2016: NYC’s Year of the RUAS

Things Are Getting More Exciting In NYC Again

By Jim Knipfel

For the past twenty years, I’ve been bemoaning the fact that New York, on the whole, had become such a nice, pleasant, sterile, safe and boring place to live. If you’re living in NYC and don’t feel like you’re taking your life in your hands every time you step out the front door, what the hell’s the point of paying this kind of rent? Might as well move to Wausau for all that.

In 2014, when a Democrat was elected Mayor for the first time since 1994, I started to get my hopes up. History shows that you put a liberal Democrat in charge of New York, things will start to get interesting again, and Bill De Blasio has not broken that pattern. Almost instantly, the homeless population moved back into the subways and gun violence once more took its rightful spot as the city’s most popular pastime.

As 2015 came to a close, I began looking around for what might well be the hot new trend in New York criminality in the coming year, and a spate of incidents led me to conclude it would likely be an unprecedented spike in RUASs, or Random Unprovoked Attacks on Strangers. There’s never any theft involved, no profit motive, just some kook with a knife or a razor who slashes the hell out of someone on the street or on a train for no discernible reason, then runs away.

In mid-December, a Chinese exchange student on her way to school in Queens was slashed in the face by a man wearing a surgical mask. (Several weeks later the attacker in that case left a note admitting he’d slashed the wrong girl.) Later that same day another man getting off the A train was slashed down the side of the neck by a complete stranger who then disappeared down the tunnel. It seemed to hint at things to come.

My guess was right. Someone knocked on the apartment door of a 25-year-old man in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at about 8:30 on New Year’s Eve. When he opened the door, he found a stranger standing in the hall. The stranger said “I want to talk to you,’ then pulled out a box cutter and lunged at him. The exact mechanics and logistics of what followed is unclear, but as the 25-year-old tried to slam the door, the well-prepared but bumbling stranger pulled out, in quick succession, a gun and then a bottle of what seemed to be bleach, which he splashed at the man’s eyes before running away. The 25-year-old was ultimately unharmed, but not for lack of trying. 

Shortly after midnight on January 3rd, a 26-year-old man was walking down 156th St. in Washington Heights when another man, a complete and random stranger, whipped out a knife and plunged it into his guts three times before running away. The attacker said nothing and didn’t attempt to steal anything. Just got all stabby and ran. The victim was taken to the hospital in serious condition, but is expected to recover.

A couple days later, at about 6 Wednesday morning, a 24-year-old woman on her way to work was walking under some scaffolding near the corner of 23rd St. and 7th Ave. in Chelsea. A man she passed walking in the opposite direction suddenly changed course, walked beside her for a few seconds, then whipped out what is believed to be a box cutter and slashed her down the left side of her face before fleeing. The woman was taken to Bellevue for stitches. Later that night a do-gooder walking near St. Patrick’s recognized 41-year-old Bronx resident Kari Bazemore from surveillance footage and pointed cops in his direction. He was taken into custody, where it was learned he not only had a long criminal record, but may well be responsible for at least three other RUAS.

This last story received far more coverage than all the others combined, considering it took place in a nice neighborhood and the victim was a young white chick with a nose ring. And if young white chicks with nose rings aren’t safe from razor-wielding lunatics, then my god who is? Not you, certainly.

Published January 13th, 2016

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.