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Fed-up Washington Square Park residents are too scared to demand cops stop out-of-control raves for fear of being labeled racist

Posted by 
Daily Mail
Daily Mail
 2021-06-18

Liberal Washington Square Park residents have said they are afraid of asking for more cops to tackle the daily after-dark raves because they don't want to be viewed as less progressive.

New Yorkers living around the historic Manhattan park told the New York Times they feel it is 'time to draw the line' on the escalating parties which they claim have left many 'too afraid to go inside.'

However, they admitted their desire to rein in the revelry clashes with their attitudes toward policing at a time when liberals are calling for greater police reform in the wake of the cop killing of George Floyd.

Their concerns come as a professor questioned the motives behind some of the complaints about the noisy park raves, saying they are targeting young people of color.

'Is it really just about noise? What is it about really?' Setha Low, director of the Public Space Research Group at the Graduate Center at CUNY, told the Times.

'This is another old-fashioned conflict where one scenario is that you want your neighborhood to appropriate the park and take care of it. On the other hand, it is a public space resource for the city.'

The local residents in the rich, elite Greenwich Village neighborhood are largely white while the partygoers are typically more diverse and have traveled to attend the parties from other parts of the city.

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Young people gather in Washington Square Park Thursday night which has become a party destination in recent months
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People gather on benches in Washington Square Park Thursday night which has been the site of parties in recent months
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A man appears to be selling alcohol from a cooler to partygoers in Washington Square Park, Manhattan Thursday night 
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Scooters lie on the ground in front of the iconic fountain Thursday night. Liberal residents have said they are afraid of asking for more cops to tackle the daily after-dark raves because they don't want to be viewed as less progressive
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A fire eater performs in the public park in the heart of New York City Thursday night to entertain the crowd of people gathered 

The public park in the heart of the Big Apple has been a growing source of tension in recent weeks.

With bars and restaurants facing tight restrictions over the last year due to the pandemic, it transformed into a popular party destination.

Now, as the parties and reports of crime increase - and COVID-19 restrictions have lifted - residents and ravers are coming to blows.

On the one side, young revelers say the park is public property. They question why they cannot use the space to enjoy parties and why the wealthy Greenwich Village homeowners nearby should have the power to decide who has access to it.

On the other side, residents claim the park has become a site of increased drug use and violence, leaving them scared to walk around the area and left grappling with the noise later into the night.

One resident whose family has lived in the same house around the park for almost half a century told the Times the park resembled 'a war' some nights.

'What pains me is that this park is for everyone, and now some people are too afraid to go inside,' said Erika Sumner, who is the head of the neighborhood association the Washington Square Association.

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The public park in the heart of the Big Apple has been a growing source of tension in recent weeks. With bars and restaurants facing tight restrictions over the last year due to the pandemic, it transformed into a popular party destination
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Young revelers say the park is public property and question why they cannot use the space to enjoy parties
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People sit in front of the iconic fountain in the historic park which residents and ravers have been fighting over 
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People set up rails to sell clothes in the park Thursday night. New Yorkers living around the historic Manhattan park told the New York Times they feel it is 'time to draw the line' on the escalating parties
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Residents claim the parties have left many of them 'too afraid to go inside' while some describe the scene like a 'war'

Another resident Carmen Gonzalez said she was concerned about rising drug use after her young daughter picked up a used syringe from the park.

'Once the sun comes down, the park changes drastically. It's time to draw the line,' she said.

However partygoers told the Times the park is a place to 'chill out' away from the violence and police hostility in some other parts of the city.

'This is the park you come to chill out,' said Edith Molina from the Bronx.

'In the Bronx, you have gang violence, and police run you out of parks. Here, police don't do anything.'

David 'Shaman' Ortiz, who organizes parties at the park, has branded critics of the noisy raves 'Karens' and 'Kevins.'

In an effort to tackle the simmering tensions and find solutions for both sides, a community meeting was held Wednesday.

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Two partygoers dance together in the park Thursday night which proved to be a quieter night compared to many others 
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A professor questioned the motives behind some of the complaints from local residents about the noisy park raves 
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Partygoers in the park Thursday night. The park has become a party destination in recent months amid restrictions on bars and restaurants
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The locals in the rich, elite Greenwich Village neighborhood are largely white while the partygoers are typically more diverse
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People party into the night Thursday dancing and drinking until around 1.30am in defiance of the midnight curfew 
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A local resident was spotted speaking to a NYC Park employee amid rising tensions between locals and partygoers 

Hundreds of locals joined the meeting at Lady of Pompeii Church to complain that the park 'has become a drug den' and a 'free-for-all'.

Several hundred turned up to air their grievances, with around 100 turned away from the meeting.

Meanwhile, protestors outside argued against an increased police presence at the park and claimed residents were just upset because 'it's bad optics for them [the white people] to see black and brown people' at the park.

Parties broke out at the park again Thursday night, though the scenes were much quieter than recent times.

People were seen dancing together, fire eaters performed to the crowd and some appeared to be selling alcohol from portable coolers.

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People are seen gathering and dancing to music being played in the historic Washington Square Park Thursday night 
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Two women are seen chatting while sitting on the fountain in the heart of the Manhattan public park Thursday evening 
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A man skateboards through the park while dozens more gather to dance, drink and socialize in the park Thursday 

The NYPD had imposed a 10pm weekend curfew on the park two weeks ago following complaints from residents.

This sparked clashes between police and the partygoers that night, with 23 people arrested and eight cops injured in a night of unrest on June 5.

The midnight closing time was restored after police on Saturday lifted a 10pm curfew that was prompted by local residents who said the crowds were making noise late at night while also making the area unsafe.

The curfew was then lifted, restoring its normal midnight cut-off time.

Since then, cops have taken a hands-off approach to enforcing the curfew, with revelers partying on well into the night.

Last Saturday, the park turned somewhat chaotic with two people stabbed, a man beaten and mugged of his phone and a 77-year-old cook at a nearby diner attacked.

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Residents in New York City's elite neighborhood of Greenwich Village met with the NYPD on Wednesday over Washington Square Park. Protesters and police are seen outside the meeting  
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The line to get into the community meeting to discuss the rise in crime at Washington Square Park extended beyond the block
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Protestors stand outside Our Lady of Pompeii Church, where a community meeting was being held about the situation

Washington Square Park through the ages

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, Washington Square Park is known for its iconic arch and fountain.

But long before they were built, it was an area of marsh land with a natural waterway named Minetta Creek home to fresh trout.

The Native American Lenape tribe cultivated the land in the 1600s before it was taken over by the Dutch.

The Dutch then offered some of the land to African-born slaves they freed in 1642 - but the free black farmers then lost the land again under English rule.

In 1797, the City's Common Council converted the land into a Potter's Field - the name for an area where the poor were buried. The site is also thought to have been the site of public executions.

Then, in 1826, the area around the park was converted into a militia training ground named Washington Military Parade Ground. The next year, some parts were turned into a public park.

Famously, Samuel F.B. Morse gave a public demonstration of his new invention - the telegraph - in the park in 1838

After the City's Department of Public Parks was formed to look after the city's parks in 1870, it underwent a major redesign with curved paths and shaded areas to provide an escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

The iconic marble Washington Arch was built between 1890-1892 and other monuments were erected over the coming years.

Throughout the 20th century, the park increasingly became a site of protest and performances with labor unions marching after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, and the Beat generation and folkies setting up in the park.

Later redesigns followed and the Arch was restored in the noughties.

The park, now named after George Washington who was inaugurated as the first US president in New York City in 1789, continues to be a popular place for protests and cultural events.

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