Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Observer editors write, 'it's time to take back Tompkins Square Park'



In an article published last Friday, the Post noted that there are people sleeping in Tompkins Square Park, calling it a "homeless haven" ... one unnamed parks worker said that the place is "riddled with bums who have drug problems."

The Park is receiving more attention this week in an editorial signed by the Editors at The Observer titled "Take Back Tompkins Square Park. And New York City."

Here's an excerpt:

Tompkins Square Park has been an accurate barometer of where the city is headed. Known for decades as “Needle Park,” its disarray and lawlessness reflected a dysfunctional, ungovernable city. The restoration of its beauty over the last 20 years has heralded an era where residents and a vibrant collection of small businesses near the park — is there a single better food in all of New York City than the jalapeno cheddar cream cheese at Tompkins Square Bagels? — have thrived. Let’s not let that progress slip through our fingers.

This week, members of the Observer editorial board visited the park. It was a gorgeous summer day and workers were sweeping up, dogs were playing, a small group was practicing Falun Gong, men were playing chess. And at least six people were sleeping on cardboard boxes on the lawn. One park worker, Nelsy, told the Observer that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton personally visited the park on Monday. Perhaps he was inspired by the Post story to take a look and if so, we applaud his leadership. But it will take more than a visit. The city needs a strategy and the determination to stick with it.

It’s time to take back Tompkins Square Park and beyond. Before it’s too late.

The piece quotes an EVG commenter (one of 105 on our post on the article) who wrote, in part: "There are junkies, most of whom are men, passed out, sleeping, without shoes, often waking up and screaming. Some of them talk to themselves and have incoherent conversations."

To which the Observer responded: "It may not be violent criminal behavior at first, but the cancer of lawlessness will metastasize. It will get worse."

Read the whole piece in The Observer here.

By the way, Observer publisher Jared Kushner owns upwards of 30 walk-up buildings in the East Village, including 165 Avenue A, home of Tompkins Square Bagels.

As for Bratton's visit, we heard from a reader that the NYPD was in the Park yesterday "to clean up."

Previously on EV Grieve:
The Post reports Tompkins Square Park 'has become a homeless haven' (105 comments)

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we don't get rid of the (humans with addiction and poverty problems) fast enough real-estate values with collapse and we all know overpriced housing and nightlife is what makes the East Village great. Let's consider our poorest and most ill our enemies and bring back a sanitized East Village (which never existed) so our privilege youth can abuse another drug (alcohol) and be the only one disrupting the safety and peace of other residents.

Anonymous said...

OK, first of all, "Needle Park" has always been Sheridan Square on the UWS. They made a damn movie about it! Has TSP been known for junkies, of course, but it's no more "Needle Park" than Union Square or Washington Square Parks are.

Secondly, I know the proprietor of Tompkins Square Bagels is someone who is generally appreciated around these parts, and this is not meant as a slam on him or his business. But the Observer name-checking his cheddar cream cheese as the single best food in New York smacks of some "moved to NYC ten minutes ago and think I know everything" bullshit. It makes me think the writer is another prissy, entitled Elizabeth Flock type who can't handle the big bad city and should just go home to [boring flyover state of your choice].

Finally, the Observer links to a "series of photographs in the New York Post" depicting the "dystopian scene" that TSP has allegedly become … and the link brings you to a short article with a single photograph. Way to whip up that hysteria, Observer writers.

As Grieve suggests, this piece is clearly fear-mongering on the part of Kushner. I have seen more homeless people around as of late but I feel no more or less safe than at any other time over the past 15-20 years. TSP has always been crowded, scene-y, gross, and generally fucking annoying ... so I go to other parks.

Anonymous said...

"The restoration of its beauty over the last 20 years has heralded an era where residents and a vibrant collection of small businesses near the park"

Maybe they missed the empty storefronts that Icon cleared out on A and 9th, including Cafe Pick Me Up. La Lucha is empty. The old Odessa space sat empty for years. Part of the Alphabets storefront is still for rent. Even Juice Press, which had Park views from outside on 10th, closed. A freakin' Juice Press!

