City Parks Department's "Regulations" Take Away From the Very Spirit of What People Come to Washington Square Park For – No Performances Allowed Near Fountain, Benches

At the Occupy Washington Square Park meeting last week, I caught the end of a comment from a woman stating that performers were getting ticketed more frequently at the park. I did not know the so-called “reason” behind this but it appears in this week’s Villager“Musicians are told to keep their distance – from fountain, seats!” :

[Doris] Diether, a member of Community Board 2 and a contributor to this newspaper, said that three guitar players who perform in Washington Square told her that PEP officers told them that performers could not play while sitting on a park bench. The rule is that musicians must stand 5 feet from a bench and 50 feet from a monument or fountain.

Diether said she was hand-feeding a squirrel in the south side of the park on Wed., Oct. 26. when a man told her, “Watch out, I got a $50 fine for feeding squirrels here.”

Despite the common conviction that the enforcement policy in Washington Square is stricter than ever, a Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson said on Wednesday that nothing is special about the current enforcement.

At Washington Square Park the existing regulations are intended to keep paths clear and allow all park users to move about freely and see monuments and views,” said Philip Abramson. He confirmed that performers must stand 5 feet away from benches and cannot perform within 50 feet of a monument or fountain.

This “regulation” requiring performers to stand “5 feet away from benches” and not perform “within 50 feet of a monument or fountain” seems to be a rule to have a rule, to put forth arbitrary order. This is allegedly so people can “move about freely” and “see monuments and views” (that last bit sounds like George Vellonakis-speak) – this takes away from the very spirit that people have historically come to Washington Square Park for; away from what the park’s reputation and very essence is all about.

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8 thoughts on “City Parks Department's "Regulations" Take Away From the Very Spirit of What People Come to Washington Square Park For – No Performances Allowed Near Fountain, Benches”

  1. Cathryn, is there a set of rules governing all NYC public parks and then a subset of rules for each specific park? Who’s sets the park-specific rules? Was there a public hearing on this? What is the standard rule regarding musicians in other similar parks like Union and Madison Squares? CB2 has been so lackadaisical about the entire park project that it wouldn’t be surprising if they just approved whatever was set in front of them. These restrictions on the musicians are outrageous.

  2. Hi Monica, it’s really too much. Agreed!

    Angela, really great questions. And I don’t know. I can ask some contacts and also check in with parks department press department (tho’ never get the full spectrum of the answer there – unfortunately).

    I find this beyond ridiculous and serves to create a static atmosphere at the park if upheld. It’s funny because the Parks Commissioner lauds the historical ‘free-wheeling’ spirit (so to speak) at the park publicly but then the agency does everything in their power to curtail it.

    I suppose this should not surprise me!

    I’ll find out more — thanks for your points. Not a bad idea to write to the Community Board too – tho’ I don’t want to send you on a wild goose chase!


  3. I look forward to Park’s answers to Angela’s questions. They’re really to the point.

    Also, are musicians allowed to sit on the grass and perform?

    And what about the pianist who played within 15 feet of the fountain?

  4. This is disheartening and astonishing. They never once, in dozens of public hearings and statements, stated that they would create or enforce a regulation that people could not play the guitar near the fountain or benches.

  5. Hi Jonathan, It is disheartening and astonishing – I agree.

    However, this came later. I’m going to do a follow-up post on it. This has to do with the “regulations” they put into place to prevent or limit artists from vending in the parks in 2010 without permitted slots – somehow they’ve now misguidedly expanded this to musicians and others who perform or exhibit their art via “donation.” However, it’s not in any written material — it’s just another twisted way to clamp down on freedom of expression. I’m sure they are particularly happy to be doing this in Washington Square – such is the way of the city’s Parks Department and the Bloomberg Administration.

    More to come!


  6. What is needed is a limit to how long each entertainer can entertain! The pianist seems to not have any repertory but Carmen and Turandot that he endlessly bangs out. The banjo play at 5 -8PM repeats ad infinitum the same tunes as his banjo case collects bills and coins. But the most offensive are the saxophone and trumpet players who appear particularly on the weekends and begin touting at 8 in the morning. Oh for the days of Bulgarian and Romani folksongs and the Pete Seager liberation songs of the 60s. The drummers might also stop at 11PM instead of one in the morning and the police might police a bit more after twelve midnight. Otherwise, the park is alive with tunes and songs and the flavorful setting it has always provided. There is no problem with freedom of expression in the park. Only those who are really panhandlers who torture their instruments and our ears with their malpracticed performances should fear the police. And the artist should not perform under the arch for it is a massive echo chamber that magnifies the sound excessively. WE older people should have the right to go to sleep by midnight!

  7. Hi Seth,

    I totally hear what you are saying. To me, the music doesn’t seem that loud from within.
    There certainly is a mix of what one experiences, the level of studied ‘talent’ and diversity of compositions – ! I didn’t realize about some of the late music.

    Maybe they should tell people before they move into 2 Fifth about all this! 🙂

    “Oh for the days of Bulgarian and Romani folksongs and the Pete Seager liberation songs of the 60s.”

    That would be nice! Maybe it’s one of those ‘take the good with what you find harder to bear…’ ?

    Glad the music goes on now !



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