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.
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 some of the homeless who roamed the park by name.
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.
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
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.
Wednesday and Thursday nights, the equilibrium seemed to inch closer to a pre-pandemic norm, then Friday night’s chaos pressed the chaos 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.
She said: ‘At night time this park used to be the place. But now, people are crazy. In the day even. But at nighttime? Forget about it.’
She added: ‘In the ’60s, we had our problems, but we came together. We need to come together now.’
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
The late-night parties have seen stabbings and brawls, and sparked complaints from well-heeled neighbors
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.
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.
Locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down