Washington Square Park neighbors have pleaded for NYPD help, records show


After police instituted a controversial curfew in Washington Square Park on Memorial Day weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the “proactive”Measure to address residents’ concerns about the heckling in iconic Greenwich Village grounds.

But his administration had received dozens of complaints about wild parties, fireworks and other activities there at least as early as April, according to records obtained by THE CITY under the Freedom of Information Act. from New York.

From April 1 to June 15, residents used 311 – via the internet, text messages and phone calls – to file more than 190 service requests regarding the 10-acre public park. Some have pleaded for the city to shut down the Manhattan oasis, lamenting the loss of sleep and peace.

“Deafening amplification of song and music […] near the fountain which can be heard for the blocks around, ”one person wrote at 10:43 pm on April 6, a Tuesday. “This song has been stopped several times by the 6th arrondissement but always comes back when the police leave. “

At 1:39 am, the person wrote, “Please close the park! Please close the park!

The 311 reports inform the decision to impose the weekend curfew and strongly police the park as the complaints gained media attention. The agency overseeing 311 people’s names redacted, but contextual clues indicate that some people have likely submitted multiple requests.

Police enforced the 10 p.m. curfew on the first weekend in June, arrest of 23 people in the midst of clashes on the night of June 5. With the curfew suspended in the middle of the month, cops made more than a dozen total arrests in the park during the Pride and Fourth of July weekends.

Although the park officially closes again at midnight, police said they assess closing times daily and may still reinstate a curfew. Meanwhile, a community meeting on the problems of the park is program for Wednesday.

Dancing and decibel evenings

The increase in policing in the park, for a long time place of civic life, has established itself as a key battle for public space as the city recovers from the pandemic. Activists, park users and The politicians criticized the NYPD for using brutal tactics, while de Blasio and some residents have fiercely defended cop actions.

A lot park lovers come from other parts of the city, seeking to meddle after months of COVID restrictions. It’s all done predominantly white and well-off Greenwich Village a breaking point for tense conversations about race, wealth and power.

About three-quarters of the 311 complaints investigated by THE CITY were classified as noise issues. Another 9% specifically concerned fireworks, 6% on maintenance problems and 3% on suspected drug activity.

Almost 90% of complaints went to the NYPD, while most of the rest went to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Some 37% were classified as “corrected” while 33% were judged to be “unfounded”, “unnecessary” or “insufficient”. An additional 15% were referred to the NYPD by another agency, according to records, although no additional information was provided.

The records also do not take into account other channels through which people might have contacted the city, nor do they specify how complaints were resolved. This is not uncommon, according to the city council, which has find that “for a surprising number of requests, the problems are not addressed and the resolutions set out by 311 are vague or inadequate”.

It is also not uncommon for noise complaints to be unfounded. In 2018, the state comptroller’s office determined that city agencies could not confirm noise in most of the 1.6 million 311 cases it reviewed from 2010 to 2015. The NYPD processed 1.3 million. , corroborating only 29% while administering approximately 5,500 summons and making 800 arrests. .

“Disorderly behavior”

Complaints related to Washington Square Park increased in late May and early June, coinciding with the curfew and media coverage. The 311 reports were filed mainly between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Police apparently responded to complaints about the loud music on April 8, but the music resumed after 15 minutes, a complainant reported. Cops also responded two nights later, when a group allegedly refused to leave the park at curfew time and threw bottles at officers.

But law enforcement was inconsistent, say the 311 complaints, and by mid-May the park was starting to draw international attention on party and garbage. The NYPD has mentionned he faced “sometimes violent groups [that] engaged in disorderly behavior ”, including“ jumping on vehicles, threatening officers, [and] throwing objects.

May 28, first day of curfew, the Washington Square Association mentionned he was “deeply dismayed by the recent chaos and lawlessness” in the park. “What we are seeing is worse than the crack epidemic of the 1980s,” the group decried.