Anonymous said...

I have noticed a lot more police around the last couple days. Yesterday there was a ton of homeless, but they have a couple food banks on opposite edges of the park that were passing out food. The junkies seem to stay in the Southwest corner. It wouldn't hurt to get them some help.

Anonymous said...

Whether it's the Post or the Observer, demonization the homeless is terrible. I'm more worried about yet another tree crashing down on me in the park than I am about people sleeping on the grass.

Anonymous said...

It took 25 years to destroy the work conducted to restore TSP. Having been in the neighborhood longer than 2/3 those claiming the park was always... I will say - not it has not always.

Finally before the free food handouts at the park - which then get discarded if they don't meet the standards of the homeless by choice - before that we did not have a rat problem anywhere near what it is now.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I saw a white shirt sitting in an unmarked tinted-windowed sedan with red flashing lights and high-beamed headlights blaring at anyone who walked around this joker. No emergency, it seemed, as he was blithey mesmerized by his cellphone light, oblivious to the fact he was parked squarely in the middle of the walkway with his windows rolled up and AC blasting for NO APPARENT REASON.

Is this what NYPD meant by "cleaning up"?

Anonymous said...

The mayor must be doing something right if he has made enemies with big real estate. Pro-gentrification articles back by the likes of Icon are trying to pass for real news but to anyone with a brain this is bullshit propaganda. Shame on you Observer.

Anonymous said...

Whereas long-time residents of the neighborhood have compassion, the new residents--the white kids in their 20s who rely on mom and dad to pay the rent--are freaked out by this. They didn't grow up being exposed to the realities of homelessness, and it makes them uncomfortable. They don't want to help. They want these people carted away and dumped somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Really -- fear mongering. Do they not realize that people who are hungry are waiting for food?

Read https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2058
Mr. K.

Giovanni said...

First of all, never trust anyone married to Ivanka Trump, or to anyone named Trump for that matter. The Observer was purchased by Kushner to promote their interests, and the EV is their next big project.

Second of all, the kinds of people who hang out at the Friars Club and SoHo House and Quogue would never hang out in Tompkins Square Park. Seeing anyone who lives on the fringe of society offends them. So it's not surprising that these Observers (as opposed to Participants) were shocked at what they saw in "Needle Park," which everyone who actually lives here, or saw the movie, knows is on the UWS. Just bringing up the name needle park is hyperbole and is pure scare mongering.

Third, this reeks of a real estate pump and dump scheme pure and simple. First they will bring in a TSP Conservancy group to essentially privatize the park with concession stands and close it down regularly for special corporate events, art installations, ice skating rinks and gift shops for the holidays, making it a tourist destination. Then Kushner/Trumpanka can sell off their portfolio and move on to the next victim. Is Haiti up for sale yet?

If they really cared about this city they would lobby for better services for the homeless. Or they could just build affordable housing for people, but that would offend their senses.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@6:49 AM:

Wikipedia cites "Needle Park" as being "bounded by Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and West 70th Street":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Square

and: "In the 1960s and 1970s, Sherman Square and the nearby Verdi Square were known by local drug users and dealers as Needle Park."

Anonymous said...

I love all these comments! Thanks EV Grieve for putting out the facts and clarifying motives!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 9:28. The UWS so-called Needle Park is Sherman Square, not Sheridan. I got it half right!

@6:49

Anonymous said...

Anon July 15 9:0 am- Maybe the realities of homelessness should make people uncomfortable. 'Compassion'? Or being jaded and enabling and not really giving a shit? If all this attention leads to some people getting help or finally deciding to get help thats a good thing. You types accept and seemingly celebrate human suffering to make youselves seem hardcore and keep the area 'gritty'. Thats absolutely disgraceful.
Giovanni-"If peoole cared they would lobby the city....," Do you? Does anyone here? Thought not. These are the only homeless stories EV Grieve posts. Why not interview a park homeless person for your series? Too scary? Maybe a story about the Bowery Mission. I have to post requests to have you post items about the Bowery. Why is that? Because yall really dont give two shits? Whatever.

