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Scourge of Gramercy Park still terrorizing locals despite pleas to cops, City Hall

An unhinged vagrant who terrorized Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood last year is still at it — and locals say the city isn’t doing anything to help despite Mayor Eric Adams’ new program to get troubled homeless people off the streets.

Residents at one Lexington Avenue building told The Post management even spent nearly $4,000 on a locksmith to try to keep the troublesome vagabond from camping out in their lobby — but he somehow still found a way in.

“For the past two months the guy’s been sleeping in the vestibule area,” said Abe Bichoupan, a resident of the co-op building on Lexington near East 25th Street. “He would pop in four, five in the afternoon. He would eat there, smoke.”

Over the weekend, residents called cops at least five times after the homeless man broke into the compact room and defecated — only to have police let him go when he refused help.

“The police are saying that they don’t have any right to put him in an institution or whatever unless he consents to it in writing,” Bichoupan said. “As much as he’s imbalanced he still can respond to a few questions posed by authorities, and he just doesn’t want to go in.”

The Post first wrote about the man— known as Howard but nicknamed “Cheese” by local cops because of his stench — in April, when he was spotted wandering the area and muttering to himself as he tried to get into area businesses.

He was spotted in the neighborhood by The Post again on Sunday but refused to talk to a reporter — repeatedly walking away when confronted.

“He’s still here,” said Ed Agusto, who works the counter at the Morton Williams Supermarket on East 23rd Street. “He starts acting crazy. Not in here, but outside. He takes his clothes off in the summer. Takes his clothes off in the street.

“People are scared of him,” Agusto said.

The outrageous behavior appears to be part of the mental health crisis the mayor has said he is tackling.

Harold the Gramercy Park vagrant.
A homeless man named Howard has been harassing Gramercy Park residents and merchants since last year — but cops and city officials aren’t helping, locals said.
Matthew McDermott

Adams promised in November to involuntarily commit New Yorkers with chronic or untreated mental health issues, claiming the city had “a moral obligation” to do so.

Hizzoner maintained he was embracing a more aggressive approach to the city’s mental health crisis, particularly those — like Howard — who can’t care for themselves.

But horrified locals said Howard has been left to roam free despite repeated calls to cops and City Hall to get him needed help.

“He needs to do a lot more to implement this program,” Bichoupan said of Adams. “It’s all talk, sounds great. But you need to execute on it in a way that ameliorates the situation both for the person in question and the citizens that have to encounter these people.”

At least one tenant has decided to break their lease and move out to escape the nuisance, Bichoupan said, something others are also now considering in light of the repeated break-ins.

“It was disturbing for some of the people residing in the building,” said Bichoupan, who added that tenants just want the man to get mental health care.

“He may not be a physical threat, but for someone not used to him, they don’t know what to anticipate.”

Lauren Secular, president of the co-op’s board of directors, said tenants couldn’t even get mail at one point because the mailman refused to go into the lobby with the vagrant there.

“I think he needs to go somewhere, and if he doesn’t want help he needs to be committed to get help,” Secular said.

Harold the Gramercy Park vagrant.
Gramercy Park residents said Howard the local vagrant camped out in the vestibule of a Lexington Avenue co-op and even snuck into the Baruch College campus.
Matthew McDermott

The NYPD said Monday that the department has gotten 27 911 calls to the Lexington Avenue building and the surrounding area, 16 of them for a disorderly person. It is not clear how many, if any, of the calls were tied to Howard.

Folks in the neighborhood said Howard even broke into the Baruch College campus and moved in, and yet first responders still wouldn’t lift a finger to get him off the streets.

“A week or two ago we found him in the lobby with his clothes off,” a college security guard said last week. “He snuck in through the side where construction was going on.”

He said cops “won’t take him because they’ll let him right back out.”

“We called an ambulance but they don’t come to pick him up,” the guard said. “Once you say ‘homeless person’ they don’t come… He needs help. He needs to be off the streets.”

Area merchants said Harold has also been a nightmare for business.

“He comes in almost daily,” one local shop owner told The Post on Sunday. “We’re always a bit afraid that he’s going to hit us or something.

“He walks around, and just when you think he’s out the door he circles back for more,” the merchant said. “We’re always weary because he’s been known to be violent.

“I keep meaning to maybe poke my head into the police department, but I don’t really expect them to do much,” he said. “The city is so out of control. What do they spend a year [on the homeless], something like $2.5 billion? I’m so fed up with the way the city is run. I just throw up my hands.”

But they said calls to 911 and 311 have gone nowhere.

Gramercy Park vagrant Harold.
Gramercy Park merchants say the homeless vagrant known as Howard harasses customers and even occasionally spits on them — and just keeps coming back.
Matthew McDermott

A City Hall spokesperson said Monday that Adams “is committed to providing compassionate care to those suffering from mental health illness while upholding public safety for all New Yorkers,” and that the city has “responded to this specific complaint.”

But the statement made no further mention of the Gramercy Park dilemma and added that “it can take hundreds of interactions to encourage an individual to accept services and transition off the streets” — despite the mayor’s call for “involuntary” commitment.

Bushnu Chhetri, who works at the neighborhood 7/11, said he’s called the police for help “many times” but nothing has been done to get Howard off the streets.

“They come much later,” he said. “Then they say, ‘Do not call us for this again.’ We’re irritated from this. It’s wasting money, wasting time.”

One area building superintendent said Harold “relieves himself” outside the building.

“Tenants are scared, uncomfortable,” he added. “They talk about it, we talk about it. The city? Nobody does nothing. It’s worse than communism.”

Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan and Tina Moore

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