What Is Going On in Washington Square Park?

Photo: Daniel Galicia for New York Magazine

In late May, the Parks Department quietly posted flyers around Washington Square Park warning that Friday through Sunday over Memorial Day weekend, it would officially close two hours earlier, at 10 p.m. weeks, flooded the park in protest (police enforced the curfew only intermittently). While it seemed like a hasty decision, it actually took months, with the culmination of residents down Fifth Avenue regularly complaining of large, noisy crowds outside their windows (dating back to last summer, after the protests of Black Lives Matter took place in the park) and recent stories (mostly in New York To post) which portrayed a disturbing image of Washington Square as an anarchic, trash-strewn space where open-air drug bazaars, daggers on the loose, an uncontrollable homeless population, and crowded raves on weeknights were the new normal . With crime at the center of the mayoral race, the park appears to have become a lightning rod for those who fear the city will recede – and for those who view over-policing and encroachment on public space as something. even more dangerous. Some things are clear: Dealers have continued to sell their supplies despite the police blocking the Northwest Quadrant, known for its drug-related activity. And recent NYPD data for the 6th Ward, which includes Washington Square Park, shows an increase in rape, theft and criminal assault complaints since the start of the year compared to 2020 (even though tens of thousands of residents fled the city during the pandemic). But what is it like to be in the park? The weekend following a clash between park users and the agents enforcing the curfew, new York camped there for 48 hours. What we saw: a complicated ecosystem filled with contradictions. A merry mosh pit of 200 people, homeless people sweeping away revelers and a stabbing. A gathering of trans pride and dozing paramedics in their vehicle. A skater taking a spin on a prostrate drunken man – and distraught bachelorette parties who suspected the barriers had been put in place to protect the park from rabid squirrels.

Friday 3:02 p.m.

A man sleeps on a bench. Nearby, a barefoot man in an aqua velvet gown walks around greeting people. NYU students buy vintage clothes from vendors around the fountain.

3:58 p.m.

On the northwest side of the park, a man feeds the pigeons. This whole corner has been closed since the end of May, with New York To post gleefully calling it a “drug haven”.

4:15 p.m.

Caroline von Gilsa, who recently moved to the city from Berlin, sits with her daughter. “We have a lot of homeless people in Berlin,” she says. “But here it’s different: total despair.


A park guitarist takes a drum lesson from another park artist, who offered to teach him how to play.

7:32 p.m.

A skater smokes a joint on the east side of the park. Skaters, apparently, are unhappy with a few new planters at the base of the steps, blocking one of their favorite spots.

8:35 p.m.

A DJ on the platform east of the fountain has set up a table with a laptop connected to a generator. Near the arches, a college age guy pulls out “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix.

8:50 p.m.

About 50 people gathered around the DJ, who plays Pop Smoke and Lil Wayne so loud you can hear him across the park.

8:53 p.m.

An older man walks into the party to observe. It is mostly danced around.

10:03 p.m.

What started as a dance circle is now a 150 mosh pit. (Many claim the party the night before was wilder. Says tourist Zach Boyette, “There were fireworks. boys. “)

Photographs by Daniel Galicia


Mayoral candidate Paperboy Love Prince talks about universal basic income. At his nearby booth, a campaign volunteer hands out flyers, pizza, water, masks and pre-rolled joints.

11:25 p.m.

The DJ set is falling apart due to the rain. Another equally loud party begins near the fountain.

Saturday 12:06 am

Someone in a mask is tagging the ark.


A man in his twenties comes out of the fountain. Two Howard University students – interns at Pyer Moss and Oscar de la Renta for the summer – sit on the edge and watch.


A violent fight breaks out in the middle of the dance party. As things escalate, someone yells “Pistol!” Some scatter. The fight ends up taking to the streets and a woman is stabbed.


A skater spins a drunken man after he shouts, “Come on ollie on me!” The skaters offer him water, but he asks for more alcohol. They still put a bottle of water in his hand.

Photographs by Daniel Galicia


The Hare Krishna festival road crew starts pitching tents around the square for the next day’s festival, which is expected to start around noon.


Police officers and an ambulance team enter the park looking puzzled. In a few minutes, they all come out. When asked if they had received a call, an officer replied, “Who knows? “


Close friends, a New York University master’s degree graduate and teacher, wade through the fountain with no shoes on. Nearby, two men on a bench sing Radiohead’s “Creep”.


An early morning speed walker. The park’s lawn sprinklers turn on, as does the fountain’s central spout.

Photographs by Daniel arnold

10:01 am

A personal trainer leads a small group through a few exercises. Elsewhere, children are playing soccer near the southeast corner, and an Upper East Sider is training with his self-defense instructor.

