BIDs setting alcohol policy at City Parks. The latest at Tompkins Square Park: Want to see the movie on the lawn? Have your bags searched first.

wine bottle picnic at bryant park

wine bottle picnic at bryant park

It would be lovely to openly have a glass of a wine or a beer in a park. New York City Parks technically don’t allow that.

The New York Times reported recently about a certain permissiveness around this in Bryant Park.

I was happy to see a loosening of the endless array of rules.

But, it’s never quite so simple when something happens in a park in New York City, is it?

It seems the “policy” is dictated park-to-park and very often by the local BID (business improvement district) or Conservancy (pretty close in composition to a BID).

So Central Park and Bryant Park – most likely perceived as accommodating a certain clientele – sip their wine but Prospect Park and Tompkins Square Park – perhaps a bit more mixed crowd – get ticketed. Or, in the case of Tompkins Square, people have their bags searched before going on the lawn!

On Wednesday, at Tompkins Square Park, as a requirement to gain access to a spot on the lawn to watch the scheduled movie, private security at a gate began searching every person’s bag. At a public park! This is to keep out undesirable elements and undesirable alcohol. The “private security” is hired by several local businesses which are “sponsoring” the movie nights in the park.

So what is the policy? Who determines it?

The New York Times story (July 16) covered the Monday movie nights on the lawn at Bryant Park and the fact that, despite a no-alcohol “rule” in the Parks, people come in with full bottles of wine, sangria, beer and the like.

The security guard, hired by the Bryant Park Conservancy, told the Times, he “turned a blind eye” on movie nights, “so long as it is covered, like in a bag.”

The article states, “The official line from the city’s parks department is that alcohol cannot be brought into city parks, though in the summer of 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suggested that drinking wine at concerts was O.K.” (As I recall, at the same time, at a beach in a poorer neighborhood, people were ticketed for drinking beer in public and this caused some controversy in light of the Mayor’s statement allowing Central Park wine sipping.)

The BID’s or Conservancies (or some other business-related facsimile) – private entities allowed to govern our parks by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Benepe – set the rules.

Will the Parks Department ever stop astounding me by their endless privatizing actions?

However ! The Tompkins Square crowd is fighting back. Join them to protest this bag searching policy by coming to Tompkins Square Park (at gate at entrance to central grassy area) on Wednesday, July 30th, 7 p.m. and … refuse to have your possessions searched.

Read more on this… The full Letter about the incident In the Inbox:

On Wednesday, July 16, the gentrification and privatization of Tompkins Square Park (and the Lower East Side) hit a new low as residents of the neighborhood were told they were not allowed to enter the central grassy area of the park–usually accessible to all–UNLESS THEY WERE WILLING TO HAVE THEIR BAGS SEARCHED by private unidentified “security guards”.

Under the guise of “searching for alcohol” and “keeping out people like the squatters” (an actual quote), a private group that is organizing film showings in the park, hired private security guards who subjected everyone wanting to be in the large central area of the park (the only one where you are officially allowed to sit on the grass) to this manner of unconstitutional infringement on their civil rights (the fourth ammendment to the constitution guarantees against unlawful search and seizure).

When my partner and I objected, we were told to “Leave” because the guard didn’t like our “attitude”. We refused to leave, and raised such a stink that we were finally allowed in.

This same private group (which includes developers), will once again have sway over a large area of our public park on Wednesday, July 30, when they will present another film showing.

PLEASE COME TO TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK ON JULY 30 AT 7 PM–TO THE GATE AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE CENTRAL GRASSY AREA (ALL PATHS LEAD TO IT)–AND INSIST ON YOUR RIGHT TO ENTER THIS OR ANY AREA OF THE PARK WITHOUT HAVING YOUR PRIVATE POSSESSIONS SEARCHED. THIS POLICY MUST NOT STAND!

See you there,

Fran Luck / Pete Dolack

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Today’s Villager article about this incident.

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. It appears that Alcohol is running amuck, big time!
    I fear for our young people, in this stressful day & age, we’re living in!
    Both myself & my late husband, drank for 30 yrs……..to blend in with new work mates, then we both found it as a excellent stress reliever! Only to be hit by one of the many severe health damages that ALL liquor carries!
    There appears to be no ryme or reason as far as being dealt this blow!
    We must somehow force our Government Leaders to pass a Law on Liquor, as what’s been done to cigarettes.
    So that it is quite clear, to EVERYONE, purchasing any alcohol, by seeing a large warning label on the container, that the stuff CAN be deadly !!!
    If you would like to now our story on this subject, just let me know, & I’ll send to you.
    Many thanks.
    /sjg

  2. Xander Crews

     /  July 25, 2008

    It’s simple, don’t have movie night in the park.

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