51st Anniversary of the Washington Square Folk Riots

That Day near the Arch

Re-posted; Originally Published April 14, 2011 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary last year —

Last month, I wrote of a scheduled event at Washington Square Park April 9th to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the “Washington Square Folk Riots.” In the end, this event did not happen. Apparently, there was some disharmony between Izzy Young, a key figure of that day, and the organizer, Russell Hicks. Young canceled plans to come to NY from Sweden and Hicks then unfortunately canceled the event.

National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece that day on the 50th Anniversary —  “How the Beatnik Riot Helped Kick Off the ’60’s” :

Today, anybody can play music in Washington Square Park. But back then, city law required that you have a permit. That was really just a formality — until the spring of 1961 when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Newbold Morris rejected the folkies’ application with no explanation.

But that didn’t stop [David Bennett] Cohen and a few hundred of his new friends from showing up to protest the denial.

“We came anyway,” Cohen says. “We never expected to get beat up, or arrested. I mean, how stupid can you be?”

Filmmaker Dan Drasin also came along, bringing some video equipment he’d borrowed from his bosses, cinema verite pioneers D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles.

“I’d heard about this upcoming demonstration and thought, ‘Well, it would make a nice little subject for a documentary,'” Drasin says.

Fighting For The ‘Right To Sing’

In 1961, Izzy Young was running the Folklore Center on MacDougal Street, a few blocks away from the park. At the time, it was the heart of the Greenwich Village folk scene — a hangout for amateurs and professionals, including Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk.

Young was the one who applied for the Washington Square Park permit in the first place, and when it was rejected he helped organize the protest.

You can watch Dan Drasin’s 17 minute film, “Sunday” (note: this appears to have been moved; will try to locate and reinsert correct link) about events of that day. I had some trouble watching – the video kept stopping – but you’ll notice that, except for around the playground, there is a fence-less Washington Square Park.

Note: See original post for comments about cancellation of event and more.

* More history: WSP Blog on the 50th Anniversary of Washington Square Folk Riot April 9th; Community Board 2 to Discuss Commemorative Event

Photo: Harvey Zucker

The 50th Anniversary of the Washington Square Folk Riots; Commemorative Event Canceled; NPR Does Story

That Day near the Arch

Last month, I wrote of a scheduled event at Washington Square Park April 9th (last Saturday) to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the “Washington Square Folk Riots.” In the end, this event did not happen. Apparently, there was some disharmony between Izzy Young, a key figure of that day, and the organizer, Russell Hicks. Young canceled plans to come to NY from Sweden and Hicks then unfortunately canceled the event.

National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece that day on the 50th Anniversary —  “How the Beatnik Riot Helped Kick Off the ’60’s” :

Today, anybody can play music in Washington Square Park. But back then, city law required that you have a permit. That was really just a formality — until the spring of 1961 when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Newbold Morris rejected the folkies’ application with no explanation.

But that didn’t stop [David Bennett] Cohen and a few hundred of his new friends from showing up to protest the denial.

“We came anyway,” Cohen says. “We never expected to get beat up, or arrested. I mean, how stupid can you be?”

Filmmaker Dan Drasin also came along, bringing some video equipment he’d borrowed from his bosses, cinema verite pioneers D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles.

“I’d heard about this upcoming demonstration and thought, ‘Well, it would make a nice little subject for a documentary,'” Drasin says.

Fighting For The ‘Right To Sing’

In 1961, Izzy Young was running the Folklore Center on MacDougal Street, a few blocks away from the park. At the time, it was the heart of the Greenwich Village folk scene — a hangout for amateurs and professionals, including Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk.

Young was the one who applied for the Washington Square Park permit in the first place, and when it was rejected he helped organize the protest.

You can watch Dan Drasin’s 17 minute film, “Sunday” about events of that day. I had some trouble watching – the video kept stopping – but you’ll notice that, except for around the playground, there is a fence-less Washington Square Park.

