BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Will Morrison, the administrator of Washington Square Park, was reportedly attacked in the park two weeks ago while trying to video illegal conditions there. According to some sources, his arm may even have been broken — though The Village Sun was unable to confirm that, and the Parks Department seems to be indicating that did not happen. Then again, the department could be trying to play down the incident.
The Parks Department provided few details — yet, in a statement, ultimately did say, “We condemn this act of violence.”
In a dual role, Morrison was also recently appointed the executive director of the Washington Square Park Conservancy.
On Thursday a source tipped off The Village Sun about the story, saying she heard about it from a friend who, in turn, had heard it from a man who is “a local business leader in the neighborhood.” The source did not have all the facts, but said she thought the incident had been recent — possibly that same day. She said what she heard is that Morrison’s arm was broken as he was videoing illegal activity in the park.
Both the 6th Precinct and the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (police press department) declined to comment publicly on the matter, referring questions to the Parks Department.
However, Dan Kastanis, Parks senior press officer, when queried about the incident, initially e-mailed back just a brief chronological correction, stating, “This was two weeks ago.”
Responding to a follow-up question from the Sun, the spokesperson offered only a vague sense of the incident, terming it “minor,” and not clarifying what Morrison had been doing at the time of the alleged assault.
“[I] don’t believe he broke his arm or he had to go to the ER, and that his injuries were minor,” he said, adding he would circle back with more information.
Finally, in another e-mail — after the Sun, still seeking more details about the attack, gave a hard deadline for this article’s publication — the spokesperson dubbed the incident an “act of violence.”
“The safety of our staff is our top priority, and we condemn this act of violence,” Kastanis said. “We’re happy to report that no major injuries were sustained, and we will continue working with N.Y.P.D. as they investigate this incident.”
Again, as far as any investigation, police are not commenting on whatever happened, deferring to the Parks Department.
The Parks spokesperson did not describe who the attacker or attackers were or what activity they may have been engaged in when Morrison may have been filming them.
Police notably have been cracking down on weed and hallucinogenic mushroom vendors in the park in recent weeks, coming on the heels of a New York Post article last month about the latter being sold in Washington Square.
For their part, two high-profile artists in the park — Eric Cook, a painter and printmaker, and Kanami Kusajima, an “ink dancer” — said they had not heard about the attack on Morrison.
However, a park denizen, when asked by The Village Sun if he had heard tell of the assault, said yes — and that, in fact, a Washington Square Park worker was his source. He requested anonymity.
“Yes, I did!” the man responded in a Facebook message. “About a week+ ago a longtime park employee friend told me that a week previously, perhaps a Thursday, Will was taking pictures…was it around Garibaldi…and he was attacked by 3? guys bad enough that he went to [the] ER, came out of it wearing a sling. I confirmed it with [the] same employee friend a few days later…but wasn’t told much more than what I’ve related here to you. … It signifies to me a new low in park goings-on… It’s curious they’re downplaying or hiding the event. I’ll ask [my] friend again. … He didn’t seem to know many other details …or wasn’t saying. I don’t know if there were witnesses.”
“Garibaldi” — where the incident reportedly took place — refers to the Garibaldi monument on the park’s east side.
After The Village Sun initially asked the Washington Square parkgoer source last night if he had heard about the incident, he spoke to his employee friend again this morning — only to be told Morrison is now on vacation.
Kusajima said she knows that Morrison is on vacation until Aug. 20. Told by the Sun about the attack, she said it sounds like it happened right before he went on vacation.
Morrison did not respond to a phone call and text message requesting comment. Similarly, a local activist who texted Morrison to inquire about the assault never got a response — which the activist found possibly telling, since the park leader always responds.
Hopefully, whatever injury he suffered is not keeping Morrison from enjoying his vacation.
Wearing a sling, of course, does not necessarily mean a broken bone. It could signify a fracture or a sprained or dislocated shoulder or a sprained wrist, among other injuries.
Thursday evening, a staffer in the Parks building in Washington Square, when asked if she knew about any recent attack on the administrator, said no, responding, “No clue. No clue.”
However, another source — who works in the cultural field — also requesting anonymity, told the Sun, “We heard Will’s arm was broken. He was filming. … Everyone’s being very discreet — I suppose because they feel vulnerable.” A member of her team reportedly heard the news from the same prominent local business leader cited above.
Similar to the parkgoer source, Erika Sumner, vice president of the board of the Washington Square Association, said the violent assault on the young park administrator sums up the greensward’s current state.
“Basically, it’s endemic of the epidemic of violence and hard drug activity that we’re seeing in the park,” she said. “And it’s tragic.”
It’s not be the first time in recent years that a Parks employee was assaulted in the Greenwich Village landmark park. Last summer, a Parks Enforcement Police (PEP) supervisor was beaten to a pulp by pot vendors after he took away their table. As reported by The Village Sun, he suffered a broken nose and needed 16 stitches in the hospital to close gashes on his face.
Washington Square staffers were ordered not to talk to anyone about that incident — but The Village Sun happened to find a PEP officer usually assigned to the Bronx who had been detailed to Washington Square then to beef up the PEPs’ presence because, he said, a Parks worker had been “jumped.”
The Washington Square Association recently went on record calling for the park’s rules — on drug dealing, illegal vending and skateboarding — to be consistently enforced. The association wants enforcement not just against hard drugs in the park, but also on the sale of pot and magic mushrooms, which — until a recent police crackdown — vendors have been selling brazenly from tables in the plaza ringing the park’s fountain. Backing up the WSA, Community Board 2 passed a resolution calling for the park’s rules to be enforced.
Earlier this summer, in the worst crime in the park in years, on June 21, a 35-year-old homeless man was stabbed to death by a 30-year-old homeless man during a dispute in the place’s notorious northwest corner, which is basically an open-air den for hard drugs, like crack and heroin. The alleged killer was arrested a month later.
The murder location is just steps away from a small children’s playground.