Union Square Park Not Completely Clean After All


The New York Post reported Monday that “law and order” has returned to Union Square Park by way of tough love from the NYPD. Because the claim seemed a little hyperbolic, we went to the park around 7 p.m. Tuesday to check things out. Although the park’s stretch known as “Methadone Alley” was not filled with seemingly drugged-out people, the park was definitely not free from crime.

We stumbled upon a group of between 150 and 200 people who had gathered for a Make Music New York Mass Appeal program hosted by the New York City Guitar School. Right before the music — a collection of songs ranging from “Proud Mary” to “Firework” — really got going, the guitarist manning one of the microphones announced that a man’s bag had been stolen. Throughout the concert a group of three disoriented men danced among the throngs of guitarists. One was wearing what appeared to be a beaten-up top from a set of scrubs, and had a white hospital bracelet around his wrist. The men passed around a small plush leopard, and at one point two of them started grinding against one another.

But according to NYC Guitar School owner Dan Emery, the dancers were ultimately “not a big deal.” Their presence was “a little unfortunate,” he said, but what was more so was a stolen wallet, stolen backpack, and the fistfight that broke out behind the guitarists, who were stationed on the steps near the train station at 14th Street.

“A fistfight is a big deal,” Emery said.

When we approached him and announced our intention to discuss the Post‘s story claiming that crime had been completely cleaned up, Emery replied: “apparently, not.”

That said, there was a strong police vehicle presence at Union Square East. A police command post was stationed there the entire time we were at the park, and during our time there we saw at least two cars and a van.

“To me, honestly, I’ve lived here for 10 years. This is the Union Square I know and love,” NYC Guitar School teacher Jen Elliott told us when asked about her experience, during a break in the guitar playing.

Meanwhile in the world of comedy, The Daily Show also disputed the clean-up of “Methadone Alley” Monday when correspondent Samantha Bee took to Union Square’s streets to prove that curbing cigarette smoking was the least of the park’s problems. As she spoke to anti-smoking advocates, drug addicts stumbled behind her.

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We put in a request with NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne to see if he had any comments on the Post‘s story. He has not yet responded.