Hundreds pack meeting to address Washington Square Park chaos

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Hundreds of locals packed the basement of a Greenwich Village church Wednesday night for an emergency meeting to address the recent chaos at Washington Square Park — as police officials promised to “address” their growing concerns.

The NYPD’s 6th Precinct called the emergency meeting amid mounting outrage from fed-up merchants and residents over the nonstop partying that typically escalates with violence at the iconic greenspace.

“The park has become a drug den, it’s not about the music,” fumed one woman during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“The criminality has extended to our quaint street. From lewd acts to nudity to drugs, crack being smoked on our street, our children have witnessed people shooting up,” she said.

Another public speaker complained about the skateboarders inside the park.

“We can get rid of the skateboarders in a day, one day,” said Bob Schumann. “All you have to do is have the police confiscate the skateboard, it will not be that traumatic for the snowflakes.”

People have partied in the storied NYC park past curfew.
People have partied in the storied NYC park past curfew.
Stephen Yang

Not everyone who spoke complained about the park’s current conditions. One man said what is happening now is not out of the norm and blamed aggressive policing for the flare-ups.

“There’s always been drug dealing. There’s always been mentally imbalanced people. There’s always been some bad behavior,” he said.

“I find it interesting that right before an election, suddenly there’s all this press about how dangerous the park is when a former cop is in the lead for mayor. Many of the problems in the park have come from police overreaction,” he added.

Community members aired their grievances at the meeting.
Community members aired their grievances at the meeting.
Elizabeth Rosner

The line to enter Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Wednesday snaked around the block ahead of the 6:30 p.m. start time — and as many as 100 people were turned away, chanting “let us in” before forming their own community meeting outside the building.

The highly anticipated community meeting comes on the heels of a particularly violent weekend in the Greenwich Village landmark during which people were stabbed and beaten — and a diner cook was thrown through a window.

Residents flocked to Our Lady of Pompeii Church to join the meeting about the park issues.
Residents flocked to Our Lady of Pompeii Church to join the meeting about the park issues.
William Miller

The nightly unrest prompted city officials to implement a 10 p.m. curfew, which was pushed back last weekend to midnight, though revelers still partied well beyond 2 a.m.

Police turned a blind eye last week to curfew scofflaws after clashing with parkgoers earlier this month over the earlier closing time — leaving nearly two dozen people arrested and five cops with injuries

Businesses in the leafy neighborhood have had to contend with the disorder spilling out into the streets — as well as vagrants harassing customers — which they say has cost them business.

People gather at Washington Square Park after a weekend curfew during the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, June 11, 2021 in New York, N.Y.
NYPD’s 6th Precinct were the ones to call the meeting about Washington Square Park.
James Keivom
People hanging out after-hours in Washington Square Park in New York, NY on June 13, 2021.
At least one local business hired security amidst the chaos at the park.
Christopher Sadowski

Locals have also complained that cops have done little to abate the pandemonium.

In his opening remarks Tuesday night, NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison told attendees the department is available to “make sure your concerns are addressed.”

“We’re ready to come back. We’re ready to protect you. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure you feel more comfortable in the neighborhood you live in,” Harrison told the crowd.

NYPD Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes asked the crowd if they prefer a 10 p.m. or midnight curfew and a majority of hands were raised for the earlier time. 

Manhattan Parks Borough Commissioner William Castro acknowledged the uptick in “bizarre behavior” in the park the past year. 

“The guys do the donuts and the loud noise. We’ve seen menacing behavior,” he said, noting cyclists and skaters. 

“We are returning your park to you, local residents,” Castro vowed. 

Meanwhile, as the city officials spoke, locals who were locked out from the meeting gathered on the street and mainly voiced anti-police sentiments and protested the rarely-enforced park curfew.

“We came to this meeting to have our voices heard. If you came to this meeting to have your voice heard and you couldn’t get in, come right here,” said one person using a microphone, according to a Twitter post by Talia Jane.

Speakers outside mainly voiced anti-police sentiments and protested the rarely-enforced park curfew.

A man dressed as “The Joker” railed against the media. Over the weekend somebody dressed as the Batman villain, who locals say is a park fixture, slugged a 38-year-old man inside the green space, police have said.

After the indoor meeting ended, Joe Cotuhngo, told The Post he was not impressed with the lack of clarity on a plan moving forward.

“It sounded like everyone just wanted to b–ch. I don’t think they’re are any real concrete plans. We want the police to enforce the law,” he said.

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