A group of West Siders called on the citizen-led vigilante group the Guardian Angels to monitor the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, citing safety concerns in the neighborhood.
Members of the volunteer group Guardian Angels, which was founded in 1979 by former New York Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Silwa, were parked on W49th Street on Monday night and spoke to W42ST about their new Hell’s Kitchen beat .
“My patrol, based on the Upper West Side, will be here every Wednesday night until it gets cold,” said Guardian Angels member Josh Penner. He told W42ST that their presence had been requested by several members of the Hell’s Kitchen Neighbors Facebook group, which numbers 6,000 people, after several violent incidents in the area.
Josh and co-guardian Angel Smoker told W42ST the group has coordinated with group administration to patrol different areas of the neighborhood weekly and station themselves outside small businesses when requested. “Last week we visited a restaurant [Don Giovanni] who asked for our help on W44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.
“The Facebook group admins have some people they talk to and we’re happy to go where they suggest,” he added. He hopes their presence will inspire the residents of Hell’s Kitchen to form their own security group. “My aim is to eventually get enough local volunteers to start their own group – we have a few people who will hopefully show up this Wednesday and we hope to grow that.”
Despite messages from Hell’s Kitchen Neighbor group about the lack of police presence in the area, Guardian Angels told W42ST they are “encouraged by the police presence” in the area. “We haven’t seen any overt acts of violence,” Josh said. “You obviously see drug use here and there, but it’s no worse than what we see in West Harlem or in the Western 60s to Western 90s.”
Josh said the Guardian Angels “try to be non-incidental and de-escalate as much as possible” but the group has in recent years gained a reputation for the opposite. In February 2021, Assembly candidate Patrick Boblin recorded video of several members of the group harassing and physically assaulting protesters during a march in Stonewall, citing the Angels as an unofficial violent branch of the NYPD.
“Guardian angels stalked my very neighborhood, harassed me and neighbors for abolition work when we asked them to leave. We told them to leave and instead they assert their “right” to intimidate us and our neighbors at risk. Tonight they escalated into violence after following Stonewall,” Boblin wrote.
“For years, Guardian Angel leader Curtis Sliwa drifted to the right, while maintaining close ties to police and elected officials like Queens DA Melinda Katz. We can only assume that the police know who the leader of the Guardian Angels is and let the gang operate out in the open,” he added. “Add NYPD members participating in the insurgency, the NYPD’s harsh treatment of alleged black and Latino ‘gang members’, while leaving untrained ‘crime prevention’ patrols to carry out ‘citizen arrests’ on our MTA and we allow a militia to express their discretion.
Boblin concluded, “When do we treat guardian angels, the real fearmongering boogeymen of the 80s, the way we said we would treat gangs in the tough on crime era? They now have embroidered uniforms. It’s a brazen performance of systemic inequality, just because there’s a white man at the helm.
Silwa, still the head of the organisation, has also been criticized for making racist and sexist remarks towards elected officials and for admitting that guardian angels had faked crimes in the city for publicity.
Ahead of the mayoral election last November, Adams’ campaign rep Evan Thies told The New York Times, “Curtis Sliwa destroyed his credibility a long time ago when he admitted he had faked kidnapping and other crimes for publicity purposes and that he regularly spewed vile comments that poked fun at New York’s diversity. York. Every word that comes out of his mouth is either wrong or offensive or both.
W42ST has contacted an administrator of the Hell’s Kitchen Neighbors Facebook group for comment and will update if we receive a response.