Squeegee men on the rise in NYC

Sept. 19, 2011 at 11:24 PM

NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Car window washers are becoming a more common sight on New York City streets with unemployment and poverty persisting, residents say.

Five so-called squeegee men were spotted trying to earn tips by cleaning windshields at 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue Sunday, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

"As a driver, I feel obligated," said Terry Harris, 56. "I say 'no' when they approach my car, but then you feel guilty. They are here because they need the money."

A 38-year-old woman identified only as Sheila said her husband washes windows in his free time because they need the extra money to help cover her medical expenses.

"The city isn't doing anything to help these men get jobs," she said. "The city chases them away and harasses them instead of helping them get work. We got no other place to go but here, making money out in the streets."

The city's jobless rate nudged up to 8.7 percent in August from 8.6 percent in July, but was still below the 9.4 percent of August 2010 and 10.3 percent in August 2009.

Squeegee men were a more common sight in New York in the 1990s when the city's unemployment rate hit 13 percent. When Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994, though, he worked to rid the city of the windshield washers, because some felt they were borderline extortionists.

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