Why We Started the West Washington Place Block Association and Recap of the WWPBA Kickoff Meeting
By Nancy Wyden & Rosalind Resnick
When we first met on the 39 5th Avenue coop board almost 20 years ago we had no idea that one day, long after we had sold our apartments, we would find ourselves neighbors once again—this time as residents of West Washington Place, a charming two-block street west of Washington Square Park lined with leafy trees and historic red brick townhouses, and that once again we would be joining forces to rally our neighbors to fight for the community we love.
Several months ago, we bumped into each other at the Strand Bookstore that Nancy runs and started talking about our frustrations with the mounting problems of crime, drugs and trash on our block. Rosalind, a veteran journalist and Internet entrepreneur, owns and rents out seven townhouses in the West Village, two of them down the street from where she lives. Her tenants were complaining about the block’s problems as well, which, we agreed, had now become a crisis. Something had to be done. Drug addicts were brazenly smoking crack on the stoop of Rosalind’s house. There were homeless people camped out under a New York University building’s scaffolding on the end of the block near Washington Square Park. Calls to the 6th Precinct, New York University, and city agencies went unheeded. The message was clear: if we wanted to solve these problems, we would have to do it on our own.
Over breakfast at the Waverly Diner we sought advice from Rosalind’s old friend Lue Ann Eldar, Co-President of the West 9th Street Block Association. With Lue Ann’s guidance, we mapped out a game plan for our new West Washington Place Block Association. Our agenda was to work with police and city agencies to make our block safer and more secure, beautify our street with flowers and plants in our tree wells, raise money for holiday wreaths and decorations, and, of course, host block parties to celebrate with our neighbors and share the joy of living in the West Village. We started spreading the word through emails and flyers. Replies and feedback were immediate. Some of our neighbors said, “It’s about time!” Others asked, “How can I help?”
We scheduled our kickoff meeting for September 18th at Rosalind’s townhouse at 122 Washington Place. The response was tremendous—not just from neighbors, but from city and state officials too. Other nearby block association organizers promised to attend, as did Father John Baptist Hoang from St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village (on the corner of Washington Place and Sixth Avenue) who offered to help us address the issue of homelessness in a caring and compassionate way, and a representative from New York State Senator Brad Hoylman’s office.
We welcomed the neighbors to the kickoff meeting with wine and cheese. After we made our introductory remarks, four 6th Precinct officers (names and phone numbers are listed below) listened to the problems voiced by block residents and offered their advice for dealing with drugs and crime on our street. In addition to telling us to call 911 and 311 to report incidents, they also gave us their business cards and encouraged us to call or email them directly and send photos and videos. Although these calls and emails may not always lead to an arrest (because the city’s new laws have limited the power of the police to arrest drug offenders and lock them up), the officers will show up on our street and make their presence known. The best way to rid our street of drug users and dealers, the officers said, is to reach out to the press and tell the media what’s going on—which we are definitely going to do!
After the officers left, we went around the room to give everybody a chance to speak out about their problems on the block. There were parents with little kids, older people who’ve lived on the block for decades, young professionals, townhouse owners and apartment renters. The complaints were all the same: drugs, crime, and a city government that doesn’t seem to care enough to do anything to help the people who live on our street. We also spoke about the larger issues of homelessness and mental health, and how we can make our block accessible to everyone, residents and non-residents alike.
After everybody had a chance to speak, we asked for volunteers to head up committees that will work to find solutions to the problems of security, homelessness and trash, and lead our fundraising and media outreach efforts. The response was enormous, and we encourage anyone else who wants to serve on a committee to volunteer. We need all the help we can get.
Forming a block association is only the first step, of course, and we still have a long way to go before our problems are solved. But now that we understand the power of a grass-roots community effort to make our voices heard, we feel confident that we will finally succeed in getting people in government to pay attention. We look forward to getting to know our neighbors better, and working with them to make West Washington Place, once again, a place that we are proud to call home.
WWPBA Halloween Party
Oct. 26th, 7:00 p.m. to midnight
122 Washington Place (costumes optional)
WWPBA Block Association Meeting
Nov. 6th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
St. Joseph’s Church
Here are the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the police officers who attended the meeting:
Sector A: Washington Place between MacDougal St. and 6th Ave.
• Police Officer Annalee Simon
• Police Officer Brian Garcia
Sector C: Washington Place between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave.
• Police Officer David James
• Police Officer Nicholas Virgilio
6th Precinct Phone Numbers
• 6th Precinct-212.741.4811
• Community Affairs-212.741.4826
• Crime Prevention-212.741.4827
• Domestic Violence-212.741.4800
• Youth Officer-212.741.4828
• Auxiliary Coordinator-212.741.2032
• Detective Squad-212.741.4841