As NYPD Sets New Park Curfews, A Battle For Public Space Is Brewing In Manhattan


Shortly after the worst of the pandemic in New York, Naveh Halperin started wheeling his battery-powered speaker to parks and plazas throughout the town. Within the meadow of Prospect Park or exterior Trump Tower, the 31-year-old former subway busker would blast out the siren tune of pop music, attracting swarms of younger folks at a time once they had been locked out of different nightlife.

“The park took on a totally new that means for a way we gathered,” Naveh, who goes by “Subway DJ,” recalled this week. “There was an enormous void in music and dancing, and it was the one place folks might have some semblance of regular.”

Whereas the town’s coronavirus restrictions have largely lifted, the newfound reliance on metropolis parks has proven little signal of receding. The arrival of everlasting open streets and to-go drinks has solely cemented the connection between nightlife and public house.

However after a 12 months during which some high quality of life issues took a again seat, the NYPD now seems to be cracking down on park exercise, together with the impromptu gatherings that served as a lifeline for a lot of within the final 12 months.

A sign inside Washington Square Park indicating the new curfew


An indication inside Washington Sq. Park indicating the brand new curfew

Scott Heins/Gothamist

On Friday evening, as Halperin was main one in every of his dance events by the streets of Decrease Manhattan, police seized his audio system and issued him a ticket for extreme noise — each pandemic-era firsts. The audio gear is being held on the ninth precinct till his courtroom date in August, Halperin stated.

The next evening, the NYPD arrested 23 folks in Washington Sq. Park, underneath a brand new curfew aimed toward stemming late-night events and drug use. Video showed officers with the Strategic Response Group utilizing bodily power on park-goers, a few of whom fought again by throwing bottles and trash. The police response drew criticism from a number of mayoral candidates, in addition to Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

At Tompkins Sq. Park within the East Village, the NYPD applied one other 10 p.m. curfew this week, with a minimum of two officers stationed in any respect 9 entrances to the park. The choice was made with none discover to the Mayor’s Workplace, the native Council Member, or the general public. One officer instructed Gothamist the motion was meant as a preemptive measure to quash protests or riots which may comply with final summer time’s dysfunction. One other defined that events had been unlawful within the park.

Requested concerning the curfews on Monday, Mayor Invoice de Blasio praised the division for putting a steadiness between defending freedom and guaranteeing security, and stated he didn’t have an issue with the NYPD shuttering metropolis parks at their very own discretion.

“If you’re speaking about parks in residential communities, locations the place we’ve seen constant issues, getting forward of these issues [by] having an earlier closing time is the sensible factor to do,” the mayor added.

Washington Square Park on Sunday night


Washington Sq. Park on Sunday evening

Scott Heins/Gothamist

There’s no proof that public parks have gotten extra harmful on the entire. Within the first quarter of 2021, main felonies in metropolis parks reached their lowest degree in a minimum of six years. In accordance with figures supplied by the Parks Division, there have been simply 10 legal courtroom summonses issued citywide by Parks Patrol by Might — a fraction of the quantity issued lately.

On the identical time, a lot of the town has seen a rise in violent crime because the begin of the pandemic. Within the West Village, one of many metropolis’s wealthiest neighborhoods, some residents have blamed the rowdy events and long-running drug market in Washington Sq. Park for the uptick in assaults and robberies within the surrounding precinct.

Hugo Barreca, a 70-year-old resident of Gramercy Park, likened the curfew to the town’s efforts to wash up Union Sq. within the Nineteen Eighties. “There’s a tenor on this park that’s starting to alter,” he stated. “The drug sellers obtained a beachhead within the pandemic.”

Different park-goers noticed racial motives within the latest crackdown. The West Village is 80% white, and roughly 40% of the neighborhood’s residential inhabitants fled throughout the pandemic, among the many highest charges within the metropolis. In that point, the park turned an more and more well-liked hangout spot for younger folks of coloration.

“It’s individuals who dwell in homes value thousands and thousands of {dollars} who don’t like rap music,” stated Kellen Gold, 23, who helps choose up trash within the park on some nights. “They’ll afford to go to fancy eating places with their mates, however now they need to take the park again from the people who find themselves having fun with it.”

On Sunday evening, because the solar went down however temperatures remained within the 80s, a whole bunch of individuals basked within the park. On the outskirts, a small contingent of activists gathered to confront the NYPD at curfew. Others danced to music taking part in from a back-up speaker introduced by Naveh. To the delight of many, the cops by no means confirmed up.

“That is greater than a celebration,” Naveh instructed Gothamist, as he fielded requests from the group shortly after midnight. “It’s us taking on public house.”

Requested on Monday if the curfew had been lifted, a spokesperson for the Parks Division referred Gothamist to the NYPD. The police division didn’t reply to Gothamist’s inquiries.