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Police to hold emergency community meeting on Washington Square Park

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated June 15, 6:30 p.m.: This is gonna be a big one. There might be some fireworks — and, no, not in Washington Square Park, as happens nightly nowadays, but about the park.

The Sixth Precinct is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the state of the Greenwich Village landmark park. The meeting will be at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, at 25 Carmine St., at Bleecker St., starting at 6 p.m.

In an e-mail notice to the community, Captain Stephen Spataro urged people to attend.

“Get the word out,” he wrote. “[This] is your opportunity to have your voices heard. We are inviting stakeholders, the media, elected officials and Community Board 2. Our Chief of Department [Rodney Harrison] might be in attendance as well.”

The meeting follows the by-now well-known “fed up” anonymous open letter from May from area residents to local politicians demanding the enforcement of the park’s curfew and other regulations.

“We are fed up with the lack of enforcement of basic long-standing laws and the illegal activity that regularly occurs in and around the park,” the letter says. “We are fed up with the lack of enforcement of standing curfews. We are fed up with loud amplified music that runs well past midnight. We are fed up with the residual trash, broken glass, food waste and human waste that remains after those illegal events. We are fed up with drug dealing, drug use and junkies commandeering and regularly occupying the northwest and southwest quadrants of the park for the purpose of drug sales and use.”

Three weeks ago, police fenced off the park’s northwest corner. The drug users have since relocated to the benches along the park’s east-west walkway west of the fountain plaza.

Dorsey Adler, the director of the Central Village Co-op and Condo Alliance, which represents 16 co-ops and condos —  a total of more than 3,300 apartments — recently issued an e-mail call for “immediate actions” on the park.

Referring to the “fed up” letter, Adler writes, “I and the CVCA members are in full agreement with the…list of complaints having to do with the condition of our neighborhood in terms of security, safety, health and a myriad of disturbances that have been occurring and recently intensifying… .

Adler called on the Mayor’s Office, police, the Parks Department, councilmembers and the Washington Square Park Conservancy “to do what needs to be done to rectify the very concerning and potentially dangerous atmosphere in and around Washington Square Park and its historic environs.”

Another local resident recently circulated an outraged e-mail stating, “We have been forced to accept lawlessness and violent activities as the norm for WSP and Greenwich Village and it is NOT okay. … The park has become a cesspool of criminal activities which spills over into our streets. The park is overrun with visitors whose only intent is to wreak havoc and occupy the park for illicit activities. Last night a group of men climbed up on the statue of Washington and graffitied vulgarities all over the arch. There are nightly fireworks at all hours of the night, in all parts of the crowded park. Drug use, drug sales, theft, physical abuse and prostitution are blatant. ATVs, dirt bikes and motorcycles regularly rip through the park.”

Monday afternoon, the upcoming meeting was the hot topic among residents entering One Fifth Ave., just north of the park.

One woman noted she was very impressed by a June 11 op-ed in the Daily News by Brandon del Pozo, the former commanding officer of the Sixth Precinct from 2011 to 2013.

Headlined “The wrong way to police Washington Square Park: How things got so bad,” del Pozo’s piece argues that consistent enforcement of the rules has been lacking.

“Washington Square Park is a place that will always get out of control if you let it,” the former C.O. writes. “Where things stand now seems to be the worst of all worlds. The conditions in one of the world’s most beloved urban parks have become intolerable for people who want to enjoy it in more understated ways, and for the people who live near it and need to sleep at night. The people who were in the park until all hours pursuing their uses of it had come to believe it was okay, and the city gave them little reason to think otherwise. The police went from years of moderate enforcement to a period of little or no enforcement at all, then to a night of force and arrests.”

The park was calm on a recent weekday afternoon. But at night it’s been a different story. (Photo by The Village Sun)

The “night of force and arrests” he refers to occurred on Sat., June 5, when a large detail of riot-helmet-wearing police moved to clear the park for the new 10 o’clock weekend curfew, but a group of 100 young park users resisted them. There were 23 arrests.

Del Pozo argues that the park now needs to be “renormed” through transparent and consistent, though “not draconian,” policing.

The One Fifth Ave. resident, who requested anonymity, said of del Pozo’s op-ed, “He writes really well about the competing interests in the park in an intelligent, articulate and understanding way.”

The woman said that before the COVID pandemic hit, Washington Square Park was “pretty normal.”