* More history at WSP Blog Post: 50th Anniversary of Washington Square Folk Riot April 9th; Community Board 2 to Discuss Commemorative Event

Photo: Harvey Zucker

Screening of Film on Rachel Carson’s life “A Sense of Wonder” Friday, March 27th at Anthology Film Archives – And it’s free!

Updated 1:30 p.m.: This is a one time screening at Anthology and it is suggested that you RSVP to senseofwonderrsvp -at- gmail.com.  The actress who plays Rachel Carson and others will be speaking after the screening.

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Check out the screening of “A Sense of Wonder,” a new film about the last year of environmental activist and pioneer Rachel Carson’s life as she battles cancer and in the wake of publishing her groundbreaking book “Silent Spring.” The film will be shown Friday night, March 27th, at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

Jay Feldman, of environmental group Beyond Pesticides, says of the film: “I just saw it on the big screen for the first time last week in D.C. It was fabulous. Kaiulani Lee, the actress, is Rachel Carson in the film and is powerful.”

The film is free and the screening is open to the public.

Details: Friday, March 27, 7:30pm Anthology Film Archives Theater, 32 2nd Avenue at E. 2nd Street (trains: one block from the F or V train, 2nd Ave. stop)

More information:

This year’s National Women’s History Month will honor Rachel Carson. Carson’s bestseller Silent Spring led to the banning of the chemical DDT, the creation of the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the birth of the organic food movement.

March activities celebrating Rachel Carson include 100 nationwide screenings of the newly released film, “A Sense of Wonder.” The film depicts Rachel Carson in the last year of her life, as she battles cancer and the chemical industry and focuses her final energy on getting her message to Congress and the American people amidst the publishing of “Silent Spring.”

This film is absolutely remarkable. You cannot walk away unmoved.” — Bill Moyers.

Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine: “Rachel Carson taught us that the natural world and human society are, indeed, interdependent and indivisible, and moreover that we have an obligation as stewards of the environment to safeguard and protect the world around us. … Her life and the guiding principles that shaped it … continue to inspire us all.”

“A Sense of Wonder” stars Broadway, film and television actress Kaiulani Lee and uses Carson’s own words in telling her story. Noted drama critic Christopher Rawson says, “What Lee achieves in barely an hour is something rare; she merges herself with Carson’s spirit.”

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For more information on pesticides and how they affect our health and environment in New York City, please check out the work of the No Spray Coalition!

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Note: After this post, this blog writer is resuming a break until Monday, April 13th barring any ‘breaking’ news on Washington Square Park! Thank you.

New film on pre-gentrified Williamsburg “Brooklyn DIY” Premieres at MOMA Wed. Feb. 25th

Brooklyn DIY, a new film by director and artist Marcin Ramocki, will get its premiere Wednesday night, February 25th, at MOMA.

The Village Voice writes:

When did you know it was over for Williamsburg? Was it the day the first luxury condo was sold? Or the first time you saw a Ramones baby onesie in a Bedford Avenue shop? In his new film Brooklyn DIY, director and artist Marcin Ramocki, whose recent project was the video game documentary 8 BIT, examines the creative renaissance that arose in Williamsburg in the early ’80s and the gentrification that forced out the artists who once settled there for the cheap rents—not the chance to purchase a $12 cocktail.

Watch the trailer for the film here.

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan

Wed. Feb 25th, 8:30 p.m.,

film length: 75 minutes, discussion with the director and participants follows, $6 students, $10 adults.

Ticket details here.

The Truth About Washington Square Park (Video)

This 4 minute video gives an overview of New York City’s redesign of Washington Square Park, the lack of transparency and community involvement, what’s in store and what (still) needs to be challenged. It outlines a fact that was never revealed to the Community Board or City Council – the loss of public space to the Fountain Plaza – a reduction of 23%.

