Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keep 'Em Drunks Out

A bunch of us were at the chess area in Hyde Park today, same old usual faces enjoying a beautiful day out in the sun playing blitz. But one fellow who wasn't there is Jelle Marechal. The Belgian and founder of "Get A Life" (which we mentioned here) isn't particularly fond of some local inhabitants. So incensed is he of their behaviour that a few days ago Jelle fired off an email to the city's Lord Mayor. We reprint a portion of his complaint below.

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.


Anonymous said...

While I have sympathy for people who fall through the cracks, and will help them, I have one(?) word for you: Skinner box. Just smash their bottles. They will move on and soon stop coming back.

Anonymous said...

I was there on Saturday and it was really upsetting to see this in my City. I am well aware that these drunks are harmless but watching my 13yr old brother play a game against some randoms and one of these intoxicated guys slurring out "i can f**ken beat you" was really unwelcome. I urge everyone to make a complaint and get rid of these fools from our park as the park should be alcohol free, the last thing we would want is to link the game of chess in Sydney with a bunch of alcoholics.


Anonymous said...

I play at the park on most week days, as i work in town. It is sad that there are many homeless alcoholics( and what a shock it is that they behave like alcoholics) living in our city and in the park. But they have been there for a long time now. Some of the guys Like Reggie, Evan, Jimmy and Moggie have been at the square for nearly all of the eight years i have been working in town. Don't forget that part of the reason they remain at the chess square is the friendship, kindness and generosity of many chess fanatics that frequent the same square. Many people give these homeless people money, food, clothes. Why would they go anywhere else. Should we stop being human. Should we get upset that when we give them money they buy alcohol, drink it, become intoxicated and then act the fool. Every city has problems, the fact that we can't enjoys a "DisneyLand" chess square were our little Chess world is Great is a perfect example of this. It is a Park after all, a public park, in a a major city, that has a massive homeless and displaced population. And we can't play chess....awww shucks. How many homeless people do you see at the Opera house, Governor Generals House in Mrs macquaries chair, Living in the Botanical Gardens. Ever bumped into a bum on the Harbour Bridge Walk. Thats what tourist come to Sydney for.....not the Chess Square, lets get some perspective.