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October 26th, 2004, 09:20 PM
Joey Joey (http://joeyjoey.ch/) doing tricks. He also swallows swords.


Little girls enjoying the entertainment.


January 25th, 2005, 12:58 PM
Washington Sq. redesign to go public; some think it’s too late

January 19 -25, 2005
By Lincoln Anderson

As plans for the refurbishment of Washington Sq. Park are set for a public unveiling early next month, The Villager has learned essential details of the project’s design.

At the same time, after getting his first look at the design on Jan. 6, Clay Bushong, a co-chairperson of the Washington Sq. Park Council and a member of the Community Board 2 task force that has been discussing the project in private meetings for the past year, abruptly resigned in frustration from the Council. Bushong said he felt the redesign process has not been public enough and specifically expressed dissatisfaction with plans for the park’s dog run and two playgrounds.

The design will be presented at C.B. 2’s Parks Committee on Feb. 2 at a location — probably somewhere in New York University — to be determined.

The Villager spoke to Bill Castro, Manhattan borough Parks Department commissioner; Bushong and the other two co-chairpersons of the Washington Sq. Park Council; Aubrey Lees, C.B. 2’s Parks Committee chairperson; and Michael Haberman, N.Y.U. director of government and community relations, regarding the details of the plan. Lees and Haberman are co-chairpersons of the C.B. 2 Washington Sq. Task Force.

A main feature of the plan for the 11-acre, landmarked park is to raise its sunken central plaza to grade. Also, as currently configured, the park’s two dog runs — one for regular-sized dogs and one for small dogs — will be put next to each other and relocated to the park’s southern perimeter across from Judson Church. The Teen Plaza, a raised area in the park’s southeastern area near LaGuardia Pl., on which the Washington Sq. Music Festival performs, will be replaced with a lawn. The statues of Garibaldi and Holley in the centers of the two ovals to the east and west of the central plaza will be moved to the ovals’ north edges, opening sightlines and creating potential small performance spaces. The plan currently has no provision for restoring the mounds — the dilapidated children’s climbing hills that are subject of periodic eruptions by parents who want them renovated. Under the design, the mounds would become another grassy lawn. In addition, the plan calls for a waist-high, wrought-iron fence to replace the current pipe railing around the park’s perimeter. The Parks Department is also considering reducing the number of chess tables in the park to cut down on “chess hustling” and also because it’s felt some of the park’s drug-dealing scene is mixed in among the chess tables. Some trees could potentially be removed to open up sightlines, but this has not been determined yet.

A Parks spokesperson said the department is not making the plan available prior to the Feb. 2 C.B. 2 Parks Committee meeting.

Bushong, who is also vice president of the Washington Sq. Park dog run, said, while Parks is saying the dog runs won’t lose any square footage, he’s upset at the space’s shape, which he likened to a narrow racetrack with “nooks and crannies” where dogs will be hidden from owners’ view. He assured that the dog run group will turn out in force at the Parks Committee meeting. The dog run was originally planned for the park’s southeast corner, but was moved — as Haberman confirmed to The Villager — because N.Y.U. feels it’s inappropriate to have a dog run near its Bobst Library.

Bushong and the other two co-chairpersons of the Washington Sq. Park Council, Sara Goodman and Matt Bardin, also are concerned whether the park’s two playgrounds will get renovated as part of the park’s refurbishment. Bushong said Parks told him the Washington Sq. Park Council will have to raise the funds separately for the playgrounds. So far, the Council has raised $250,000 for the park’s redesign.

All of them parents with young children, Bushong, Goodman and Bardin got involved with the Washington Sq. Park Council after attending a meeting on the park’s redesign last December. Bushong said he had been told that helping fundraise for the park would get him a “seat at the table” in the redesign, but he now feels cheated.

For her part, Goodman says the redesign is good and thinks people will like it. Bardin’s opinion is somewhere in the middle of Bushong and Goodman, with Bushong clearly the most disillusioned at the results so far.

Lees said she favors the idea of opening up the park and creating more green space. She said she is not sorry that the mounds — which she called “huge, old, falling-apart tar pits — or tar mounds” — are not being renovated. She said she feels the process has been public and that the upcoming board meetings in February will give the community a chance to weigh in on the plan. Asked if there would be any more meetings than those in February, she said it’s possible. Asked if Board 2 would sponsor a special public hearing — as the board often does for important or contentious issues — devoted to Washington Sq. Park, Lees said the upcoming Parks Committee meeting will be exactly such a public hearing.

“The emphasis is on refurbishing and making repairs to the park — it’s nothing drastic,” Lees said. “Nothing’s been etched in stone. It reflects what a park should be, which is green and open and fixed up, with places to sit and not falling apart.”

However, Lees did stress an urgency to get moving, noting that a delay could possibly cause the loss of money that has been allocated for the project.

Haberman similarly said he felt the process has been going very well and is ongoing and there will be chance for public input. He stressed that the current design is a “master plan” that can be elaborated on.

Castro said he plans to meet with both the dog run group and the Washington Sq. Park Council about the playgrounds as early as next week. As for the playgrounds, he said they may well be included in the park’s rehab, but that this is still being worked out. Castro said he’s not unsympathetic to the chess tables, either, noting that his uncle, Tony Ribando, a former president of the famed Marshall Chess Club on W. 10th St., is a daily regular at the tables.

Castro said the park project will be done in two phases, so as to keep half the park open at any given time. The intent is to start the first phase in June, five months from now, finishing in nine months to a year, Castro said. The next phase would start immediately after and take about as long. The project currently is budgeted at $16 million, with a $4 million maintenance endowment. Castro said about $6.5 million has been raised so far between private and government monies.

Bushong, who attended almost all the task force meetings, claims there was frequently talk of the need to keep “the crazies” and “the mounds people” out of the process, so that it would not get derailed.

“Every meeting we had there was a reference to ‘the mounds people,’ that they controlled too much [park area],” he noted.

He said at one point, someone on the task force referred to the more involved community process for designing the Hudson River Park, derisively noting how there had even been a “Screw Committee” to select which screws would be used in the park.

Castro and Haberman said they didn’t recall any talk about “crazies,” “mounds people” or a “Screw Committee” at the meetings.

Mounds advocate Eliza Nichols, associate provost of New School University, whose father, landscape architect Robert Nichols, was a part of the community-led redesign of the park in 1970, said she was “not surprised” to hear the mounds were not in the current plan. She said she hopes Castro and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe are “men of their word” and fulfill earlier promises to restore the mounds.

Bushong and the Washington Sq. Park Council had wanted to have the Project for Public Spaces get involved in the redesign, but as of now, P.P.S. will only conduct a forum on programming in the park. Yet, Castro said the idea was always to have P.P.S. only deal with programming.

Lees is sure people will support the plan once they see it.

“People should look at it before they have a nervous breakdown,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who would object to more grass in Washington Sq. Park.”

Similarly, to Bushong and others who are already starting to worry, Castro urged calm. “Everyone should just take a chill pill and relax,” he said. “We want to move the project along, but we want to make sure there is consensus among everyone as we move this project forward.”

The Villager

January 25th, 2005, 02:33 PM
In the last few days, I've read about Mole People, Subway Tunnel Incendiary People, and now Mounds People.

Will Mounds Person work on a resumé?

January 25th, 2005, 08:04 PM
I sense an opportunity for naming rights:

March 6th, 2005, 11:38 AM
March 5, 2005


Defending the Hills of the Village

By DAN BARRY (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=DAN%20BARRY&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=DAN%20BARRY&inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/w.gifASHINGTON SQUARE PARK stretches from here all the way over to, well, here. But in a crowded city where the key to private serenity is a thrown elbow, and where subway cars are so packed they might constitute rolling conjugal visits, its 10 acres are the Great Plains of Greenwich Village, where children play, dogs frolic, and drug dealers peddle, all without bumping into one another.

This national treasure of a park has paid the price of its popularity, though, with cracked sidewalks, a historic fountain in disrepair and a sense that it is on the brink of becoming an extended dog run for humans. Long ago the dealers became the official park greeters, offering their services to anyone in need of something to smoke.

Although previous proposals to renovate the park met with strong opposition - who among us wants their backyard closed for construction? - the city's Department of Parks and Recreation finally announced its determination to conduct a two-phase, wholesale restoration that would begin in late summer. Since then, every conceivable vested interest has raised a voice at meetings large and small, save for the dealers, who remain outside, whispering: "Smoke? Smoke?"

There is the Washington Square Park Task Force and the Open Washington Square Park Coalition. There is the Washington Square Park Dog Run Association and the Washington Square Small Dog Run group. There are the champions of the playgrounds, the defenders of the summer music festival, the protectors of the chess games, and a man named Arnie, who speaks for the Scrabble contingent.

In the fine tradition of Village dissent, some say the city's plan is a $16 million mistake. The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park - yes, another coalition - says the proposed restoration is needlessly broad and would reduce the park to a closed construction site. Better to focus on basic improvements, the coalition says, while also keeping the park open.

The Manhattan parks commissioner, William T. Castro, says that city officials have addressed many concerns by making various changes to the original plan. Attendance has gradually dropped at recent public hearings and the last meeting was exceedingly civil, he said, which might mean that a silent majority is approaching grudging acceptance of the project.

"It's not that everyone doesn't have an interesting point," he said. "It's when they're in conflict with somebody else's that is a problem. And at some point, after compromises and meeting people halfway, you have to move forward."

TRY telling that to the Mounds People. Not the Clay People of Flash Gordon fame, or the Mole People once rescued by Superman, but the Mounds People of Greenwich Village. They are the guardians of the mounds, a closed-off manmade formation of three black lumps that rise a few feet from the ground, not far from where chess hustlers beseech passers-by to try their luck at the Game of Kings.

Some people might see the mounds and think: The city really ought to remove these eruptions from the face of the park.

The city plans to do exactly that, and to replace them with a play area for adolescents. But the Mounds People see them as beloved remnants of a playground that was state of the art in its day, the scene of first downhill steps taken by their toddlers. What's more, says Leonie Haimson, a spokeswoman for a group called Save the Mounds, "They're the only hills for miles around in Lower Manhattan."

Ah yes, the cynic might say, the four-foot Himalayas of Lower Manhattan. The view must be spectacular from up there, but no shouting, please. Avalanches, you know.

But like the dog owners and the chess people, the Mounds People present a passionate argument. Conceding that the mounds are in disrepair - the city's fault, they say - they contend that they have broad community support, and they have raised enough money to cover them with a child-friendly green surface to play on.

"There are swings all over, there are slides all over," says Amy Kaplan, of the mounds cause. "The mounds are unique."

Aubrey Lees, the chairwoman of Community Board 2's parks committee, is quite familiar with the Mounds People's position, but does not sound as though she's about to belt out "Climb Every Mountain."

"There's a certain segment of the community with a strong emotional attachment to the mounds," she says. "But there's a larger part of the community that think it's hideous."

So another corner of the city tries for communal balance. The other day, near the mounds, a hustler called out, "Chess?" The passer-by answered, "Checkers."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

My favorite compaint is that the wrought-iron fence that's being planned will violate the First Amendment, since it includes gates that will close when the park shuts down for the night.

I think it's most obvious, however, that something needs to be done, and soon.

How long can we expect this renovation to go on? Bryant Park's took around four years, and there was a seven-year initial revitalization project before that.

March 6th, 2005, 12:01 PM
This is ridiculous. Considering its location, one descriptive word for the park - crappy.

Some people would accept minor cosmetic improvements just to avoid construction inconvenience.

I'm confused about one point: Washington Square Small Dog Run group.

Are they advocates of small dogs or small runs?

TLOZ Link5
March 6th, 2005, 01:25 PM
Washington Square Park has two dog runs: one for small dogs, the other for large dogs. So the group is for a dog run for small dogs.

March 14th, 2005, 09:59 AM
It is a group of square shaped,smallish canines from the D.C.area,currently living in Manhattan.Apparently they still have strong influence in Washington.Some advocacy group(ACLU ??PETA ??)is petitioning the City on behalf of the visiting dogs for their right to run in packs if they feel it is necessary.Also,being square shaped dogs makes them an instant minority,deserving of all the rights other minorities expect,like running in packs or pissing on the sidewalks.
Once they get Washington Square,they are going after the Broadway medians.
I thought everybody knew about this.

March 14th, 2005, 12:10 PM
Also,being square shaped dogs makes them an instant minority,deserving of all the rights other minorities expect,like running in packs or pissing on the sidewalks.

Are you serious?

March 14th, 2005, 05:49 PM
Hof, that is hilarious.

May 4th, 2005, 08:06 PM
May 4, 2005

Washington Square Renovation Slated


After more than 40 years of proposals, schemes, and false starts, the renovation of the 10-acre Washington Square Park is scheduled to begin late this summer.

The renovation, to unfold in two phases over a period of three years, calls for sweeping changes to both the landscape and the layout of the park at the bottom of Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village.

"The restoration is a bit of a patchwork of several eras of design," the city parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, said of the $16 million project.

The first phase calls for relocating the fountain 20 feet to the east, to align it with the Washington Square Arch; elevating the sunken plaza to street level for handicap accessibility, and landscaping the northwest section of the park. The fountain, whose plumbing Mr. Benepe said is "limping along," will be repaired, and architectural details that have disappeared from its perimeter will be replaced. During the first phase, half of the park will be closed off.

