Edward Snowden statue booted from park

A statue of NSA leaker Edward Snowden gets wheeled into Union Square Park. Not long afterwards, the sculptor, Jim Dessicino, was told he had to remove it. (Photo by Brian Wagner)

A statue of NSA leaker Edward Snowden gets wheeled into Union Square Park. Not long afterwards, the sculptor, Jim Dessicino, was told he had to remove it. (Photo by Brian Wagner)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday afternoon, NSA leaker Edward Snowden made an appearance at Union Square Park. Although greeted with enthusiasm by some, he was nonetheless thrown out of the public space that has been home to countless political protests, by a government official.

Of course, it wasn’t the real Snowden, but a larger-than-life-size statue, which had been on display as part of the annual Art in Odd Places festival on 14th Street.

And as for the reason for its removal, it wasn’t anything political, according to the Parks Department, but the statue’s creator, Jim Dessicino, had apparently needed a permit to have the statue in the park, and he didn’t have one. The statue was scheduled to have been on display at the park from 9 to 5 p.m. but at around 1:45 p.m. the Parks Enforcement Patrol officer told Dessicino that Snowden had to go.

“It’s a funny way our parks are run; even our public spaces aren’t really public,” Dessicino later said. However, he also noted, in an interview with Town & Village, that the officer who told him to leave was very polite, allowing him ample time to cart the statue away to his nearby car. “He said, ‘Listen man, I love your sculpture, but you just can’t have it here. My boss will have my head,’” Dessicino said he was told.

A Parks Department spokesperson, Philip Abramson, later told T&V what Dessicino had been told, which is that the reason for the removal was the lack of a “special event permit.” “No permit was issued though so we asked for it to be removed,” Abramson said.

Edward Snowden statue at Union Square Park (Photo by Brian Wagner)

Edward Snowden statue at Union Square Park (Photo by Brian Wagner)

But prior to the statue leaving the park, it got plenty of attention from the press and passersby, especially international tourists. Those stopping to look and ask questions included a Swedish woman, a group from France, a group from Israel and a man from Tunisia. They also seemed to like the spot Dessicino picked to display the statue, he said, which was a few yards away from the Lincoln monument outside the playground.

The attention it was getting is why Dessicino believes he was singled out while other festival participants in the park got to stay.

At the time he was shutting down his installation, this reporter was in fact speaking to two other artists in the park, both of whom weren’t being confronted by police or Parks Enforcement.

However, one of the artists, Ienke Kastelein, had previously gotten kicked out of another space, the sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. Kastelein’s installation was a bunch of traveling chairs that she was inviting people to sit on and, if they chose to, engage her in conversation.

“A lot of people were getting booted from their spots,” Dessicino said.

And apparently, that is nothing new. Ed Woodham, a teaching artist who’s the founder of Art in Odd Places, told Town & Village that the festival doesn’t apply for permits so artists getting shooed away from the park has happened many times before and artists are also often made to leave the sidewalks in front of various properties. Normally, the festival works around this by letting artists know which areas are typically problematic.

“This year it slipped through the cracks,” Woodham admitted.

Earlier, he’d spoken with Kastelein, who’s from the Netherlands, and who became concerned after being told by Stuyvesant Town’s Public Safety officers that she’d need to take her project elsewhere. At the time, some of the residents were sitting in the chairs.

“She was on the sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town and they told her to leave,” said Woodham. “They’re pretty protective.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ienke Kastelein in front of her installation, “Walking with Chairs” at Union Square Park, was previously told to move on from a sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Ienke Kastelein, in front of her installation, “Walking with Chairs” at Union Square Park, was previously told to move on from a sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

But, while Union Square Park has also been typically a place where artists are shooed away, Woodham said one artist had fought successfully for the right to display his piece, “Tourist in Chief” there. This was in 2011, and AiOP participant Leon Reid IV had initially been turned down by the Parks Department in his request to put a Yankees cap, camera and shopping bags on the Washington monument. So, “he got a lawyer and forced the issue,” Woodham said.

This year, he noted how one of the artists behind a project called “Complimentary,” Leah Harper, was also initially given the “private property” argument by a building’s management employees. The installation was a candy dispenser that gave out compliments on paper instead of candy. The employees had argued that the machine was attached to a beam that was part of the building. However, after speaking with a curator, they eventually changed their minds and let “Complimentary” stay.

