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Charmin Sets Up $15,000 Toilet Paper Kiosk In Washington Square Park


Hoping to enjoy the social and cultural center that is Washington Square Park today? Maybe you’ll settle for a promotional event for toilet paper.

Charmin, a subsidiary of Procter and Gamble, set up a large bright blue kiosk in the park and gave out promotional merch like T-shirts and tote bags. The kiosk was elaborate, with a “slot machine” that dispensed free toilet paper. A mascot—someone dressed in a blue bear costume—posed for pictures with people.

While some participants cheered for free stuff, the event was a departure from the park’s usual buskers and art sellers, and raised some hackles.

“This is a public space that people who live here actually use, but turned over to some bright, noisy corporate propaganda,” said Rebecca Anne Goetz, an associate professor at NYU.

“I don’t like corporate stuff in the park,” Johnnie Grinder, 55, told Gothamist. “I didn’t know you could have a product in the park. I thought it was illegal.”

It’s not illegal, given that Charmin obtained a permit from the NYC Parks Department for a fee of $15,000, the department confirmed.

But the Parks Department’s rules and regulations do forbid a whole host of things, including, for example, vendors selling wares displayed directly on the sidewalk or park walkway, or on a blanket or board on the ground or on top of a garbage can or cardboard box. It’s also prohibited for vendors to lean any item they’re using for their business against any street or park furniture; to vend within five feet of any such furniture; to vend within 10 feet of a subway entrance or exit; and so on.

The Parks Department regularly enforces the many vendor regulations. Last week, Parks police arrested locally known artist Oriel Ceballos as he attempted to sell his paintings in Washington Square Park. His offense? Displaying his art for sale directly on the ground without a table. Videos circulating on social media showed four parks officials pinning Ceballos to the ground and choking him.

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Happy customers.

Charline Charles / Gothamist

Conversely, the rules governing free giveaways for commercial purposes, or “sampling,” as communicated to Gothamist by the Parks Department, are relatively straightforward: no unauthorized vehicles, no hanging signs from trees or park property, no blocking walkways, no smoking, no connecting to the water or electrical grid.

Clearly, it’s easier to be a corporate advertiser than a struggling artist in New York City parks.

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