GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan — Washington Square Park is the nerve center of Greenwich Village; it has been for decades.
But residents who live near the park say the pandemic changed it — and not for the better. And after police recently clashed with people inside the park in an attempt to close it for the night, with various curfews enacted by the city, it would tensions have reached a tipping point.
Several park regulars protested outside a nearby church Wednesday evening.
In the meantime, in the basement of the church, the NYPD and the Parks Department held a community feedback meeting.
“The New York City Police Department — we’re ready to come back. We’re ready to protect you,” said Chief Rodney Harrison. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that you feel more comfortable in the community that you live, have a business in, or whatever kind of stakeholder it is you [are].”
A large crowd of residents attending the meeting, saying they’re upset over late night noise, drug use, and other activities keeping them up at night.
“This coming week, we’re going to reopen the two lawns in the northwest and south center west of the park to bring in positive use into those lawn areas,” said NYC Parks Manhattan Commissioner William Castro. “That will sort of flood the zone of good people, normal people, so to speak. So that the drug people perhaps get driven out.”
PIX11 spoke with residents before the meeting started.
“Obviously I’m not happy with what’s going on in the park,” said Bob Schulman. “The park is out of control — 9:30, 10 o’clock at night is out of control until everybody who’s there decides to go home. It’s kind of an outdoor rave.”
But not everyone feels that bringing in the NYPD to physically enforce a curfew is the right answer.
“The tensions in the park have been there from before COVID. I really want to help encourage the community to think about the broader, systemic problems that should be addressed in addition to — or should I say, instead of — strong force,” said Erika Soto Lamb.