Neighbors Divided over Wild Woman of East 77th Street

Written by Our Town on . Posted in News Our Town, Our Town.

By Amanda Woods

Even next-door neighbors are at odds about Susan (not her real name), a homeless woman on the Upper East Side known for her constant screaming, coughing and spitting on passersby. While some consider her a threat to the neighborhood, others feel sorry for her and say she can’t control her actions.

As Our Town reported last week, some residents want Susan off the streets or at least treated for her supposed mental illness and cough, which a few locals attribute to tuberculosis or whooping cough.

But there is no easy way to handle this situation. Police can only pick Susan up if they spot her committing a crime, according to Nick Viest, the president of the 19th Precinct Community Council. Spitting is classified as a violation, added Officer  Jepsen of the 19th Precinct, and police can only issue her a summons if they see her spitting on someone. She cannot be forcibly admitted into a mental hospital unless she is clearly a “danger to herself or others,” and no one can force her to stay in a homeless shelter if she chooses not to go, said Mary Lee Gupta, a social worker and program director for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of New York City Metro.

Representatives at both the Manhattan Outreach Consortium at the Goddard Riverside Community Center and the Department of Homeless Services said homeless outreach teams have met with Susan.

But Gina Rotundo, who co-owns Alloro Restaurant on East 77th Street between First and Second avenues, doesn’t think Susan is worth this level of concern.

“While her outbursts have been disturbing, they’ve never, ever felt threatening,” Rotundo said. “I don’t think she is terrorizing the Upper East Side at all.”

Some locals believe that Susan maliciously, intentionally spits on those in her path, but Rotundo argues that Susan can’t help her outbursts. She pointed out that she has seen Susan walking over to a garbage can when she has to spit, so that she doesn’t end up spitting on people. When Rotundo was on the train taking her daughter to a class downtown, she realized that Susan tries to avoid confrontation, she said.

“Stupid teenagers were making fun of her and I could see that she was trying to say, ‘Cut it out, cut it out,’” Rotundo said. “She tried to spit out of the train.”

One of Rotundo’s employees, Nick, who declined to give his last name, said that Susan isn’t always wildly hacking and spitting.

“I’ve seen her when she’s not like that—when she’s completely normal,” Nick said. “Everyone has different outlets, and that’s how she expresses when she’s upset.”

Audi Brahimi, a doorman on East 77th Street, who works across the street from Alloro, said he has seen Susan but has never found her disturbing.

“She doesn’t bother me, but I’ve heard other people complain,” Brahimi said. “She didn’t do anything to me. She never comes in front of the building. She just walks down the street—walks down and walks back. That’s it.”

Another doorman on East 77th Street between Second and Third avenues agrees.

“I don’t think she’d ever do anything to anybody,” he said. “I don’t see her doing funny things like jumping on people.”

Next door to Alloro Restaurant, though, at Aaron Emanuel Salon, employees see a completely different side of Susan.

“What she does is she abusively spits on people,” said Alessandro Neira, a hairdresser at the salon. “I was passing by and she spit on me. She can control it and it’s clear that it’s on purpose.”

Unlike Nick, who believes that Susan’s occasional calm moments prove she is not a threat, Neira said he thinks this indicates that Susan intentionally decides when to act up.

Another employee, Elena Burbu, said she is afraid to pass by the woman.

“When she’s on this side of the street, I try to go to the other side,” Burbu said. “I try to avoid her illness.”

Jessica, an employee at Hot and Crusty Bakery on the corner of Lexington and East 77th Street who did not give her last name, said she and her co-worker were walking down the street when Susan spit on them.

“She’s doing it on purpose,” she said. “She’s crazy for sure.”

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  • UES Resident

    Stop being so “PC!!!” Even if she “can’t help it,” that is absolutely not an excuse to spit on people. I see her all the time and have been stuck on a subway car with her before, she intentionally spits on people.