Other changes include increasing the grassy areas and trimming down the expanses of pavement left over from the days when Fifth Avenue cut through the park.

The remainder of the renovation calls for relocating the park's two dog runs, building new play areas with more adventurous equipment, and installing a 3-foot-high fence around the perimeter, similar to one removed from the park in the 19th century.

The first phase of the project has already received full financing, partly through fund-raising efforts organized by the community in partnership with New York University, which also has committed $1 million to the project.

Although the plans have roused some objects by nearby residents - some have objected to the fountain's relocation, others to the installation of a gated fence - Community Board 2 passed, by a large majority, a resolution supporting the first phase of renovations, according to the chairman of Community Board 2's parks committee, Aubrey Lees.

Ms. Lees concedes that efforts to develop a cohesive renovation plan have sparked some rather heated battles among community groups, several of which are dedicated solely to the park's activities and upkeep, such as the Open

Washington Square Park Coalition, the Washington Square Park Dog Run Association, and the Mounds People of Greenwich Village - guardians of the park's famed mounds, which are to be removed during the renovation.

Opponents have raised concerns that the fence would act as a safety hazard during mass events, or as a means of psychological imprisonment. Some students have voiced opposition to turning the park into a construction zone. And others have opposed elevating the sunken fountain because it is a signature feature of the park.

"Not everyone will be pleased," Mr. Benepe said. "But we have to do it now because we have the money." He said a similar effort to renovate the park was thwarted in the 1980s by community disagreements, and the money was pulled.

"We are not talking about putting in a nuclear waste dump," the parks commissioner said. "We are building a park."

Those who have concerns or suggestions are invited to take them directly to the project's landscape architect, George Vellonakis, who has been sitting in the park each Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., armed with large diagrams and renderings, and eager to answer questions.

May 4th, 2005, 10:07 PM
the installation of a gated fence
What do they mean by gated?

TLOZ Link5
May 4th, 2005, 10:11 PM
What do they mean by gated?

As in there will be gates, that open and close, at the entrances to the park.

May 4th, 2005, 10:31 PM
Gates that close are sometimes locked...unless they mean the big and small dog runs.

TLOZ Link5
May 4th, 2005, 11:37 PM
No, they mean the whole park...and the gates will be locked.

May 5th, 2005, 11:15 AM
No, they mean the whole park...and the gates will be locked.
It's a three foot high fence, so how effective can the gates be?

As a nearby resident, I'm all for it. All of those improvements sound better than what is there now (provided there really aren't locked gates). I just hope it retains some semblance of a good public space during reconstruction, and that this estimation of three years doesn't turn into ten.

May 10th, 2005, 03:04 AM
Washington Square Park, Haven for Eccentricity, Is Set to Fall Into Line

The fountain at Washington Square Park is not in alignment with the arch.
Under the city's plan for the park, the fountain will be moved.


Published: May 10, 2005

Washington Square Park, the scruffy spot with an anything-goes tradition, is about to get a perimeter fence and a lock, courtesy of a Parks Department makeover.

Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to approve a $16 million redesign, the last step before the 9.75-acre park will be altered in its most significant way since Eleanor Roosevelt helped lead the fight to ban automobile traffic from Washington Square in 1959.

Under the plan, the park's centerpiece fountain would be shifted into precise alignment with the Washington Square Arch as seen from Fifth Avenue. The park's quirky changes in elevation would be leveled off. Two popular dog runs would be moved. Three six-foot-high asphalt mounds, part of an old playground, would be flattened. A large plaza would be replaced by a lawn. And a four-foot-high granite and iron fence would go up along the perimeter, along with gates that would be locked at night.

"They're sanitizing the park, taking away a lot of its charm and freedom," said Carol Massa, president of the MacDougal Block North Association. "It's overkill."

Few people disagree that Washington Square needs a face-lift. The fountain leaks, the pathways and pavement are badly cracked and the grass is often not green. But in a park in which there is a vice president in charge of the dog runs, and the asphalt mounds have their own preservation group, change does not go down smoothly, said the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe.

"There's a constituency for every little part of the park," he said, "and there are going to be people who are going to be contrarian no matter what."

The Landmarks Preservation Commission vote will determine only whether the plan violates city landmark laws. The plan has already been approved by the local community board and no further approval is needed. The three-year project could start in late June. Officials say that the work will not disrupt New York University graduations, which take place in the park.

Despite the community board's approval however, the area's councilman, Alan J. Gerson, said the neighbors, many of whom have only minor complaints about the redesign, continue to have valid criticisms. "There are several areas of concern," said Mr. Gerson, who grew up playing in the park and remembered falling off the monkey bars many times. "I want to ensure the design preserves the character of openness of the park."

Opinions are nearly unanimous in the neighborhood about the fence: almost no one wants one. Some say it would be far too high; others doesn't want it at all, saying permanent barriers are antithetical to the park's history and character. The Parks Department says that the park now officially closes from midnight to 6 a.m.

At Washington Square yesterday, parkgoers enjoying the afternoon sun generally thought adding gates was a bad idea.

"It's a total waste of money," said Erik Foss, 32, owner of Lit, a bar in the East Village. "This city's already so safe as it is. I walk through here at night. All the people that try to sell drugs here at night are cops anyway." You should be able to just walk through - it's a park."

Erica Roedder, 25, a New York University graduate student in philosophy, said a higher police presence would be preferable to a locked gate. "If I were making the decision I would just have more police monitors and be more aggressive about people who were disruptive," she said. "But keep it open. I have really good memories of coming to Washington Square Park and making out. It's nice for young couples to have a place to go at night."

The Parks Department said that, other than drug dealing, there is very little crime in Washington Square. The fence, they say, will simply help police enforce the park's curfew and keep dogs from ruining the plants.

There were some dark mutterings about the intentions of N.Y.U., whose buildings tower over Washington Square, and whose expansion in recent decades has led to ongoing ill will in the area.

For its part, N.Y.U. denies that it has had any role in the redesign, aside from contributing $1 million and requesting that a dog run not be placed across the street from Bobst Library on Washington Square South. But dog owners have complained that the new dog run would be too close to Washington Square South, and that the shady new site would not allow sufficient sunlight.

The other significant contributors to the redesign have been the mayor's office, the City Council, the Manhattan borough president's office and the Tisch family, which gave $2.5 million.

Carol Greiser, a former City Council member who had been instrumental in the effort to ban traffic in the park, said the Parks Department had erred by planning the changes, including hiring architect George Vellonakis, while consulting only a select few in the neighborhood.

"He's playing musical chairs with everything in the park," Ms. Greiser said about Mr. Vellonakis's design. "He's moving fountains, he's moving dog runs. It should not be a major objective to align the fountain with the arch. What do you need it lined up for?"

However, Anne-Marie Sumner, president of the Washington Square Association, says she expects her group to formally endorse the plan today.

Ms. Sumner said she would support the redesign, despite opposing Mr. Vellonakis's plan to do away with Teen Square - a slightly elevated plaza that has been used as a performance space - in favor of grass. The plaza has been the site of the Washington Square Music Festival, which has given free concerts in the park each summer for decades. After the redesign, the festival would play on a temporary stage.

Peggy Friedman, director of the music festival, said the elimination of a permanent stage would not only harm the quality of performances, but also be a strike against the park's history as a center of free speech.

"I feel every group that uses the park should have a stage to use," she said.

And then there is a group called Save the Mounds. The mounds, three decaying asphalt lumps in the park's southwestern corner, had once been part of an "adventure playground" at the park for older children to climb and to sled on. But while other elements of the playground were long ago carted away, the mounds have endured, and efforts to flatten them have elicited cries of alarm.

The group's spokeswoman, Leonie Haimson, said, "They're the only hills for miles around."

Johanna Jainchill contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

May 10th, 2005, 08:55 AM
The fountain at Washington Square Park is not in alignment with the arch.
Under the city's plan for the park, the fountain will be moved.

Ive Never noticed that. Is it really that big of a deal?

May 10th, 2005, 01:04 PM
Does anybody have any idea if the Pentanque courts on the south side of the park are going to be included in the new design?

May 15th, 2005, 07:39 AM
May 15, 2005
A Gathering Spot for Beatniks, Then Hippies, Now Defenders of an Open Park

By KAREEM FAHIM (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=KAREEM FAHIM&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=KAREEM FAHIM&inline=nyt-per)

John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times
Washington Square Park is officially closed from midnight to 6 a.m., but barriers are not always in place, so people often visit, if only to sleep

John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times
Near the Washington Arch at dawn, the park is quiet, but not empty.

At 5 a.m. yesterday, as the sky began to brighten over Washington Square Park, Schuberto Juan Solis's 21st birthday celebration came to an end. After a night of revelry, he and several friends started back toward New Jersey. "I haven't been out this late in a long time," said David Menaken, one of the friends.

They were not alone.

Washington Square Park is officially closed between midnight and 6 a.m. But in the early morning hours yesterday, neighbors, lovers, out-of-towners, marijuana smokers and others claimed sections of the park. Some occupations were short, and ended in the minutes it takes a couple to share a cigarette.

Other visitors promised they would not be so easily dislodged.

"They want to take back our park," said a man who called himself Tamali, as he asked passers-by whether they were "shopping." For legal reasons, he said, he would not provide his full name. But he said he was angry about plans to renovate the park, echoing a complaint heard over and over again yesterday.

"They want to encage it," he said, and predicted a confrontation.

A planned renovation of Washington Square Park has raised protests from some who see beauty in its imperfections. While there is broad agreement that the park could do with some improvements, a plan to put a four-foot granite and steel fence around the perimeter, complete with lockable gates, has sparked ire.

The Parks Department says that the complaints about the wall are misplaced. After all, they say, there is already a low fence around the park, and during the hours that the park is officially closed, barriers are supposed to be pulled across entrances.

But early yesterday, the entrances to the park stayed open, and a light but steady stream of people traveled the square's paths and plazas, having effortlessly crossed the borders between the park and the neighborhood around it.

The park before sunrise was a lot as it is in daylight, and people here said a wall threatened the possibility of future nights like this.

"It's a square, it's not a park," said Harry Nance, a retired psychotherapist who was letting his dog, Shadow, run around a park lawn. "It's for music, for arguments, for politics," he said. It needed fixing, he admitted: the sidewalks and public toilets are in disrepair. But, he said, he had been going to the park for 48 years; he used to take his daughter to play there.

"It doesn't have to be a golf course," he said. "A little topography is interesting."

Just after midnight, Nine Moses, 27, and her friend Paige Norman, 26, sat on a ledge near a bed of tulips. Ms. Moses, a chef from the Bronx who now lives in Los Angeles, said she was happy to be back in the park.

"It's just a place to kick it," she said. "A wall would totally kill it." She also opposed plans to line up the fountain in the park with the Washington Arch.

"Crooked is the way it's supposed to be," she said at about 12:30 a.m. "Change is not always good."

Then she and Ms. Norman left, to find a shot of tequila in a bar nearby.

Meanwhile, in a corner of the park near a bank of chess tables, a poker game with a revolving cast of eight men ran on a diet of $20 bills for much of the early morning.

A dozen people slept on benches and a manic little man in a track suit paced the walkways, soliciting change. At one point, he picked up a trash can and hurled it to the ground.

Manuela Barbosa sat alone at 1 a.m. with two books she had bought at a nearby stall: the Encyclopedia of Common Diseases and an Italian-American dictionary.

On occasion, when someone she considered to be too full of himself walked by, she said, "He acts like he owns this place."

The city, she said, owns the place.

At 3 a.m., the rats took over, fearlessly crisscrossing the concrete and diving into trash heaps.

"I've never been here when it was so quiet," said Elise Crombez, a Belgian model, as she sat on the lip of the fountain. "Maybe people that are out on Friday night don't think of these places."

A woman noticed Ms. Crombez and told her she thought she was beautiful. Ms. Crombez left.

By 5:15 a.m., the squirrels seemed to take over from rats.

Half an hour before the park opened again, a man looked for shoppers.

"How about a nice prepaid phone? Twenty bucks?" There were no takers, but he was undeterred.

"How about a pair of nice sunglasses?" he asked. "They're Vuarnet."

At a 5:45 a.m., a young couple unraveled themselves from each other and stood up from the bench where they had spent a comfortable hour. The couple, Megan Brewer and Andrew M. Burgard, had met six hours earlier. They had known each other online for longer. She pointed at Mr. Burgard. "He's a musicologist. It's a made-up major." Mr. Burgard took the ribbing in stride, and said that he focused on Czech music.

In a few hours, she was to drive to Delaware for a bachelorette party. But now she had other concerns. "Where can we get breakfast?" she asked. Then she turned on her heels and led Mr. Burgard out of Washington Square Park.

May 15, 2005
Don't Fence Me In (Too Much)


Washington Square looking southward in 1953.

John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times
The fence at the Northern Dispensary in the West Village that will be the model for the new Washington Square fence.