“They said, ‘We’ve been looking to have art around here, anyway’,” said Woodham, who added that the owner even expressed interest in getting more art in the future.

Things also ended up working out for another artist, Kevin Townsend, who was told he couldn’t draw in chalk on the sidewalk. He ended up drawing in chalk on the windows of the 14th Street Y, after the Y gave him permission to do so, and the drawings remained on view throughout the weekend. Woodham added that the frequent resistance to the installations can sometimes work in artists’ favor. He called Snowden’s ouster from the park “wonderful” for the festival and the artist due to an article it got in the Daily News and other publications, including this one.

Additionally, by the next day, Snowden was back in action, appearing on 14th Street at 9th Avenue. After the festival ended, the statue left the city, with its next destination the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. As for why Dessicino chose the National Security Agency whistleblower as his subject, the artist told T&V he had a few reasons.

“This person was important and I think will continue to be important,” said Dessicino. “Monuments are normally commissioned by governments, but (his) self-sacrificial action is not going to be recognized, and that’s why I stepped in.”

He added that he and Snowden are just a year apart in age. “I thought that he’s become representative of what millennials could do,” said Dessicino. “We often get termed as being self-serving and self-involved.”

As for Kastelein’s installation, during an interview, she said she’d gotten the idea for the traveling sit-down experiment from a residency she’d done at a psychiatric hospital. Patients there, she said, tended to be “disconnected” from their environment.

“In Dutch when you ask someone, ‘Where are you?’ you’re saying, ‘Where do you sit?’ They would say, ‘I’d rather be elsewhere,’ ‘so it’s ‘I’d rather sit elsewhere.’”

“Walking with Chairs,” she added, had been responded to positively by the public. Certain areas, like Union Square and Stuyvesant Town, were the most successful spots along 14th Street, in terms of getting people to actually sit down. “This is one place where people don’t hesitate to sit down,” she said of Union Square.

Meanwhile, in Stuyvesant Town, participants were interested in making conversation. “I connected to several people and had a very nice conversation about not communicating with neighbors, so this was a perfect way to communicate.”

Police Watch: ‘Groper’ arrested at Stuy Town Red Mango, Bomb threat at hotel, Parks employee busted for ‘theft’

Compiled by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Fifty-nine-year-old David Mavashev was arrested for sexual abuse inside the Red Mango at 264 First Avenue last Wednesday at 12:59 p.m. Mavashev allegedly grabbed the victim’s butt and left breast while she was working.

Police arrested 55-year-old James Goff for terrorist threats last Sunday at 9:28 p.m. inside the Gansevoort Hotel at 420 Park Avenue South. Goff allegedly told a hotel employee, “A bomb will go off tonight or tomorrow over here.” Police searched the building but didn’t find a bomb, but while investigating, found that Goff did have an active warrant for his arrest.

Cops arrested Ezzard Davis, 41, after he allegedly punched another man in the face in front of Beth Israel, 281 First Avenue and 16th Street last Friday at 9:34 a.m. Police said the punch only caused a small cut.

Police arrested 52-year-old Lydia Brito and 26-year-old Arabian Breland for stolen property at Union Square West and East 17th Street last Wednesday at 9:39 p.m. Police were in the park responding to a radio run of an assault. The victim told police that he was in the park and put his bag down before a fight started and after someone punched him in the face, he noticed that his bag was gone. Witnesses later told police that two park employees, Brito and Breland, had taken the bag and put it into their garbage pail. Police approached them later in the park office and asked if they had found a backpack with a cell phone in it. They both said no but they were allegedly in possession of the backpack and knew where the cell phone was.

Police arrested Lawrence Wallace, 47, for petit larceny at First Avenue and East 17th Street last Tuesday at 3:04 p.m. A waitress in a nearby restaurant told police that she seated Wallace, who then headed to use the bathroom while the waitress continued greeting customers. She noticed a few minutes later that he was leaving and one of her co-workers told her that Wallace swiped a cell phone and $72 in cash off one of the tables. When she and her co-worker attempted to stop Wallace, he allegedly stuffed the cash down his pants and fled on foot. He was found on the back of a public bus and was in possession of the cash and the phone, police said.