Gojira said...

Why, I wonder, is it that to some the sight of clean white people in Dockers and Ralph Lauren togs or bikinis sleeping on the grass is acceptable, but anyone not richly caparisoned or spotless doing it seems to portend nothing less than the onset of the Apocalypse?

Anonymous said...

I hope and pray that Jared Kushner's portfolio doesn't diminish in value after his target demographic of 22 year olds sees 4 people sleeping in the Park!

Anonymous said...

You can assign the name "Needle Park" anywhere you like. All I know is, that little sunning hill mound on the east side of the lawn. was constructed of syringes and dog shit.
I watched them build it.

Henri Cervantes said...

Avenue A = Bro Mall

DrGecko said...

They should also ban ugly people from the park. Technically the park is public space and even unattractive people have a right to use it, but their effect on real-estate values is not good.

Anonymous said...

It is RIDICULIOUS that all of a sudden Tompkins Square Park is the focus of how bad things in New York are and how we are heading back to the bad old days. It is part of a political agenda. I have worked in the East Village for the past SIX YEARS and have spent at least an hour a day in the park during that time either eating my lunch or doing work. There have ALWAYS BEEN HOMELESS AND JUNKIES. No more, or no less. If anything the amount of “crusties” has decreased from years past. To imply that things wwere any different under Bloomberg as compared to DiBlassio is disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

Funny. Kushner's Observer is the most notorious journalistic sweatshop in town. Highbrow sweatshop, mind you -- they only take dainties from the Ivies, the very best sort of laughably-underpaid labor. The editorial tone has always been down-its-nose overclass snobbery. Fuck them and fuck The Post's screaming racist yobbery.

And mayor, it might be time to go to war with NYC real estate...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Observer should investigate the buildings owned by Kushner. There are a ton of open violations both from DOB and HPD in the buildings owned by Kushner. While some are inherited from Westbrook/Shaoul Kushner's people should have known that and should be doing something to resolve them. They range from Class 1 in severity to Class 3. Class 1 having to do with safety and structure, but why would the Observer do that as that would be unbiased real journalism, something no one really does anymore. Perhaps the Villager could do it, but . . .I'm not sure about the Villager either anymore.

Anonymous said...

This Observer article is a propaganda and to lobby in "cleaning-up the parks", since "cleaner and safer" and "taking back" TSP mean the RE value of the immediate and surrounding properties increases; TSP as a "homeless haven" decreases the RE value.

What the RE developers and the landlords and Observer Editors and those they're trying to attract in the neighborhood, those with #SIoS, don't see, paradoxically, is that they are the ones who have created and continue to create with the increase in homelessness by having an increased rents in residential and commercial properties, leaving many storefronts vacant, which attracts the vagrants to camp-out there, and having only the very few to afford the rent: Bloomberg's godsend billionaires, which they would hardly use as their residence thus not contributing to the community, only use them to hide their assets, illegal or legal; or the college students splitting a one-bedroom into whatever they can split-it up to be able to pay the rent.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

The Post's menacing homeless TSP article from last week could have been taken as an anomaly. Now there's something similar from the Observer. It looks like somebody with an agenda (PR person for the real estate industry?) has been pitching this to the press.

It'll be interesting to see how the city under our progressive mayor reacts.

Anonymous said...

Every human being has the right to rest on a patch of grass. Homelessness is not a crime. Addiction is not a crime....The park is beautiful, clean and the best I have ever seen it . It used to be a tent city so is come long way. Go plug your bagels somewhere else and leave these people alone. The problem is not them..the problem is those who refuse see, educate themselves, and understand. We are all human beings.....

Anonymous said...