WASHINGTON SQUARE, the green heart of Greenwich Village, is a place that people all over the world carry around with them in their minds. It's a small place (less than 10 acres), but it seems to expand as you walk into it. Perhaps this is because something within you gets to expand at the same moment. The Square, even in New York, is a rare spot where, seemingly for a century or more, gravity has been weakened, where rules rest lightly. Attention quickens, wariness can recede, and, by common consent, everybody is assumed - for the time being, at any rate - to be on an equal footing.

Maybe that's why Washington Square is, by one calculation, "more densely used, per square foot, than any other park in the city." Emily Kies Folpe, who reports this statistic in "It Happened on Washington Square," a thoughtful, encyclopedic history published in 2002, calls the park "a remarkable laboratory for testing the principles of democracy."

There must be 50 jokes that have the punch line "Well, that's the Village!" These jokes were born of the fact that over 100 years ago Greenwich Village became a place where writers, artists, radicals and outcasts arrived to rub shoulders with both the poor Italian immigrants and African-American families who lived on the south side of the Square and the old-society families on the north side.

Tolerance, one of New York's most prized characteristics, has consequently become the essence of the Square, but it goes beyond that. Tolerance sounds too passive - it's more than just "Anything goes." There's a sweetness there, a staying alert to the fact that because the mix is always changing, something never before seen could emerge at any moment. A bright, eager flame is kindled within people when they come to Washington Square; I believe it's a flame that's also present at the incandescent core of the Statue of Liberty's torch.

The city's Department of Parks and Recreation has just announced a $16 million redesign of the park, only the third such redesign in its 180-year history. Because the thing that's most deeply prized about the park is the way people treat one another when they're in it, and because that arrangement has been worked out largely despite City Hall rather than thanks to it, many around the city have been nervous about how the plan would affect the park's traditional spirit.

The particulars of the plan, the work of George Vellonakis, a landscape architect who has spent more than 20 years with the Parks Department and who is himself a Villager, are straightforward. The park's central fountain would be moved slightly to the east, so that people at the fountain could line up a view north directly through the Washington Arch and straight up Fifth Avenue. The paved plaza around the fountain, which was depressed one and a half feet below ground level during the park's last redesign 35 years ago, would be brought back up to grade level.

Further, seating would increase by more than a quarter; green space would grow by more than a fifth; there would be a new spider-web-like climbing apparatus for older kids; and there would be a lot more flowers. The low metal-pipe fence around the park (now supplemented by an ugly five-foot-high stand of turkey wire behind it) would be replaced by a four-foot-high wrought-iron fence that could be locked at night.

After spending much of a day walking through the Square with Mr. Vellonakis, and as a person who grew up and still lives a block from the Square, I'm convinced his plan deserves high - if qualified - praise. The new green space and the extra seats are superb. The fence needs further thought, but it can be remedied, and if it is, the park's life-shaping qualities will remain intact.

The respect people now show for each other in Washington Square was hard won. Emily Kies Folpe unearthed the fact that 18th-century Englishmen grabbed land in what is now Washington Square from African slaves freed by the Dutch. At least 20,000 bodies are buried under Washington Square - it was a pauper's cemetery and an execution place for three decades before suddenly, in 1826, blossoming as the most fashionable address in the city.

Since 1826, two struggles have been waged for the soul of the Square, one among people that has focused on exclusiveness versus inclusiveness (early settlers versus newcomers), and one between people in general and traffic.

In 1870, Boss Tweed, who dominated city politics, upset the existing all-people-no-traffic balance in the Square by plunging a trident-shaped arterial road through the center of the park, linking Fifth Avenue to three streets to the south. The official rationale was that this would relieve traffic on Broadway, but many pointed out that Tweed also controlled the city's street-paving contracts. But Tweed, as he bisected the park, eliminated a tall iron perimeter fence, thereby welcoming, as his commissioners wrote, "the masses who have not the means of frequent access to Central Park."

In the 1950's, Robert Moses had plans for an even bigger road through the park, but all the groups in the Village by then had enough in common (thanks to the mingling Tweed had inaugurated) to rout Moses so thoroughly that the city actually banned all traffic from the Square. The central fountain was no longer isolated by traffic, and the 1970's redesign celebrated the new freedom from cars by adding the large circular plaza that now laps around the fountain.

But the 1970's plan didn't remove all the suddenly redundant paved surfaces, it just encouraged people to walk on them. It's a strength of Mr. Vellonakis's plan to seize the chance to banish all remaining traces of Boss Tweed's once-profitable paving. That's where much of the extra green space comes from.

AND what of the fence? Its purpose, the Parks Department says, is in fact benign - to protect the new plantings rather than to re-exclude people, and to help the police enforce the midnight curfew. Mr. Vellonakis, an observant New Yorker, has copied the most amiable and demure fence in the city, the see-through iron fence around the Northern Dispensary, an early 19th-century free dental clinic in the West Village.

But it's a funny thing about fences: a fence as high as your hip can feel like a friend, while a fence only a foot or so higher can be experienced as a vicious insult. The Parks Department needs to work with that distinction - and it can pull back on the idea of locked gates. The aluminum stanchions that now get dragged in front of the park's entrances work just fine. Also, the design calls for closing several minor entrances to the park - they should be kept open. It isn't just access that keeps Washington Square going; it's the sense that this access is ungrudging, a birthright.

One cold night a few years ago, there was a meteor shower. At 4 a.m., my wife, son and I squirmed around the aluminum barriers and lay down on our backs in the bone-dry fountain, along with 200 other people who were staring upward. We all ignored the fact that we were lying on cold concrete and who knows what else, and it was thrilling. Every few minutes a shimmery, green circle would appear high in the sky, streak downward, and vanish. It was the park at its best - and it was after curfew.

Tony Hiss's latest book, with Christopher Meier, is "H2O: Highlands to Ocean."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

May 15th, 2005, 07:59 AM
The Parks Department says that the complaints about the wall are misplaced. After all, they say, there is already a low fence around the park, and during the hours that the park is officially closed, barriers are supposed to be pulled across entrances.
All the parks I can think of have signs posting they are closed at a certain hour. Hudson River Park "closes" at 1AM. I always thought it was a legal point, that the city was somewhat less responsible if something happened to you in a park after it was closed.

May 15th, 2005, 11:54 AM
Is dangerous the Washington Square Park in the night?

May 15th, 2005, 09:07 PM
No not really, use your common sense is all. Alot of NYU kids during the school year from my experiences. BTw those are some super shots, the one from 1953...superb.

May 16th, 2005, 12:37 PM
Thank you for the replay.

May 18th, 2005, 01:04 PM
Parks Dept. Cancels Plan for Gates at Washington Square


By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=TIMOTHY WILLIAMS&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=TIMOTHY WILLIAMS&inline=nyt-per)
Published: May 18, 2005
The Parks Department abandoned its plan yesterday to install gates at Washington Square Park after fierce opposition from many Greenwich Village residents who said it would take away from the park's tradition of openness.

But the Landmarks Preservation Commission did approve the department's plan for a $16 million redesign of the park that will include installing a perimeter fence, shifting the fountain 23 feet to the east to align it with the park's landmark arch, flattening three six-foot-high asphalt mounds that are part of an abandoned playground, and leveling the park's peculiar variations in elevation. A stage used by the Washington Square Music Festival will also be removed.

The redesign, which is to be done in two phases and should take three years to complete, could start as early as the fall.

"The gates were clearly a hot-button issue that went beyond the neighborhood," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said after the commission voted, 7 to 1, in favor of the redesign. "The people have spoken, and we have listened."

Mr. Benepe said a perimeter fence was needed to keep out dogs that foul the park's landscaping and to help enforce its midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew, which is routinely ignored. He said the city would use police barricades to fill the spaces in the fence where the gates would have been.

"You can't have a landscaped park without a perimeter fence, or else people will walk through the landscape and soon there is no landscape," Mr. Benepe said.

The landmarks commission, charged with determining whether the redesign conformed to the neighborhood's historic character, did not consider the height and design of a fence. But Mr. Benepe said it would probably be about four feet tall, and he and commission members said the height and design should be decided within a few weeks. The city Art Commission's approval is also required, but that is not likely to be a problem, Mr. Benepe said.

Washington Square, one of the city's oldest and busiest parks and very much a part of the Village's iconoclastic tradition, has not had a significant renovation in more than 30 years. During that time, the 9.75-acre park has fallen into disrepair: its pavement is cracked, many benches are broken, and the centerpiece fountain leaks.

Though the repairs and redesign had won the approval of the local community board and the Washington Square Association, many local residents said they had been left out of the process and complained that the city's proposal was an effort to sanitize one of the city's most open parks.

"I'm horrified, of course," said Jessie McNab, who has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years, abut the commission's vote.

City Councilman Alan Jay Gerson, who negotiated with the Parks Department, said he might decide to withhold up to $2 million in Council funds if some elements of the plan were not changed.

"It is better to wait than to go ahead with a design that will haunt us for years to come," he said.

The most heated opposition to the redesign came in response to the plan to install a four-foot-high perimeter fence of granite and wrought iron with 12 entrance gates that would be locked at night. There is a three-foot-high pipe rail fence along some sections of the park, and recently some gardens have been surrounded by protective chicken wire. When the park is closed, police officers place temporary barricades at entrances, though the barricades are often moved aside, and even after the park is officially closed at midnight, dog walkers, couples, strollers and the occasional drug dealer can be found there.

As the landmarks commission deliberated at a public meeting yesterday, a neighborhood resident, Mark Milano, 49, shouted: "No fences. Don't block the park off from the people."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

May 18th, 2005, 01:07 PM
Nice. That didn't take very long.

August 24th, 2005, 11:27 PM
Taking a dog for a walk.

http://www.wirednewyork.com/parks/washington_square_park/washington_square_park_dog_run.jpg (http://www.wirednewyork.com/parks/washington_square_park/)

Washington Square fountain - quenching the morning thirst.

http://www.wirednewyork.com/parks/washington_square_park/washington_square_park_thirst.jpg (http://www.wirednewyork.com/parks/washington_square_park/)

September 18th, 2005, 06:11 PM


September 18, 2005 --

A new plan for the controversial redesign of Washington Square Park includes expanded playground space, an elevated performance stage, a refurbished chess area that will host national tournaments and the preservation of the beloved asphalt "mounds."

But community members are irked the plan calls for the leveling of the sunken area surrounding the fountain and for fences up to four feet tall around and within the park.

The plan — the result of months of negotiations between the Parks Department and City Councilman Alan Gerson — does not address some of the most controversial aspects of the city's original $16 million redesign, including its plan to move the fountain 23 feet east so it is in line with the Washington Square Arch.

"We couldn't come to an agreement on the fountain," said Gerson, noting that he opposed moving it.

Both Gerson and the city agreed to respect the final decision of the Arts Commission, which has jurisdiction over the historic fountain. "I think punting this issue to the Arts Commission is the fairest way of doing this at this point," Gerson said.

Still, many community members who heard details of the agreement at a meeting Thursday were critical.

"The fountain is the heart and soul of Washington Square Park," said Jonathan Greenberg, coordinator of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition. "To not address that is, I think, a big disappointment. I mean, that's not negotiable."

Under the agreement, the park will have a raised performance stage area, a 7,000-square-foot expansion of the children's park, a play area for preteens, a refurbished chess area that will house U.S. Chess Federation events, and new plantings.

It will also preserve an area of the park known as "the mounds" — three small asphalt hills that kids have played on for years — and prohibit any commercial activities in the park.

Community Board 2's Parks and Waterfront Committee will vote on whether to accept the agreement on Oct. 6. The full board will vote on it later in the month.

TLOZ Link5
September 18th, 2005, 06:45 PM
By all means, renovate the park. But keep the fountain and the plaza it's in the way they are. The fountain was never meant to be symmetrically aligned with the arch; asymmetry is natural and the original intention of the park's planners. Just refurbish that general area with cosmetic changes, but don't do anything to compromise the park's current charms.

September 18th, 2005, 06:57 PM
If they make the changes to the fountain as planned (raise it to the level of the surrounding area, encircle it with grass) it will completely change the nature of the park and remove the current "piazza" environment.

It will be very "pretty", but is that what this wants to be?

September 19th, 2005, 12:00 PM
There is another thread about Washington Square Park Renovations on WiredNewYork here:


Lets keep it on the same page my friends... ;) So we can keep up with the old to the most recent stories.

You're right - I split these last few entries from the Washington Square Arch thread and merged them with this more appropriate thread, thanks.

December 16th, 2005, 01:12 PM
The Villager
December 14 - 20, 2005

Arch would become giant harp in public-art project

By Albert Amateau

A rendering of the proposed “City Harp” temporary public-art installation.

Imagine the Washington Square Arch transformed into a 60-foot-tall harp whose strings vibrate with the wind, pick up ambient sound and radio and television waves, all combining in a strange but harmonic music controlled at a console at the base of the arch.

The proposal for “City Harp,” invented and played by Christopher Janney, who makes public music with public architecture, would be seen and heard for 10 days in October 2006, if it wins community and city approval.

Janney, who lives in the Boston area, and Aviva Davidson, executive director of Dancing in the Streets, the public-arts organization sponsoring the installation, came to the Dec. 6 Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting to make a preliminary pitch.

