The NYPD is enforcing a new 10 p.m. curfew at Washington Square Park, following complaints of disorder and late-night revelry at the Lower Manhattan public space.
Police officials confirmed the change this weekend, which they said was made in coordination with the NYC Parks Department. The closures will be implemented by a special detail of NYPD officers on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights on an “ongoing basis,” police said.
As the pandemic has forced venues to shutter and bars to curtail their hours, the Greenwich Village park has served as an increasingly popular nighttime gathering hub. At the same time, some local residents of the tony neighborhood have raised concerns about an increase in music, litter, vandalism, and drug use. A template of one letter shared with the Village Sun includes complaints about the “the negative impact this has on our neighborhood safety, property values and quality of life.”
As complaints have mounted in recent months, the NYPD has at times attempted to enforce the park’s long-ignored midnight curfew, sending cops in riot gear to clear the square, and drawing allegations of excessive force.
At midnight (Washington Square Park’s closing time) NYPD cops in body armor and riot gear, wielding bikes as battering rams, cleared a party in the park, pushing crowds farther south into the Village and threaten to start making arrests. pic.twitter.com/wayEeLK5Qr
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) May 23, 2021
In an emailed statement, the Washington Square Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that helps with park programming, said they supported the closure. “After-hours usage in WSP has impinged on people’s ability to safely use and enjoy the Park during the hours it is open,” the statement read.
Cathryn Swan, who runs the Washington Square Park Blog, said she could not remember police ever shutting the park early on an ongoing basis in the past. “There are clearly ways to figure this out without bringing in police in riot gear and curfews,” Swan told Gothamist. “We’re in New York City; there should be a way to instill creative solutions at a public park.”
In addition to the added NYPD presence, Parks Enforcement officers will also increase their patrols of the park to address “large gatherings, amplified sound, and other condition,” a spokesperson for the city agency told Gothamist.
The city parks department will also erect barriers on the northwest corner of Washington Square Park. Though drug dealers have long occupied the area, residents say the issue has worsened since the pandemic, and is contributing to rising crime. Robberies have increased 72% in the 6th precinct, which covers the park, in the last year, while assaults are up nearly 30%.
“The parks are clearly not for people to use drugs, they’re not for people to do any other sorts of nefarious activities,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in an interview on Monday. He added that city parks were for “people sitting and enjoying themselves, for families and kids.”