To Raise Awareness of Homelessness in NYC, Queens Resident Yusef Ramileze Sleeping in WSP for One Week

Yusef Ramelize, Union Square by Gandhi statue

For the fourth year, Queens resident and homeless advocate Yusef Ramileze will be sleeping in a New York City public space for one week; this year his location of choice is Washington Square Park. His goal is to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless in New York City. Ramileze told DNAinfo he chose Washington Square Park because of “its reputation as a haven for the homeless.” He began sleeping at WSP yesterday and will stay through August 11th, also fasting and taking  vow of silence.

Nearby Union Square was the creative manager’s location for two of the previous years and Grand Central for one. This will be his last year conducting the project, Homeless for One Week, which Ramelize began because he was “looking for a new way to raise awareness of homelessness.”

The homeless population has been at record highs during the Bloomberg Administration’s oh so long tenure.

From DNAinfo, Homeless Advocate Plans Week-long Stay in Washington Square Park:

“We need to let politicians know that this is something that really matters to us,” Ramelize said. “Because of the economy, organizations doing really great work have been lacking in funds. We need to pick up the slack.”

Like past places where Ramelize has slept, he chose the busy Washington Square Park, which is officially closed from midnight to 6 a.m., for its reputation as a haven for the homeless.

“This is something I’m just experiencing for a week,” he said. “I can’t even imagine doing this every night.”

After years of advocacy, Ramelize said he has a better understanding of the scope of homelessness. While mental illness and drug addiction are among the most common causes associated with homelessness, Ramelize has learned about students living out of their cars to afford tuition and single mothers forced to live on the street.

“The extent of the type of person you would see going homeless over the past few years is much bigger than I thought,” he said, as people who were once middle-class have begun to struggle for survival.

Ramelize will be fasting and taking a vow of silence – which will be interesting at WSP! He hopes to raise $5000 for Muslims Against Hunger this year. You can visit his web site Homeless for One Week to make a donation or learn more.

More on Mike Bloomberg administration’s relation to homeless advocates from Coalition for the Homeless.

May Day 2012 – A Brief Glimpse in Photos: Union Square; Washington Square

View from Whole Foods looking onto Union Sq

Joe Mangrum’s sand painting at Union Square

The Right To

Rev. Billy and Church of Stop Shopping on the North End

NYU ever present

End Student Debt (and all Debt)

George Washington & Crowd

Washington Statue Was Cordoned Off

Gandhi Statue: Lavender, Balloons and No War In Iran

Occupy The Heart

Then at Washington Square…

Garibaldi Sitting Area

The Arch… Barricades Ready

Just a snapshot of what went on May Day 2012 New York City.

(There was a lot more going on at WSP earlier in the day but I missed that. NYU OWS. Police friction. People arrested.)

All photos: Cathryn except…

3rd from bottom, Occupy The Heart: Susan Celia Swan

Union Square Park Site of “New Occupation;” Bloomberg/NYPD Violence as Park Shut Down Last Night; Vandana Shiva to Appear There Thursday Noon

Union Square Park has become the site of the new Occupy Wall Street “occupation.” If you have not been following, here is the OWS primer on it.

After an NYPD crack down at Zuccotti Park this past weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out with some characteristically bullying, over the top statements – to show he’s in a charge – illustrating both his lack of understanding of what protest means, why people are protesting, and further confirming the fact that this is threatening to him and his corporate cronies if it is actually allowed to happen.

People began moving in to Union Square over the weekend. Last night, the NYPD became violent when more people attempted to sleep overnight. This timeline from OWS is an alarming recounting of the police disruption, violence and ultimate departure as the sun began rising over Union Square. The park was even shut down for a time by Mayor Bloomberg’s “army.”

Gothamist posted this tweet from Twitter:

“I have lived in for 15 years & I have never seen shut down, not even after 9/11. Who is the terrorist now ?

Bloomberg just shows his true colors more and more. Meanwhile, Forbes is salivating over the possibility that Mike might go on to take over Goldman Sachs post the end of his third term as NYC Mayor (will it ever end?) after showing up there recently to give the workers a pep talk.

Vandana Shiva

On to true heroesPeople LOVE Vandana Shiva and she will be speaking at Union Square this Thursday, March 22nd!  It is the OWS Sustainability and the Environmental Solidarity Working Group which is presenting this talk with the “Renowned Physicist and Environmental Activist” on the “Necessity of Taking Back our Food System and the Possibilities for Occupying Global Agriculture.” She will speak at 12 noon at Union Square’s Southern End (14th Street); it’s free.

You might recall there was an attempt to Occupy Washington Square which didn’t quite work out but really Union Square is much better suited.