Police arrested 31-year-old Anthony Palermo for trespassing inside the Post Office at 149 East 23rd Street last Saturday at 12:05 a.m. Palermo was allegedly inside the lobby of the post office, which was closed at the time. He couldn’t get out because all the doors were locked. He told police that he didn’t know which door he got in through and that he entered the post office accidentally. A postal inspection service inspector told police that they will not prosecute for federal charges but police could proceed with state trespassing charges.

Police arrested 21-year-old Micael Bekele, a psychiatric patient at Beth Israel, after he allegedly fractured a nurse’s wrist. Bekele was at the hospital at 9 Perlman Place for evaluation last Wednesday morning when he allegedly threw a chair at a nurse in charge of his care, causing her wrist to fracture.

Police arrested Jessica Darling, 29, after she allegedly robbed another woman on Madison Avenue and East 26th Street last Thursday at 4:29 a.m. Police said Darling approached a woman and asked for money and when the woman told her no, Darling allegedly reached behind her back into her waistband and demanded money in a threatening manner. The victim told police she believed Darling was reaching for a weapon.

Police arrested 36-year-old Jay Oren for criminal mischief at East 14th and Third Avenue last Tuesday at 12:17 a.m. Oren intentionally broke the rear right window on the passenger’s side of a cab, police said. The value of the property was approximately $250.

Twenty-one-year-old Starasia Allen and 36-year-old Celina Coleman were arrested for assault in front of 395 Third Avenue last Wednesday at 3:16 a.m. Allen allegedly punched Coleman in the head and stuck a comb in her ear, causing her some physical injury. Police said that Coleman also punched Allen in the head, causing a bump and bruising.

Police arrested 19-year-old James Charltown for weapons possession at 24 Union Square East last Wednesday at 12:53 p.m. Charltown was seen drinking peppermint schnapps out of a water bottle in the park and when police searched him, he was allegedly in possession of a gravity knife in his right front pocket.

Police arrested 61-year-old Gerald Russell for criminal trespassing inside the ATM area at 360 Park Avenue South last Thursday at 9:48 a.m. Russell was allegedly sleeping inside the bank without permission to do so.

Twenty-two-year-old Nicholas Phillips was arrested at 1 Union Square West last Tuesday at 6:45 a.m. Phillips was allegedly sleeping inside the park water fountain, which he got into by climbing over a four foot wall, against park rules and regulations.

Police arrested 32-year-olds Raymond King and Gregory Hood in the Union Square subway station last Saturday at 7 p.m. Hood and King were allegedly making “unreasonable noise” with a drumset inside the station.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jonathan McDuffie was arrested for assault in the BRC (Bowery Residents Committee) shelter at 127 West 25th Street last Friday at 8:08 p.m. McDuffie allegedly argued with the victim while he was playing video games and then punched him in the head and face. The punches caused a raised lump on his forehead.

Police arrested 44-year-old Michael Jones for forgery in front of 60 West 23rd Street last Tuesday at 2:42 p.m. An officer recognized Jones as a person wanted for a prior grand larceny in the 13th Precinct. When he was stopped, he was allegedly in possession of several credit cards that weren’t his.

Ground broken on extension to Asser Levy Playground

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured) Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local elected officials joined the New York City Parks Department and neighborhood residents to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new park planned for Asser Levy Place between East 23rd and 25th Streets on Wednesday.

“This underutilized space was screaming for us to do this here,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick, who helped secure some of the funds for the new park.

Garodnick was joined at the ceremony by State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, who rode a Citi Bike to the event.

“The Parks Department has a great legacy in this city and we’re grateful for all the open spaces that you’ve brought here,” Hoylman said. “It’s important to our kids and families to have these open spaces and we want to attract more young people to the community. This park is going to help.”

Kavanagh added that the planned park was the result of a successful land swap and although other parkland was given up, it was beneficial that the city was able to gain more park space in exchange.

“This is a very exciting day because we’re doing more to expand our parkland. This is just the first piece of a bigger project,” Garodnick added, referring to the plan for the East River Blueway.

The new park will be adjacent to the Asser Levy playground and recreation center. The space will serve as a replacement for the parkland lost to the development of a new United Nations building at Robert Moses playground. The new park will offer space for various recreational activities, including ping pong, badminton, volleyball, chess, soccer, football, t-ball and others.

There will be an artificial turf field, adult fitness equipment, benches, tables, an exercise track, drinking fountains and trees. The project was funded with allocations of $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation and $1,175,000 from Garodnick and it is expected to be complete by next fall.