BY THE VILLAGE SUN | East Villagers will meet with Ninth Precinct police Thursday morning to discuss conditions in Tompkins Square Park. Also attending will be Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and Councilmember Carlina Rivera or their representives and contingents from Community Board 3 and city agencies.
According to a tweet announcement by the 9th Precinct, all “concerned residents” are invited to the meeting, which will be held inside the park, reportedly on the Ninth Street path near Avenue B.
Allie Ryan, a leader of the newly formed Friends of Tompkins Square Park group, told The Village Sun she’s especially concerned about seeing the park regularly closed for its nightly curfew once again. She said that since COVID broke out, the park has been closed at midnight only “inconsistently” due to what she called manpower issues at the precinct.
We are also using this medium to invite all concerned residents to Tompkins Square Park this Thursday, November 17th at 10AM to discuss community concerns in regard to the park. Come voice your concerns to us, your community board and local politicians and other City Agencies!! pic.twitter.com/kWQcJ7EdUw
— NYPD 9th Precinct (@NYPD9Pct) November 15, 2022
Ryan — who recently filed to run for City Council in 2023 — said she is also concerned about increased heroin and fentanyl use in the park, which she said is leading to overdoses, sometimes fatal. Her husband, Chris Ryan, recently posted a video of a young man casually shooting up on a park bench in broad daylight.
Walking to vote, past people shooting up 💉 in Tompkins Sq. Trying to shield kids from our new “reality” – but also want them to see their Democracy in action. #vote #nyc #2022 @evgrieve @TheVillageSun @harvey_epstein @AllieRyanNYC @CarlinaRivera @FriendsTSqPark @BrianKavanaghNY pic.twitter.com/haIQI9zJRf
— East Village by Bike 🎥🗳 (@ChrisRyanAction) November 9, 2022
On Aug. 28 around 8 a.m., as was reported by The Village Sun, Kevin Kleber, 39, who went by “Toasty,” was found dead on a park bench, slumped over on top of drug paraphernalia, according to police. The city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner has not yet released Kleber’s cause of death or toxicology report.
Watch @AllieRyanNYC on the TV and then Follow @FriendsTSqPark – more to come 🌹🌸💐🌺🧹💉👦🧒🏼👧🏼👶 https://t.co/LDg00NqIMU
— East Village by Bike 🎥🗳 (@ChrisRyanAction) November 7, 2022
Ryan’s Friends group recently did a trash cleanup in Tompkins Square Park and found a troubling amount of discarded hypodermic needles and crack vials around the place, including mixed in among fallen leaves on the ground.
Although the park has syringe-disposal boxes in the public restrooms, and a biowaste container is available at Seventh Street and Avenue A, obviously a lot of people are simply not using them after they shoot up, she said.
Former East Village activist John Penley, who now lives in Las Vegas, has lost close friends in New York to the OD scourge and is extremely concerned about fentanyl, in particular. He religiously scours sites like The Village Sun, EV Grieve and others to keep up with the local news. He said it’s time to go after the dealers peddling killer smack.
“The 9th Precinct needs to investigate all fentanyl OD deaths in the park, including past deaths, as homicides and not ignore the fact that these deaths were probably caused by Tompkins Square Park dealers,” he declared. “The dealers need to be aware that if their dope causes a death, they will be investigated and prosecuted. Stop sweeping these homicides under the rug, N.Y.P.D.”
When people die from Fentanyl OD or Suicide, their friends almost always want to cover it up and attack those who believe that Silence = Death. Actually, the truth may cause others NOT to do the same thing, but covering it up does the opposite. Those of you who want to cover up may contribute to the next person doing the same thing, especially Fentanyl OD!!!
The City is unable/lacks the resources to administer Tompkins Square Park and address the myriad of issues.
Yet the City goes right along spending money and adding to its “to do” list – Avenue B “Open Streets”
Closing off sections of the park because a small number of people do the wrong thing, thereby punishing the rest of us who use and need OUR FUCKING PARK, is absolutely UN-acceptable.
I attended the meeting today in the park. The Ninth Precinct CO was there with various other cops, as were members of the Dept of Sanitation and Parks Enforcement Patrol [PEP — the Parks Dept’s equivalent of a police force]. For about half an hour, they listened to members of the public talk before they retreated in order to have a “private meeting” elsewhere.