Vandana Shiva web site

p.s. This video is quite moving and shows what happened on March 17th beginning with the sweet vibe going on at Zuccotti Park and the total contrast once the NYPD moved in:

Kristin Jones’ “Behold,” Slated for Arbor Day 2013, Has Eye on “Hangmen’s Elm” at Washington Square

Kristin Jones beside the "Hangmen's Elm"

Updated – This past Friday’s New York Times featured Kristin Jones’ “Behold,” “a 24 hour multimedia extravaganza” in appreciation of the city’s trees, slated for Arbor Day 2013. One tree in each borough will be designated as a point of focus.

The tree she has her eye on for Manhattan is at Washington Square – the famous “Hangman’s Elm” (there seems to be dispute over whether it was actually used for hangings) in the NorthWest corner of the park. I did not realize that tree is 330 years old! Incredible.

Jones and her partner were responsible for “Metronome” – the unique clock (or “artwork/digital timepiece, intended as a modernist meditation on the dissolution of time”) that looms above Union Square on 14th Street.

Of the “Hangmen’s Elm,” she says: “All these years this beautiful tree was right under my nose. It makes me angry that I never appreciated it until now.”

From the Times’ article:

… she whipped off her blue-rimmed glasses and, conducting the conversation with her ungloved hands, described her plans for that tree and four others in New York City: a 24-hour multimedia extravaganza of lighting, time-lapse filming, poetry and music, to be called “Behold.”

Ms. Jones wants New Yorkers not only to appreciate the ancient giants in their midst but also to pitch in and help conserve them. In that respect, “Behold” is an artistic intervention.

“Imagine how beautiful she would be all lit up,” she mused, stepping back from the English elm, one of just a few of its vintage left in the city. Ms. Jones assigned it a gender based on, well, women’s intuition. Her intended subject dwarfs her, but then, all of her artistic ambitions are supersize.

The artist suggests that the Parks Commissioner is not a fan of the idea. There’s time to change that by the “target date” of Arbor Day – April 26 – 2013. (Possibly, a New York Times article may help win his favor?)

Of the “Hangmen’s Elm,” Jones said: “This tree kind of chose me.” In addition, “she considers the trees natural wonders given short shrift by the city they nurture.”

On that, she will find many agree.

Accompanying Photo essay.
Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

— If you enjoy what you read here and can chip in towards maintaining coverage here at WSP Blog, it’s appreciated! Visit here to donate and support this blog. Thank you.

Reflections on the City Immediately Post 9/11

I wrote a piece about my experiences after September 11th in NYC. There was a period where there was a very different feeling in the air and we all felt connected. You can read it here:

NYC September 12th: In the Midst of Tragedy, A Gentle, Open Feeling in the Air

September 2001 * September 11, 2011 * Union Square Park

Union Sq Park, Sept. 2001

Union Sq Park, Sept. 2001

Remember Peace: Bring flowers & candles to Union Square on Sunday, 9/11 at 2:00PM
Meet at Union Square George Washington Statue, South side of the park

Message from Reverend Billy Talen:

The lively culture in Union Square after 9/11 – passing the talking  stick as we discuss Peace and breakdancers dance and artists at their easels painted fireman as angels… and the copyshopped faces of the missing watched us from every surface. That strange and wonderful time in Union Square after 9/11 is worth remembering now…

Security by way of NYPD’s vigilance has killed the 1st Amendment freedoms, driving much of NY expressive culture onto the Internet. Culture, from the sidewalks to Broadway, is utterly de-politicized. There is little recognition in NYC of the great fact of our time, that we fundamentally impacted our climate.

Let’s meet on Sunday at 2 PM at the George Washington statue on the south side of Union Square. Let’s pause to remember when there was still hope for Peace in the time after the towers crashed down.

Top Photo: Flatbush Gardener

Mama Hawk Violet Spotted At Washington Square — Visits the Nest With Bobby; Bobby and Pip splitting time between WSP and Union Square

I haven’t written about the Washington Square Park Red-tailed hawks of late. Last Thursday (8/11), hours before the New York Times shut down the HawkCam, and in time to be captured on video, Violet and Bobby returned to the nest together. Mama Hawk Violet had been ‘missing’ – not spotted in close to a month – so there was relief that she was still around and doing okay.

I wonder how they communicated to each other to meet up back there.

Pip - West 3rd Street Antenna Late July

A couple of weeks ago in the early evening at Washington Square, I encountered Bruce from the Urban Hawks Blog and Heather from Roger_Paw blog, who were there with a group seeking Bobby and youngster Pip along Washington Square North. They informed me that the two hawks had begun splitting their time between Washington Square and Union Square. I had mixed feelings about that (feeling a bit, uh, territorial?) but this would appear to give the pigeons and squirrels at Washington Square (and mice and rats, should they be there too) some breathing room.

