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Police ‘reassessing’ Washington Square curfew, let park stay open Sunday night

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | In the words of Monty Python…and now for something completely different.

After the mini-riot in Washington Square Park on Saturday night when police tried to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew and 23 people were arrested, cops took the opposite approach Sunday evening: They were nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, young revelers packed the park by the hundreds, playing amplified music well past the new 10 p.m. curfew. At 12:30 a.m. they were still going strong and could even be heard a couple of blocks away.

A police spokesperson told The Village Sun that the decision not to enforce the early curfew on Sunday evening was “an assessment that was made.”

What time the park actually would close on Sunday night into Monday morning was still unclear when The Village Sun called around 12:15 a.m.

“It’s on an assessment basis when it will close tonight,” the spokesperson said. “They will be told that the park will be closed at a [certain] time.”

As seen in this photo taken around 11:20 p.m. Sunday night, people were ignoring, or maybe just oblivious to, the park’s new 10 p.m. early curfew. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

As for what would happen next weekend, the spokesperson said that a new statement on the curfew situation would be forthcoming before next Friday.

“There will be something more clear,” he explained, adding, “Reassessment will be made on the closing time of the park.”

That statement, he said, could be coming from the police, Parks, City Hall, or all three.

The Parks Department and police recently jointly decided to close the park at 10 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays, two hours earlier than its usual curfew. Signs to that effect were posted at the park’s entrances two weeks ago.

The Parks Department said the reasons for the early curfew included ongoing issues with large crowds and amplified music late at night.

A woman collected litter Sunday night, saying, “We don’t want to give them any reason to kick us out.” (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

Police, in a statement of their own on the early curfew, said, “This decision was made due to safety concerns following several recent incidents where large, sometimes violent groups have refused to leave the park and engaged in disorderly behavior. This behavior has included jumping on vehicles, making threats to officers, throwing objects such as bottles and other objects at police and in one instance throwing unknown objects at responding F.D.N.Y. and E.M.T. vehicles which were responding to a building.”

The first weekend with the early curfew was literally a wash, as rainy weather made it moot, mostly keeping parkgoers away.

On the second weekend, this past Friday went smoothly, as police cleared the square by around 10 p.m.

A skateboarder, at right, was among the group of hundreds hanging out in the park late Sunday night after police did not enforce the new 10 p.m. curfew. They did not enforce the old midnight curfew, either. Some locals want the Parks Department to crack down on skateboarding, which is not allowed in the park. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

But Saturday’s attempt to enforce the early closing time turned confrontational. Twenty-three people were arrested on charges including assault, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, pedestrian on roadway, disorderly conduct and unlawful demonstration. Eight cops reportedly sustained minor injuries.

Videos of the clash showed young parkgoers pushing back as squads of riot-helmet-wearing police tried to herd them toward the park’s southern exits. One cop was even seen picking up and carrying one guy who apparently wouldn’t budge.

A local woman who was passing by the park Sunday night, and requested that her name not be published, said the young parkgoers were feeling euphoric over not having been booted out of the place.

“The music is loud,” she said, calling on her cell phone from Washington Square North, just outside the park. “They were dancing. It was joyous. I was into it for a while. They were celebrating: ‘Where’s the police?’ It was zero police. They’re in a good mood, I can tell you that.”

A fresh round of graffiti marred the marble of the historic Washington Square Park Arch. At right, an electronic police sign announced the park’s new early curfew, but it was not being enforced Sunday night. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

She was calling right before midnight, the park’s normal closing time. Even then, there was no sign that police were moving to shut things down for the night. She said she still did not see any cops around at all.

Something different this night was that the partiers, or at least some of them, were more concerned about not leaving litter behind them, which has been another complaint of neighbors.

“One thing I noticed,” the woman said, “is there are a lot of girls in their 20s that are running around with plastic bags and picking up trash. They said, ‘We don’t want to give them any reason to kick us out.'”

So while police were reassessing, the parkgoers were reveling.

“I’m all the way at MacDougal St. and I can still hear them,” the woman said as she headed home from the park to go to sleep. “They’re pushing it.”

The Villager said she is not a fan of how the park has become a raucous free-for-all. At the same time, she does not support the early closing time, noting she used to enjoy coming out to the park around 10 p.m. to relax. She blamed Parks and the police for allowing the situation to get out of hand.

“They should have been enforcing the rules,” she said.

When The Village Sun called again to check at 1:45 a.m. Monday morning, the police spokesperson said the park still had not been closed.

7 Comments

  1. Waverly Placer Waverly Placer June 7, 2021

    The incompetence and negligence of multiple city and community agencies have caused this problem to reach this level; starting with an incompetent mayor, DA’s and judges who don’t prosecute, and local elected officials who are woefully clueless bureaucrats. Existing laws need to be enforced, plain and simple. Civil disobedience is simply not permissible as a retaliation for basic law enforcement. If officials can’t get this remedied, it is time to vote them out or remove them.

    Many folks young and old enjoy the park cooperatively, sure, often in a boisterous way, and even that’s OK. However, those that are promoting violence, drug dealing, generating trash, destruction of property, being reckless with bikes and skateboards and playing loud amplified music are the ones that are ruining it for all. In that regard there must be a consequence and appropriate prosecution, which has for far too long been missing.

    If this is allowed then why do we need to: obey traffic rules? pay fares on public transportation?

    How hard is this to understand for a society to function properly?

    • cerqueuxles cerqueuxles June 7, 2021

      I absolutely agree with everything you wrote here.

  2. cerqueuxles cerqueuxles June 7, 2021

    What is also really disturbing is the photo with the bicycles. There are signs posted all over the park “No Bicycles” and “No Skateboards.”
    The apathetic police do nothing, and the Park Rangers ignore everything.
    The park and the city are totally out of control due to the police who are still sulking about being called out regarding their own violence and unlawful practices. The police no longer respond to calls for help. (I speak from experience).
    The useless Mayor, DA’s, etc. keep allowing people to sell and use drugs in the park, permit unclothed people to walk around, bathe and douche in the fountains, spread trash and food all over, and do nothing to preserve our park.
    It is unconscionable to give in to these “park terrorists” and keep the park open past 10 PM on ANY NIGHT…including weekdays.
    What was once a respite for New Yorkers…is now a hell that neighbors have to avoid.

  3. Paul Paul June 7, 2021

    Remember drugs are being legalized, marijuana recently, so “drug dealing” is sort of past Giulianish. People have an increasing right to possess drugs and even ply prostitution, it’s legal now.

  4. CHRIS FLASH CHRIS FLASH June 7, 2021

    NYC is sooooo broken.

    An impotent lame-duck mayor egged on by sleaze media and career politicians seeking reelection to “do something” about people gathering in city parks on hot summer nights by bringing in riot squads is the perfect recipe for RIOTS.

    Cops I’ve spoken with want to fight REAL CRIME and catch bad guys — they do NOT want to be put in harm’s way to enforce inconsistent city policies that are irrelevant the next day.

  5. Laurie Moody Laurie Moody Post author | June 9, 2021

    Last night (Tuesday) I walked across the Park from Judson Church a little after 10 pm. I was surprised that there was NO police presence (NYPD or Park Police), nor was there any sign of closure. There was a big sign listing new park rules, but there was no enforcement of rampant skateboarding under the arch, bicycle riding and blaring music from “sound devices.” From reading the sign one might assume the park would be open all night on a Tuesday.

    I did not venture west or East, but there seemed to be groups and similar activities there as well.

    I am confused about the goals of the Park administration and the police.

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