Verizon workers discovered a male body inside a manhole at Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan during the early hours of Oct. 15. The badly decomposed remains were discovered near the intersection of W 58th St. and 8th Ave. at approx. 3:20 a.m. by workers installing phone lines. It was unclear how the man came to be inside the manhole.
The workers notified police after finding the unconscious and unresponsive male body.
The intersection was closed for a time while police officers in hazmat suits assessed how best to extract the body from the manhole. It was revealed that the body was in a state of severe decomposition, and the man may have been dead for several days.
There Verizon manhole cover under which the man’s body was found takes two men to lift, and such manhole covers require a special tool to open them. Through the manhole cover was also said to be the only way of accessing the space beneath. Police are investigating how the man gained access to the manhole. Forensic teams examined the scene to determine whether the man had died in the manhole or elsewhere.
Crisis for New York’s Homeless
The discovery of the man’s body will likely draw further attention to the plight of New York’s homeless people.
According to New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, thousands sleep without shelter in the city each night. Studies have also shown that the majority of New Yorkers living on the streets are people with mental illness and/or other severe health issues.
Violence Against the Homeless
While it currently is unclear what might have caused the death of the man found in the manhole, it is certain that homeless individuals are particularly vulnerable to the elements, hunger, and violence perpetrated against them.
The discovery comes just 10 days after brutal attacks on 4 homeless men in Manhattan left three dead and another seriously injured.
The annual report (pdf) of the National Coalition for the Homeless from 2018 details the litany of violence perpetrated against people experiencing homelessness throughout the United States. The report shows 48 lethal attacks and 64 non-lethal attacks occurred in the years 2016 and 2017.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council claims that the life expectancy of an average homeless person can be 20-30 years less than that of a member of the general population. Furthermore, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that as many as 13,000 homeless individuals die on America’s streets each year. However, a relatively small proportion of these deaths may be attributed directly to violent events.
According to a report by the Coalition for the Homeless, “Each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent city surveys may underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.”