It was completed close to two years ago so the information about the lawsuit at the very end is off (the lawsuit ultimately failed to stop New York City’s redesign plans from moving forward); the rest is accurate.

The City unfortunately did not choose to go the transparent route and go back to Community Board 2 and Landmarks Preservation Commission with accurate information (as Judge Goodman stipulated). Instead, they appealed the decision and won (with a different judge) on appeal.

Community Board 2 ultimately rescinded their approval of the Parks Department’s redesign plans tho’ in a somewhat oblique manner.

“The Truth About Washington Square Park”
Produced by Progressive Source Communications and Matt Davis
Narration Written by Jonathan Greenberg
Narrated by Kaveri Marathe
Music by Ariel Zambenedetti
Video Footage © 2005-2006 Matt Davis
From the documentary “Square: Straightening Out Washington Square Park”

Film: “An American in Paris” Showing in Washington Square Park Friday night, July 25th at 8:30 p.m.

"An American in Paris"

"An American in Paris"

There’s a lot going on at Washington Square Park this week!

Just got word that the film “An American in Paris” will be showing in the Park Friday night, July 25th, 8:30 p.m. on the middle lawn on the East side of the park, presented by the NYC Parks Department.

About the film: This 1951 MGM musical is directed by the award-winning Vincente Minnelli and stars world famous actor and choreographer Gene Kelly. (more…)

Recommended Film: “The Visitor” * Footage of Washington Sq Park Pre-Construction * Now Playing at Cinema Village

The Visitor
The Visitor

A few months ago, on a spur-of-the-moment whim, I caught the film “The Visitor” while it was playing at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). I was very touched by the story and recommend seeing it.begins with Walter, a professor at a college in Connecticut, who is sleep walking through his life when he is coerced into presenting a paper at a conference at N.Y.U. He has an apartment in the Village that he rarely frequents. Once he arrives, he discovers he has house guests and, in an unusual mode of behavior, he invites them to stay with him. This opens him up to a re-awakening of his spirit and soul through music, friendships and locales. The story takes some unexpected turns, some sad, some sweet. The acting is all very strong and holds up the premise of how a chance encounter, the moment when a person steps out of his day-to-day conventions, how the reaction to that moment can change a person’s life and open up new vistas.

The film at points takes Walter through Washington Square Park and the footage of the Park, pre-construction, is bittersweet.

It’s a bit heartbreaking to see the trees that once lined the fountain (now chopped down). They were an integral part of the much loved look and feel of Washington Square Park. (How many movies feature that shot from above of the Arch, the fountain, and the trees lining it? Yes, the fountain unaligned with the Arch, this was a classic shot – New York City, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park.)

“The Visitor” is now playing at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street between University Place and 5th Avenue, #212/924-3363.

A. O. Scott of The New York Times’ wrote of “The Visitor”: (more…)

Film Premiere: “SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” Sunday, June 1st in Manhattan

Deserted Washington Square Plaza - fountain & Arch“SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” is a one hour documentary which focuses on the redesign of Washington Square Park and what’s taken place over the last four years: how the Bloomberg Administration pushed through its agenda to get this famous park in ‘line’ – literally.

The film gets its premiere screening on Sunday, June 1st at the Bowery Poetry Club. In the meantime, you can get a preview of director Matt Davis’s work by watching this 5 minute video clip with up & coming performer, Farbeon, which places the Washington Square Park issue in the midst of an engaging music video. (And there’s some extraordinary footage of NYC Parks Department designer George Vellonakis in action.)

“SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” Screening / Film Premiere

It begins with the fountain, that famous theatre-in-the-round, home to political protest, art and musical freewheeling. The new design calls for this structure to “align” with the historic Arch (after over a century unaligned), more “picture perfect” for tourists traveling down Fifth Avenue, and reduction of the voluminous public space that surrounds it transformed into quaint areas with landscaped lawns.

