Out of the pandemic, into the “bad old days.”
A highly organized crew of squeegee men marked Monday’s unofficial start of summer by aggressively wiping down windshields just blocks from Times Square — using buckets of water from the nearby Port Authority bathroom.
The Post watched as four squeegee men converged on cars and SUVs waiting on West 40th Street near Ninth Avenue under the supervision of a fifth man who directed them like an air traffic controller.
The cops “don’t f–k with us — no summons, no nothing,” one of the men said.
Their targets were primarily pricey rides with New Jersey license plates, including a BMW sedan and an Acura SUV.
One driver barely cracked his window to hand over some cash but another exchanged a fist bump with a squeegee man.
Some of the men didn’t wear masks while interacting with the motorists.
The crew members appeared to have stashed their equipment overnight beneath a green tarp wrapped around a nearby tree, retrieving it when they showed up for “work” in the morning.
One arrived drinking from a bottle hidden inside a black plastic bag while another — who was the first on the scene — took a bucket into the nearby Port Authority Midtown Bus Terminal, where he apparently filled it with water in the restroom.
The disturbing situation unfolded just a day after The Post’s front page revealed the deteriorating conditions in Manhattan’s famed Washington Square Park, where photos captured rampant, open-air drug use and discarded syringes.
In response to The Post’s reporting, the NYPD announced it would be closing the Greenwich Village green space two hours early — at 10 p.m. — on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
A 57-year-old woman who encountered the squeegee men on Sunday, while driving into Manhattan from New Jersey for lunch with a friend, described feeling her “heart racing” as she was confronted by one man she described as “a creepy guy.”
“He came toward me. I said, ‘No, no, I don’t need to be squeegeed,” she said.
“Meanwhile, it’s raining. He said, ‘Do you have any money?’ And I said ‘No, I have absolutely no money.’”
But the man eyed her wallet on the passenger seat and said, “You are lying. You have money. Give me money,” she recalled.
“He was more than harassing me. He was wildly aggressive…As a woman in a car, that’s just an awful scene.”
She added: “I remember the bad old days in New York. This is one of the things that was there.”
Meanwhile, nearby merchants complained that the squeegee men stole from them and were scaring away their customers.
“We are living in hell here. We are doing business in hell,” said a disheartened-looking Farhana Farooq, owner of the LaSani Grill.
“When we try to stop them from coming in here, they pee and bang on the glass in front.”
Farooq added: “They are dangerous. Sometimes they fight — they turn on each other.”
A worker at the Lincoln Gourmet Deli said, “Two days ago I saw one of them chasing a couple with the squeegee because they were taking pictures of them. It seems like they were tourists.”
The worker also said the squeegee men “jump in front of the cars and start cleaning” — even if drivers try to wave them off.
“Then they demand money,” the worker said.
“I want something to be done about it. I want them gone, please.”
Ying Luo, who manages a neighborhood grocery store, said the squeegee men “can be very aggressive,” adding that drivers “give them dollars for them to go away, not because they are cleaning or anything.”
“They seem to make a lot of money,” he said.
A lot of times by the end of the day, I see them with lots of stacks of cash.”
A Manhattan cop said: “We used to lock up squeegee guys, but the district attorney won’t prosecute — so we stopped.”
“This is the least violent crime that he doesn’t prosecute,” the cop added.
“We can give them a summons but they could give their name as Fred Flintstone. The quality of life will only continue to decline unless the laws are changed.”
On Monday, The Post saw cops repeatedly chase away the squeegee men by flashing the lights on their cruisers, but the panhandlers simply relocated to a nearby intersection each time.
Under a law enacted by the city in 2006, it’s illegal for anyone to aggressively approach a motorist or vehicle occupant “for the purpose of either performing or offering to perform a service in connection with such vehicle.”
Violators face a maximum of 16 days in jail and a $100 fine.
A spokesman for outgoing Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said, “Our office evaluates all arrests for this offense and prosecutes those who engage in aggressive behavior.”
Additional reporting by Larry Celona and Steven Vago