“It’s based on the Aeolian harp, an ancient instrument played by the wind. And we hope to have its world premiere the first 10 days in October,” said Davidson. “We’ve been talking to the Department of Parks and Recreation and we’ve been told that it would not damage the arch. We hope to get their approval and come back to you for your blessings,” she told the committee.

Intrigued but wary, committee members pressed for details. Honi Klein, a public member of the committee, urged that residents of the Fifth Ave. buildings north of the arch be notified. Rosemary McGrath, a longtime board member, said she feared for the structural integrity of the 110-year-old marble monument.

Davidson replied that notices would go out this week to neighbors of the arch. Janney, trained in architecture at Princeton and in environmental arts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the installation would have as little contact as possible with the 110-year-old monument.

The harp’s 16 red elastic strings, some an inch in diameter, would be anchored in a vessel of water resting on the roof and would hang down the park side of the arch without touching the parapet, Davidson told the committee. The strings would taper to the console on the ground in the center under the arch.

A Department of Parks spokesperson confirmed that Janney and Davidson have presented the project to the department’s technical staff but no decision has been made yet.

The strings would vibrate with the wind all the time but the volume of the sound would be controlled at the console and could be made inaudible, Janney said.

The basic plan, subject to community board and neighborhood approval calls for the sound of the harp to be audible — primarily inside the park — from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with Janney or an associate at the console mixing sound and controlling volume.

As part of the installation, “Playing With the City,” a series of 10 musical pieces, composed by Janney and based on jazz progressions and Indian ragas — melodies traditionally played at different times of day — would be performed by musicians on tabla, saxophone and string bass.

During the 10-day installation, the musicians, accompanied by Janney at the “City Harp” console, would play one of the appropriate 10 pieces, beginning the first day in the morning and progressing each day to a later time, going from morning on to noon, afternoon and evening.

“It could be the whole program or any part of it, or nothing,” said Davidson. “It’ll depend on what the community wants.”

Janney, who created a multimedia studio, PhenomenArts, Inc., in 1980, has toured the U.S. and Europe with interactive sound/ architecture installations from The Spanish Steps in Rome to the subways in Boston and Paris. He is a visiting professor at The Cooper Union. In 1983, he created “Heartbeat” for Sara Rudner of Twyla Tharp Dance, with an instrument that amplified Rudner’s heartbeat as she moved. Mikail Barishnikov premiered “Heartbeat:mb” at City Center in 1999 and has since performed it around the world.

Community Media LLC.

January 10th, 2006, 11:21 PM

The City Art Commission approved plans yesterday for a $16 million redesign of Washington Square Park, in which a perimeter fence would be installed and the park's fountain moved. The approval was the final legislative step needed, and construction could start as early as the spring, although some residents have vowed to sue. The plan includes shifting the fountain 22 feet to the east to place it in line with the Washington Arch and Fifth Avenue, and erecting a fence around the park about four feet high. The fence is intended to limit access by dogs and help maintain the park's midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew.TIMOTHY WILLIAMS (NYT)

Published: January 10, 2006

January 11th, 2006, 05:05 PM
Curfew my ass.

January 11th, 2006, 06:17 PM
High-Res Design of Washington Square Park Renovation (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_140/parksdepartment.html) (The Villager)

January 11th, 2006, 11:20 PM
That park needs an upgrade. Looks like the mounds are history. I wonder if they squeezed NYU for any renovation or on-going maintenance funding.

January 12th, 2006, 08:42 AM
I think the Mounds People are going to sue.

January 12th, 2006, 09:12 AM
That park needs an upgrade.

Amen to that.

I was wondering - after all the revisions - what would materialize. I like what I see: only if the road there was a little less "bumpy". (LOL) Or - should I say "moundy".

BTW - enjoyed viewing the park plan/renderings - thanks for the High-res images!


(update) It had just come to mind - the current park dogrun has been "appropriated" by a small group of individuals whow started a "community garden" adjacent to (and inside) the dog run - I never liked that, because it began to feel as if I were going into someones "private" backyard - particularly when they were there. I hope the new design doen not permit "privite clubs" to appropriate "public space" and in-effect - take possession of it. (RANT-O-METER on)

January 12th, 2006, 11:04 AM
I wonder if they squeezed NYU for any renovation or on-going maintenance funding.

More than squeezed, NYU is practically buying the park for its own use.

They need more paved, unobstructed, contiguous space for their graduation commencement ceremonies. The new plan has just that, plus eliminating the seating around the fountain, reaplacing old trees with new, and flattening the plaza.

The fence is really so NYU can close the park for events.

Oh and, rename the fountain "The Tisch Fountain".

January 12th, 2006, 11:54 AM
I remember the old days when Washington Square was an incredible place to hang out. Musicians were everywhere, strumming guitars and singing, people sitting in the recessed area around the "fountain" where people performed, a joint or two being blazed up somewhere ( yeah so what!).
Plenty of you will disagree, but I liked it in all it's pre-sanitized, urban grit glory. It was special. At the same time that I become excited about all the beautiful new changes the city is undergoing, I can't help but be sad for some of what we lose. Again, I know that I may be assailed for this opinion, but it is mine to express. I don't like Washington Square becoming like some park in Singapore. I'm sure it will be very "pretty" though. And I despise NYU more and more for it's gradual destruction of the Village, turning it more and more into a giant campus everytime it puts up another ugly dorm. Blahhhh.

TLOZ Link5
January 12th, 2006, 12:21 PM
Heh, I go to NYU and I can't help but agree with you.

Of course, I'm a commuter now, so...

January 12th, 2006, 12:37 PM
I remember the old days when Washington Square was an incredible place to hang out. ...Plenty of you will disagree, but I liked it in all it's pre-sanitized, urban grit glory. It was special....

I share your nostalgia, but your whole post was written in the past tense, and that's the problem. The "old" city has changed and the rules have changed and society has changed. The things that made the old gritty park exciting had more to do with culture than the flower beds.

January 12th, 2006, 01:29 PM
I don't disagree with your assessment of the changes that have taken place. In fact, the first half of my post was illustrative of some of them so I'm not clear on what you mean by saying my post has a problem.

January 12th, 2006, 01:48 PM
It's not what it used to be, but on any given night you can still find, like you said, musicians strumming guitars and singing, people sitting in the recessed area around the "fountain" where people perform, a joint or two being blazed up somewhere...

The park still has a vibe like no other, and it seems that they are trying their best to sterilize it.

January 12th, 2006, 02:17 PM
... I'm not clear on what you mean by saying my post has a problem.

Sorry, I should clarify. You post was written in the past tense illustrating the fact that those "better days" are beyond us. I meant the loss of that laid back, perhaps more permissive atmosphere, was the problem - not your post (and not the renovation.)

January 12th, 2006, 03:09 PM
Looking at the Hi Res Pic:

1. The Mounds seem to stay -- see the red outlined area at the SW corner

2. Glad to see that the fountain will have steps ("Granite Steps") leading down to it -- though the removal of the raised perimeter will be missed (no doubt a nod to NY so that they can more easily cover it over during graduation ceremony).

3. I was worried that the fountain would be surrounded by lawn area -- happy to see that a hard surface plaza area remains.

4. Still not clear about the perimeter fence -- but anything above 30 - 36" is unneccessary.

5. Moving the fountain to center on the Arch seems silly -- it now centers on Thompson Street to the south (rather than 5th Ave. to the north). Six of one/ half a dozen of the other -- but a VERY expensive move. Though the infrastructure renovation necessary to make the fountain workable for the next 50 years might have required the same or similar cost.

6. Moving the dog runs to the perimeter of the park is a good move.

If Madison Square re-do is any indication of what we will end up with at Washington Square then this should work out just fine.

January 12th, 2006, 06:54 PM
Looking at the park as it is now - have been walking my dog there for years.

!. The park needs to be completely restored. I do not believe that rearranging some lawns/fountains/paved walkways will have any major "cultural" implications or "adverse effect" on society at large.

2. The dog run (in the new and improved) park needs to prohibit the establishment of a "community garden" and thus keep it a "public" space.
I think that rule is even in the bible - "thow shalt not covet thy neighbors public space" (L-out-L) Or, somethong like that.


January 12th, 2006, 07:35 PM
I applaude the park renovation but have to agree with some of the posts here:

1. Since when did "renovate" become "sterilize"? I notice the design, while nice, is just that... nice. It has the same 1880s era-throw-back-nostalgia touches that 95% of all park renovations seem to have -- hasn't the colmbus circle renovation demonstrated it is possible to have something slightly contemporary that still makes a great public space? And why does the design of the park have to deliberately try to prevent its appropration by transient uses like musicians and public speeches and random vendors? I don't mean appropriation like private garderns, i mean people sitting and using it for a few hours, instead of just walking briefly through it.

2. The curfew? What?!@@!? It always seems in NY that they renovate a place and then make it impossible to use (i.e. great lawn in central park). Add better lighting and allow this to become one of the few parks safely accessible at night in the entire city (safe because it can be seen entirely from the permiter, and hence is no danger).

I understand the need to protect the citizens of this city from drug peddlers and petty criminals (though I too see no problem with the odd joint at a jam session) but that's what the police are for -- you don't just shut the park down.

That being said, I am glad they are doing something.

January 13th, 2006, 11:57 AM
I do not believe that rearranging some lawns/fountains/paved walkways will have any major "cultural" implications or "adverse effect" on society at large.

That's a little overstated, but some elements do provide more special atmosphere: the three foot wall on the outer perimeter of the fountain with large old trees jutting out provides the little cozy alcoves that people enjoy so much. This feature plus the raised fountain edge encourage stopping and staying - it's where the guitar players are drawn to, where people enjoy sitting on a wall under a nice shady tree, and where little groups gather and socialize, more so than elsewhere in the park. I just don't see how that can be replicated with a flattened plaza and removal of the big old trees.

Though the park definitely could use a lot of restoration, don't completely remove the few areas that work so well. I can't see the park having the same flavor if these unique features are removed, even though it might make it prettier and better for graduation ceremonies. Hopefully similar new areas will be provided, but I doubt it.

January 13th, 2006, 12:01 PM
I would have kept the wall around the fountain. It really separates the people sitting on the steps from the people walking through.

January 13th, 2006, 12:42 PM
The park only needed some of the shabbiness repaired, not a major redesign. It'sthe polar-opposite of Bryant Park, which while nice, has become a corporate plaza.

http://img288.imageshack.us/img288/9426/washsq012hj.th.jpg (http://img288.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsq012hj.jpg)

January 13th, 2006, 12:56 PM
That's a little overstated, but some elements do provide more special atmosphere: the three foot wall on the outer perimeter of the fountain with large old trees jutting out provides the little cozy alcoves that people enjoy so much.

Agreed, a bit overstated. Particularly as I harp back to how IMO good the Irish Famine (BPC) memorial "functions" to bring improve the quality of live in that community.
i stand (marginally) corrected.


January 13th, 2006, 02:03 PM
Park related question: Does anyone know of any photos/plans/updates on the reconstruction of Central Park's Heckscher Playground? I searched the web and couldn't find much in the way of visuals or plans.

January 13th, 2006, 02:19 PM
Looking at the new plans, I noticed that Washington Square West and Washington Square East are labeled wrong. I'm not crazy am I?

January 13th, 2006, 03:39 PM
Don't know if you're crazy or not, but they are indeed labelled wrong.

January 13th, 2006, 09:59 PM
Good heavens - the fountain IS out of alignment with 5th AVe. and the Arch.

I am sure that mis-alignment has had some detrimental impact on the "community" - perhape leaving one feeling "disoriented - ailenated" resulting in the need to purchase drugs, and behave in a free-spirited and permiscuious manner. ;)

And we thought it was the 60s counter-culture all along. :eek:

Quick - move that fountian 22 feet to the east,,,befor another impressionable youth is adversly affected by 'bad achitectural influences'. (l-o-l)

yew - and I just wanted to test my new G earth software!


January 14th, 2006, 09:18 PM
Park related question: Does anyone know of any photos/plans/updates on the reconstruction of Central Park's Heckscher Playground? I searched the web and couldn't find much in the way of visuals or plans.
I've only seen the plans that are displayed on the fence at he perimeter of Heckschler. when I was last there a coule of weeks ago it looked as if the main part of the Playground has been completed, and that they are now working on the final bits where the swing sets used to be (atthe south edge).

With the ongoing re-do of the nearby run down areas outside the playground this entire southern portion of the Park will be completed (although from looking at some of the plans displayed I don't think they've solved the pathway problem between the Park Drive and the Playground).

January 14th, 2006, 09:39 PM
Re: Heckscher Playground ...

Go here http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=79094&postcount=59 for more info.

January 14th, 2006, 11:17 PM
when will they finish redoing washington square and when will they start for that matter?

January 28th, 2006, 02:51 AM
I hope Gerson holds fast on his position on this.

To turn that fountain into a decorative viewing-only waterworks would definitely be a bad move for the Village ...


Courtesy of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

A 1935 photo taken from the Washington Square Arch of neighborhood
children playing in the park’s fountain. The fountain had been converted
to a water-play feature the year before with water jets installed in the
fountain’s eight piers. A central plume was added in 1970.
Today, the eight side jets operate at just a dribble and are only used
to fill the fountain with water. Under the Parks Department renovation,
the side jets will be fixed and fully turned on again for eight months
of the year but will be for decorative purposes only.

