Musicians are told to keep their distance — from fountain, seats!

By Albert Amateau

Some visitors to Washington Square Park feel that Park Enforcement Patrol officers have been especially zealous lately in handing out summonses for violations.

Colin Huggins, the piano man who wheels his upright piano to Washington Square and gives impromptu concerts, told Doris Diether, who lives near the park, that he received two summonses recently.

A PEP officer issued him one at 7:10 p.m. Sun., Oct. 23, when he was playing piano on the east side of the fountain.

He was hit with the other summons shortly before noon on Tues., Oct. 25, when he parked the piano on the west side of the fountain and attracted an audience of 20.

Huggins said he received a citation last month in Washington Square but it was dismissed when he answered the summons in court.

Diether, a member of Community Board 2 and a contributor to this newspaper, said that three guitar players who perform in Washington Square told her that PEP officers told them that performers could not play while sitting on a park bench. The rule is that musicians must stand 5 feet from a bench and 50 feet from a monument or fountain.

Diether said she was hand-feeding a squirrel in the south side of the park on Wed., Oct. 26. when a man told her, “Watch out, I got a $50 fine for feeding squirrels here.”

Despite the common conviction that the enforcement policy in Washington Square is stricter than ever, a Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson said on Wednesday that nothing is special about the current enforcement.

“At Washington Square Park the existing regulations are intended to keep paths clear and allow all park users to move about freely and see monuments and views,” said Philip Abramson. He confirmed that performers must stand 5 feet away from benches and cannot perform within 50 feet of a monument or fountain.

Regarding squirrel feeding, Abramson said, “Feeding wildlife attracts rats and is a form of littering.”

Diether believes she has the littering angle covered.

“I don’t put anything on the ground,” she said. “I make the squirrels come up to me and take it out of my hand.”