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Parks beefs up PEP officers’ presence in Washington Square after supervisor’s beatdown in vendors table dispute

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | There are more PEP officers and fewer vendors tables in Washington Square Park after a violent incident two Fridays ago that saw three young men beat and stomp a park supervisor in a dispute over a table.

The Daily News had a brief report on the assault later the same day it happened, saying, “Three men beat up a Washington Square Park supervisor on Friday after confronting him for removing a picnic table from the park’s famed water fountain.”

This past Sunday afternoon, a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer standing posted on the side of the pathway near the park’s bathrooms, said he and another officer there with him usually work in the Bronx but had both been assigned to the landmark Greenwich Village park for the day. Asked if he had heard about the supervisor being beaten up, he promptly answered, “That’s why we’re here.”

“They said, ‘Yeah, somebody got jumped, three guys’ — and that’s it,” he said. “I heard about it this morning for the first time. I don’t know what day it happened, what time or to who. They said that’s what happened, that’s why we’re here.”

He said it was Washington Square Park staff who had filled them in about the incident.

“I’m not even sure I should be talking to you,” the PEP officer told The Village Sun. However, he said, he didn’t have a problem with the newspaper stating the name on his badge, “I. ARIAS.”

“It’s my first time ever in this park,” he shared.

PEP officers in groups of four were patrolling Washington Square Park on Sun., July 17. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Asked how things were going so far on Sunday around 1:40 p.m., he shrugged, “Pretty smooth, honestly.”

Nearby along the path a strung-out-looking guy hanging onto a slice of pizza repeatedly woozily approached a water fountain, though without ever actually succeeding in pushing the button.

“I prefer it here,” the PEP officer reflected, contrasting it to his usual beat patrolling parks all over the Bronx. Asked why, he said, “The people…calmer people here, nicer people.”

Things weren’t calm and nice, however, on Fri., July 8, just before 5 p.m., when, according to police, the young trio attacked a park staffer. A Police Department spokesperson said, a Parks employee — identified in the report as a “supervisor” — was “moving a table that was thrown inside a park fountain, when he was approached by three individuals.”

There was “a heated quarrel over the table,” he said. “After an exchange of words,” one of the men punched the Parks employee in the face and another punched him the head, knocking him to the ground. Other information the spokesperson was able to pull together on the incident said the supervisor was walking with the table when all three individuals ran around him and hit him in the face multiple times, and then, after he fell down, kicked and stomped him.

(Photo by The Village Sun)

The park supervisor suffered a broken nose and a cut eyebrow and was taken for treatment to Beth Israel Hospital, the spokesperson said.

The three suspects are still at large.

It wasn’t clear why the table had been thrown into the fountain or who threw it there — if it might have been other vendors competing for space, for example.

Vending, for the most part, is illegal in the park.

The Bronx PEP referred The Village Sun to a PEP officer whose usual beat is Washington Square Park for more information, but the latter said they have been told not to discuss the incident. However, she said, it probably would come up at the monthly Sixth Precinct Community Council meeting on Thurs., July 28.

Captain Stephen Spataro, the Sixth Precinct’s commanding officer, and a Parks Department spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Nutcrackers — tequila and orange juice — for sale for $10 in the Greenwich Village park. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Another vendor said that the day after the supervisor’s broad-daylight beating, a PEP officer swooped in and abruptly berated him and several other nearby vendors to pack up and get out.

The vendor, for his safety, asked that he remain anonymous in this article and only be identifed as a non-marijuana vendor.

“I think I reaped the consequences of that,” he said, referring to the attack on the park worker. “Last Saturday a [Parks] cop, with no warning, came up and told us to get the hell out of here.”

The vendor said he knows that, in his own case, he has a right to sell his products in the park, but that, given the officer’s intensity, he just decided to follow the order and leave for the day that time.

In fact, he’s more concerned about the sometimes fierce competition for spots around the park fountain that, he said, in one case, turned scary for him. Basically, he said, about a month ago “a pot dealer” angling for the same spot as him threatened him with violence. Again, for his safety, the man didn’t want the exact details of what happened reported.