Gerson may pull funds if fountain is no-play zone

By Lincoln Anderson
The Villager

There’s a water war brewing. No, it doesn’t involve Bolivia and a greedy multinational corporation, but rather children’s right to frolic in Washington Square Park’s fountain and the Parks Depart-ment’s plans that would say otherwise.

Under its $16 million renovation project for the square, Parks intends to convert the fountain to use recirculating water, as opposed to fresh water, which it has always used until now.

During a year of hearings on the renovation, the water switch was never mentioned publicly until Jan. 9, when the Parks Department presented the plan to the Art Commission, which approved moving the park’s fountain 22 feet to line up with the arch.

(However, two weeks earlier, in an article about a disabled Greenwich Village woman’s threat to sue for wheelchair access to the fountain, The Villager first reported the plan to change the type of water in the fountain and how children, consequently, would no longer be allowed to play in it.)

Now, City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who grew up nearby the park and played in the mid-1800s fountain basin as a child, and the Parks Committee of Community Board 2 are calling on the Parks Department to preserve the fountain’s historic use as a kids’ wading pool by making sure the H2O is safe for them to play in.

Last Thursday, Gerson, in his remarks at the C.B. 2 full board meeting, announced he might even pull City Council funding for the project if Parks doesn’t assure the fountain’s water will be clean enough for kids and others to go into — and that they must be allowed to go into it. He noted the first time he heard about the water issue was only at the Art Commission hearing earlier this month.

“I was distressed to hear at that hearing about a possible impingement to the use of the fountain that could preclude human entrance into the fountain area, which is a historic use of the fountain area,” Gerson told C.B. 2. Gerson said he’s “committed to filtering the water — whatever — so people can continue to sit on the steps, to run into the fountain water and not to have to worry about the health effects of the water.”

A view looking north of what the planned
new water display would look like with the
fountain centered on the arch.
(The urns shown above will not be added
to the restored fountain, however, having
been rejected earlier this month by the
Art Commission.)

Parks also intends to have a water display running in the fountain from April to November, including a 45-foot-high central spouting plume and eight arcing side jets. At the Art Commission hearing earlier this month, Byron Kim, one of the commission’s 11 members, as well as some other commissioners, expressed concern both about noise and spray from the water display and the fact that it was, again, the first they had heard about it.

Gerson also has trepidations about the water display and has warned Parks that the water jets must not blast kids and others right out of the fountain.

“I am adamant in insisting that the Parks Department stick to its word that it would construct the plume and sprays to allow sitting in the fountain and [children] running in the fountain — and I will hold them to that,” Gerson told C.B. 2. He added, “I will deem any change to the historic use of the fountain as contrary to the spirit and letter of the agreement that we reached [with the Parks Department] and would consider pulling Council funding [for the renovation].”

Gerson and Council Speaker Christine Quinn in October of last year negotiated an agreement with Parks that includes assurances that, among other things, Parks will rebuild the park’s dilapidated children’s play mounds, provide a permanent elevated concert space and keep the square footage of the plaza ringing the fountain at no less than 90 percent its current size.

Following the Art Commission’s Jan. 9 vote, Gerson spoke later that night at the C.B. 2 Parks Committee, informing them of the plan to use recirculating water in the fountain.

The Parks Committee unanimously passed a resolution stating that since members of the public, and especially children, enter the fountain, and will probably continue to do so despite any potential new regulations, it would be unhealthy for them to do this if the water is recirculating; the committee’s resolution urges Parks to use fresh water or, if necessary, get a variance from the appropriate agency to allow for use of fresh water.

Under new city code regulations enacted after the last drought, any park fountain using more than 2,000 gallons of water a day must use recirculating water. The Washington Square Park fountain is currently grandfathered allowing use of fresh water.

However, Maria Derr, C.B. 2 chairperson, recommended the committee resolution be tabled and sent back to the committee since George Vellonakis, the renovation’s designer, wasn’t present at the January Parks Committee meeting at which the resolution was approved. The board voted to table the resolution till next month.

Last month, Warner Johnston, a Parks spokesperson, said that after the renovation, parents will be encouraged to have their children play in the park’s water sprinklers instead of the fountain. One sprinkler exists now and another may be added in the renovation.

As for performances in the basin, there will be adjustable controls so the water can be turned down to allow these, but it will mainly be a decorative fountain from now on, Parks says.

“It’s an ornamental fountain. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked very well in recent years,” Johnston said. “The fountain is broken and we have to do repairs constantly, which is part of the reason we are restoring it. It’s the primary reason why we are taking the opportunity to move it 22 feet.”

Johnston said, per city code, the fountain’s recycled water would be chlorinated, but it wouldn’t be checked “every hour” like a city swimming pool is. People will still be allowed to climb over the fountain’s lip and sit on the three inside steps, he said.

“The water itself is only about six inches deep,” Johnston said, “so people will be able to sit on the [fountain’s] inside steps. And as you know, we have complete control of the sprays, so that people will not be splashed by the water. And the water will be safe, though it’s not potable.”

Gerson said he subsequently spoke to Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Bill Castro two times last week, on Thursday and Friday, and feels he received assurance something will be done to make the water safe for playing, foot dangling and wading.

“It would be totally unacceptable for there to be a prohibition for anyone of any age going into the fountain because of unsafe water,” Gerson told The Villager. “The Parks Department never presented any proposal to change the fountain’s use to the community board or to me. It’s never been discussed and it’s not acceptable. We should get on with the project and not risk delay by proposing any changes to use of the park.”

The Village councilmember said he vaguely but fondly remembers playing in the fountains on sweltering days when he was very young, probably, he thinks, before the park’s playgrounds had sprinklers.

“This is not a swimming pool,” Gerson continued. “It’s not a wading pool. But it’s a historic symbolism of the Village and the park. And freedom to enter the water, splash around and just get wet has been a tradition — but mainly [for] youngsters.”

Gerson said he’s given Parks a couple of more days to tell him how they will work out the water issue. While stressing it’s only a “hypothetical,” he said if what Parks offers doesn’t satisfy him, he’ll look into pulling unexpended Council funds from the project.

Johnston said Parks would have no comment on Gerson’s threat to withdraw unused funding unless kids can still play in the fountain.

Arthur Schwartz, the C.B. 2 Parks Committee chairperson, also feels strongly that children and others should not be barred from going into the water in the fountain.

“The promise was the fountain’s historic uses wouldn’t be changed,” Schwartz said. “Whether it was allowed or not, people in the fountain were never chased out of there.” Schwartz said he’s also concerned about the noise from the water display.

As to why the water and use of the fountain are only becoming issues now, Schwartz said, “People were so focused on the location [of the fountain] and [preserving] the sunken area [around the fountain] that they weren’t focused on the fountain.”

TLOZ Link5
January 28th, 2006, 01:02 PM
And of course, jumping into the fountain is a tradition at NYU's commencement ceremony.

February 1st, 2006, 04:41 PM
hell its a normal weekend tradition for me during the summer. The no play fountain needs to be more public so that people will protest. so many people would fight back if they only knew about it

March 23rd, 2006, 07:42 PM
It's so true about the plateau aspect. I was looking at old pictures of the downtown skyline from the harbor , and all of the peaks jutting out really were majestic. . .
Check out this shot of Washington Square circa 1953 with the downtown skyline ... sublime !!!

March 24th, 2006, 10:32 AM
What an awesome photo, Lofter1, thanks for posting.

March 24th, 2006, 11:12 AM
The romantic in me believes that the late 40's / early 50s would have been the prime time to be in NYC ...

Note: The empty lot just above the Square is now the site of the new(ish) NYU Student Center (left side of that block) and the Catholic Center (right side of the block). Plans have recently been disclosed to tear down the Catholic Center and possibly erect a new dorm for NYU ... rising to nearly the same height as the Student Center :(

March 25th, 2006, 10:02 AM
Plans have recently been disclosed to tear down the Catholic Center and possibly erect a new dorm for NYU.
They better not do that. Quick: somebody call the Landmarks Commission! Oh...they're all asleep or on the take.

Or are they just driveling idiots?

Outcome's the same, no matter which.

March 25th, 2006, 12:43 PM
Probably on the take. Corrupt scum.

May 6th, 2006, 01:23 PM
Suit Seeks Halt in Wash. Square Revamp

By Jarrett Murphy | May 04, 2006

Opponents of the city's plans for a large-scale renovation of Washington Square Park think they have a shot at killing it off, thanks to what they allege were misrepresentations by the Parks Department when it got approval for the plan. A lawsuit filed this week seeks to block construction and force the department to get another round of approvals from the local community board and two city commissions. Renovation opponents believe that, this time, those bodies would vote down the city's plan.

The $16 million renovation job, which was supposed to shut the park in phases for two or three years, has been controversial from the get-go. The plan's supporters say that the reconstruction of the main fountain, the playgrounds, and the walkways are what the beat-up park needs to remain a Greenwich Village gem. Their foes agree the park needs some fixing, but believe that what the Parks Department proposes is a wholesale revision that will straitjacket and sterilize the famously uninhibited, unstructured public space.

The renovation opponents allege in their suit that the Parks Department "deliberately withheld material and made material misrepresentations" to the community board, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Art Commission. The suit accuses the city of failing to disclose that the size of the central plaza will decrease by 33 percent, and that the fountain will feature a plume of water 45-feet high (making it impossible to sit next to, sans wetsuit). By hiding these details, the suit argues, the city prevented the oversight bodies from doing their jobs and may have violated the city charter and administrative code. One of the plaintiffs, Jonathan Greenberg, called the Parks Department moves "a classic bait and switch operation."

The plan's backers dispute that claim. "They have been informed, and informed, and informed," says Anne-Marie Sumner, president of the Washington Square Association. "I would not buy into the idea that the Parks Department has deliberately misrepresented. That would not be possible, in my mind."

The Parks Department doesn't comment on litigation, but a spokesperson says the size of the central plaza is still in flux. Parks has claimed that the fountain's height can be adjusted to accommodate different kinds of activities.

The lawsuit asks the judge to send the city's more detailed plan back to the community board and the two commissions. Renovation opponents believe that given the changes to the project—and in the membership of some of those bodies—they can knock the plan off in a second round. A survey released late last year by the Project for Public Space found that in Washington Square Park, "While people see the need for upgrades of certain current facilities and amenities (pavement, bathrooms, etc.), they like the park the way it is."

The city has already agreed to hold off on any work in the park until a court hearing on May 18; no contractor has been selected, anyway.

Copyright © 2006 Village Voice Media, Inc.

May 6th, 2006, 03:32 PM
Maybe they could just freshen it up a bit. Oh, and get the fountain working. Not sure it really needs a makeover.

May 7th, 2006, 11:05 AM
It is a pretty big omission to not disclose that the central area is going to be 33% smaller. Washington Square is one of the most highly utilized parks an it is also the nexus of neighborhoods and avenues. A major cross roads.

May 7th, 2006, 12:25 PM
33% is an outrage. I hope this plan is KILLED. Stabbed to death. I hate the plan.
Just fix up a few things! No need to mess with a public space that obviously WORKS the way it is. NYU and their evil machinations to co-opt the public park makes me so angry I could spit.

"straightjacket and sterilize" is exactly what they intend, and I hope they are never allowed to do so. Enough is enough.Not one shred of the Village's character will be intact when they're finished.

May 7th, 2006, 12:26 PM
NYU is a festering cancer.

May 7th, 2006, 07:55 PM
33% is an outrage. I hope this plan is KILLED. Stabbed to death. I hate the plan...

Well, you gave me my first out loud laugh today.

May 8th, 2006, 02:16 AM
WSP is great! The only thing about it I did not appreciate during my recent visit were the pushy dope merchants. Undortunately I could not spot a cruiser to point the MFs out to and there were way too many for me to collar single-handed.

I think re-aligning the fountain is a fine, civic sort of thing to do, but for the rest it seems fine as it is.

(edited for typos)

May 10th, 2006, 11:41 AM
The dealers in the park are part of its legacy. It was more appealing when they offered loose jonts in Sucrets boxes.

May 10th, 2006, 12:49 PM
Been years since I tried to score down there, they always had such poor quality to offer. Sticks and stones in a bag.

May 10th, 2006, 08:11 PM
Besides, you can either ignore the dealers or say: "Excuse me, what did you say? I couldn't hear you." in a very loud voice --

that usually sends them scurrying ;)

May 11th, 2006, 02:24 AM
I don't mind pushers (especially as it was just weed), it was te eexcessive eagerness. Also, I waas dressed as the middle-aged professional that I am, I was surprised I was approached at all. Must be lot of Wall Steret guys who score around there, I guess. ;)

I would have guessed that in such a studenty/touristy area the quality would be low, yes, not that I'm in the market - just booze for me these days. :)

May 11th, 2006, 06:00 PM
The fountain is great as it is. If they realign it, they are going to change the whole thing to be a "look but dont touch" bland piece of shit. I love that you can play in the one thats there now. Hell it fits the character of the neighborhood that is doesn't line up uniform to the street pattern. All they need to do is repave, Completely redo the bathrooms, clean the fountain, plant some flowers and leave it alone

May 11th, 2006, 07:28 PM
I agree. Just fix up some of the other things and leave the major overhaul plans alone. Take the money and put it some place else more in need.