Now, she said of the park at night, “It’s loud. And our bedroom is right across from the park.”

She said, though, that she understands it’s the Village.

“I get it, I don’t have to live here,” she said. “If I wanted total quiet, I could live in the country.” However, she added, “The amplified music is not allowed. Those are the rules.”

The resident said she supported the earlier 10 p.m. curfew that was in place for two weekends, but was reportedly dropped last weekend. But she and others said the park’s longstanding 12 a.m. curfew should now be enforced.

“The law is the park should be closed at midnight,” she said.

A 13-year resident of the building, she noted she had volunteered in the park the day before, doing a morning cleanup.

“I am a big believer in Gandhi — be the change you want,” she said. “It’s not enough to complain.”

For his part, a neighbor said he was furious at David “Shaman” Ortiz, a Queens man who has been organizing late-night raves and boxing matches in the Village park. Ortiz, who is a deejay, recently mocked local residents who complain about the rowdy park as “Kevins” and “Karens,” telling them to move if they don’t like it.

“This is my response to the residents,” Ortiz, 28, told the New York Post. “If you have an issue with amplified sound and you live in the Downtown area, you live in the Washington Square Park area, then you should move. I’m not letting anybody steal our joy.”

“Why can’t we all do it at his house and not here?” the Villager retorted. “Who gives this guy the right to think he can do this? We need to get 100 or 200 people, show up at his door, stomp on his vehicles, relieve ourselves on his place. We should have a boxing match on his lawn, and just do everything that he does here. Who the f— is he? ‘The Shaman,'” he scoffed.

“Don’t give him any power,” the woman interjected, adding, “I’m not moving.”

Like others, the man was confused about where the park’s curfew stands.

“What happened to the curfew?” he asked. “For two weekends it was 10 p.m. Then there was no curfew. Then I heard it was midnight. But then I heard [a stabbing] in the park at 3 a.m.”

In fact, the New York Post reported two men were each knifed in the leg this past Sunday morning around 2:15 a.m. when a dispute broke out among a group of people dancing in the park.

The male One Fifth Ave. resident predicted it would probably sadly take some serious incident involving a “rich kid” from New York University before the authorities start enforcing the rules at the Village park again.

“The old people that live in the neighborhood, they’ve been cooped up during coronavirus, too,” he said. “They want to use the park. The Shaman should displace them? Give them some respect.”

Monday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. the park was calm, at least for periods of time. But the tranquility was broken whenever a drummer seated at a full drum set south of the fountain started to pound away. During past summers, Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, sometimes armed with sound guns to measure decibels, would explain to drummers about the need to keep the volume at a reasonable level.

8 Comments

  1. Obiter Dicta Obiter Dicta June 15, 2021

    Deciding each night when to close the park is counterproductive. Uncertainty does not promote deterrence. On the contrary, it will encourage nightly attempts to test how much amplified noise, chaos and violence will be tolerated (or overlooked) before action is taken. It will be a contest to see how far the outside of the envelope can be pushed. It makes the police look weak and tentative. One gets the feeling that every hour every night, the Commanding Officer will need to call his boss asking “Now?. “Now?”, “Now?”, who will then call NYPD Public Affairs asking “Now?”, “Now?, “Now?”, who will then call the Mayor’s Office, which will scramble to try to make a decision, if that’s possible. By then, it will be 2:30 am when Washington Square Park will have been thoroughly trashed by the triumphant mob.

  2. Arthur Schwartz Arthur Schwartz June 15, 2021

    Oh, CO del Pozo, we miss you!. The former CO is exactly right. The problem is not only Washington Square Park, but policing in our entire area, and north. Cops sit in their cars, have no consistent walking beat (including through the park) and remark all the time that they “don’t want to get involved.” It is becoming much like the 1980s, until Mayor Dinkins, and then Mayor Giuliani, engaged in what was called Community Policing. I knew the cop who walked up and down Bleecker Street. He knew who the drug dealers were and got rid of them. Rules were consistently enforced. THe problems began a year ago, I believe, as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter protest, and the Police Department, from the top down, has decided to teach “us” a lesson. Its time for the NYPD to do their job! (And for our local elected officials to say something!)
    Arthur Schwartz, Candidate for City Council, District 3

  3. richard klein richard klein June 15, 2021

    Shame, shame shame on Community Board Two for totally ignoring the ever-worsening conditions in the Park. The Board is supposed to represent the interests of those who reside within its jurisdiction, yet it refuses to get involved. Incompetence and dereliction of its responsibilities in the extreme.