Really? News flash. I have yet to meet a homeless person at the Bowery Mission/NYC Rescue Mission or volunteering who was evicted from a Manhattan apt in the last gew years. Thats simply not factually correct. Most of these guys have been doing this for many years. The idea they can get and keep a job and pay rent- now matter how cheap- is an idea held by folks who dont know the situation. Funny how uninformed you are yet you act like experts. These guys need better shelters and real help. A suit and an empty resume and a sandwich isnt going to cut it. You care? Advocate and volunteer. Do something.

Anonymous said...

Kushner (aka Mr. Ivanka Trump) seems to be very busy:

On the one hand, he's bought himself a nice "portfolio" of East Village buildings and proceeded to try to do the same shit that others of his ilk do (Shaoul, Icon, etc.). So, he's not in the running for landlord of the year, let's put it that way.

On the other hand, as owner of the Observer, he's now bringing his "journalistic" efforts to bear on the very neighborhood he is so heavily invested in, claiming that TSP is dangerous and needs to be "cleaned up."

Can you say "conflict of interest"?!

IMO, he's crap as a landlord AND crap as the owner of a newspaper.

Kushner is just an over-age frat boy himself, so he can't possibly see the value of anything or anyone that doesn't make his bank account increase. Buildings are there to be bought; parks too if he can get away with it.

He has no use for the regular people who constitute an actual neighborhood (a neighborhood that was here long before him). He just likes money, and on the "Kushner/Trump Scale of Values" more money is ALWAYS better, and being a decent human being is ALWAYS worse.

Anonymous said...

i go to the dog run every morning before work and have noticed in the past week an increased presence of police and park service vehicles monitoring the area. per a previous comment, the park is a public space and is free to all.

my real question is when are they going to open up the entire lawn area? it has been sanctioned off the entire summer and at first I thought is was for seeding but it is still sanctioned off.

Anonymous said...

They are just waiting for some incident to happen in the park like an overdose or stabbing so they can swoop in and push everybody out. Just watch. They will lock the gates earlier. Monitor everyone coming and going. Bring in the Park Police to hand out tickets for minor offenses just like they do in Madison Square, Park. first they made DiBlasio nervous about all the crime stats going up so he's caving into this hysteria. Those YouTube sponsored basketball courts were just the beginning of the end.

Anonymous said...

jalapeno cheddar cream cheese? really?

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 12:51. I have lived in Manhattan for 16+ years. I am about to be evicted because I am not market rate. So there's your REALITY CHECK. I will be going to those shelters or others. REGULAR WORKING CLASS PEOPLE LIKE ME ARE BEING FORCED OUT OF THE EV THIS VERY MINUTE BY THE LIKES OF ICON AND KUSHNER AND OTHERS WHO ARE GREEDY LIKE THEM. PAY ATTENTION. If I am pushed around for sleeping in the fucking park by the NYPD, you better believe I will be as vocal or more vocal about the class warfare that is erupting in the hood. I am a writer; I will not go gently into that good night. And if a bagel with some sort of souped up cream cheese is the best you can think of to express the bounty that is NYC food, you are either a lousy writer or the most boring person on the planet. Or both, probably both. No offense to TSB; just sayin'

Anonymous said...

This is what DeBlasio wants....it fits his progressive agenda.

Anonymous said...

This is a situation where the enemy of your enemy is your friend. The post is a right-wing rag, and the observer is a real estate shill. However, TSP has, in fact, deteriorated over the past few years. Of course, a simple uptick in the homeless population at the park would not be an issue; as 12:42 noted, every human has a right to sit on the grass. However, no one has a god-given right to throw a half-eaten container of food in the middle of the sidewalk, or to smoke meth next to an active children's playground. It's also a matter of city resources, and I wonder if the city has reduced the frequency of garbage pickup, power washing the sidewalk etc. There are definitely fewer parks officers assigned to TSP than, for example, Washington Square Park. However, anyone who lives in or frequents the neighborhood knows that the local precinct has, for decades, considered the Southwest corner of the park a sort of designated free-for-all zone. Now it seems like the whole park is anything goes. For many families in rent-controlled and NYCHA housing, this is their local park. I see no difference between a drunk frat bro passed out in a pool of his own vomit and a homeless person passed out in a pool of their own vomit.

