It was winter and late. People had their windows closed and at most saw part of the attack and did not understand the seriousness. No one saw the knife. The assailant broke off and resumed the attack three times, and followed Genovese around a corner and into her apartment lobby.
One man shouted at the attacker to leave, and he did, for a while. Someone else called the police, but there was no 911 system or central dispatch, you had to reach your local station.
NYT made it seem like 40 people stared into a courtyard like a stage and did nothing. Not so. There was a narrative to push: white working-class indifference. The civil rights movement was revving up and so was black on white violence. A focus on a mixed race serial killer wouldn’t have served at all.