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Editorial: Target the drug dealers

As The Village Sun has been reporting, Washington Square and the surrounding streets are grappling with serious issues of open drug use and drug dealing, homelessness and untreated mental illness. These concerns are seriously impacting quality of life and safety in the park, as well as nearby residents and businesses, plus all who visit the area.

There was a murder in the park earlier this summer and — in two stories broken by — the park’s administrator was attacked and injured, and a man’s death in the park two weeks ago is being investigated as a possible drug overdose.

Other park issues include vending — by both expressive-matter artist vendors and unlicensed pot vendors — and buskers’ amplified music, plus skateboarding and biking, which are not allowed in the park.

But crack, heroin and the untreated mentally ill on the streets are the biggest challenges. This problem has been building in the park for some years now — focused in its northwest corner — and only grew during the pandemic, spreading into the nearby streets. Many charge it’s because of changes in our criminal-justice system, among other things — such as lawmakers not wanting to penalize drug users.

Whatever the reason, many residents, merchants and local stakeholders are now saying, “Enough!” They want the laws and the park’s rules enforced. They want action to address the park’s entrenched, open-air drug supermarket.

Washington Square and the Village are not yet Kensington, Philadelphia — yet they are a smaller version of it. If you haven’t watched those videos yet — they’re chilling. Similar sad situations are playing out in places like San Francisco and Portland. It’s a national problem. Zombie nation. …

The answers aren’t necessarily easy. Last summer residents on W. Fourth Street banded together to hire security guards — armed with handguns. The block association was advised that since the dealers all have weapons, the guards should, too.

But the first step clearly is to cut the drug supply — target the dealers. The 6th Precinct is making narcotics busts in the park, on Eighth Street, on Sixth Avenue, as has reported.

But Captain Jason Zeikel, the precinct’s commander, notes police “can’t just go in and grab everybody” in the park’s corner: They must witness sales or do buy-and-busts, building strong cases, so the arrests “stick.”

More officers for the 6th would help. Councilmember Erik Bottcher, who has made addressing untreated mental illness a top issue, is helping lead the call on the precinct’s need for reinforcements, reaching out to Philip Banks, deputy mayor for public safety. As of press time, Bottcher hoped to hear back after Labor Day. On homelessness, Bottcher is hopeful about the mayor’s plan to create more affordable housing by residentially converting now-underused office buildings in Midtown South. Bottcher, whose district reaches as far east as Sixth Avenue, has been participating in multiagency walk-throughs focused on addressing street conditions.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, for her part, has been in direct contact with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on area shoplifting. She says Bragg is really focusing on organized shoplifting rings, which resell the stolen goods online.

Councilmember Christopher Marte, meanwhile, whose district currently includes Washington Square Park, is independently meeting with stakeholders on various issues about the park and neighborhood. He hopes especially to help broker a compromise between the park’s artist vendors and police and Parks Enforcement Police, who have recently tightened enforcement in the fountain plaza. It’s a key issue both for the park’s enjoyment and its creative tradition. Marte said the overall goal is for the park to be both “fun and safe.” He admits, though, it’s been hard to stamp out the drugs. Marte has gone on the same multiagency walk-throughs of Sixth Avenue with Bottcher, and they have both done similar walk-throughs in the park.

We reached out to Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who will represent the park in the new year, due to redistricting, but did not hear back. The same for a press spokesperson for Mayor Adams. Rivera might well be deferring to Marte at this point, since the park’s still in his district. But it’s disappointing that the mayor is not showing leadership on such a pressing community issue.

When we did exit polling at P.S. 41 for the general election in 2022, a number of voters living nearby said safety — specifically, the deterioration of Sixth Avenue — was their top issue. Despite being registered Democrats, some voted for Republican Lee Zeldin for governor, as a result. In short, people are alarmed about what’s going on on the streets. Yes, empty storefronts and a drop in foot traffic are part it, but it’s bigger than just that.

Adams himself has warned that some Asian voters, afraid about crime, are now trending G.O.P.

Mr. Mayor, heed your own words! This is a very serious issue for voters.


  1. Anonymous Anonymous September 5, 2023

    Interesting that Rivera is silent. Earlier this summer she introduced herself to WSP concertgoers as their councilmember. She campaigned for reelection saying that she wanted to bring her approach to dealing with drug addicts, drug dealers and homelessness in Tompkins Square Park to WSP. Beware: She only gives money to nonprofits to pick up & count hypodermic needles, host soup kitchens and to pick up trash, which may sound great, but doesn’t solve the problem of crime and safety.

    • Jan Jan September 6, 2023

      It’s not really interesting. It’s predictable and appropriate. Rivera is not the council member for WSP. Perhaps she’s staying quiet because Marte still represents that district. The new district lines go into effect in January, after the general election.

  2. Alejandra Alejandra September 4, 2023

    I am seeing drugs being sold at lunchtime on Mercer St. and all around NYU campus. There is a little park between 3rd and 4th Sts. on Mercer that they now sell drugs out of and are super-aggressive. I don’t feel safe anymore and it’s not a place for kids. My kids had to see someone inject themselves and take a poop in the subway last week. Had enough of this neighborhood and lack of police. I am voting Republican for the first time. We can’t let our city turn into San Francisco.

