Why has the Sydney city council, and/or the police, allowed a handful of foul mouthed drunks and bums to take over the public chess area in Hyde Park north, and to ruin what was once, not so long ago, a great family and tourist attraction ?
For many years, the ‘chess pit’ has attracted many people to enjoy a couple of games and socialize during lunch breaks, after work and on weekends. On the weekends dads and mums would often take their kids to practice their chess skills against stronger players from all over the world.
I understand that the council has invested quite a bit of money constructing and maintaining the chess pit – rightly so. To chess aficionados, the Hyde Park chess pit has put Sydney on the map, next to New York (Washington Square), Hamburg (Planten u. Bomen), Paris (Les Halles) and many other world cities with public chess facilities. The chess pit was a truly multi-cultural place, one of the few where people from different backgrounds and nationalities would mingle, and speak a common language.
All this has now come to an end, thanks to the very anti-social behavior of a handful of drunks. They have taken over the chess pit. Their constant swearing, drinking and shouting has driven families, tourists and chess players away (they are now playing in the catacombs of the Town hall shopping centre).
More than a tad dramatic perhaps but not without some basis. While I'm not personally disturbed by these so-called drunks (I ignore them and they are generally harmless), it is true that strangers may be quickly offended. Think of foreign tourists and families with children. I've seen parents just shrug and shoot off. Frankly, it's embarrassing.
For the time being Jelle's email has provoked at least a response from one city councillor. According to our concerned citizen, the councillor's voice message partly said, "Certainly we have to get police involved in this, as well as our people who deal with anti-social behaviour".
Meanwhile over in Washington Square Park, in New York City, they have a somewhat different kind of problem. NYPD, it seems, don't approve of perfectly civilised folks just going about their business having lunch! Read more in The Villager.