As for Pip’s gender, I’ve always thought of Pip as a boy but then one of the hawk blogs stated very definitively that Pip is a girl. I started referring to Pip as ‘she’ thinking this was confirmed. According to Andy Newman at the Times (in the comments at Thursday’s post), it is the “consensus” that Pip is a girl but it is not verified. A Times‘ commenter wrote that boy hawks are usually smaller than girl hawks and she thought, based on the young hawk’s size, that Pip is a boy. This sounds plausible. Thus far, I’ve noticed a lot of things expressed about the hawks as fact end up being entirely wrong or else these downtown hawks are going against the ‘norm.’ (Which would also make sense, right?)

Earlier this summer, Pip had been taking advantage of the area that’s fenced off and under construction (Southwestern end of the park). Since that section (Phase II-B) is not scheduled to be completed any day soon (more on that later), somebody should be enjoying it! Of course, then there’s still Phase III construction to come — for which bids to complete the work are allegedly due August 17th.

Pip will have access to the soon to be recreated Mounds (moved from Phase II to Phase III) before anyone else! This final phase of Washington Square Park construction probably won’t start until next year, I’d imagine, but we’ll see.

Photo: Redtail 10025

Previously on WSP Blog: Violet, Bobby and Pip

City Announces Plans for Restaurant At Union Square Park; Further Privatization of Public Space?



Updated 1:04 p.m. – Gothamist reports that Union Square North Restaurant Finally Gets a Restauranteur. The restaurant, if all goes according to the city’s plans, jumps on the trend of “local,” “seasonal,” “sustainable,” so currently in favor. (I’m not opposed to any of that, except when they seem to be used as marketing buzz words.)

Commenters at the Gothamist site were overall not in favor. Laura Newman wrote, “In a neighborhood filled to the max with restaurants, this is a such a terrible use of the park.  It’s a park!!  Plus, the pavilion is a monument to free speech and should be respected as suchEmma Goldman is going to weep.”

Activism efforts put forth in 2009 by groups such as Union Square Not For Sale drew attention to the city’s attempt to take over the historic pavilion for a restaurant space. Luna Park, the restaurant previously in Union Square, utilized the space adjacent to the Pavilion, not within.

From Gothamist:

The new restaurant will be open from May through October offering “casual and affordable food service in the newly restored historic Pavilion in Union Square Park.” In the off season the space will be used for educational and recreational activities open to the public: childrens’ programs, fitness programs, and films from the Parks Department, and public education programs to encourage healthy eating habits from the Greenmarket.

The latter sounds like a great year-round purpose for the space, no?

A Walk in the Park Blog reports that the legal case will again move forward with this announcement based on the premise that this usage requires state legislative approval and is an “alienation of parkland.”

Although part of the New York City public park system, Union Square Park is run by a private entity, the Union Square Partnership, a local Business Improvement District (BID).


** Previous WSP Blog Post with history from 2009: Union Square For Sale?

** Also, this post on Union Square Tree Destruction – See Before & After!

Recycling Now Available at Washington Sq Park

Washington Square Blue Recycling Bins Have Arrived

It’s unclear when these blue recycling bins arrived but you can now recycle your bottles and cans at the park instead of tossing them in the trash.

Not many public spaces in New York City have recycling available so this is a good thing. The NYC Department of Sanitation through a public space pilot program in 2007 began offering recycling of bottles, cans and newspapers in select locations, and it has been expanded since that time. The initiative at Washington Square appears to be a Parks Department effort.

Union Square and City Hall Park have these shiny bins

Union Square and City Hall Park (part of the Sanitation Department’s program) have fancy bins like these shown at left. They also offer green bins which hold newspapers; Washington Square does not offer that presently. I would imagine the bottles and cans are the bigger issue here.

Many of the city park’s recycling initiatives seem to be done in combination with a private entity such as a local BID (Business Improvement District) or Conservancy. It is unclear if an entity is sponsoring this effort at Washington Square (no response on that from Parks Department).

Nonetheless, a large number of bottles and cans are thrown out here, and, without recycling, they would just end up in a landfill, further contributing to New York City’s tremendous amount of trash (NYC residential garbage equals 12,000 tons per day; commercial waste is about the same amount daily) that goes there already.

The best answer, of course, is to not use plastic and reduce and reuse!

In the News: NYC’s Plans for Private Restaurant in Union Square and Public-Private Partnership Conflict Continues at Prospect Park

* From Washington Square News: City looks to build restaurant in Union Square

— Previously on WSP Blog: The Union Square Pavilion & Privatization of Public Space

* Should someone be a City Parks Dept official and head of a private conservancy?

That’s how it goes at Prospect Park (via The Brooklyn Paper).

— Previously on WSP Blog: Prospect Park and the “sad legacy” of public-private partnerships