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Washington Square’s ‘drug corner’ closed off; N.Y.U. denies it made the call

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Updated Aug. 20, 7:15 p.m.: The Parks Department has fenced off Washington Square Park’s drug-addled northwest corner once again.

“There was a major sweep apparently tonight in the park,” a local block association leader told The Village Sun. “We were told it’s in anticipation of all the N.Y.U. students about ready to arrive.”

Asked where he heard this, the man said, “Our network in the area sharing info.”

N.Y.U. classes start Sept. 1.

The park’s northwest corner was indeed closed off Friday evening around 6:30 p.m. In general, the park was a pretty mellow scene. For once there didn’t seem to be any weed sellers at tables around the fountain. There were only a few skateboarders, probably partly since “Ghostbusters” was playing for free on a screen in their usual stomping ground on the south side of the arch.

At noon on Friday, this was a scene in the park’s northwest corner. But later the same day there was “a major sweep” and the whole area was cleared and fenced off. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

However, N.Y.U. spokesperson John Beckman, said the local grapevine got it wrong — though added that the university does feel the corner is “a particular source of concern.”

“What you ‘heard’ is incorrect,” he told The Village Sun. “N.Y.U. did not request that the northwest corner of the park be closed, nor any part of the park, for that matter.

“I don’t think it is going to come as a surprise to anyone that the northwest corner of the park has emerged as a particular source of concern in terms of quality of life issues,” Beckman said. “N.Y.U., like a lot of the park’s neighbors, has been concerned about quality of life issues in and around the park and has been collaborating with other groups and stakeholders on making the city aware and in seeking a multipronged approach from the city that can ensure that the park can be safely enjoyed by all users. But those collaborative consultations have likewise not involved asking for any part of Washington Square — a public park — to be closed.”

On Friday night, some of the people who might normally be hanging out in the northwest corner could instead be found on park benches just outside the metal gates cordoning of the usually sketchy area.

One sober-looking guy who gave his name as Drake said he “shoots by now and then” to the park to play cards and chess just for fun. But there were no games going this evening. The chess hustlers were elsewhere.

“It’s Friday night,” he said. “Most of the guys go to Union Square. I guess there are more tourists.”

Fenced out: An encampment outside Washington Square Park on Saturday around 6:30 p.m., the day after the park’s northwestern corner was closed off. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

Asked about drugs in the park and the surrounding streets, he didn’t feel the situation was that bad.

“I’ve been coming to this park like 40 years,” he said. “This was never a hot crime spot.”

Yet, at the same time, he assured it would be impossible to wipe out drug dealing and drug use in the area.

“You can’t stop that s—,” he said. “That s— has been going on since Bob Dylan was down here.”

A few feet away, a man sat rigidly on a bench, clutching a small stack of dollars with both hands. A guy came and stood over him. Some small gray chunks were dropped into the sitting man’s lap. Eventually, the man started smoking a small, straight pipe, its end glowing in the dark. Then he passed the pipe back to the standing man. The sitting man smoked several more times, exhaling thin white clouds with a faintly chemical smell. Each time aferward, he handed the pipe back to the standing man.

“I remember it, early ’80s,” Drake recalled, “they were selling coke and smack out here. … The only thing that’s different is that the park looks dirtier.”

The Village Sun has also reached out to the Sixth Precinct about the closure of the park’s northwest corner.

5 Comments

  1. Janet Coor Janet Coor August 20, 2022

    Thank goodness it’s cleaned up. Cooper Union parent here.

  2. Lynn Lynn August 20, 2022

    I gather that the residents who live in and near the park and were harassed and threatened by people in the den for the last year or two mean nothing to the Parks Dept. or the Washington Square Conservancy, the park rangers or NYU, for that matter. Residents have tried to get all of the above to close the drug den for years.
    Only because NYU students are coming back????? It’s deplorable.
    How about getting the homeless out of the park while they’re at it?

  3. Steven Hill Steven Hill August 20, 2022

    Cleaned Up…if only it were true. This evening 2 guys 1 door down from Babbo smoking Crack… Cops everywhere but not stopping sales or consumption!!!

  4. Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman August 20, 2022

    I had to laugh at Drake’s comment: “The only thing that’s changed is the park is dirtier!” Ironic! Am I the only one who remembers the pretext used by NYU for the 2008 redesign that entailed moving the fountain to align with the arch and leveling the amphitheater, where once you could enjoy multiple performances without disrupting the peace of Uptown folks on Fifth Avenue. The park was user-friendly once. And I don’t mean “drug” use!

  5. Anonymous. Anonymous. August 21, 2022

    We wouldn’t like our precious little NYU students being offended by drug addicts would we? Follow the money………

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