May 11th, 2006, 08:06 PM
Y'all gotta understand: this "renovation" isn't about the people who use the park on a regular basis. It is about re-making the space so that it's more suitable as NYU's front yard and graduation platform.

Y'all don't want all those parents who come to NYC looking at campuses to walk into the Park and get scared for their little kiddies before they write that $40,000 check(payable to: NYU), now do ya?

May 11th, 2006, 09:33 PM
Ain't broke, don't fix it.

Clean it up a bit.

The pot dealers could go legit, Amsterdam-style, if the city built a nice glassy European park pavilion for licensed dealers to sell joints one at a time for consumption on the premises. Quality control by city inspectors: no seeds, no sticks.


May 11th, 2006, 09:39 PM
It's been a while for me. What do people use to clean their pot with now that there are no Yes or Led Zeppelin double album covers to use?

May 11th, 2006, 10:31 PM
Things have come a long way, BR ... now you just get nice clean buds with none of those nasty stems and seeds ...

May 11th, 2006, 10:36 PM
^ Officer, arrest that man!


May 12th, 2006, 08:40 AM

Say THAT three times fast.

Anywho, so long as they get rid of the "Asphalt Lumps" they thought would make a good skate park 9who thought of that?) I am cool with it.

They also need to freshen the plaza and whatnot, but aside from that... who cares.

And so long as the guys down there don't sell anything but green to begin with, I do not see much harm. It is when other elements, on the same side of the "line" but radically different in import and impact, come to sell is when I would worry the most.

The one thing I always found strange was the RV police moble precinct that used to always be parked on the perimeter. I never saw a cop in or around there and never saw an arrest. Yes, they may have been undercover, but why would you want your RV to be in plauin site if that was the case?


May 12th, 2006, 09:56 AM
The RV was the command center for all the cameras that have been installed in and around WSP (just take a look at the wires draped across the lamp posts above the sidewalks). Don't need many cops on foot when everything is viewed on cam.

May 12th, 2006, 12:04 PM
Y'all gotta understand: this "renovation" isn't about the people who use the park on a regular basis. It is about re-making the space so that it's more suitable as NYU's front yard and graduation platform.

Passed by two days ago- the park was in the process of being commandeered for the ceremony. Blech. Made me palpably mad as I passed and thought of the renovation/ruination. Some apparently homeless guys were being paid to sweep every stray leaf and dust particle to make it pristine enough for the primped bourgeois masses due to arrive. I hope it poors rain all over their poofy hair on graduation day.

May 12th, 2006, 12:16 PM
Passed by two days ago- the park was in the process of being commandeered for the ceremony. Blech. Made me palpably mad as I passed and thought of the renovation/ruination. Some apparently homeless guys were being paid to sweep every stray leaf and dust particle to make it pristine enough for the primped bourgeois masses due to arrive. I hope it poors rain all over their poofy hair on graduation day.

What's wrong with a major city institution like NYU 'commandeering' its adjacent open space for a ceremony once a year?
Churlish, sir, way churlish!

May 12th, 2006, 12:37 PM
Once a year might be fine. Combined with the way they are commandeering the entire Village with crappy architecture, and especially with the plan to PERMANENTLY (not once a year) alter the park to meet THEIR needs, I shall revel and roll in my churlishness around this matter.
I'm not mean spirited, just pissed at the way the attitudes toward public space have been evolving.

May 15th, 2006, 01:47 AM
Hell, you think THAT is bad; here in London they're always cordoning off chunks of 'public' parks for 'one-off' events that really spoil the feel of the park, epsecially as temporary architecture nowdays ain't the crystal palace, knowhatimean?

May 15th, 2006, 07:58 AM
Both the renovation and the opposition to it are a bit overblown.

The plan will not change the park that much. The fountain plaza will be smaller, but the two playgrounds will be expanded.

On the other hand, the present park has good flow. The problem is that all the paths and perimeter sidewalks are paved with asphalt. They could reline and pave all the paths with hex pavers, install new furniture, reconstruct the fountain in place, and it would be fine.

If you move the fountain, it has to get smaller, or it intrudes on Garibaldi Plaza, but if they leave it where it is, the rest of the renovation can be done as planned with minor alterations.

The only objection I have is bringing the fountain up to grade.

Renovation plan
http://img234.imageshack.us/img234/4223/washsqplan01g2zp.th.jpg (http://img234.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsqplan01g2zp.jpg)

Present park.
http://img158.imageshack.us/img158/7305/washsqpresent01g6kk.th.jpg (http://img158.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsqpresent01g6kk.jpg)

New paths.
http://img158.imageshack.us/img158/9682/washsqpaths01g0rw.th.jpg (http://img158.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsqpaths01g0rw.jpg)

May 15th, 2006, 10:34 AM
The two "Display Gardens" (at the east and west of the fountain / plaza) are not a good feature -- they will serve to narrow / close in what are now open (although ugly asphalt) spaces and impede the pedestrian flow through the park.

I think the new lawn area at the SE of the plaza / fountain (described as "bring back to historic grade") has been nixed -- as it would mean the removal of the concrete "stage" area; many argued that losing that raised platform would serve to impede perfromances, etc. Not that this raised area shouldn't be redesigned / rebuilt.

The raising of the plaza / fountain to the same grade level as the rest of the park shouldn't happen. The "bowl" of the existing WSP creates an arrival spot in the center of the park. If that area is raised it will completely change the way that people interact with the park.

May 15th, 2006, 05:30 PM
The budget might save the Park ...

Wash. Sq. project is revised after overbudget bids

By Lincoln Anderson
The Villager (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_158/washsqproject.html)

A total of three bids for the construction work for phase one of the Washington Square Park renovation plan were received by the Parks Department last month and all were way over budget. Parks is now “rescoping” the bid and will reissue another bid request.

Warner Johnston, a Parks spokesperson, said, “On April 28, we formally rejected the three bids we received as too high. They came in at about $111/2 million to $12 million. We’re going to refine the bids and rebid the project.” The bids had come in a few weeks before Parks rejected them, he said.

Johnston said the department is “rescoping” the bid, but declined to go into details. He said the changes might include certain types of materials or stipulations on where certain materials should come from.

Parks has set the price tag for the entire renovation project at $16 million. The project is to be done in two consecutive phases, each of which would require closing half the park for a year, while the other half would remain open. Phase one includes the restoration of the park’s fountain and moving it about two-dozen feet east to align precisely with Fifth Ave. through the Washington Square Arch.

“It’s not unusual for bids to come in too high and it’s not unusual for us to rebid the project,” Johnston said. Johnston said that because Parks lets out bids for “hundreds and hundreds of projects” each year, the department has a database it uses to judge whether a bid is too high.

Because of having to modify phase one, Johnston said the start of the project, previously set for July, has now been delayed.

“Things have changed a bit since we’re going to be rebidding the project,” he said. Asked what the project’s new start date is, Johnston said, “I don’t have the answer to that question.”

Parks doesn’t have a date for when it will reissue the bid either.

“We don’t have a timeline,” Johnston said. “We’re finding some changes and we’ll be putting it out [for bid] again.”

The modifications are significant enough that the plans must go back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission — which approved the last version — for another review. At some point, there would be a public hearing at Landmarks on the newly revised plans.

Some opponents of the renovation are charging that Parks secretly plans to shrink the size of the park’s central plaza around the fountain more than allowed under the agreement between Parks and Councilmembers Alan Gerson and Christine Quinn. The antis nervously note that no one from Parks signed the document.

However, Johnston said, “We are honoring our agreement with Councilmembers Gerson and Quinn. We are working on the exact size of the plaza.” Gerson and Quinn’s stipulations state that the renovated fountain plaza “will be no less than 90 percent of the current area.”

“It wasn’t a contract. It was an agreement which we intend to honor,” Johnston explained.

In addition, the Parks spokesperson countered project opponents’ claims that what was put out for bid did not conform with the plans shown at the Art Commission public hearing in January at which the commission gave its approval to moving the fountain. Johnston said what was put out to bid “wasn’t significantly different” from what was shown at the Art Commission, but that if it had been, the new plans would have had to have gone back for review to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Art Commission.

Edy Selman, of the Washington Pl. Block Association and a member of Emergency Coalition to Save Washington Square Park — a group suing to stop the project — said she expected the revised plan will now also have to go back to Community Board 2 for a vote. With new members on the board, she hopes this time the October 2005 resolution by the board’s Waterfront and Parks Committee, written by its chairperson Arthur Schwartz, will be approved.

“Arthur Schwartz’s resolution is the solution to the problem — not moving the fountain or leveling the plaza,” Selman said.

The Villager is published by Community Media LLC.

May 15th, 2006, 08:32 PM
Leveling the plaza has always been my biggest objection to this. Let's hope they nix that part of the plan. The "bowl" is special.

May 15th, 2006, 09:56 PM
Really, that bowl is everything in Washington Square Park.

I used to live a block away, and not a day went by that I wasn't sitting in that bowl at some point.

May 16th, 2006, 02:43 PM
Washington Square just needs a bit of a scrubbing, attention to things that don't work (like the fountain), sprucing up the rundown places, and a little modest gardening.

Problem is, there's a landscape architect; you can rely on him to want to do too much. If they got rid of the landscape architect, common sense would prevail, the park would end up better, and the city would save a ton of money.

May 23rd, 2006, 12:56 AM
And those bathrooms. I understand that its a public park and the bathrooms are not going to be up the quality of the Madarin Oriental (which by the way are the best bathrooms in the city. I snuck in one day) But the way they are now are horrible, dirty, and the foulest smelling thing around. You sometimes can smell them from 200 feet away by the fountain. A better layout or better maintenance would help but the crud thats there needs to be taken out

as for what a previous post said. I had no idea what the hell those concrete lumps were supposed to be. a skate park? get the hell out of here. They suck. lose em

May 23rd, 2006, 09:46 AM
Never been to the Mandarin Oriental, but I stopped in at the New York Palace a few years ago for a quick pitstop. Let's just say, I felt like I was in a real palace.

July 27th, 2006, 12:00 AM
Judge Halts Washington Sq. Park Redesign


Published: July 27, 2006

A State Supreme Court judge has halted the city’s plan to redesign Washington Square Park, saying the Bloomberg administration violated the City Charter by failing to notify the public about all of the proposed changes.

The ruling, handed down on Tuesday by Justice Emily Jane Goodman, bars the Department of Parks and Recreation from beginning a $16 million renovation until the redesign plan goes through the entire approval process again, beginning with the local community board.

The proposal must also be re-approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Arts Commission.

The decision is the latest setback for the parks department in its effort to push through the park’s most significant alteration since the late 1950’s, when Eleanor Roosevelt and the urbanist Jane Jacobs took an active role and traffic was banned.

Now the city will again be forced to make its case for redesign, which has inspired impassioned debate in Greenwich Village and includes plans to move the centerpiece fountain about 22 feet so it aligns with the park’s arch and the installation of a perimeter fence.

Residents have accused the parks department of hiding critical elements of the plan and acting without sufficient community input.

In her ruling, Justice Goodman found that the parks department failed to fully disclose information about the redesign, including the addition of a 45-foot spray jet to the park’s fountain and reduction of the size of the plaza surrounding the fountain by at least 23 percent. The plaza has traditionally been used as a performance space, and the parks department pledged to a council member not to shrink the area by more than 10 percent.

In a statement, Chris Reo, senior counsel of the City Law Department’s environmental law division, said the city was reviewing its legal options.

“We believe that the court’s ruling is erroneous, because it ignores the fact that the parks department’s renovation plan for Washington Square Park has been the result of more than two years of public outreach and input,” Mr. Reo said.

While most people agree that the 9.75-acre park needs a makeover, opponents believe that many of the changes will turn an open space with a tradition of nonconformity into a cookie cutter park.

The park’s fountain has long been one of the city’s popular spots for residents and tourists — the site of poetry and musical performances in the 1950’s and 1960’s by Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan, to mimes, dancers and hip-hop artists today.

The ruling did not address other elements of the redesign, including the shifting of the fountain and the building of a perimeter fence, though the proposal could be altered as it makes its way again through a second review process.

The redesign was approved by Community Board 2 last year after a series of raucous public hearings. The Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Arts Commission also ratified the renovation.

Jonathan Greenberg, a Greenwich Village resident who filed the lawsuit, which sought to stop the renovation,, said that the decision will allow the neighborhood to get another look at the proposal.

“I feel very pleased that there will be some transparency and accountability in this process,” he said.

While the city’s community boards have only advisory power, Justice Goodman said that a board’s role in the democratic process is protected by the City Charter.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

August 13th, 2006, 09:47 AM
Peddling Images of a Lost City

Robert Otter
Getting ticketed in Washington Square Park in the early 1960’s, when cars were sometimes permitted

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/nyregion/thecity/13otte.html)
August 13, 2006

ON days when the weather is fine, Ned Otter wheels a hand truck laden with black-and-white photographs from his SoHo apartment to a stretch of sidewalk on the Avenue of the Americas and West Third Street in Greenwich Village. There he sets up shop, selling photos of the neighborhood as it looked in the 1960’s.

