Volume 77 / Number 45 - April 9 - 15, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Villager photo by Shoshanna Bettencourt

Jerry “The Peddler” Wade, left, and Karl Rosenstein at last Thursday’s press conference on City Hall’s steps.

Getting loud about riots 20th anniversary concert

By Lincoln Anderson

Veterans of the 1988 Tompkins Square riots gathered on City Hall’s steps last Thursday to redouble their demands for a permit for a 20th anniversary riots concert in the park and to call for keeping Tompkins Square Park a “liberated zone for the people” without surveillance cameras.

The group supports holding the riots anniversary concert on Aug. 2-3, but the Parks Department had designated that as a quiet weekend without amplified sound to give the park’s neighbors a break from noise. The Villager reported last week, though, that Bill Castro, Manhattan borough Parks commissioner, held out the possibility that there might be some wiggle room on the quiet weekend restriction for the first week in August.

The activists also are concerned that surveillance cameras will appear in the park after reports two months ago that the Police Department and Parks Department want to add cameras in parks throughout the city to combat crime. However, Castro told The Villager last week that there are currently no plans to add cameras to Tompkins Square or any other Downtown parks.

As of last Thursday, the permit situation remained unresolved — while the activists were still fuming about the idea of cameras in the park.

“When corporate entities want to put on events in the park, they have no problem getting permits,” charged John Penley. Meanwhile, small community groups like his get the runaround on permits — but should be given priority, he said.

Referring to last week’s revelations that Council Speaker Christine Quinn stashed millions of taxpayer dollars in a secret “slush fund” for allocation to local groups, Penley said, not Tompkins Square Park, but Quinn’s office and those of other elected officials need surveillance cameras.

“We want them all wired up with video cameras — in every politician’s office,” he said.

Jerry “The Peddler” Wade, who since 1996 has gotten the permits for Tompkins Square’s punk concerts, said there’s a way to reduce noise without quiet days.

“If they just rebuilt the band shell, people on Seventh St. wouldn’t be bothered by the noise,” he explained. “The sound would be amplified into the park and away from them.”

Clayton Patterson, whose 3-hour-and-33-minute-long videotape of the riots was one of only two significant visual accounts of those events, said the tape is telling today.

“When you look at the pictures, you see about three-quarters of the neighborhood is gone,” he said of the local people in the videotape. “N.Y.U. is moving in and building big dorms. All the artists who lived here, it was all connected to cheap rent and a cheap economy. The rent in that new building across from Katz’s is $3,000. Well, what artists coming to New York can afford $3,000?”

Karl Rosenstein, another riots veteran, said the park — without security cameras — is critical to the antiwar effort.

“We need the park as an organizing center against the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan,” he said. “There may be war in Iran, possibly Pakistan and possibly Venezuela.”

Rosenstein added, “We used to say ‘Tompkins Square is everywhere’ — when we’d to go to Harlem and Paterson when black guys were killed by cops.”

On Tuesday, Cristina DeLuca, a Parks spokesperson, indicated Parks may try to make an exception so the riots anniversary concert can rock out with amplified 1980s-style punk bands on Aug. 2-3.

“Basically, we are aware that those specific dates in August do hold special significance for this group,” DeLuca said. “It’s a significant weekend — it’s the anniversary of the riots.” She said Claudia Pepe, Parks’ Manhattan special events coordinator, was reaching out to the applicants on Tuesday “to see if we can accommodate them.”

DeLuca stopped short of saying the permit had been granted, noting, “We’ll have to work out more details.”

Chris Flash, an organizer of punk concerts in the park and a supporter of the riots anniversary concert, said Norman Siegel, their attorney, already had been working with Parks’ counsel to negotiate an “amicable deal” for the Aug. 2-3 weekend.

Told of DeLuca’s statement, Flash said, “There’s no real details involved — give us that weekend. The quiet-weekend policy is not codified or put in law, so they can’t selectively decide when to apply it. We’re just saying, we want our permit, we want our shows and move your quiet weekend back a week.”




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