The NYPD has removed a controversial watchtower raised in Tompkins Square Park last week, allegedly to monitor the park's homeless population following a New York Post story.
A campout previously planned to protest the tower’s “big brother” influence from Aug. 7 through Aug. 9 will go on as scheduled, organizer Paul DeRienzo told Metro.
“The struggle by the homeless people for rights and respect continues, and as such we’ve turned it into a general protest or action for support of homeless people, and what we feel is an unfair attack,” DeRienzo said.
Organizers blamed New York Post coverage earlier this month about a 19 year old afraid to walk through the East Village park, and what appeared to be increased drug use and homeless people, for influencing the NYPD, which raised the SkyWatch last Tuesday.
“We believe the NY Post used the sad plight of homeless people to create a return to Giuliani style policing in relation to the poor and those suffering from poverty, mental illness and gentrification and we do not want that to continue. Bring any copies you see being recycled [don't buy em] of the NY Post to sleep on and use as toilet paper,” organizers wrote on a Facebook page promoting the event.
“I grew up on Avenue B between 11th and 12th street and we used to come to this park as children,” Kirah Caminos said. “There were a lot of squatters here and it was really tough for kids to be around here. We were around here last year and we did have some problems so I don't know … I would feel safer if there were police on foot patrol more than seeing a gigantic tower. it just feels threatening, but at the same time, I think safety first.”
"I noticed the police watchtower, but didn't really pay much attention to it,” said Bryan Comras, who lives on Avenue B. “I thought it was just there for the public reason. It didn't make me feel like anything unsafe happened.”
Nearly 700 activists have signed a petition asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to take the tower down, and a satirical Twitter account, called “NYPD Tweet Tour,” has been tweeting zingers such as “THE ONLY BUMS OFFICER TUBBS AND I SEE IN THE PARK ARE THE ONES WITH PRESS CREDENTIALS.”
Tompkins Square Park housed many homeless camps in the 1980s. The Aug. 7 event marks 27 years since the Tompkins Square Riots.
The NYPD did not immediately respond for a request to comment on the tower coming down.
Additional reporting by Bess Adler.