  • UES Tax Payer

    This woman confronted me on the street with my dog. She was screaming, hacking and spitting and the dog became alarmed and excited, so I had the dog sit down near the curb, out of her way until she passed – if only! She got in my face, proceeded to tell me that I stopped the dog on purpose, and told me that God’s eye was watching me. She then told me to “get out” and proceeded to take aim and spit on both myself and on my dog. She had excellent aim for both instances so I am certain it was not an “accident” or she “couldn’t help it.” This is a health and sanitation concern in addition to merely a quality of life issue. I used to be one who “felt bad” for her, as I assumed she had Tourrettes or something similar – however there is no pity left for this woman and I will now be raising my voice to the community liaison at the NYPD as well as calling 311 when I see her.

  • Concerned UES Resident

    I’ve seen this woman around 85th/86th Street and not only does she spit, she also screams at the top of her lungs. It’s one of the worst screams that I’ve ever heard. She also stands in the Bank of America (after-hours) on Lexington Ave. and hacks into a garbage can. What is the police dept. waiting for? Another tragic incident where someone gets hurt by a homeless nut job? Sorry, but I have no compassion for this lunatic who screams and spits on INNOCENT people. I pay a lot of money to live on the Upper East Side and between the fruit carts, halal food stands and the peddlers of crap on 86th Street, I’m starting to think that this city is turning into something that is less chic and metropolitan and more third world. Think about it…we already have something that resembles rickshaws on 5th avenue (pedicab anyone?). We’re more concerned with being politically correct than keeping our city as beautiful as it was during the days of the Guliani admin. Oh well, I guess somewhere along the way, people stopped caring:(

  • UpperEastSide

    This is ridiculous. She chased me down third ave last night and then turned to a little boy and said “I’ll come back for you later.” She’s a villain. Get her off the street please.

  • zrbkakmlnb

    I just saw her on 83rd between 3rd and 2nd and she was with this man and she was screaming her head off! I was also aware of everyone turning on that block crossing the street when they relized she was there!

  • KeepTheUESClean

    I’ve seen this woman at the 96th st subway station, on the downtown track, many times. Sometimes she was alone, sometimes with a tall man in his 30s. She was constantly moving around while blowing her nose on the ground, screaming and spitting. She usually spat towards the wall or the tracks, never downwards in a corner though, but full blown spit in the air. AND at least half a dozen times I saw her DELIBERATELY spit on a man’s suitcase, then his back as he left, and on other people’s backs as they were getting in the train.

    Once she got on the train she didn’t stop and at the first station HALF of the car moved to other parts of the train. Funny thing is that after a few stops, she CHANGED TRAIN CARS and moved to the next one, which is where EVERYONE from the first one went to escape her.

    Seriously, lets be less PC and figure out a way to get her off the streets and into a mental hospital. It’ll be better for both her and the UES.

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  • Suzannah Troy I tried not to point the camera at her and I am smiling but truly it was disturbing and scary. Dr. Fagelman’s receptionist makes “Susan” look tame and Dr. Fagelman did not fire Delita Hooks so therefore he financed unprofessional behavior and really sick violent assault.

    Maybe “Susan” can get a job working for Dr. Fagelman 155 Spring St. All the women in the video medical care professionals? I was told lied to the NYPD perhaps not knowing I had the video?

    I am 50, I went to get a cyst removed and biopsies on my arm 2 painful injections in my arm, I never put down my bags one very heavy and my iphone as I was hit like a human pinatta.

    I left with a hole in my retina, blood in my eye and around, hair ripped out of my hair, earring ripped out of my ear and no arrest, not fired.

  • j cauchi

    she only does this to nicely dressed people she knows what she is doing she told a women on 88th str oh you look nice than she spit on her she has mental issues for sure but seems to know who she should spit on

  • Elizabeth

    Hello, I live on 87th street and hear her screaming at least twice a day. I do not understand why nothing is being done to try and get her some help. Very disturbing to the neighborhood and to the children walking in the streets who now must avoid her. Anyone have any suggestions about what the neighborhood can do. Thank you.

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