Board Member Wonders if City Can Bypass Community Wishes and Gate Off Washington Square Park (Part IV in Series)

This is a continuation of the report from last month’s Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting.

Here you go — Part IV:

Noise Complaints at the Park

Washington Square Park Administrator Sarah Neilson told the Community Board committee that the Parks Department is “getting a bunch of noise complaints [particularly] late night and middle of the night” and that they are working with the New York Police Department to enforce the noise ordinance at 10 p.m. Neilson stated that mostly people complain to her and not the NYPD and it is really the Police Department that needs to collect and see the data. Neilson said, “We all agree no one wants the park to be a silent place.” As it stands now, amplified music is not allowed in city parks but drumming is since it’s not technically “amplified” — but it can be loud. She said, “It is a first amendment issue; they have a right to play music. It is a delicate balance – but an an important balance” recognizing the import to “retain the lively, fun, famous aspect of the park.”

Neilson said people need to call 311 with any noise complaints for the Sixth Precinct to take the issue seriously. The Precinct will then log complaints and track if there is a pattern with certain times having more issues than others. That time period would then be checked out by NYPD along with the Parks Department. She said, as far as spreading the word that people should call 311, she told the Board, “I need you guys to help with that.”

Community Board Member Asks: Can’t the Parks Department Just Bypass Us and Gate the Park?

When the park is closed, there are what are called “french barricades” at the ten entrances to the Park. These do not give a hard closure but they show that the park is indeed closed. It is the way the Community wanted it. And yet Parks Committee Member Frederica Sigel asked, “Is it legally necessary for the Community Board to approve gates?” She kept on … Did the Parks Department even have to even listen to the Community Board? (Whose side is she on? Does she have real estate nearby?)

Maria Passannante Derr was the chair of CB2 during a significant portion of the redesign “discussions” (with mixed reports on this – she supported the redesign) and said, “The community had strong opposition to the gates. The community wanted no gates” (mentioning also that there was an issue with the “height of the fence”).

A Sixth Precinct officer had told them that if there was a firm closure, a person could then be charged with “intentionally trespassing.” So Sigel again wondered …was it really necessary to get community approval and can’t the City just DO what it wants?

Tobi Bergman and Passannante Derr stated that out of respect for the very long battle over the City’s redesign plans, gating the park was not going to go over well or the direction to go in. This was something that had been adamantly fought over and ultimately agreed to by the City – not to gate the park. (Thanks to them for outlining this for those who don’t know or maybe don’t care…?)

Bergman said that his “personal feeling is that the barricades are very ugly” and wondered whether there was an alternative, a chain or something that “doesn’t give the park a gated feel [but you] also have to be able to enforce it.”

Board member Jo Hamilton said, “I agree with Tobi; I don’t think it would violate the spirit of what we struggled through [if a solution like this could be found].”

It’s perhaps telling that there is even one board member who is suggesting that bypassing the community is the way to go … and implores to just gate the darn park, charge people with trespassing.

How many members of Community Board 2 have no idea of the previous battle that was fought? Do they think it doesn’t matter anymore? Apparently, as we know, some of them are willing to just give the park away.

This topic is to be readdressed. And so it goes…

*   *   *

The last segment of this series, Part V, should (really) be posted tomorrow!

Part I: Repair of Washington Square Park’s Long Neglected, Broken Down Sidewalks Delayed Again; Work Now Set to Begin Summer 2014 — 6 1/2 Years After Redesign Construction Began October 14, 2013

Part II: Washington Square Park Phase III Construction To Have Staggered Opening — “Mounds” (or What Used to be the Mounds) Set to Open By Halloween October 16, 2013

Part III: Report-back from C.B.2 Meeting on Status of Washington Square Park: NYU & the Missing PEP Officers, Rest Rooms Opening Soon (Part III in Series) November 1, 2013

2 thoughts on “Board Member Wonders if City Can Bypass Community Wishes and Gate Off Washington Square Park (Part IV in Series)

  1. Hi Georgia,

    Very true! The person who was pressing this was (I believe) talking about after the park closes but … everything is a potential slippery slope esp. now that a private organization is involved and the Community Board is being less vigilant in its oversight – in some areas. Plus no gates were agreed to way back when the redesign finally was pushed forward. So! We must press on to keep it that way!

    Cathryn

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