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The rotten core of the Big Apple: How iconic Washington Square Park has become no-go zone for locals


Nearby residents and visitors to New York’s Washington Square Park have told how they now avoid the landmark after dark amid fears of violence, a day after another late night rave descended into chaos.

On Friday night a woman was left bloodied and bruised after being trampled on by terrified crowds trying to flee a man armed with a large knife and a taser.

The man with the knife and taser is alleged to be Jason McDermott, 42, sources told DailyMail.com. McDermott has been arrested at least 10 times between 2010 and 2014, the sources said.

Now locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down.

As the raves at the park have escalated, there have been claims of prostitution and public sexual acts, historic pot smoking escalated to hard drugs, and claims of people carrying weapons like baseball bats.

DailyMail.com spoke to park visitors Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the woman – who has not been named by officials – was injured. 

The nearby residents, afternoon park attendees and business owners who spoke to DailyMail.com have demanded police step up their enforcement of a midnight curfew and stop motorcyclists zooming through the park.

All said they wouldn’t be going to the park tonight, amid fears of further violence.  

The woman was seen with blood pouring from her face Friday night ad NYPD officers went to her aid in the park 

A man was seen handcuffed and being led away by police following the incident in the historic park; police said they arrested the suspect

A man was seen handcuffed and being led away by police following the incident in the historic park; police said they arrested the suspect

On Monday, mayor Bill De Blasio downplayed the chaos at Washington Square Park in recent weeks, telling reporters that he believes the situation will resolve itself ‘naturally’

On Monday, mayor Bill De Blasio downplayed the chaos at Washington Square Park in recent weeks, telling reporters that he believes the situation will resolve itself ‘naturally’

Across from the northwest section of the park, a full block away from the iconic arches where most revelers congregate at night, two women enjoyed the sunlight outside their ground floor window.

Christa Shaub, who has lived in the area for 15 years, and Amy Heinemams, who has lived in there for six years, said the partying in the park is nothing new especially during the summer months, but ‘it’s exaggerated post-pandemic.’

‘This is an open park, but you need to have respect for people,’ Shaub said. ‘There needs to be regulations.’

While they think the park is safe during the day, Heinemams said, ‘I won’t walk through the park at night.’

In a little outcove under the cover of trees and surrounded by shrubbery just south of the arches, a group of about a dozen old timers jam out with an acoustic guitar and dance to live Bob Mellencamp songs.

The guitarist and one of the singers – who said his name was Richie – said he’s been coming to this spot for about eight years and said others in the group have been doing this for decades.

They all live in the apartments across the street. They knew the homeless who roamed the park by name and essentially adopted a homeless person to make they ate and were OK.

But Richie said they make a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm.

‘We’re not going to deal with what’s going on night and don’t want any part of it,’ Richie said.

Christa Shaub (left) and Amy Heinemams (right) say partying in the park is not new, but it has exaggerated post-pandemic

Christa Shaub (left) and Amy Heinemams (right) say partying in the park is not new, but it has exaggerated post-pandemic

Guitarist Richie says he has been coming to this spot for about eight years, but now makes a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm

Guitarist Richie says he has been coming to this spot for about eight years, but now makes a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm

A woman was left bloodied and bruised in Washington Square Park on Friday night after being trampled by terrified crowds

A woman was left bloodied and bruised in Washington Square Park on Friday night after being trampled by terrified crowds

Liberal residents who live nearby have told how they are afraid of asking for more cops to tackle the daily after-dark raves because they don’t want to be viewed as less progressive

People gather inside Washington Square Park Friday night for another night of late-night revelry and drinking

People gather inside Washington Square Park Friday night for another night of late-night revelry and drinking 

Last week the park’s night scene exploded with multiple assaults and slashings. Police held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, which pitted residents against protesting revelers. Hours later, the park was packed again, although tamer than the weekend.

Wednesday and Thursday nights, the equilibrium seemed to inch closer to a pre-pandemic norm, then Friday night’s chaos pressed the reset button.

Karen Bartolo, who’s now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park’s rich history and said she’s been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15. Every weekend she was here.