The vendor said when he related the incident to a PEP officer, “I was told, there’s more of them than me,” meaning more cannabis vendors. “I was just flabbergasted. So I told him, ‘So now we’re doing street rules?'”

The signal he was sent by the PEP officer was clear, he said: “At this point, I’m on my own.”

The Parks Department has beefed up its PEP presence in Washington Square Park following the recent broad-daylight beatdown of a supervisor there. (Photo by The Village Sun)

However, the assault on the park supervisor clearly has sparked the Parks Department to beef up its PEP presence in the park. This past Sunday, at least two crews of PEP officers — with four officers per unit — were patrolling in tight knots throughout the park. They walked up and down the pathways — even through the park’s drug-drenched northwest corner. They circled the fountain walking four abreast. They weren’t just standing around.

On this day, there were fewer vendors tables than in the past ringing the fountain and no clothes racks. And unlike Friday night two days earlier, when skateboarders had dominated the area from the fountain to the arch, doing flying tricks off the benches, noticeably no one was shredding.

13 Comments

  1. Village Mom Village Mom July 18, 2022

    Thanks for shining a light on this.
    Sadly, no surprise here: Violence surely follows drugs, money and illegal activity. Innocent citizens/children are at risk of becoming victims. Washington Square Park has been allowed to become a hub of this activity and it is swallowing the neighboring community and businesses. Hard drugs are regularly sold with impunity in the NW and SW corners of the park. How do the same dealers avoid arrest? Why is there not a regular outreach stationed in the park for helping the addicts? Why are long-standing park rules unenforced?
    Total failure by Parks Department, Community Board 2 and local elected officials.
    One would think a progressive community would attempt creative solutions. Too many people in comfortable positions of authority for far too long. A new leadership is needed, clean sweep. Sadly, a complacent and apathetic community gets what it permits.

  2. john sullivan john sullivan July 18, 2022

    I was in the park on Sunday, July 17. About 5 pm a large group of young men came cycling into the park. Many did wheelies as they kept in a tight group. It was alarming since they were and did take over the pathway leading out to University Place and Washington Square North. There were at least 25 young men in this “keep out of our way” bicycle harassment. All the entrants to the park evidently needed to be blocked to avoid possible future and unexpected violence.

    • D Marrocolla D Marrocolla July 30, 2022

      What I hate most about Washington Square Park is all the panhandling junkies that are always asking for money and no matter how much you give they always want more, then act like you own them. Second, I go there to relax in quiet; I’m so sick of all the drumming, it so annoying to listen to.

  3. villagespawn villagespawn July 18, 2022

    Yeah, it’s a “calm” crowd over there; they’re largely junkies on the nod! Unbelievable to imagine the gall of these characters attacking park staff. I grew up biking around that fountain, dodging buses before they were banned (yes, I’m that old) and have sang in many Christmases under the Arch. I guess we can be glad the graffiti attacks on the statues have been lessened. I think we need the Sixth Precinct to make some visits. They’re fantastic. Working in the Village for years gives them a level of patience maybe no officers have anywhere else. There has to be a way to make my old park safe for children. Makes me nostalgic for the sweet ol’ winos of the ’60s!

  4. Robert Lederman Robert Lederman July 18, 2022

    An inexcusable incident, however, I wouldn’t describe marijuana dealers as “vendors” since it is:
    1. 100% illegal to sell marijuana anywhere in NY without a dispensary license.
    2. Technically illegal to sell anything in WSP from a table or stand due to the distance-from-objects rules passed in 2010.
    3. Other than the food concessions, only books and art can be sold in any NYC park without a Parks Department permit.
    4. Those “vending” marijuana are not vendors; they are drug dealers.
    Not even the dumbest actual vendor would think they could get away with beating up a PEP officer.

