New York's Washington Square Park - A world of crack, urine and catatonia

July 12, 2021

#DefundPolice is on the back foot. With a former NYPD officer poised to capture Gotham’s City Hall and Team Biden preposterously claiming that defund was ack-shually a GOP scheme all along, it’s clear mainstream Dems have resolved to ditch the slogan, if not the entire agenda. So what now for true believers of a movement that last year swept up much of the liberal gentry?


You could witness the defunders’ plea for attention in the wee hours of the morning Thursday at Washington Square Park. For more than a month now, the park has been the site of a battle of wills between the NYPD enforcing an on-again-off-again midnight curfew and revelers determined to “reclaim public space,” as an ACLU volunteer monitoring the action told me.


Yet with their ranks diminished, the gathering of mostly white, heavily female and extremely young anti-police militants looked not a little like high school goths protesting the principal’s strict new bathroom pass policy.


The effect was to foreground the misery of the numerous addicts who call the park and nearby streets home: a world bathed in crack smoke, drenched in urine, murmuring with the fragmentary, delusional self-talk of lost souls.


My guide to this other Washington Square world — the world of the addicts — was Damon (not his real name). “Excuse me! Ex-cuse me!” He stopped my aimless wandering in the park, asked for a cigarette (my last) and guessed that I was a reporter; that last was quite a remarkable bit of intuition, as I wasn’t doing anything particularly journalistic.


Damon promised to introduce me to everyone who really mattered, on condition that we first head to a 7-Eleven to buy some beers and a pack of Newports. He would also hit me up for a total of $40 — a tenner every 30 minutes or so — on pain of “not letting you leave.” I felt like less of a sap when I thought of it as the equivalent of a fixer’s fee.


“Welcome to Hell’s Kitchen!” he began.


“This isn’t Hell’s Kitchen.”


“Well, it’s a metaphor anyway.”


Most of Damon’s introductions proved fruitless. “Nando” told us the confrontation between the park people and the surrounding community traces back to rumors of mass “d–k-sucking,” though before he could finish his report, Damon chimed in to insist that “There’s been no d–k-sucking, motherf–ka!”


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