outside.

An image of a child playing in a playground.
The mother of a longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident, Christine Capolupo, and her father called the police when they saw a tramp sleeping on a bench at Ramon Aponte’s playground.
Stefan Jeremiah for New York Pos

“A lot of acts of violence when I grew up here,” the 43-year-old recalls.

“But they were murderers who murdered each other. They didn’t attack innocent people walking the streets – women, children, the elderly,” she said. “It felt safer that way.”

Sara Pashmforoosh, 40, an architect who lives in the East Village, said her 19-month-old son kept seeing people smoking crack on the porch of her building but didn’t know what was happening.

“As he gets older, I wonder how am I going to explain to him what they’re doing?She said.

Therapists say the toxic combination of pandemic stress and daily doses of depravity is fueling veritable generational anxiety in the Big Apple.

“It’s a lot of change and having these people in the neighborhood — that’s part of that change,” said Dr. Judith Fiona Joseph, a Manhattan psychiatrist who treats children from all over the city. “I think it’s one of the stressful changes that the post-pandemic era has brought to the city.”

Joseph also noted that children are naturally more sensitive and that “It can be stressful, especially with the sensitive children in my practice – they raise concerns when they see people suffering on the street, people not receiving treatment, and they feel like they want to do something about it.”

Therapist Dawn Adjei Jackson agreed that the chaos on the street “contributes to the pre-existing anxiety that is prevalent in the younger patients.”

Psychologist Taylor Chesney, director of the Feeling Good Institute on the Upper East Side, said deteriorating road conditions are taking their toll on parents, too.

“Their environment and where they raised their families is changing, so it makes sense that they would be stressed about it,” Chesney said. “And if they’re feeling stressed about it, the kids are going to feel stressed that way.”

Some families deal with this by picking up and leaving.

A study found that families with young children led the exodus from major US cities during the first two years of the pandemic. Manhattan has seen a 9.5% decrease in children under the age of 5 since 2019. Total enrollment in New York City public schools has fallen by 73,000 since the pandemic began.

Justin McShane, 38, who works in finance and development, left Hell’s Kitchen for New Jersey in February after a rent increase and a rise in violence and drug use in the neighborhood.

An image of a family in a playground.
Alex Vado, 63, with his daughter Christine Capolupo, 38, and their daughters Chloe, 7, and Ava, 3, at a children’s playground in Hell’s Kitchen.
Stefan Jeremiah for New York Pos

“There is almost a blissful ignorance in the leadership. That starts with the mayor, of course, and no one wants to prosecute anyone. You know, everyone feels like they can just run amok without any false incentives,” McShane said.

Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and associate professor at John Jay College, said the city is seeing the impact of moving away from enforcing quality of life concerns.

“Yes, the little things matter, because the impact on other people — whether it’s criminal or, in this case, psychological — can be avoided,” Giacalone said. “There is always a cost associated with something, whether it is a crime or a cost of therapy. Many of the reformers do not understand that.”

Kimyra Garel, 32, a chef, and partner Ernesto Santana, 34, a delivery driver, moved to Newark from the Big Apple with their twins last year “just to get out of New York because it’s too crazy.”

The couple returned on Friday, bringing the 8-year-old boys to play at Washington Square Park but keeping them close.

“Usually they walk around. We don’t hold their hands. I didn’t let go of her hands. I’m so afraid. You don’t know what’s going on now,” Garel said. NYC kids seek therapy after exposure to tramps and addicts


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