I also don't understand the fear over some sort of impending crackdown at the park. No one can be arrested or forced to leave the park for sitting on a bench or laying on the grass. Screaming at the top of your lungs in a heroin-induced psychosis, that's a different matter, akin to frat bros whooping it up in a drunken stupor. It's not even illegal to be intoxicated on a drug that is otherwise illegal in a public space; public intoxication requires a "breach of the peace", i.e. starting trouble with strangers or making a lot of noise etc...The bottom line is that public parks are for everyone, and anyone who engages in behavior that deprives other people from using and enjoying the park can't complain if they're censured for it. And by the way, it's absolutely not true that there has always been a sizable homeless population at TSP. That started in the late 60s.

The upside is that the overblown press coverage will deter suburban transplants from moving to the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

2:35pm,

As someone else who was priced out of the EV, I found that you can find cheaper apartments in other parts of the city/country. There are more choices than (1) live in the EV and (2) live in a shelter.

Anonymous said...

Because police make people feel safe these days?!

Anonymous said...

Let's see where all the bleeding hearts go next time some resident psycho wants to go around hitting Asian women in the head with a hammer again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out The Observer editorial. The following quote puts in perspective that throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution. "The Department of Homeless Services budget exceeds $1 billion annually". Hopefully spotlighting a reality will bring about discussion, change and new approaches.

Scooby said...

EXACTLY, Anonymous 4:31...

I'll take my chances with someone on the nod or boozed up rather than juiced up with no consequences for whatever they want to do... "nypd" - Not Your Protector, Dumbass!

Remember - August of 2018 is not that far away... They're better armed now than 30 years ago ;)

Anonymous said...

Actually "clean up" is not really feasible. Disregarding whether there's a growing homeless issue in the park, my opinion: not really - purely seasonal and not historically growing, the actual legality of moving homeless along is tricky. Next to the park under the permanent scaffolds that developer/scumbag Singer has encircled old PS 64 with for the last nine years there are two rotating homeless encampments that can get pretty scary. There's been crack smoking (party like it's 1991) and herbal smelling fake pot / dust(?). Fights, needles, bottles. As usual most of the transients look pretty beat down but there are a few that are scary and look like predator bums.

This has been discussed at some length with the NYPD over the last couple of years by neighbors and landlords. Besides getting sanitation to remove the filthy mattresses and cardboard occasionally the cops can't actually do that much. As an elected official opined: "People need a place to sleep. They have a right to be there".

So the real estate motives commenters here ascribe to these scare tactics aren't really that realistic. Real estate knows that the property value is like the tide. A few extra shopping cart alcoholics by the men's bathroom has nothing to do with the asking price of a condo on Aves ABCD.

I agree with commenters in the previous thread that this is all part of a concerted and coordinated effort in the media to push a City goes to HELL under DiBlasio meme in the outer boroughs so the powers that be can run a - New York City is only safe for white people with a Republican Mayor - campaign. From discussions with some Caucasians from Queens and Rockaway it seems to be working.

Anonymous said...

At this point, we need a few more psychos for local color. The hood is pale as milktoast. As for the person who was priced out: I am aware there are other places to live, but when you've run through every last dollar to stay (and have been black-listed b/c of housing court, there is no money or credibility to move). Besides THIS IS MY HOME, whether I have a ceiling or not. I'm not leaving. Don't worry, I'm not an addict, and I don't piss or vomit in public, but I may sneer and cuss loudly in front of your impressionable microfashionista toddlers, so look out. Free speech, yo. Someone's gotta stay behind to snicker at the monied blowhards. Again, the media is making a story where NONE exists; for a real homeless problem, examine the WEST COAST. It feels like just a few months before this announcement of a public/private partnership to "clean up Tompkins Square Park". Look for new, fancy overpriced concessions and corp-tied events. Yuck! Miss HOWL FEST.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone read the Observer?

john penley said...

