The typically free-spirited Greenwich Village inhabitants are frightened by the goings-on in a chaotic, drug-infested Washington Square Park.
In recent months, the northwest corner of Washington Square Park has become a “drug den” full of people using crack and heroin, while loud, booze-fueled noise emanates from the central fountain area bothering neighbors until midnight. By morning the historic green space is littered with a mess of trash.
After more than a month of complaints, the city responded by erecting barriers on Tuesday, May 25. They closed the northwest corner to restrict legal and illegal use, while police have increased patrols in recent nights.
However, neighbors are still furious at the state of the park, and they believe the city leaders must make an effort to enforce the law in this area.
“The zombies are now near the fountain, as well as next to the chess [southwest] corner. They’ve simply moved up about 200 meters from the now shuttered end of the park,” an angry neighbor wrote in the email sent to New York Post on Wednesday.
In the spring, an “open-air drug bazaar” emerged—addicts showed up 24 hours a day, selling drugs and prostitutes, some openly injecting drugs on benches.
New York Police Department (NYPD) data shows a 73% increase in robberies this year in the 6th Precinct, which covers the park. Sex crimes have increased by 36%. There have four felony assaults reported in the park in the first quarter of 2021.
The number of drug-criminal arrests has decreased every year under the de Blasio administration, which cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget last year, resulting in only 5,372 drug seizures last year, the lowest on record. There were nearly 20,000 drug seizures in 2013, the year before de Blasio took office, and more than 38,000 in 2000, under Mayor Giuliani.
A group of residents recently wrote an angry letter to local leaders demanding action on 20 different park issues, including the “urination, defecation, spitting, discarded drug paraphernalia, alcohol bottles and cans and general filth in those areas of the park;” and “junkies sleeping, having sex, generating trash and intimidating patrons of the park.”
An unscheduled meeting in the park on May 21 with State Senator Brad Hoylman confused neighbors.
“It seems clear to me that he doesn’t want a law and order solution to anything,” said Brian Dube, a 40 year resident on the north side of the park.
The NYPD said it is increasing patrols in the park in response to the current crisis.
“The Commanding Officer of the 6th Precinct is working to address the crime and quality of life conditions in Washington Square Park,” NYPD spokesperson Jessica McRorie stated. “These efforts include the assignment of public safety officers to exclusively patrol the park.”
On Saturday night, May 29, the NYPD announced the park’s closing time would be moved from midnight to 10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. More officers will be present to close the park.