A few people there demanded that the park be closed each night. They claim that the park is “unsafe” due to homeless people and drug users. Nevermind that drug use is rampant all over the city, that drug use takes place in EVERY city park, at ALL hours of the day, and that those who want to get into Tompkins or into any city park after curfew simply jump the fence around the park. Several others bravely countered those pushing for the park to be closed, demanding that the park remain OPEN at night.
The rhetoric used to justify closing the park sounds like the same shit we heard back in 1988 when a handful of creeps, cajoled by aspiring politician (and shill for real estate interests) Antonio Pagan, demanded that Tompkins Square Park be closed because of homeless persons, drugs and needles.
Unscrupulous cops in 1988 used this as a justification to impose a park curfew that led to the bloody Tompkins Square Police Riot of August 6, 1988, and subsequent riots and skirmishes between cops and community residents over the following three years. Many wised-up cops we spoke with then did NOT like being used as tools to facilitate the gentrification to come!
Those of us who USE our beloved Tompkins Square Park, that we shed BLOOD for, know that there are only a few homeless and semi-homeless people in the park at any given time and that drug use, if any, is done discreetly. Yes, there are needles left behind, which is very fucked up, but that does NOT justify closing sections of the park or imposing a curfew on those of us who love and respect our park.
The REAL problems that should be addressed in our park were NOT addressed at today’s meeting. They include renovating/repairing the public bathrooms (the women’s room has NO doors on the stalls!), adding more garbage receptacles and reducing the rat population. Those who are less fortunate than the rest of us, who have NO place to live, are NOT rats to be removed from the view of the public. They have as much right to use the park as anyone else.
Also attending was political aspirant Carlina Rivera, who tried to control the public input part of the meeting, but failed. From what we heard, she has allocated $150,000 to close off parts of St. Marx Place and Avenue B on weekends, but has allocated NOTHING for the park. 150 grand to get someone to put barriers at intersections? REALLY?? That kind of money could be used for addressing REAL issues in the park. But if the park had no issues, politicians like Rivera would have no issues to pretend to be concerned about, would they??
There are no easy answers, but closing the park and removing the homeless is NOT the solution. The majority of my neighbors that I speak with want that park open 24 HOURS a day. And that is what we are going to fight for.
Close it at sundown. Open it at sunrise. That’s what’s done to preserve many city parks’ safety and cleanliness.
My involvement in Friends of Tompkins Square Park is not politically motivated. I started this group because I wanted to advocate for the park and support Amy, the parks supervisor, and her staff. It is obvious that the City has not prepared Tompkins Square Park for the closure of East River Park. Tompkins Square Park has always been a popular and well-used park (despite chronically overflowing trash cans), but now with the increase in parkgoers and being open 24/7, Tompkins Square Park is undeniably ill-prepared because it is underfunded, understaffed and under-resourced. I am not a fan of public/private partnerships for parks, but looking around at other nearby parks, I have come to accept that Tompkins Square Park needs residents to care and advocate for it.
At this point, this group has grown, of I consider myself a founding member, because so many residents are stepping up to get involved. (Incidentally, I am aware of a couple of integral FTSP members who are pro-Carlina Rivera supporters and one person is a member of CoDA.) Together, Friends of Tompkins Square Park members are striving to improve the park itself, through cleanups, gardening and fundraising for trees and Bigbelly trash cans, plus advocacy, including for locking the park at night, which is a standard operating procedure, the two capital projects (fieldhouse/bathrooms reconstruction and pavement reconstruction) and increasing sanitation pickups.
I am not using this group to promote my City Council campaign. I have been considering closing my campaign committee because I want Friends of Tompkins Square Park to succeed and I am aware that it’s going to take a couple years to improve Tompkins Square Park itself.
So I am grateful for this new interest by our elected officials and City agencies to revitalize Tompkins Square Park.
Please demand that the City embark on any upcoming renovations in Tompkins Square in a PHASED process, whether it’s the bathrooms or the softball court/skate area, because otherwise a big swath of TSP will be CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC at the same time that half the East River Park is closed.
When they do the bathrooms they will likely close the whole area behind the bathrooms, where the children’s sprinklers and pool are. They need to improve the drainage… but will they be tearing down trees too? Who is standing for these trees? Parks advocates need to get on this!