10:20 a.m.

Shedrick, a chess player and regular at the park, says he usually arrives here at 9 a.m. and comes out at 6 p.m.

10:21 am

At the playground, children play while their fathers are seated together. Everyone ignores the warning tape, and it’s unclear why it’s there.

11:18 am

A park warden takes out a book of proverbs from the fountain.

11:25 a.m.

An artist in a theatrical procession pauses. Other members of society – which includes, incidentally, Nomadic country author Jessica Bruder – are dressed as frogs.


Two dogs compete on the festival site.


The Hare Krishna festival is in full swing. A child poses for a photo with a diorama showing the stages of life.


The only public bathroom in the park is quite clean and well maintained. It is used by everyone – chess players, skaters and the Hare Krishnas mid-festival.

2:11 p.m.

The festival seems to have reached its peak. A yellow Hare Krishna flag flies in the air as a large group dances with cymbals and hand drums. People gather under the ark.

2:26 p.m.

A park warden removes yesterday’s fresh graffiti – gay people are fine – using as little paint as possible.

3:02 p.m.

A group of 30-year-olds spend time with their children.

Photograph by Daniel Arnold, Daniel Arnold

3:38 p.m.

The Hare Krishnas sell mugs of watermelon for 98 cents. Demetrios Argyropoulos, who passes, buys some. “I ate it over the fountain, juice flowing everywhere,” he says.

4:27 p.m.

Two siblings here for the festival.

5:07 p.m.

In the middle of the festival, but outside of it, two performance artists paint a canvas with their bodies and dance to music played through a loudspeaker.


A small gathering of trans pride crosses the park. A crowd gathers to take pictures as they pass.

6:24 p.m.

The festival is starting to be dismantled.

9:20 p.m.

The cops arrive at 9 p.m. to set up a barricade around the arch. They tell passers-by that a 10 p.m. curfew will be enforced tonight.


As the cops barricade themselves, dozens of motorcyclists and BMX kids ride laps. Several stops to be interviewed by the boys of the popular Instagram show Auxiliary voice.

Sunday 00:12

Once it was clear that the 10 p.m. curfew was not enforced, the We Outside Crew – led by David Ortiz, known as Shaman – held their party.


A DJ at the We Outside Crew party plays “Blue” from Eiffel 65, while Shaman shouts, “We’re dating! A firecracker flies through the air and hits someone in the back.

12:58 am

“Washington Square Park is our home base,” Shaman says of his parties. “But as soon as we have an audience, we’ll go to other parks. Our goal is to be the next Coachella.


The police start to break up the We Outside Crew party.


They also smash the mosh pit at the fountain.

Photographs by Daniel Galicia


Police are starting to impose a curfew, albeit lightly. They escort revelers out of the park. No one is arrested.


A pair of girls walk through the now almost empty park.


The Joker (Luis de Jesus) – a device that has become the Post’s de facto park cover villain – lights a cigarette.

5:00 AM

Two people who have slept in the park help each other start their days off right. Around them, ten people sleep on benches.


Erika, who is known as Ma for parking the pillars, brushes her hair.

Photographs by Daniel Galicia, Daniel Arnold

5:28 am

Three post-party friends stop by the park after a night out. A man in a scrub walks his dog nearby.


Crystal, who says she works at the nearby Pain Quotidien, is roller-skating in the park.

5:47 a.m.

Channel 7 News arrives to do a segment on violence in the park.


Having been in the park for a few hours now, a regular at the park is having breakfast.


“The Family” – Shaman, Erika, Joker and two park regulars (one of whom wears a wig he found in the park) – pose for a group portrait.

7:45 a.m.

This squirrel is pretty much the only one awake in the park at the moment.


Chris, a park staple, sweeps through the northwest corner.


A group gets to work scraping stickers off the posts. At this time, the park is lively. A woman cleans a bench with a wipe before sitting down with her Shih Tzu.


Two dog owners take a photo of their dachshund.


A woman sits and reads an article titled This is Washington Scare Park. “I only read the Post on Sundays,” she said guiltily.

Photographs by Daniel arnold

11:55 a.m.

A woman sits with her lamp.


Veteran Jim Hale raises his fists. “I avoid the place at night,” he said. “I’m 83 and I can throw a punch, but I never want to fight. I would be so afraid of hurting someone.


The bachelor party treasure hunters cross the barricades in the northwest. Park addicts have settled on a path on the west side of the park, where they openly smoke and sell.

2:12 p.m.

A group of barefoot women play in the fountain.

Photographs by Daniel arnold

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button