“Yet another dance / rave night in Washington Square Park,” one person wrote at 11:46 pm on June 2. “Those of us who live near the park have a hard time falling asleep.”

NYPD agents blocked streets just north of Washington Square Park during the Pride March in June. 27, 2021.
Christine Chung / THE CITY

De Blasio’s office did not respond to LA VILLE’s inquiries about the 311 cases. But de Blasio admitted in an interview with NY1 last month that his team initially discussed the curfew with police.

“When there is no will to follow the rules, we have to draw a clear line,” he said. mentionned on “Inside City Hall” on June 7th.

In a statement, the NYPD said it was reviewing the closing time on an “ongoing” basis. The statement quoted on June 6, when the officers did not enforce the curfew, as “a marked improvement in disruptive driving in the park [that] highlights the ministry’s flexibility in dealing with dynamic circumstances as they unfold.

Yet on the night of June 11, some neighbors again reported loud music. “Our baby can’t sleep,” one wrote at 8:08 pm. “We are desperate. Please help me.

“Disgusting and dangerous”

Complaints about cleanliness, drugs and homelessness also figure in records obtained by THE CITY, although far fewer than complaints about noise. Only 10 complaints were categorized as “maintenance or installation”, six as “drug-related activity”, one as “begging” and one as “graffiti”.

“Washington Square Park is disgusting and dangerous,” wrote a complainant on April 9. “There is broken glass everywhere! […] I lived here fir [sic] over 26 years old and I have never seen it so badly.

“People who smoke crack in front of my baby and walk around the corner of Washington Square Park NW,” someone wrote at 11:11 pm on May 24. “Awesome[.]”

The next day, the police closed the northwest corner with barriers, the New York Post reported. On the morning of May 26, someone reported that two homeless people were “camped inside the playground” at the northeast corner of the park.

“A dormant, a pacing,” they wrote. “I would love if someone from the parks department could tell them to get moving.”

In a statement, the parks department said it was working with police to balance “education and enforcement against illegal and after-hours activity” in the park. The agency confirmed that 311 complaints and staff observations are factored into enforcement decisions, noting that the park is cleaned daily.

A symbol of division

On June 16, during a emergency community meeting Organized by the NYPD, residents of Greenwich Village have widely expressed support for the 10 p.m. curfew. Police chiefs told the more than 100 attendees that the department supported them.

“We are ready to protect you,” said department head Rodney Harrison. “We will do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable. “

Meanwhile, a group of counter-protesters demonstrated outside the church where the meeting was being held, barred from entering due to capacity restrictions. A DJ playing music in Washington Square Park Told The Sun Village, which has annoyed residents “does not like the demographics of the park [and that] things have changed.”

Despite the schism, de Blasio essentially declared mission accomplished earlier this month. “Members of the chain of command were told very clearly ‘we expect better’, and this situation was resolved quickly,” he said. mentionned on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on July 2nd.

Mayoral candidate Eric Adams speaks to the press outside Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, July 19, 2021.

Eric Adams
Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

As de Blasio’s term draws to a close, Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams has caused unrest in Washington Square Park in high profile media appearances.

“We need to have parks, not like Washington Square, where people inject drugs while babies are trying to play,” he said recently. mentionned on ABC’s “This Week”.

Yet this is far from the only place New Yorkers have asked authorities to intervene in community disputes. Among the 311 recordings obtained by THE CITY, there was a noise complaint from Soundview, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood in the Bronx, which contained the name of Manhattan Park in the description.

“The second attempt to get help from our wonderful NYPD has been closed again, stating that it does not warrant police action, but if we decide to hang out at Washington Square Park where all the privileged whites who own brown stones [are, the] neighborhood calls for a curfew, ”reads the complaint, filed at 11:55 pm on June 6. “[B]ut since we live in Soundview […] anything can happen here and the police don’t care.

The request was closed as “unnecessary”.


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