They played music, smoked pot and had a good time, she said. They played music until 2am, but there weren’t amps and large bass systems that can blast music for blocks.

But what’s happening Washington Square now ‘is horrible,’ she said.

‘In the ’60s, we had our problems, but we came together. We need to come together now,’ she said.

Bartolo, along with multiple other park goers who spoke to the DailyMail.com Saturday afternoon, talked about an escalating level of hostility between police, revelers and the park’s neighbors.

There are too many ‘aggressive police,’ she said, but the kids ‘are out of control’ and egging on law enforcement.

‘It can’t get violent,’ Bartolo said, ‘otherwise we are a lost cause.’

Karen Bartolo, who's now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park's rich history and said she's been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15

Karen Bartolo, who’s now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park’s rich history and said she’s been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15

Hundreds of revelers had descended on the park again for the latest in a string of parties which has left local residents fuming

Hundreds of revelers had descended on the park again for the latest in a string of parties which has left local residents fuming

The New York Police Department failed to enforce a midnight curfew on the park Friday night

The New York Police Department failed to enforce a midnight curfew on the park Friday night 

Tensions have boiled over in recent weeks after violent rowdy late-night events saw stabbings and brawls, and sparked complaints from neighbors. There have also been needles seen in the park, as drug use and sales has run rampant, according to police and residents.

The latest incident unfolded at around 12.40 am Saturday morning when Jason McDermott, 42, began waving a taser in the direction of a group of people who were gathered inside the historic park for another night of late-night partying, the NYPD told DailyMail.com.

Police said McDermott was also in possession of a large knife at the time.

Partygoers, who have descended on the park for nightly raves in recent weeks, were sent into a panic and ran for safety from the suspect.

In the chaos, one 43-year-old woman, who has not been named, was knocked over and trampled by the fleeing crowd.

Police officers gather to monitor the park during the day on Saturday after violence on Friday night

Police officers gather to monitor the park during the day on Saturday after violence on Friday night

Locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down

Locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down

The NYPD had said this week its officers would enforce a midnight closure time if requested to do so by the Parks Department

The NYPD had said this week its officers would enforce a midnight closure time if requested to do so by the Parks Department

DailyMail.com photos show the woman sat on the ground with blood pouring from her face following the incident. A man was seen handcuffed and being led away by police.

Police said the woman was transported to Bellevue hospital in a stable condition with lacerations, contusions and abrasions.

McDermott was arrested without incident and was charged Saturday morning with menacing, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.

The NYPD said there were no other injuries from the incident and the park remained open for the rest of the night – long after the midnight curfew.

The violent night comes amid a surge in violent crime across New York City and fears mounting that the city is returning to its dark days of the 70s and 80s.

The NYPD had said this week its officers would enforce a midnight closure time if requested to do so by the Parks Department.

On Wednesday, Rodney Harrison, the NYPD’s Chief of Department, the highest ranking uniformed officer on the force, told reporters at City Hall that fliers would be handed out to park visitors reminding them to clear out by the midnight closing time.

On Monday, mayor Bill De Blasio downplayed the violence and chaos at Washington Square Park in recent weeks, telling reporters that he believes the situation will resolve itself ‘naturally.’  

The public park in the heart of the Big Apple has been a growing source of tension in recent weeks.

With bars and restaurants facing tight restrictions over the last year due to the pandemic, it transformed into a popular party destination.

Now, as the parties and reports of crime increase – and COVID-19 restrictions have lifted – residents and ravers are coming to blows.

On the one side, young revelers say the park is public property. They question why they cannot use the space to enjoy parties and why the wealthy Greenwich Village homeowners nearby should have the power to decide who has access to it.

On the other side, residents claim the park has become a site of increased drug use and violence, leaving them scared to walk around the area and left grappling with the noise later into the night.

The NYPD had imposed a 10pm weekend curfew on the park two weeks ago following complaints from residents.

This sparked clashes between police and the partygoers that night, with 23 people arrested and eight cops injured in a night of unrest on June 5.

