Antagonizing a helpless schizophrenic gets results. Less than a week after the New York Post's useless and cruel coverage of the city's homeless culminated in a reporter in disguise begging for change outside Gracie Mansion, the NYPD has installed a Skywatch tower in Tompkins Square Park to address what the tabloid deemed "an encampment for the surging number of city vagrants."
"It's stupid, it's a waste of money," Annick de Lorme told us as she walked her dog past the tower last night. "It doesn't make sense to have two police officers sit around."
De Lorme said that she has lived next to the park on East 7th Street for 13 years, and felt that Tompkins is "one hundred percent" safer than it was when she first moved to the neighborhood.
"I walk my dog very late—midnight, 1 a.m.—when the park is supposed to be closed, and nothing happens," de Lorme told us. "The police should not be watching the park. They have better things to do."
At around 8 p.m. a patrol car was parked next to the tower, which sits in the large plaza across from the Hare Krishna tree. One officer was sitting in the car, but the tinted windows in the tower make it difficult to tell if it is occupied.
"It would make more sense if they walked around and you could feel the police presence," said Andrea Lozado, who was watching her five children in one of the playgrounds in the southeastern end of the park. "But with that tower, someone could or could not be in it. They're here, but they don't help us."
Lozado told us that she has lived on Avenue D for all of her 36 years, and frequents the park with her children. Asked about the Post's assertion that the park has devolved into a "homeless haven," she rolled her eyes.
"It's not like it was in the '80s. There's not as much homelessness and drug abuse. When we were kids, we used to call the fountain over there the 'bum bath,' " Lozado said. "Now, we're more worried about the younger kids and the gangs."
Sharaz Scofield looked up at the Skywatch tower from a bench where he had just finished dinner with a friend.
"It's crazy, I am shocked by that. In fact, I was just telling her, there is never, ever any problems in the park, so where is that coming from?"
Scofield, a vice principal at Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology, said that the tower felt "totally out of context."
"My kids live two blocks away, we come here almost every day, and we've never even seen a police presence where they have to arrest anyone. You see people, they may be a little high, but they'll just sit in the corner by themselves. It's not a problem park."
At a press conference last week, Mayor de Blasio was asked about "the complaints about the prevalence of homeless people on the street," and promised "to deal with it aggressively." The next day the mayor paid Tompkins a visit.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at the press conference that he too visited Tompkins, among other Manhattan parks, and deemed that they needed "additional policing," but said it was "not just because of the recent reporting."
Mayor de Blasio's press secretary, Karen Hinton, told us that the Tompkins Skywatch "is a temporary 'high visibility' police command post to address safety issues on a temporary basis," and that "how long it stays is up to the Boro Commander."
Hinton said that the "NYPD tried to park the Skywatch in the street area, away from the park, but that was problematic. The park was the next best solution."
Scofield said that the tower's current location is "this area's safest area, this is where the middle class sits and has a quiet, peaceful time."
While Scofield was talking, a large rat ran across the footpath and squeezed between two metal bars in the fence.
"Maybe they need to focus on that!"