  5. Anon Park Regular Anon Park Regular July 18, 2022

    This has been an issue for years and only escalated during COVID. For years the PEP officers have ignored skateboarders, cyclists, etc. disrupting and creating a dangerous environment with flying skateboards and near misses. The skaters became emboldened more and more, even before COVID, and bashed a worker in the head https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-skateboard-attack-park-20191021-yo26xccatrbujaohm2zxmzavgq-story.html

    Incident after incident has happened, with parents and small children and elderly being confronted and threatened when people are nearly hit with a flying skateboard and then voicing their concern to skaters, only to be met with F-YOU’s and threats or escalated violence.

    Park rules are meant to allow buskers and artists as expressive matter as legal, and that fight was fought many times to establish what is legal and what is not after 2011, when numerous artists tickets were dismissed. Yet the park rules that PEP officers were enforcing at the time were never changed in any way and rules remain on the books that no one can vend, etc. within 5 feet of a bench or 50 feet of a monument (basically, the entire park).

    This is a pattern of selective enforcement that suits the PEP and NYPD’s conveniences, and now that we have an ex-police officer as mayor, things are actually worse. Don’t want to step on the toes of the boys in blue or actually make them work!

    For years they suckle the budget teet of $6 BILLION a year and show up in force with massive numbers to get OT and (check Facebook) barricade the park and arch for a “pillow fight.” Yet they ignore the day-to-day enforcement against people threatening parkgoers’ safety and well-being, so that the park can be enjoyable for the community and families with children.

    Hey Mayor, get your shit together!!

  6. Dad won't take the kids here anymore. Dad won't take the kids here anymore. July 19, 2022

    The park has really been abandoned by those responsible for keeping it safe for all. I won’t bring my toddlers there anymore with all the riffraff and drug paraphernalia strewn about. You can’t even walk about the paths with all the debris, human waste, vomit, spit, etc.
    I feel for the legitimate businesses who pay for hefty park permits and performers in the park who follow rules.
    Do other parents share my outrage? Can we find a way to get together to bring attention to this? A protest/rally/press event? This is our neighborhood, we need to take it back and dump the bureaucrats. We pay taxes and we all deserve better.

  7. Carol Bosch Carol Bosch July 19, 2022

    Great idea, long overdue, I’m so fed up at this point.
    I’ll participate in that rally!

  8. Thomas K Thomas K July 20, 2022

    I’m a senior, a veteran and I have some disabilities. I just want to sit in the park quietly, with my pug dog, read a book, enjoy some sunshine, and maybe chat with folks. I have to dodge skateboards, bikes, druggies and other illegal activities. My dog is petrified of skateboards that batter the park. With my bad lungs, I can’t even breath there with all the smoking of pot and stuff. There are no rules.

    I served my country, contributed to the community and now I’m tossed aside. Thanks for nothing, shame on you. Sorry to see the officers get beat up, no one deserves that. But what do you expect when you let the place turn into a free-for-all crap hole? You need more than mall cops in green on patrol here.

    • Frank on Fourth Frank on Fourth July 22, 2022

      You are right man, LOL, I think they hire the security guards from the closed CVS on University Place.

  9. VILLAGE RESIDENT VILLAGE RESIDENT July 24, 2022

    ALL Village residents MUST contact Christopher Marte, our coucilmember, and demand he take action to get OUR park under control. Community Board 2 worthless; PEP officers worthless. Vending in Park requires licenses. No smoking of anything allowed in City Parks. Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.

  10. SLA SLA July 25, 2022

    Really says something about how much NYC has changed that regular non-rich people who just want to do regular things like sit in a quiet clean green space (rather than a park with menacing people/drug sales etc) or would like to sleep at night (rather than restaurant shack noise) or use a bus (rather than diverted bus due to open streets) or shop at local store (gone due to gentrification/ecommerce etc) can no longer count on any of these or other basic things for a minimal liveable daily life.

    In the meantime apparently it is completely Ok for:
    1) the rich and cool to have transformed NYC into a luxury playground that benefits them — and then get to to enjoy their vacations out of the city whenever it suits them.
    2) to criticize (“NIMBY” etc) anyone who would just like to sleep at night as above…

  11. marcos marcos August 12, 2022

    if i wanted to buy something, i’ll go to a store, not a park. also, what’s with the skaters running into people? that’s a threat to people’s safety. they should be kicked out permanently.

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