They are sleeping in front of the Empire State building, sprawled in front of the doors of Macy's, and panhandling outside Grand Central.
New York is in the grip of a homeless epidemic so bad that it has raised fears of the city slipping back into the disorder of the 1970s and 1980s.
The city's police chief this week said that as many as 4,000 people are now sleeping rough in the city, in a crisis which even the city's ultra-liberal mayor has finally acknowledged after months of denials.
Police officers have identified 80 separate homeless encampments in the city, 20 of which are so entrenched that they have their own furniture, while its former mayor Rudolph Giuliani has spoken scathingly of how his successor is failing to keep order.
This week New York governor Andrew Cuomo said bluntly that 'it's hard not to conclude that we have a major homeless problem in the city of New York' while the city's police chief Bill Bratton described the scale of it as 'a tipping point'.
And even Bill de Blasio, who has spent months refusing to acknowledge that the growing scale of rough sleeping was anything other than a 'perception problem' finally said there was 'a reality problem'.
Now Daily Mail Online can reveal how a toxic combination of cheap drugs and softly-softly policing are fueling the epidemic - and that beggars are making as much money as someone on the city's minimum wage in cash each day.
Homeless people spoken to by Daily Mail Online said that they were making $70 dollars every day from panhandling.
The amount is the same as working an eight-hour day in a minimum wage job in New York, where the state-mandated minimum wage is $8.75.
One homeless man - a former professional who had become a drug addict and ended up one the streets - said: 'People... are very kind and and give me food and on a good day I can get about 70-80 dollars which shows you the kindness of New Yorkers.'
And Patrick Kolher, who begs outside the Trump International Hotel at Central Park West, said he regularly saw donations of $70 a day into his collection tin.
If the amount of money they can make is encouraging people on to the streets there is little policing to drive them off.
Daily Mail Online has established figures which show how little police action has been taken against the problem.
Arrests for offenses normally associated with the homeless and street dwellers and assessed under the quality of life bracket, have dropped drastically since the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor.
The self-proclaimed champion of 'the progressive agenda' came into office after a campaign in which he was critical of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk tactics.
He set himself as a reformer who would move away from the aggressive policing championed by former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his successor Michael Bloomberg, which was credited with dramatically cutting crime in the city, which went from being one of the most dangerous in the US, to one of the safest.
But figures provided by the NYPD suggest that their 35,000 officers - of whom around 20,000 are on regular, uniformed patrol duties - are making far fewer arrests for the sort of quality of life crimes which blight streets.
The department provided figures for previous years, but only those for the first three months of this year.
They show that in 2007, for the consumption of alcohol on streets, 129,073 people received criminal charges. Over the years the numbers went up or remained steady until de Blasio was elected.
This year, during the first three months, police summonsed only 12,477 which means at that rate, less than half of those arrested in Bloomberg's last year of 2013 will have faced charges.
In crimes such as littering, urinating, exposure, spitting and pan handling, the number of arrests have also dropped.
In 2013, there were 8372 charges for littering. In 2014 when de Blasio took office the number dropped to 7886. For the first three months of 2015, there were 1227 arrests.
People who were accused of urinating in public faced courts 29,579 times in 2013. This figure fell to 28,609 last year when the current mayor took power and the first three months of 2015 saw 4,547 summonsed.
Arrests for exposure in 2013 were 723. In 2014 the number stood at 619 and for the first quarter of this year, the figure was 108.
Police held for spitting numbered 2230 in 2013.Last year it was down to 1827 and until March of this year the figure stood at 324.
In 2013 there were 56,103 arrests for disorderly conduct. Yet between January 1 2015 and the end of March there were 7005, which is again heading for a 50 per cent reduction.
A New York Police Department spokesman told Daily Mail Online: 'If someone is stopped for aggressive panhandling and they have no ID they will be arrested.'
But only 50 people were arrested for the offense up until March this year, while in 2013 there were 310 and last year 201 in the same period.
A police spokesman declined to answer a question of whether police under de Blasio have been instructed to have a softer approach to street crime.
This week, however, Bratton said that his officers would be tackling the problem - with the department's chief of patrol describing how they would be asking the homeless 'why are you out here? Where are you from?', the New York Times reported.
Bratton provided the first official estimate of the scale of the problem, saying there were as many as 4,000 sleeping on the New York streets, compared to 56,000 in homeless shelters.
'Chase them': Rudolph Giuliani has been severely critical of the response to the homelessness crisis, saying that police have to act to get people off the streets
The city's laws mean that anyone who is homeless is entitled to a place in a shelter.
Of the 3,000 to 4,000 on the streets, Bratton said: 'It's a number that's been growing over a period of time,
'It's reached a tipping point, however, I think, to use that term, that it did become more visible this summer.'
Officers are now moving through a total of 80 homeless 'encampments' which they have identified.
One was removed this week in Harlem, an increasingly trendy area which has seen complaints of aggressive beggars around its busiest stations.
But the action only goes some way towards meeting vocal criticism made by Giuliani of the current state of policing.
He revealed last month how he had complained at his local police precinct about a homeless man who was urinating near his Upper East Side home.
He told NBC 4 New York that his message was: 'You chase 'em and you chase 'em and you chase 'em and you chase 'em, and they either get the treatment that they need or you chase 'em out of the city.
'I had a rule. You don't get to live on the streets.'
That put him at odds with de Blasio's administration, who say that street homelessness is related to a growth in the number of homeless people overall - which they say is because of Giuliani and Bloomberg.
They claim that increasingly expensive rents are making it impossible for the poorest to live in New York, leading them to move into shelters.
However another factor appears to be leading to the increasing dysfunction on the streets - a wave of cheap drugs, especially heroin, which can be bought in New York for just $10 a fix.
A leading expert charged with treating heroin addicts in New York has described the drug problem as an 'epidemic'.
Monika Taylor, who runs drug treatment at a hospital in Syracuse, NY, and who has been tasked by New York state to look at the problem, told Daily Mail Online the crisis is being fueled by the cheap price of the drug on the streets.