Washington Square Park:

No place for gate-crashers

The great myth about Washington Square Park is that it has only a slight crime problem, and doesn't need to be secured at night. Don't kid yourself.

Between 2000 and 2002, almost 6,000 drug arrests were made in and around the park. Last year, Julia Diaco, a student at New York University, was busted for running a drug ring, partly out of the park.

The police grew so vexed with things at the Greenwich Village park that, some years ago, they installed security cameras in hopes of deterring bad guys during the day and at night. These days a group called the Surveillance Camera Players distributes maps detailing where each camera is planted. Meanwhile, the drug trade thrives.

These facts get conveniently brushed aside by critics and naysayers who have made it their business to block the city from installing a 4-foot-high perimeter fence and lockable gates as part of a $16 million rehab of the decaying park. "This park works, leave it alone," is how one of them put it.

But it doesn't work, because without the gates, it's impossible to enforce the park's midnight-to-sunrise curfew [...]

(Op-ed piece written by Richard Schwartz, Daily News columnist, and published in the 19 May 2005 issue of The Daily News.)

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP@notbored.org

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998