New Group Looks to Spruce Up ‘Deteriorated’ Verdi Square


Photo by Aleya Lehmann.

Verdi Square at 72nd Street and Broadway was once part of the notorious Needle Park, an area known primarily for drug use. It’s shed that nickname in the years since, but some of the people who use the park say it’s losing its luster once again. So they’re joining together to improve it. This Sunday, Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the new group Friends of Verdi Square will meet in the square to discuss how to make the park “bloom again.”

Aleya Lehmann, one of the leaders, explained why she’s organizing this:

I take a very early morning walk each day, from my end of Broadway, down to 68th and back up . . . passing through Verdi Square at about 6:30 a.m. or so, depending on the season. I started this in 2003, and so I have witnessed many changes especially in this jewel-like park, which was restored as part of the 72nd Street Station enhancement, also around 2003. Unfortunately, although it was beautifully maintained for many years, it has over the past year or two, begun to deteriorate and is in deplorable condition at the moment, which is very, very sad as many, many people use this park–they pass through on their way to the shops, stop to sit, meet friends, have a coffee, catch the train, etc.

And so, this past summer, I decided to create a “friends group” for the park, as a volunteer . . . and have been joined in this venture by Nancy Kaufman, Ada Ciniglio, Evie Joselow, Kayla Gluck and Margaret Kaplan–all friends from my days at ArtTable. To say that we are passionate about this is an understatement–we are determined to create a sustainable, collaborative effort to restore and maintain the park! We’ve started the 501c3 process and have reached out to and received support and encouragement from Liam Kavanagh, Bill Castro, Mike McLean, Brad Romaker, and Matt Genrich at NYC Parks; Kyle Mytelka at Partnerships for Parks; NYS Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; City Council Member Helen Rosenthal; Community Board 7 Director Penny Ryan; and Elizabeth Ewell at Goddard/Riverside Green Keepers; among others–the list keeps growing!

Now I invite you, all of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances . . . if you live nearby and would like to join as a member or volunteer, or if you have friends nearby who might like to jump in, please let me know — you can write to me at info@friendsofverdisquare.org or reply to this email! We are hosting a “kick-off” event on Sunday, November 11 and would love to have as many people as possible come out to see what’s happening in the park, and to hear what we hope will be happening in the park. You can find out more at friendsofverdisquare.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also email info@friendsofverdisquare.org.

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Pedestrian says:

      Thank you.

    2. Elisabeth and Igor Anderson says:

      I remember the time I single handedly cleaned the Verdi Square statue. That was before our Rent Stabilized apartment was stolen by greedy Veltris!

    3. Sean says:

      No this was not Needle Park. That further south at W71.

      • West Sider says:

        Yes, it was. Needle Park included Verdi Square and Sherman Square. https://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/10/nyregion/toast-to-verdi-reclaiming-a-tiny-west-side-park.html

        • AC says:

          You both are correct. Needle Park is the name given to both Verdi and Sherman Square in the UWS. However, it was Sherman Square that was used as the main depiction in ‘The Panic at Needle Square Park.’

          Unfortunately, Verdi Square has been recently tagged as ‘Rat Park’ by some of the locals. Some people fail to realize that when you’re feeding the birds and squirrels, you’re also feeding the rats.

      • Peter says:

        If I recall correctly, the movie “Panic in Needle Park” misidentifies the setting as Sherman Square in its credits. (Maybe deliberately, because Verdi Square sounds too high-toned for a movie about drug addicts?) There’s not even enough room in Sherman Park for a bench to get wasted on, nor any cover for making a deal.

    4. Mary Beth Buchanan says:

      We live on 73rd . I will gladly join you on Sunday.

    5. Eln says:

      Most of the benches are covered in pigeon dodo! It’s disgusting. So, thank you for the extra cleanup help!

    6. Judy G. says:

      What time on November 11?

    7. Robby Westside says:

      The pigeons outnumber the ne’er-do-wells at this point, but their numbers are bolstered by unwitting, breadcrumb-bearing, birdfeeding bohemians. It certainly doesn’t make one desire a good relaxing lollygag.

    8. Frank says:

      Helen Rosenthal is just not interested in local things like this. She’s so busy tweeting about political issues that have nothing to do with the scope of government she is responsible for that she can’t be bothered with how the UWS is deteriorating under her watch.

      From this to trash everywhere to homeless people all over the place pan handling to endless strip of vacant storefronts. There isn’t likely much she can do about the storefronts but does she acknowledge them even? Is our leader too busy protesting new and needed construction on the UWS? Or is she too busy fighting for tax payers in the district to NOT get access to their local school so kids from other districts can get bussed into UWS schools?

      Just seems so preoccupied with vain and virtue that the little things, the things that we notice every day, are being overlooked.

      Helen, if you’re reading this:

      1) Clean the streets up on the UWS
      2) Get the pan handlers out of here
      3) Stop fighting against school access for your local tax payers
      4) Make some noise about the store fronts being closed
      5) Stop being a NIMBY – we need more residential dwellings
      6) Do your job within the scope of your responsibility and stop with the endless national groupthink that has nothing to do with these things

      • UWSJoe says:

        Frank, you’re a hero.

        All of the above is true.

        • dannyboy says:

          Advice for our heroes:

          When you encounter a panhandler, or other homeless person asking for help, show a little compassion. Panhandlers aren’t dangerous people out to harm you, they’re just people like you who are down on their luck.

          • Frank says:

            I’m not implying they are dangerous people. But many of them are addicted to opiates. I don’t judge them or deny their humanity but we pay a lot of money in taxes to provide shelter, food. clothing, a shower, and resources to help down on their luck people to get back at it. They should be using these resources, not sitting in front of an empty storefront taking advantage of the large amount of foot traffic to find their addiction. Many of the ones that are actually down on their luck do use these resources. But not the hopelessly addicted.

            By giving them money you are enabling them. You are growing the problem when their drug buddies hear about how soft the UWS is and how you can make enough money for a fix here in a short amount of time than in other places. And ultimately many of these people will be another victim of the opiate plague and die in a gutter while their drug dealers get rich on your donation.

            I understand there is mental illness as well. And that there are reasons why some of the mentally ill reject help. It’s easy to identify these people and although I believe we have failed them miserably, they are quite different and in smaller numbers from the endless wave of obvious junkies taking advantage of an affluent and guilt ridden part of the city that would rather toss a dollar on their cardboard box to feel virtuous than to actually help people by not enabling them.

            • dannyboy says:

              Frank, when you write “Get the pan handlers out of here” where are you proposing shipping them to?

            • Zulu says:

              How about just providing food. If somebody asks me for food I’m more than willing to oblige. A nice hot plate of food will do wonders to the spirits and health of a person in need. Being hungry and unable to satisfy such basic need is miserable and degrading. Consider how lucky we are not being the ones sitting on the ground begging for scraps.

            • Glitter says:

              Vote for Frank

          • NotImpressed says:

            Meh.

            • dannyboy says:

              NotImpressed,

              You display your intelligence with every comment. No one can deny what this says about you.

    9. Fact Checker says:

      Verdi Square did not even exist till 2002, when they built the park and new subway head house between 72nd and 73rd St. Before that, there was only the one subway station between 72nd and 71st St. Verdi Sq. and the head house actually stand on the former uptown lanes of Broadway between 72nd and 73rd. Back in the 1960s and 70s, “Needle Park” was that notorious strip, consisting of the Broadway median that had benches along the fence line — not a park. That along with Sherman Square is where where drug dealers and users (heroin) hung out in the 1960s and 70s.