Mr. Otter, who has what he describes as a highly developed “nostalgia bone,’’ runs a business that is a kind of shrine to his father, Robert Otter, a native New Yorker who died in 1986. Robert Otter worked for several years as a photographer. After marrying and starting a family in the Village, however, he chose instead the relative security and solvency of a job as a real estate broker.

But in his off hours — roaming the streets at night or on the weekends — Robert Otter continued to practice his art, taking the photographs that his son, the second of three children, now peddles.

Ned Otter, 47, is himself a struggling artist, a jazz saxophonist who has played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and George Coleman. He began making prints from the original negatives and selling them on the street a year ago, mostly, he said, to put his father’s work before the public. And if he makes a little money, well, that never hurts.

Robert Otter
Barefoot in Washington Square Park in the early 1960’s

A main attraction of the images is that they provide an unstudied sense of a Greenwich Village that no longer exists. “My father was a street photographer,” Mr. Otter said. “These photographs — he caught a moment.”

There are images of late-night shoppers at the original Balducci’s, a police officer ticketing a driver in Washington Square Park when traffic was still allowed in the circle, the famous Eighth Street Bookshop and the meatpacking district long before it was transformed into a club and restaurant hotbed.

Robert Otter
The famous Eighth Street Bookshop in the mid-1960’s

Mr. Otter’s sidewalk shop has become a popular stop for folks who grew up in the neighborhood or whose relatives once owned stores in it. Delighted by the images of their own memories, they thumb through the stack and reminisce (“Cafe Wha? I lost a liver there,” one passer-by announced). And a photo of the Eighth Street Bookshop was recently featured on C-Span in a segment about Sean Wilentz, the Princeton historian, whose father and uncle owned the business.

Robert Otter
The Bleecker Street Cinema, a beloved theater that closed in 1990

In the process of selling the photographs, Mr. Otter has had to become something of a historian himself, since his father didn’t often bother to date or identify the pictures. The son has spent long hours examining the images for clues that might help him determine their dates and locations.

Recently, Mr. Otter also bought a digital voice recorder so he can capture the Village lore that emerges from his conversations with longtime locals, like the one about the time someone threw a desk — or was it a chair? — out a window of the Greenwich Hotel, killing a man. “Sometimes,’’ Mr. Otter said, “the back story is more interesting than the image itself.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

August 13th, 2006, 10:08 AM
Washington Square Village (as seen in the last photo above, circa 1960) in August 2005,
with full-grown London plane trees along Bleecker St.:

http://image63.webshots.com/163/7/56/57/465875657FoGemT_ph.jpg (http://community.webshots.com/photo/465847626/1465875657072148447FoGemT#)


August 13th, 2006, 10:12 AM
Photos like this make my heart sing....dang he was good....I visit, your wonderful city, each year for only two or three weeks ....I will definately ck this out....thank you....

August 26th, 2006, 04:05 PM

I used to shop at a previous iteration of the above supermarket when I lived in Washington Square Village. Here it is not yet built:

I wondered then as I wonder now how the owners of this property could justify a single-story strip mall in the city. Could they have transferred most of the development rights from this block to the other side of Bleecker Street where Washington Square “Village” looms?

In any case, it’s a textbook case of Modernist planning: the single-use Corbusian apartment slab in a “park” of its own making, separated from the sidewalk and separated from its commercial facilities which are zoned (really banished) to the other side of the street.

I’d like to think that in this perhaps more enlightened age, we’d combine the two, build streetwall to the sidewalk, and develop Bleecker Street’s south side to a decent FAR. Or have we here a case where development rights have been transferred and therefore this God-forsaken place is doomed to perpetual suburban underutilization?

How many other such future abominations are we creating with FAR-transfer schemes? And will we in time come to our senses and allow future development despite the present using up of development rights in such places? We could after all up-zone such places, creating the potential for increased future building mass.

Incidentally, I enjoyed living in my Corbusian ville radieuse, though I could barely afford the rent. Ensconced in Suburbia I could venture a few steps into the urban bustle of Washington Square. And the strapping doormen wore capes!

August 26th, 2006, 04:35 PM
^Reluctant as I am even indirectly to provoke another "I hate Andrew Berman" sub-thread, here's a little of the history of this site:


August 26th, 2006, 04:50 PM
Berman's just a luddite; he's opposed to all change.

Let's hope the Landmarks Folks are in their usual fettle; if so, they'll end up doing nothing. In this case, that's the right thing for them to do.

October 23rd, 2006, 10:54 PM
People are up in arms that the new plan for Washington Square Park apparently involves tearing out a whole bunch of trees (http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/Kiss_some_of_those_trees_goodbye/5266.html) ...

Even today there was a confusing scene ... big trees cut clear of their roots were seen lying all about the fountain plaza.

Meanwhile there were scads of people putting up lots of fake trees (see below) ...

Seems like a fair trade-off, eh?


October 24th, 2006, 04:12 PM
So...they have started this ruinous and unnecessary project?

October 24th, 2006, 04:29 PM
Absolutely infuriating!!!

October 24th, 2006, 06:43 PM
So...they have started this ruinous and unnecessary project?

Not yet -- A judge has slammed them with an injunction or something of the sort since it was found that the info given to the public was less that truthful (Imagine That).

Turns out that the "fake" trees plopped around the fountain plaza were for Will Smith's new film, "I am Legend", which has been shooting around the City for the past several weeks:

'Legend' brings light to WSP (http://www.nyunews. com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/10/24/453da43340c01)

October 31st, 2006, 09:57 AM
The truth will out:
Concerns on park renovation mount

thevillager.com (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_182/editorial.html)
Volume 76, Number 23
October 25 - 31, 2006


On Tuesday, the Appellate Division, First Department, will hear the city’s appeal of State Supreme Court Justice Jane Goodman’s ruling in July that the Parks Department’s renovation plan for Washington Square Park should go back to Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a fresh round of review with full information being provided to those doing the reviewing.

In her ruling, Goodman found that Parks had not provided C.B. 2 with sufficient information about the extent of the reduction of the historic park’s central fountain plaza and the installation of water jets in the fountain itself. Both of these elements would threaten the park’s traditional character as a freewheeling space for creativity, gathering and just plain hanging out, argues the community lawsuit that Goodman supported.

Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration, rather than heeding Goodman’s direction to return the plan to C.B. 2 and restart the process, chose to appeal.

In the interim, more information has emerged, raising more concerns about how upfront Parks was with the community on fundamental details of the renovation. For example, the Open Washington Square Park Coalition, via YouTube, has posted on its Web site a damning video clip taken at a May 2005 C.B. 2 meeting at which George Vellonakis, the landscape designer responsible for the renovation, is shown being questioned about the reduction of the central fountain plaza. “There’s a slight reduction — the plaza’s huge,” Vellonakis answers. Prodded further, asked exactly how much the plaza’s size will be reduced, he answers, “5 percent.”

As it turns out, the city’s attorneys in response to the lawsuit, stated the reduction would actually be 23 percent. The coalition contends the reduction is, in fact, even more, 33 percent.

Parks recently completed an environmental assessment statement for the project. Again, it has not been easy to acquire this document. Yet, it states about three dozen trees will be cut down for the renovation — greater than the number Vellonakis stated at C.B. 2 meetings. Also, buried in this document is the fact that Parks intends to fund the renovated square through a conservancy, certainly a hot-button topic in Greenwich Village. Yet, throughout the public review, the conservancy issue was repeatedly sidestepped by Parks.

This process was duplicitous, with a glaring lack of critical information. Goodman recognized that in her strong, solid ruling. We sincerely hope the Appellate Division, First Department, upholds her verdict. Parks duped the public throughout this process. By necessity, it’s left to the judiciary to be the referee and keep this public agency in check and responsible to the public.

© 2006 Community Media, LLC

October 31st, 2006, 11:26 AM
Park battle back in court

Councilman expects city to honor handshake deal on redesign

ny.metro.us (http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/Park_battle_back_in_court/5447.html)
by patrick arden / metro new york
OCT 31, 2006

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Today the Bloomberg administration makes its case against the earlier state Supreme Court ruling halting the redesign of Washington Square Park.

Judge Emily Jane Goodman had sent the Parks Department back to win new approval from Community Board 2 as well as the arts and landmarks preservation commissions, saying the city never revealed all of its planned changes.

No matter the outcome of today’s court battle, local City Councilman Alan Gerson still believes he has a binding deal with the Parks Dept. that will ultimately govern the redesign.

“I expect them to follow the agreement,” said Gerson. “If they don’t, we’ll wind up in court on that issue.”

The city’s appeal denies the agreement, which Gerson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn say they struck with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe last fall.

“The Gerson-Quinn letter was never signed by any representative of the Parks Dept.,” the city’s corporation counsel argues, “and contained no acknowledgment on the part of any Parks employee that the letter faithfully reflected the terms of any purported agreement.”

On Oct. 6, 2005, Gerson and Quinn sent the letter to Benepe outlining the agreement, which included demands to keep the plaza’s size at “no less than 90 percent of the current area.” The letter also calls for a ban on commercial activity in the park and limits on the creation of any “conservancy-type organization” established to raise funds.

Yesterday the city’s Law Department declined to discuss the letter.

“We hope that the appellate division will reverse the Supreme Court ruling, find that the Parks Dept. obtained all necessary approvals for the plan and find that the renovation may begin,” said spokesperson Kim Miu.

Yesterday Gerson faxed Metro a June 29 letter to Benepe. It stated the Council’s funding for the renovation was predicated on the commissioner’s “assurances” the agreement would be honored. The letter was signed by Gerson, Quinn, Council Finance Committee Chair David Weprin and Parks Chair Helen Foster.

Gerson recited Benepe’s testimony from a June 6 budget hearing. When asked whether the city had altered its earlier agreement, Benepe had responded, “I am not aware of any changes.”

Resident Jonathan Greenberg, lead plaintiff in the current lawsuit, calls this “wishful thinking.” Greenberg went to Stuyvesant High School with Gerson, and he once worked in the councilman’s office.

“I am very fond of him,” said Greenberg, “but I do not share his optimism. This process has been marked by a steadfast, duplicitous unwillingness by the Parks Department to put anything in writing or to sign any document about their true plans for Washington Square Park. They’ve never explained why they’re cursing us with this radical redesign.”

[I]© 2006 Metro. All Rights Reserved.

October 31st, 2006, 12:55 PM
This whole plan stinks. Cutting down 36 trees?:eek:
A conservancy, public-loving and people-hating (with the inevitable overpriced coffee and sandwich kiosk)? Works in Bryant Park but I'd hate to see Washington Sq. go that route.
I think they should keep their mitts off the plaza and the seating areas around it.

October 31st, 2006, 01:11 PM
"They’ve never explained why they’re cursing us with this radical redesign."
Good question. Why does all this money need to be spent to redesign a park that's already one of the best in the city? Because it gets so much use, it's a bit worn. It needs a cleaning and refurbishment, not redesign. The design's just fine.


October 31st, 2006, 01:27 PM
Except those asphalt bumps....

Those needed to go from day 1. :P

Refurbish the park, add a BIT here or there, but leave it as is!!!

October 31st, 2006, 05:16 PM
It's bad enough that it will disturb the park for so long with all the construction, but if they mean to cut down and replant trees it will take years for them to mature.

One thing they can do is improve the bathrooms.

Anyone see the line of totalled cars along WSP North this past weekend? It looked like there was an incredible accident - all brned out, upside down, torn apart - they were there for the movie shoot.

October 31st, 2006, 06:27 PM
Good question. Why does all this money need to be spent to redesign a park that's already one of the best in the city?

A big part of the answer to that question is NYU, which for years has treated the park as part of its campus. One of the university's largest donors, the Tisch family, has donated millions to have the rebuilt and relocated fountain bear its name (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_115/washsqfountainis.html). Although NYU is in the Village, it is not really of the Village, and it does consider a square in its midst filled with riff-raff and animated with even a little anarchy to be an asset. This is, after all, a school that operates a fleet of ridiculously costumed buses (which it calls "trolleys") to move its students around the city. NYU and the Village as a theme park.


See http://www.nyu.edu/public.safety/transportation/

November 13th, 2006, 09:06 AM
WSP fight goes to Facebook

nyu.news (http://www.nyunews.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/11/13/4557f78edd5eb)
by Dietrich Knauth
Contributing Writer
November 13, 2006

Facebook seems like a website devoted to frivolity, full of party photos and groups based on outrageous claims. But could the site’s networking power be harnessed as a force for social change?

Jonathan Greenberg, head of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition, hopes so. He launched a Facebook advertising campaign last Friday to raise awareness among NYU students about the proposed park renovations.

Greenberg is also the main plaintiff in the suit Greenberg v. The City of New York, filed in May 2006, which opposes the renovations on the grounds that the city’s plans to move the fountain and build a higher fence around the park, among other renovations, were not adequately disclosed to the public. Greenberg and other community activists claim these changes will alter the park’s character and make it less welcoming to the community.

Greenberg, 48, who works in communications, is trying to reach out to the public and the NYU community with ads saying the plan will “destroy the spirit of this amazing place” and has plans to start a Facebook group.

“This is a stealth redesign that has been sold to the community as a light renovation,” Greenberg said. “We don’t want NYU students, who constitute one of the largest impacted groups, to find out about it before it’s too late.”

