Drug dealers operating freely in Wash. Sq. Park

BY BERNARD McELHONE | I have to wonder about our neighborhood newspaper and our local politicians. No one on The Villager staff appears to have noticed the booming drug trade on the west side of Washington Square Park, where pills, LSD (they claim), crack and heroin are for sale all day and night, supplementing the pot market that is a longtime fixture at that location.

The trade has spilled over to the stoops of Washington Place and Waverly Place, where the drugs are frequently delivered to customers. All the action is in the open: counting out pills, hand-offs of packets too small to be pot, the bicycle guy who replenishes dealers’ supplies. In the early mornings, dealers often deliver drugs to the bedsides of those just waking on park benches.

Greenwich Village’s reputation for being open to all has taken on a new, debased meaning, encouraging homeless crack addicts to cluster full time on the corner of Washington Place and along the western walk inside the park. When not fouling the sidewalk or sleeping on the sidewalk and benches, they argue loudly about precise ownership rights to small quantities of the products to which they have devoted their lives. Violence is common, though it does not yet include gunfire — unless we include the dealer who mistakenly shot himself about a year ago.

The Villager wags an indignant finger at kids who gather annually to hit one another with pillows, or to dress in Santa costumes and get vomitingly drunk. Yet it does not see — certainly does not crusade against — the 24/7 criminal market that has seized a sizable corner of our neighborhood park.

Likewise, our local politicians, who have a speech or press release ready for every occasion, are silent about this very significant decline in our quality of life. During a recent meeting at Judson Church, a half-dozen public-safety employees, including the Sixth Precinct commander, acknowledged the problem and noted that the courts rarely penalize the occasional dealers who are arrested.

Gale Brewer, the only elected official to attend the meeting, exposed her inner Marie Antoinette by suggesting that neighbors attend the court proceedings to let the judges appreciate our distress. As the borough president seems not to know, judges sit before crowded rooms every day, with no knowledge of who is in the seats. Perhaps she also does not know that many constituents have day jobs, which do not allow for repeated court visits when cases are postponed. Or maybe she was just blowing us off.

With the colder weather, the illicit trade in and around the park has dropped off a bit — but they’re still out there, in plain sight.

Is The Villager silent about this failure of government because it is bad business to criticize local elected officials? Are our local elected officials silent about the deteriorating conditions in their district because they fear being accused of police-state tendencies? Who knows what motivates such reality avoidance? Most important: Who is left to protect the interests of ordinary Village citizens?

McElhone is a resident of Washington Square West

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