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.