CB 2 Calls Special Meeting to Discuss “Quality of Life” Issues at Washington Square Park June 24 (Series: Part II)



Community Board 2 will be holding an upcoming meeting/public hearing on “Quality of Life” issues in Washington Square Park on June 24th. I addressed this somewhat earlier today. I feel this meeting deserves a meme like — Community:  [silence]   Community Board: Oh, we got your back. Community: Huh?

The agenda is described as follows:

“Discussion with NYPD 6th precinct over safety and quality of life issues in Washington Square Park and in 6th precinct in general, and proposals to improve enforcement of park closing hours.”

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the New York Police Department (NYPD) did not ask for this meeting; it was entirely at the behest of the Community Board.

Let’s look at this a bit deeper.

Susanna Aaron, member of the Parks Committee and also chair of the C.B. 2 Social Services committee has, over the years, seemed very concerned as to whether anyone is in the park after midnight. [Important to note: these are the two committees holding this meeting.] For this blog, that’s not a huge concern. It’s a public space, and while there has to be a balance, it’s fluid. People have challenges sometimes, no one is using the park at night, and as long as they treat it respectfully. Or someone may want to walk through late at night, etc.

At meetings Washington Square Park Blog has covered over the last 11 years, the NYPD has appeared infrequently. When they have addressed the public, it is at a monthly meeting of the C.B. 2 Parks Committee, not a special public hearing. They might typically say, ‘Oh, there are no real problems’ or ‘tourists get lost’ or ‘yeah, sometimes we’d rather have different closures at the entrances because people do walk through at night [but not a huge priority].’

It appears this June 24th meeting is possibly about one or two things: 1) About installing gates at the park entrances – to which the community has been opposed, and current C.B. 2 Chair Carter Booth spoke out against in 2014, stating: “We  … as a Board have existing resolutions for the park not to have gates …” – and/or 2) This is about a behind-the-scenes group of neighbors trying to scale back drug dealers, as outlined here:  Westview News Letter to the Editor from April 2019.

Washington Square Park became heavily surveilled by NYPD cameras to allegedly address drug dealers beginning in 1998 – 21 years ago – during the Giuliani administration, and yet, the issue is not resolved? This tells me to tread carefully with any changes.

Also of note is that the city Parks Department and members of the Community Board insisted – prior and during the redesign of the park – that the redesign itself would – voilà! – resolve these issues.

The vagueness of the agenda and the unusual circumstance of the special meeting/”public hearing” makes it curious. It’s unusual to have a public hearing if people don’t know what they are supposed to be speaking up about except possibly this group of neighbors, unnamed, working behind-the-scenes.

And, of course, it is possible the private Washington Square Park conservancy founders, while not running the park, wanted this meeting to happen.

So ??

I’ve been covering Washington Square Park for 11 years. When there is an issue involving NYPD, a meeting gets called by the Parks Committee as part of its monthly meeting, this isn’t; this is being called as a special meeting with another committee. Meetings do not happen out of the blue.

Please attend:

Joint meeting Community Board 2 PARKS/ WATERFRONT and SOCIAL SERVICES committees
Monday, June 24 @ 6:30 p.m. – NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 401 – off Washington Square East
[Accessible entrance is located at 31 Washington Place]

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Part I: A Look Back: New York Times Editorial 21 Years Ago – “Police Cameras in the Park” (Series: Part 1)

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