The film shows the government’s bait-and-switch games with the outraged community, whose members watch the City attempt to transform the Washington Square Park that they know and love into one that is pretty and pacified and far from its artistic, bohemian roots.

If you’ve been wondering how it got to this – with much of Washington Square Park behind gates and bulldozed – “SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” will bring into sharp focus what’s happened thus far and what’s in store.

This is the premiere screening of this documentary. Directed by Matt Davis.

With Musical Guests: The Fools, A Brief View of The Hudson, Jeff Dickinson

This SUNDAY, JUNE 1st, 7 p.m.

BOWERY POETRY CLUB

308 Bowery between Houston & Bleecker

F train to 2nd Avenue; 6 train to Bleecker

Four Dollars

Film site: square-movie.com

Film Premiere Sunday June 1st: “SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” in Manhattan

“SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park” is a one hour documentary which focuses on thewashington sq arch and fountain in full swing redesign of Washington Square Park and what’s taken place over the last four years: how the Bloomberg Administration pushed through its agenda to get this famous park in ‘line’ – literally.

It begins with the fountain, that famous theatre-in-the-round, home to political protest, art and musical freewheeling. The new design calls for this structure to “align” with the historic Arch (after over a century unaligned), more “picture perfect” for tourists traveling down Fifth Avenue, and reduction of the voluminous public space that surrounds it transformed into quaint areas with landscaped lawns.

The footage shows the government’s bait-and-switch games with the outraged community, whose members watch the City attempt to transform the Washington Square Park that they know and love into one that is pretty and pacified and far from its artistic, bohemian roots.

If you’ve been wondering how it got to this – with much of Washington Square Park behind gates and bulldozed – SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park will bring into sharp focus what’s happened thus far and what’s in store.

This is the premiere screening of this documentary.

Directed by Matt Davis

With Musical Guests: The Fools, A Brief View of The Hudson, Jeff Dickinson

This SUNDAY, JUNE 1st, 7 p.m.

BOWERY POETRY CLUB

308 Bowery between Houston & Bleecker

F train to 2nd Avenue; 6 train to Bleecker

Four Dollars

More information: square-movie.com

Three More Trees Felled at Washington Sq Park This Morning; NYC Parks Department Budget Hearing Thursday; Upcoming Film Screening

Washington Sq Park trees chopped down 05-21-08

Mark Your Calendars: On Sunday, June 1st at 7 p.m., Matt Davis, who supplied this photo of the trees in the process of being destroyed and has shared much of his knowledge, will screen his documentary “SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park.” In it, he chronicles the City’s redesign plans over a four year period — how the dramatic “renovation” of Washington Square Park got pushed through, and past, an outraged community. The film, with musical guests, will be shown at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery at Bleecker. More details to follow.

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Three more stately old trees were felled at Washington Square Park this morning. When will it end?

The total number of trees at Washington Square Park which have met the fate of the men with the chain saws is now fourteen.

I highly doubt – despite what NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe would say – that these trees were “dying” or “dead.” They were likely in the way of the City’s redesign plan.

Beautiful mature 80 year old trees are chopped down one morning by a man with an ax directed by the misguided whimsy of a city government to redesign a highly functioning public space to better fit in with our CEO Mayor’s “vision” for our city. There’s something criminal and outrageous about that.

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The New York City Parks Department Budget Hearing is coming up before New York City Council tomorrow Thursday, May 22nd. If you can swing by, please come to City Hall and advocate for our Parks/public spaces. Perhaps if the Parks Department was better funded, we wouldn’t be seeing so many of their privatization games (for example, Washington Square Park Fountain sold off to the Tisch Family with naming rights for $2.5 million).

Important data: City Parks take up 14% of City land and yet the Parks Department receives less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the City budget. Parks workers have been cut by 66% over the last twenty years.

Come to City Hall Council Chambers — 1:30-3 p.m. Parks Department Presentation (a chance to see Commissioner Benepe in action); 3 p.m. Public Comment.