VIOLENT CRIME WAVE JOLTS TRENDY DOWNTOWN
Downtown Manhattan, the city's party mecca, has been hit by an alarming spike in vicious street violence.
Assaults in Greenwich Village lead the frightening upturn, with a whopping 43 percent increase so far this year compared with the same period in 2008.
"I've never seen it like this before -- never, ever," said G. Simon Chafik, a female photographer who has lived in Manhattan for 15 years.
"I'm a big New Yorker. New York is one of the safest cities. [But] I'm beginning to question that."
Other hot Manhattan neighborhoods tainted by the crime wave include TriBeCa, with a nearly 17 percent jump, and Gramercy, which has seen a 24 percent increase in assaults.
The danger zones also include the East Village from East 14th Street to Houston Street and the East River to Broadway, which has seen a 27.7 percent rise, from 47 to 60 assaults.
The Lower East Side has experienced a whopping 30 percent hike in assaults.
One area appearing to buck the trend is Chelsea, which has recorded a 17 percent drop in such attacks.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne attributed the crime jump largely to the neighborhoods' huge restaurant and bar scenes, which attract large numbers of late-night revelers.
He said the NYPD was addressing the issue with beefed-up police presence and additional undercover officers.
Residents say the recent violence in the popular West Village is particularly frightening because it had been so rare.
"I feel anxious -- there are muggings on my block," said writer Warren Ransom, 50.
The victims even include cops. One case involved a vicious anti-gay attack on an off-duty NYPD officer.
An eight-year veteran police officer needed six stitches to close a head wound after Andrew Klein, 31, allegedly accosted him while the cop was walking with a woman on West 14th Street near Sixth Avenue at 5:30 a.m. Friday.
The victim identified himself as a cop, and Klein retorted, "I don't give a - - - -," according to court documents.
A day earlier, a man from Buffalo was brutally beaten and left unconscious at a Greenwich Village intersection by four young thugs, one of whom proudly declared, "I hit him good."
Klein's lawyer, Daniel Kron, told The Post that his client was merely involved in a fight and did not know the other man was a cop.