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Fake Buddhist monks are the new squeegee men of New York
By Melissa Klein and Stephanie Pagones, New York Post, June 14, 2015
Fake monks hassle tourists on The High Line. Photo: Angel Chevrestt
New York, USA -- They’re holy terrors. Bands of beggars dressed like Buddhist monks have invaded the High Line and other city parks, demanding upwards of $40 from tourists — and officials are fed up.
<< Men dressed as monks prowl The High Line. Photo: Angel Chevrestt
Another monk’s zen demeanor dissolved after he got just a buck in exchange for the cheap plastic bracelet he proffered.
“Five dollar, five dollar,” he demanded. He would not explain what the money was used for.
The behavior of the phony Himalayan holy men has been anything but heavenly in Bryant Park. One was spotted last week swiping a plastic water bottle from a clueless sidewalk vendor.
Other faux friars were spotted on smoking breaks, trying to hide the unchaste behavior near a subway entrance. Two napped on library ledges.
The masquerading monks are largely Chinese nationals who return to Flushing flophouses with their day’s earnings, sometimes changing out of their robes on the subway, before gathering at a local restaurant for a meal that usually includes alcohol, according to one observer.
Real Buddhist monks typically shun toxins including cigarettes and alcohol.
“I’d be shocked if any of them are really Buddhist monks,” said Dan Biederman, the head of the Bryant Park Corporation.
In fact, some use the park’s restrooms to change into their orange, brown or gray robes before heading out; khakis and Nike sneakers could be seen beneath the supposed religious garb.
Mock monks have cropped up around the world and have become a recent fixture in Times Square. They invaded parks as the weather got warmer, appearing on the High Line around April.
“We recognize that this is an issue and we are in discussions with the NYC Parks Department to address the matter,” said Martin Nembhard, vice president of park operations for Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit that operates the park for the city. “In the meantime, we encourage anyone who is approached in this manner to immediately report it to a Parks Department officer on site.”
The Parks Department would only say that “individuals who violate Parks rules, which prohibit aggressive panhandling, trespassing, and vandalism, may be subject to a summons from the Parks Enforcement Patrol.”
The NYPD has made no recent arrests.
While authentic monks traditionally carry a “beggar’s bowl” to receive gifts of food and money, they would not aggressively ask for cash, said the Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, who said the fakers are disrespecting the faith.
“People trust the robe simply because those are monks who practice the teachings, share happiness to the people,” Nakagaki said. “If they shake hands and wear the robe, it really disrespects the Buddhists themselves.”