  3. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost September 2, 2023

    I’m commenting on both the article and the editorial. I’d love to click my Likes, but they never register at all. Must not Like me! Get the drug dealers out of the park. Period. I’m a progressive, but I want wrongdoers arrested, no matter how they look. In the other comment I forgot to mention the skateboarders. They don’t belong there, either. If there could be a way to get the addicts to healthcare treatment, we’d be better off.

  4. jackDog jackDog September 2, 2023

    In the progressive paradise one must not enforce the traffic laws against delivery riders because most of them are immigrants. One must not arrest the WSQ drug dealers because most of them are of color. And if it would be unpopular to arrest the buyers — which would diminish demand and thwart the dealers — that leaves arresting the elected public officials who pass the laws that discourage enforcement by the NYPD because of lack of judicial discretion and the revolving no-bail door.

    • Ala Ala September 3, 2023

      The social justice warrior elected officials would change their tune if their lives were impacted – eg rats or no sleep due to restaurant shacks, getting hit by a bicyclist, kid menaced by homeless etc

  5. Mac Mcgill Mac Mcgill September 1, 2023

    Excellent article!…Thank you, Village Sun!….Washington Square Park has always been a gathering place for all New Yorkers, I think it’s because of all the subway lines that are close to it…My family and I visit the park frequently and we have noticed the decline lately, especially since the pandemic…please continue to report about Washington Square Park and Downtown….us New Yorkers appreciated it…please ignore out-of-towners who just troll New York City.

  6. Long Time Villager Long Time Villager September 1, 2023

    Bravo, Village Sun.
    Stunning that no officials or elected or otherwise have boldly stood up (credit however to Botcher who is both engaged and active and WSP is not in his district…yet…as I’ll predict him to be mayor some day). This is not a new problem — it was exacerbated by the pandemic but certainly predated it. Pointing to a petition over two years old. And, yes, residents are still fed up. Some of said problems have been remedied (thanks to the 6th Precinct) but many remain. Folks need to rally in the park and take it back!!!

    No one moves to the WSP area expecting it to be a quiet botanical garden of reflective solitude. It is what it is, a bold center of the dynamic and changing times. That being said, lawlessness, drug dealing — frequently with fatal consequences — and violence is indefensible. Come enjoy the park, be bold, be joyous. Hey, be on the edge even. But don’t do stuff you wouldn’t do in your neighborhood. Neighbors unite and take back the park.

    see link:


  7. John Penley John Penley September 1, 2023

    2 Likes on this editorial, so what does that tell you? People don’t care and give me a break since the NY Post [which you seem to LIKE since you have a similar position to them] has been writing the same editorial and sensationalizing these issues for 40 years, and guess what? Nothing has changed in Washington Square Park. Move on!!!

    • Charles Riley Charles Riley September 1, 2023

      So what does that tell you, John? it was posted yesterday. those are Facebook likes, I for one click like and it does not register here on the web site. Regardless, that is your defense? likes? NY Post ? Have you actually walked in the park and community? “Move on”… to what? You think this is just a 1960s counterculture Bob Dylan hippy coffeehouse moment? Talk about delusional. Sorry this upsets you but, from what I see, you are in the clear minority. We are fighting back as a community. Aging hippies who think addicts shooting up, overdosing and stealing is O.K. be damned. MOVE On, John. Key West (or Boca) awaits.

      • Bill Hardt Bill Hardt September 1, 2023

        “MOVE On, John. Key West (or Boca) awaits.’

        Worse, John Penley lives in Las Vegas. Seriously.
        He ain’t gonna get mugged in WSP.
        Yet he criticizes these well-founded news reports. Hypocrite much?

  8. Mary Mary September 1, 2023

    This has been an issues since the pandemic and has grown out of control. You go to parks in the neighborhoodhood, you find needles and other drug paraphernalia left around. You might actually see someone shooting up. They have to get the drug dealers out of the area, period. You can only do so much for addicts, they have to want to help themselves. There is no magic cure for addiction, sadly. It’s hard to watch people self-destruct.

  9. JohnS JohnS August 31, 2023

    I predict that neither Adams nor Rivera will meet the moment. They have never really shown the capacity to make big decisions that benefit the public. All special interest.

    If Marte is wasting his time on the artist vending issue, then he should be replaced. That is not even remotely close to being as important as public safety and drug problems in and around the park and Sixth Ave. I believe we call that whistling by the graveyard.

    True leaders are in short supply these days. Seems like Bottcher is at least focused on the right issue.

    • Kate Herskovitz Kate Herskovitz September 11, 2023

      Now that it’s too expensive for creative young people to afford, Greenwich Village seems inhabited by people whose logic is so faulty they would flunk my 3rd grade class:
      According to the article, TARGT THE DEALERS, the main issues with which we are dealing in Wash. Sq. Park are, “open drug use, homelessness, and untreated mental illness.” The solution proposed is “Target the Dealers”! Huh????
      That makes no rational sense whatsoever.
      Dealers do not cause homelessness.
      Dealers do not cause mental illness.
      And if these two issues were solved, there would be little ‘open drug use.”

      Target the dealers, is like saying target the giraffes.
      Dealers are NOT the problem.
      • Not having homes is the problem
      • Not getting good mental care is the problem.
      My advice: Target the Park Conservancy which is too lazy to do anything but pass the blame to ‘dealers’ who have nothing to do with the real issues that we citizens of The Village have failed to address

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