The late-night parties have seen stabbings and brawls, and sparked complaints from well-heeled neighbors

The late-night parties have seen stabbings and brawls, and sparked complaints from well-heeled neighbors

A group of young people gather inside the park which has become a growing site of tension between local residents and partygoers in recent weeks

A group of young people gather inside the park which has become a growing site of tension between local residents and partygoers in recent weeks 

The midnight closing time was restored after police on Saturday lifted a 10pm curfew that was prompted by local residents who said the crowds were making noise late at night while also making the area unsafe.

The curfew was then lifted, restoring its normal midnight cut-off time.

Since then, cops have taken a hands-off approach to enforcing the curfew, with revelers partying on well into the night.

Last Saturday, the park turned somewhat chaotic with two people stabbed, a man beaten and mugged of his phone and a 77-year-old cook at a nearby diner attacked.

The violence in Washington Square Park comes as the NYPD struggled under a surge in violent crime in 2021.

Felony assaults are up eight percent for the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period last year, while rapes are up by 3 percent.

NYPD data shows shootings in the Big Apple have increased by 64 percent year-on-year, while murders are up 13 percent.

The numbers are disturbing in themselves, but the violence has intensified and taken place in public places, like parks and subways, and in front of witnesses and surveillance cameras.

Volunteers distribute free food at Washington Square Park in the heart of New York City during Friday daytime

Volunteers distribute free food at Washington Square Park in the heart of New York City during Friday daytime

A visitor to the park is seen picking up some free clothes and shoes which volunteers set up in the park during the day

A visitor to the park is seen picking up some free clothes and shoes which volunteers set up in the park during the day 

Statistics show shooting crimes have been up this year city-wide compared to last year

Statistics show shooting crimes have been up this year city-wide compared to last year

Earlier this week, former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton warned American cities, including New York City, are in for a ‘very, long dangerous summer’ as murder rates have skyrocketed

And there aren’t any short- or long-term answers, Bratton told CNBC’s Shepard Smith on Monday.

‘Unlike the last crime epidemic that took decades to build up to the early ’90s, this one has occurred, literally, overnight,’ Bratton said.

‘It’s like the virus, it’s literally, out of nowhere, and so solutions are not immediately apparent.’

Bratton, who earned the nickname ‘supercop’ for helping clean up the streets of New York City and Los Angeles, issued his warning on Monday.

In May, Governor Andrew Cuomo called the surge in violent crime a ‘major problem’ and said unless the NYPD gets a handle on it soon, the city would become undesirable.

‘New Yorkers don’t feel safe and they don’t feel safe because the crime rate is up. It’s not that they are being neurotic or overly sensitive – they are right.’ he said.

Washington Square Park through the ages: From Native American farm land to public execution site and military parade ground

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, Washington Square Park is known for its iconic arch and fountain. 

But long before they were built, it was an area of marsh land with a natural waterway named Minetta Creek home to fresh trout. 

The Native American Lenape tribe cultivated the land in the 1600s before it was taken over by the Dutch. 

The Dutch then offered some of the land to African-born slaves they freed in 1642 – but the free black farmers then lost the land again under English rule.   

In 1797, the City’s Common Council converted the land into a Potter’s Field – the name for an area where the poor were buried. The site is also thought to have been the site of public executions.  

Then, in 1826, the area around the park was converted into a militia training ground named Washington Military Parade Ground. The next year, some parts were turned into a public park.

Famously, Samuel F.B. Morse gave a public demonstration of his new invention – the telegraph – in the park in 1838

After the City’s Department of Public Parks was formed to look after the city’s parks in 1870, it underwent a major redesign with curved paths and shaded areas to provide an escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.  

The iconic marble Washington Arch was built between 1890-1892 and other monuments were erected over the coming years. 

Throughout the 20th century, the park increasingly became a site of protest and performances with labor unions marching after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, and the Beat generation and folkies setting up in the park.

Later redesigns followed and the Arch was restored in the noughties.

The park, now named after George Washington who was inaugurated as the first US president in New York City in 1789, continues to be a popular place for protests and cultural events. 



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