I hear that the former LES Squatters [who own their apartments now] and the Museum of Urban Reclaimed Space [MORUS] are organizing a big demo at Tompkins Square Park in support of the Houseless and that there will be free food and music. Your House Is Mine !! Sad to say this post is not true !!

Anonymous said...

I hate the fact that churches feeding homeless people causes a certain amount of peeing on buildings. And I used to think we had an excessive amount of trash in the streets (fine with it now)... But you know what I hate more??? THE FUCKING MALL. And I'll trade a few people laying around for the boring-ass place this will become if you take away anything and everything they keeps us from looking like the vast consumer parking lot that most of America has become.

Give me your garbage,
Your whores,
Your local masses reading EVGrieve,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door,
Only golden: 'cuz of the pee.

Bahahaha! But srsly:
Keep the riff-raff out and the homeless in!!!
Fuck you for discriminating against non-consumer Amurikans!

Anonymous said...

Last I know is that TSP is a public park. The rich and suburban newbies just want to turn TSP into a Gramercy Park or Sunnyside Gardens Park. Oh dang, I just gave them an idea.

Anonymous said...

I will bet next month's rent to anyone above that few if any on the junkies in TSP have ever lived in this neighborhood. We can have a discussion about the problem of homelessness, and we can complain all you want about the price of rent (which is solvable by moving to some place cheaper), but the issue with what is an undeniable increase in confrontational junkies in TSP and on the streets of this neighborhood is real and volatile, and not addressed by saying that it is made up by newspapers with an agenda, or that it is made up by white newbies.

Anonymous said...

@July 15, 2015 at 10:41 PM wrote "undeniable increase in confrontational junkies in TSP ". Perceptions may differ and I find that "deniable". I live on the park (many many years now) and am in it hours a day, lately with toddlers which makes me very aware of the street characters. There is a seasonal increase every year in bums, warm weather for sleeping outside and all that, and this year is no greater than last year or the year before. There are, so far, less amateur heroin nod outs than usual. What I think drives the perception amongst the newcomer locals is that, while there are a lot less bums at the 7th and A and handball court chessboards, there is a crew that is somewhat larger than last year by the men's bathroom. Numerically? Significantly less bums than in years past, about the same as last year. Confrontational? I suspect the poster got scared at some point but not at all different than, say, last year. I've had anecdotal encounters with more aggressive homeless points west and north - first and second ave. I think that's street life finding an especially target rich environment of soft well heeled newcomers this season who can be intimidated out of a cigarette or a handout. Your anecdotal experience with aggressive bums may be in the park but numerically the homeless population has been depressingly stable for the last couple of years.

And if you don't think local media has been pushing a DeBlasio Turning City Into Third World Hell narrative you should either pay more attention or turn off your class based ideological blinders or both. Mind you that's just how the local right wing media thinks. They don't have to coordinate, that story comes naturally to them regardless of facts on the ground.

Anonymous said...

"Shopping cart alcoholics" aren't the problem with the Men's bathroom and just outside it, the open-air heroin trade is. It's dangerous, disgusting, and 20 feet from a playground.

Chad M. said...

I think the valuable thing about this editorial is that it contains some really good ideas and some pretty bad ones. Rather than support or dismiss the piece whole cloth, I think it would be worthwhile to engage in a productive discussion about what the piece gets right and what it gets wrong.

Bobby G said...

This is the cops running protection for real estate investments.

In Tompkins Square Park, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, all are welcome here, and we all get along -- from the homeless to those paying the market rates.

People that need it have been coming here for many decades for their free meals. The homeless have as much right to the park as the Red Tailed Hawks.

I'm a regular in the park for 35 years. Cops should get out of their cars and walk the park. They might get to know people.

Remove that obscene cop tower now!