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

For Sale Around the Park: Manhattan Theatre Source Building on MacDougal and 23 Washington Square North

Manhattan Theatre Source MacDougal St

23 Washington Square North

Updated– I never got to write up Manhattan Theatre Source but I liked going in there (I never saw a show there I must confess but would have ultimately). The front space was billed as a “cafe” — although there was just bottled water and other assorted drinks in a fridge and a few tables — and they’d let you use their WiFi (whether you purchased a drink or not). There was a very nice vibe from the people there the few times I ventured in. I’d been thinking that maybe they should open a real cafe on the bottom floor (I have this little obsession with cafes and coffee shops and could actually see running one!).

So it saddens me – for more than a few reasons – to hear via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York that the theater space is closing as of January 2012:

Said one of the board members to Broadway World, “Despite efforts to save it, we have finally reached a point where we can no longer sustain the running of our space at 177 MacDougal Street. Our deficits have grown too high, and the terrible economy has badly hurt small theater companies in NYC.”

Blogger Andrew Bellware at Pleasure for the Empire has a different take on the closure. He recently wrote on his blog, “The present Board is actually and actively destroying the theater. And they’re doing it willfully–not just from neglect… The theater is not going bankrupt… It’s just closing because this Board lacks the imagination, the will, and the backbone one needs to keep a small business running.”

I could see that being true. I think this required a bit of ingenuity – even sending out a plea announcing they might have to close would seem worth a try to garner support and ideas.

Manhattan Theatre Source describes itself as follows: “manhattantheatresource is a not-for-profit arts service organization with a groundbreaking purpose: to organize and link the disparate communities within New York’s vital off-off-Broadway movement, and to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ resource center for independent theatre artists and audiences across the nation.”

Bellware is right (as he also states) that, despite the group vowing to continue on, trying to run shows and festivals without a space is not the same. We see all the time that having a physical space makes a difference particularly in real estate-obsessed New York City (which is why it makes me a little nervous and curious wondering what will arrive there next).

The theater organization is at 177 MacDougal Street but I guess they owned 175-177 and 179 MacDougal because they are all for sale for $11,950,000.  ****

23 Washington Square North

Also for sale around the corner and right across from the Park: one of the few properties around Washington Square not owned by NYU!

Since the summer, 23 Washington Square North has featured a “for sale” sign but no takers yet although the price has been reduced from $25 Million to $19.5 Million!

At Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate, the property is still listed at $22 Million although Property Shark reports that it is now $19.5 Million.

There are six (or seven) “units” in the building and it is approximately 8500 square feet. Garfield’s site says: “This home hasn’t been available for sale for half a century.”

On Property Shark, it lists the “current owner” as AJ Clarke at 1881 Broadway which is a real estate/management company (which garnered terrible reviews via Google). (Perhaps they are managing the rentals in the building? Garfield states the longest running lease left ends September 2012.)

As so much around the park is owned by NYU, I’d imagine if the university was interested in this, they would have jumped for it by now. (Probably a little steep for them – they likely grabbed the real estate around the park when it was more “reasonable.”)

The first asking price was $25 Million when first listed on June 14th of this year. Was reduced to $22 Million and now $19.5 Million. What do you think? Worth it? I wonder how much lower the price will go.

The building was built in the 1830’s.

Squirrel Visits Next Door Wash Sq North

Update, A bit more info: Okay, I just read a bit more on Pleasure for the Empire blog and came to this post on “How to Take over 177 MacDougal Street” which revealed that AJ Clarke is landlord for 177 MacDougal – in addition to either owning or managing 23 Washington Square North! (What else does AJ Clarke own around the Square and are they selling?) How odd. I think that post was written before it was announced that the MacDougal buildings were being sold. So… AJ Clarke decided to sell the buildings once Manhattan Theatre Source decided they were leaving? Perhaps?

Photo, Manhattan Theatre Source: Wikipedia
All others: Cathryn

Neighborhood Spotlight: Monk Thrift Shop

Monk Thrift Shop is off the Park on MacDougal Street en route to West 8th. The shop has vintage and contemporary clothing, shoes, jewelry, books, tchotchkes (knick knacks), and more. Although it’s received mixed reviews on Yelp, I find it a fun place to walk in and explore. It’s obviously surviving, unlike many on troubled West 8th Street, and it’s eclectic in a city increasingly homogenized so probably a good idea to support it. Plus they have these fabulous ruby red slippers, a la Dorothy, in their window right now!

Ruby Red Slippers at Monk

They also take donations and will give you a tax receipt, so, if you don’t know what to do with some old something or other, here’s a place to bring it. They are open every day 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., except Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Monk Thrift Shop
175 MacDougal Street (betw. Wash Square North and W. 8th Street)
#212/533-0553

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

NYU: “Thanks for your patience” (Former Provincetown Playhouse Site); the University Continues Its Unregulated Building, Ignoring Community Agreements

Former site of Provincetown Playhouse

On looking at this site on Sunday (6/28), when these photos were taken, it sure didn’t look like much had been preserved despite New York University ultimately agreeing to a mere pittance of preservation at this historic site.  This agreement was “to preserve the four walls and entry facade of the theater portion of the building.” Why does this University not care about architecture and historical preservation?

I asked Andrew Berman from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation why these buildings aren’t protected by Landmarks regulations.  He informed me that they currently fall outside of the designated Greenwich Village historic district outlined by the Landmarks Preservation Commission(LPC).  There is work being done by GVSHP and others to include the South Village – and the LPC recently made strides to “calendar” serious consideration of expanding the district – however, currently it is not protected.  (You can read more about it at GVSHP’s site.)  This accounts for NYU’s plans being largely unregulated despite all their talk about wanting to be a “good neighbor.”  

Neither the former Provincetown Playhouse or the other building NYU recently got its hands on, 58 Washington Square South (directly across from the Park between Judson Church and NYU’s Kimmel Center – another architectural blunder), are protected in any way and the University has shown that they do not stick to their word.  

Mr. Berman stated:

 “While the 58 Washington Square South site is not in a designated historic district, it is within GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District, which NYU begrudgingly, after flip-flopping several times, agreed to support.  In spite of that pledge of support, however, they demolished the building on the site, much as they have with the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments building at 133 MacDougal Street, also within the proposed South Village Historic District.  So while these sites do not yet fall under LPC regulation, one might have thought that NYU’s pledge to support landmark designation would mean buildings within it were at least safe from demolition by them, but one would be wrong.”

Previous WSP Blog Posts:

* What’s Up With Community Board 2? Approves NYU’s Demolitions Plans for 133-139 MacDougal Street / Provincetown Playhouse Despite Widespread Community Disapproval

* Isn’t there anyone who can outbid or outmaneuver NYU?  58 Washington Sq South Goes to the Dark Side