  4. Matt Umanov Matt Umanov June 15, 2021

    Years ago there was a team of 6th Pct cops who patrolled WSP and called themselves Raiders Of The Lost Arch and they did a great job. I say bring back the concept, make it known that amplified music, loud parties and other illegal activities will not be tolerated, 24/7. As long as the pressure is kept up the problem will abate. Foot patrols are essential. Del Pozo was one of the best C.O.’s we ever had in the 6th. His advice should be sought and taken.

  5. Barbara Ruether Barbara Ruether June 16, 2021

    It appears that the NYPD have totally abandoned the concept of community policing. Over all, I have come to believe that the NYPD are on strike, quietly and sneakily withdrawing from their duty and role as responsive to needs for safety of the public. They feel under attack because the public is trying to restrain misuse of force and asking/requiring more police for support of civic demonstrations. All these factors are part of the difficulties in asking the public using Washington Square Park to be respectful of the community venue and the neighbors. All too are revealing the underlying pain of all that covid wrought.

  6. Margot, lifetime Villager Margot, lifetime Villager June 16, 2021

    First, I read in an article that our precinct is only at half strength. Is that true? Are we loaning officers to the subway program right now as well?
    Second, while I believe VERY strongly in police reform and accountability….I also believe in CIVILIAN accountability. Two-way street. It is totally hypocritical of these young entitled people. They call others entitled…what do they call this? Don’t like riot gear? Then don’t have a track record of throwing bottles that could kill or blind a cop. They have families to go home to too. It never seems to occur to anyone cops can be scared too. I heard the cops asking them to leave from 2 blocks away a full 90 mins after curfew. If you would just leave peacefully they would not show up in riot gear. Cheap complaint from people who would never be willing to BE a cop. Unfortunately it seems to be the new way of the world with young people today. I don’t need to make up names for that — it is called being a spoiled brat. Maybe we need to fully close the park for 1-2 weeks, clear out the addicts and nightlife. Then start again with curfew at dusk like MANY other parks always run with for awhile — including from areas these guys are coming from but won’t violate there. Then we can ramp up as things warrant. I think we have done this before? We used to have a police mini-station thing on the south side of the park at the curb. Can we get that back?

  7. Suzan Mazur Suzan Mazur June 17, 2021

    Arthur Schwartz is so right. The breakdown in public order is pervasive in the West Village. Much of the chaos stems from the makeshift outdoor restaurants. When will these eateries be put back in the box?

    The temp eateries are also a magnet for “musicians” looking to milk the crowd with no concern for disturbing residents of the community. For the second time in recent weeks, on a 90-degree Sunday afternoon, a shock & awe rock band again invaded residential Morton Street. It set up two microphones in front of 58 Morton and began blasting the neighborhood with drums, cymbals, guitar and Janis Joplin wailing. The 6th Precinct allowed the assault on the neighborhood to go on for five hours, advising that the band has First Amendment rights!

    That same afternoon, on Bleecker Street right around the corner from the 6th Precinct, a singer who performs regularly on the outskirts of Union Square was allowed to set up a microphone, AstroTurf! and a dozen or so chairs and was belting out tunes. Union Square is a park. Bleecker Street is not.

    Also, bicycle traffic is completely lawless. It is treacherous even to walk on the sidewalk.

    The West Village deserves to be protected, not trashed. Indeed, it is time it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  8. David David June 17, 2021

    I walked through Washington Square, Park yesterday. Everything that’s been written here is 100% true. It’s a total cesspool of drug dealers, old crack whores and very aggressive nasty behavior.

    I walked through it twice, and was approached by drug dealers half a dozen times within just five minutes. The park’s west end is filled with lowlifes and hookers. The park is overrun with skateboarders loudly disrupting people, moving dangerously close and very fast.

    I did not see one single police officer. Anywhere. No police cars none outside the park. Zero.

    Zero police. Let that sink in.

    If I was a criminal I would definitely want to hang out there because there is no law enforcement whatsoever.

    The NYPD has completely Abandoned Washington Square Park.

    The future is clear. WSP is the new Mecca for street criminals and lowlifes in New York City. Spilling over into adjacent neighborhoods.

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