In a wildly inflammatory and alarmist cover story that ran last week, the New York Post proclaimed that squeegee men were back (again) and terrorizing motorists with their window cleaner, panhandling the citizens of Gotham for their hard-earned dollars.
To illustrate the mania these men were causing, The Post captured 40-year-old Philadelphia resident Gregg Washington spraying a car windshield with Windex and put that image on its cover with the headline “Squeegee Men Back BAD OLD DAYS.” Two days later, Washington was arrested — which, conveniently, the tabloid captured — for what the paper said was the 225th time. ANIMAL ran into him on 42nd street and 9th avenue on Tuesday morning, just hours after he was released from Rikers Island. He said he was sentenced to five days for criminal nuisance and drinking in public. Washington said he’s done squeegeeing.
“No, I can’t,” he said, “I just went to jail.”
The newspaper said it witnessed three different men squeegeeing cars, including Washington, where it interviewed him at Lexington and East 37th Street. The sensational headline and story referenced the fear squeegee men wreaked on the city in the early 90s, before the “Broken Windows” policy was initiated. That policy, now back and being strongly pushed by police commissioner William Bratton and mayor Bill de blasio, arrests people for petty crimes.
In its initial story, The Post described Washington as a “vagrant” who had “filthy, cracked fingers” and “glassy eyes.” When ANIMAL spoke to him on Tuesday — despite having been just released from jail — he was well-groomed, wearing a leather jacket, clean jeans and fresh, bright white socks. He was wearing the same outfit the paper captured him in on Saturday in a perp walk. The NYC Department of Corrections website confirms he was just released.
Washington, who grew up in Spanish Harlem, said he is unemployed, but has a home in Philadelphia. He was soft-spoken and said he had heard about being on the cover of the newspaper but that it didn’t bother him.
“What could I do about it?” he said.
Just steps from where he drank from a tiny bottle of brandy that, in part, got him arrested a few days’ before, he took a drag from a cigar. He said he was only making around $40 a day squeegeeing but that he didnt know what he was going to do for money. He didn’t have any plans for the rest of the day.
(Photo: Amy K. Nelson/ANIMAL New York)