A spokesperson from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation declined to comment on plans for the park because of the ongoing litigation.

Greenberg’s Facebook ad also includes a video found on the coalition’s website and on YouTube — a four-minute brief on the city’s plans for the park and a plea to help prevent them.

“[The coalition] can’t stop this completely,” he said. “We’ve slowed it down. Now it’s time for many people to express their opinions.”

Greenberg isn’t the first person to use Facebook to raise awareness about the park. NYU students have also launched groups of varying popularity to protest the renovation. “Save Our Graduation!” has 42 members, while “Save the trees in Washington Square Park” only has four.

Will Lopez, a Tisch junior who created the largest protest group, “Washington Square Park is better with junkies” (63 members), opposes the renovation but doesn’t believe Facebook is the way to make change.

“You see a million things on Facebook,” he said. “People see it, then they forget it. If you hand someone a petition to sign, they’re not going to forget it.”

The proposed renovations are also slated to take up to three years to complete by city estimates, which would disrupt NYU’s commencement ceremonies.

Besides students looking forward to graduating in the park, Greenberg said the city’s plans would adversely affect many other groups who don’t have any say in the proceedings, among them street performers, the homeless, the disabled and those who use the dog run and playgrounds.

Lopez opposes the crackdown on drug dealers and the homeless — “things that give the park character,” he said — as well as the cost of the redesign.

“This money could be better spent,” said Lopez. “The city could give the junkies and crackheads food and shelter rather than spending the money to try to kick them out.”

CAS sophomore Rebecca Parelman is Greenberg’s niece and also one of the plaintiffs in his lawsuit. As a Village resident, Washington Square Park holds special meaning for her.

“I’ve been coming to Washington Square Park my whole life,” Parelman said. “NYU is an urban campus, and it’s nice to have some sort of common public space to meet friends and hang out and relax outdoors.”

Parelman said the new plans will destroy the park as a public gathering spot. The proposed plan to install 45-foot spray jets in the fountain may prevent people from sitting around it and may also eliminate performance space.

“Even by myself I never feel lonely because there’s always something to watch or listen to,” she said.

Parelman is cautiously optimistic about Facebook’s potential for getting people involved in the cause.

“Considering how many NYU students don’t know about [the construction], it’s a good way to raise awareness,” she said.

© 2006 Washington Square News

November 13th, 2006, 09:13 AM
Gerson: Wash. Sq. agreement ‘still valid’

thevillager.com (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_184/gersonwashsq.html)
By Albert Amateau
Volume 76, Number 25
November 8 - 14, 2006

City Councilmember Alan Gerson told the Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee on Monday that he would hold the Department of Parks to the oral agreement that Parks made with him and Councilmember Christine Quinn last year about the size of the central fountain plaza in the redesign of Washington Square Park.

The Nov. 6 meeting of the committee, headed by Arthur Schwartz, ended with a unanimous resolution calling on Parks to present detailed plans to the community board on implementing the Gerson-Quinn agreement at the Jan. 8 committee meeting.

At issue is a commitment by Parks to make the size of the redesigned plaza no less than 90 percent of the current size. But at an Appellate Division hearing on Oct. 31, a city attorney told the appeals panel that Parks had not signed a written agreement with the two councilmembers and that the city is under no obligation to make the redesigned plaza 90 percent the size of the present plaza. Moreover, the attorney noted that the Council has no role in the Washington Square Park redesign.

Nevertheless, Gerson told The Villager on Nov. 7, “The agreement is still valid.” He threatened to hold up funding for the Washington Square Park reconstruction in next year’s budget if Parks fails to adhere to the agreement.

“A statement issued during the budget process in June, signed by me, Speaker Quinn, Councilmembers David Weprin, head of the Finance Committee, and Helen Foster, head of the Parks Committee, says the Parks budget was conditioned on complying with the agreement,” Gerson said on Tuesday. Even if it is too late to withhold funding this year, it could be held up next year, Gerson said.

“I could also go to court,” Gerson said, adding, “but I don’t think it will come to that.” Gerson said that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told him last week that the department would indeed honor the agreement to reduce the size of the redesigned plaza by no more than 10 percent. “The way we left it was that the plaza would be 90 percent of the size of the current plaza,” Gerson said.

Benepe was not available on Tuesday to comment on the conversation because the department was closed for Election Day.

Regarding the city’s argument in the Appellate Division last week that the agreement was not binding, Gerson made the distinction between the legalities of a court challenge of the review process and the Gerson-Quinn agreement on the actual size of the proposed plaza.

In the court case, State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman in August ruled in favor of a group of Washington Square residents who challenged the review process of the park redesign. Goodman said that Parks did not adequately describe the plaza size and the design of the fountain jets in plans submitted for review to Community Board 2, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the city Art Commission. She ordered Parks to resubmit those issues for review to C.B. 2 and the two agencies, and the city appealed.

But Daniel Alterman, an attorney associated with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was outraged at the contradictory statements by the city.

“It’s fundamentally dishonest [for the Parks Department] to make a deal with two councilmembers and then say it’s not valid because it wasn’t signed,” said Alterman, “How can they say one thing in court and something else out of court?” Alterman said he thought the city attorney should tell the Appellate Division that the statement made before the panel last week was incorrect and then submit a corrected statement.

Jonathan Greenberg, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said on Tuesday that Gerson’s distinction between legalities and the actual plaza size was false.

“If it hadn’t been for our lawsuit, the Parks Department would have broken ground with a 23 percent reduction of the plaza and without any regard for the Gerson-Quinn agreement,” Greenberg said.

The size of the plaza is at issue because it has traditionally been where impromptu performances take place. Community Board 2 and opponents of the park design insist that the plaza remain hospitable to spontaneous groupings and performers.

Gerson said there has been widespread confusion about the plaza size. Parks says the redesigned plaza would be 23 percent smaller that the current plaza while the challengers say that the plans really show a 33 percent reduction in the plaza.

Gerson noted that the current plaza slopes down to the fountain from a circular concrete seating rim; this is the area in the redesign that the agreement states must remain 90 percent of its current size. In the redesign, the plaza does not slope down to the fountain, but is raised to grade level. [ :mad: :confused: :mad: ]

Beyond the concrete seating ring is an outer plaza that includes a circular path. The Parks plan calls for a 23 percent reduction of the combined inner and outer plaza area. The challengers of the redesign say there is a 33 percent reduction in the size of the inner plaza alone.

The Nov. 6 C.B. 2 Parks Committee resolution calls on the full community board to reaffirm its endorsement of the Quinn-Gerson-Parks Department agreement of Oct. 6, 2005. The resolution calls on Parks to present an “accurate, written, up-to-date plan, including elevations” and “demonstrating, item by item, how its plans comport with the Quinn-Gerson agreement.”

© 2006 Community Media, LLC

January 19th, 2007, 09:59 AM
Hawk swoops in as new Exhibit A against Washington Square rehab

Attorney Joel Kupferman said that after recently reading in The Villager’s Scoopy’s Notebook about the new red-tailed hawk in Washington Square Park, opponents will file an environmental lawsuit against the Parks Department’s embattled $16 million park renovation plan.

Kupferman said that among plaintiffs he will be representing on the lawsuit is the Emergency Coalition to Save Washington Square Park, or ECO.

The presence of the hawk, Kupferman said, shows “There’s life there. There’s bird life. Because of the large, broad-leafed trees that are there, birds are attracted to that park. Trees will be removed [under the renovation] to relocate the fountain, and it will also harm the [trees’] root system.”

A previous Eco lawsuit opposed the renovation in part for its disruptive effect on the park’s wildlife, including squirrels.

Dave Lawrence, manager of the park’s small dog run, said he showed a photo of the red-tail to a hawk expert, who told him it is a juvenile male.

The Villager is published by
Community Media LLC.
145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013

January 26th, 2007, 09:28 AM
Wash. Sq.enviro suits cite trees, dust, hawk


Villager photo by Tequila Minsky
A girl passing through Washington Square on her way to school
last week gathered some rare snow to make a snowball.

thevillager.com (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_195/wahsqenviosuitscite.html)
By Lincoln Anderson
Volume 76, Number 35
January 24 - 30, 2007

The lawsuits keep on mounting against the embattled Washington Square Park renovation plan, threatening to further stall, if not outright kill, it. Two new lawsuits take aim at the $16 million project on environmental grounds. Among their charges are that the renovation will chainsaw down a full third of the trees in the park’s northwest quadrant, create pedestrian bottlenecks and threaten the habitat of a juvenile red-tailed hawk that recently took up residency and started hunting in the park.

Last Friday, two plaintiffs, Jonathan Greenberg, coordinator of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition; and Luther Harris, author of the definitive history book on Washington Square, filed the first of the two lawsuits. An Article 78 suit in State Supreme Court, it charges that an environmental impact assessment, or E.A.S., the Parks Department did for the project was faulty and that a more lengthy and involved environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., must be done.

In addition, the Emergency Coalition to Save Washington Square Park, or ECO, was expected to file suit in State Supreme Court on Wed., Jan. 24, also challenging the renovation on environmental grounds.

The Greenberg/Harris suit contends the E.A.S. that Parks completed in November fails to comply with the requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act on three points: First, the E.A.S. doesn’t accurately document the plan to fell 40 of 120 trees in the park’s northwest quadrant, which would be a major impact on the park’s “natural resources,” the lawsuit argues; second, the section of the E.A.S. concerning “neighborhood character” fails to discuss the impact that narrowing the park’s paths, bisecting them with concrete planters and adding more benches, as well as erecting a taller fence around the park’s perimeter, would have on changing pedestrian flow and circulation; third, the lawsuit contends, the E.A.S. doesn’t detail the construction process’s impact on the park or give construction schedules or explain what will be done, for example, about “fugitive dust” created by the work.

“The E.A.S. is the way to skirt the need to do an E.I.S.,” Greenberg said of Parks’ determination of a negative declaration on the E.A.S. — which the department itself conducted — meaning that, in the department’s opinion, no E.I.S. is needed.

Regarding the trees, Greenberg obtained from Councilmember Alan Gerson the bid documents Parks issued for contractors for the project last year, and found discrepancies between the E.A.S. and the bid documents. According to the lawsuit, the E.A.S. states that of 120 trees in the park’s northwest quadrant, two that measure at least 20 inches in diameter will be transplanted, while eight will be permanently removed. Left out of the E.A.S., the bid documents additionally note that 32 trees measuring between 6 and 18 inches in diameter will be removed from the northwest quadrant altogether.

“Some of these trees are hundreds of years old,” Greenberg said. Greenberg is particularly concerned about the renovation’s impact on how people will be able to use the walkways and gathering areas.

“They have not gotten an objective, professional usage study,” he said of Parks. “It’s all about a park you can look at and walk through, but not hang out in, and that’s their plan.” The planters planned for the middle of paths are part of this agenda, he feels, noting, “You can’t walk three abreast!”

And the construction and its disruption won’t be minor, Greenberg assured.

“For a period of three years, they could just put up a chain-link fence by the children’s playground and all the diesel smoke will go in,” he said. “No one will go there. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan saying what’s actually going to happen?”

On Tuesday, attorney Joel Kupferman, representing ECO, said he couldn’t publicly discuss much yet about the second suit, which he hoped to file the next day. However, he said, it does contain a bird specialist’s affidavit on the significance of the new hawk’s presence.

“The bird story is a good part of it,” Kupferman said. “The long-range damage — what’s going to happen to the trees — what’s going to happen to the root system” are other significant aspects of the suit, he added.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, however, feels that not court, but the recently started Washington Square Park Task Force, set up under the so-called Gerson-Quinn Agreement with Parks on the renovation, is the best venue to solve disagreements.

“An E.I.S. is not a binding document,” Gerson said. “We’ve seen E.I.S.es that don’t result in any significant change on a project. To go to court — you don’t know how the court’s going to rule. I think enough is enough. We have a process in place. I think the best thing at this point is to work it out through the task force. Under the Gerson-Quinn Agreement the Parks Department is required to work with the task force in good faith.”

As for the trees, Gerson said he believed Parks’ revised bid documents now accurately reflect how many will be removed.

If the renovation doesn’t move forward soon, though, Gerson warned that more of the park will become “cordoned off, like the mounds.”

As for the hawk’s figuring prominently in Kupferman’s lawsuit, Gerson said, “This is the first I’m hearing of it — again, that issue could be dealt with through the task force.”

Arthur Schwartz, chairperson of the task force and an attorney, said he had read the latest Greenberg/Harris lawsuit and feels it’s strong and could result in an E.I.S. that will delay the renovation another year and a half. He agrees the task force is a good place to work out the issues, but isn’t entirely discouraging the lawsuit.

“All environmental litigation ever accomplishes is to kill a project, because enthusiasm is lost — like what happened to Westway — or it delays the project,” said Schwartz. He was referring, of course, to the Lower West Side landfill-and-highway mega-project cancelled in 1985 after its E.I.S. fudged data about its impact on striped bass.

“I think Washington Square Park needs a lot of work, even if all you want to do is retain its existing shape and character,” Schwartz said. “I think the task force can be a vehicle for that. If the lawsuit pushes Parks to work with the community, I see that as a good thing. But if Parks won’t negotiate on differences and move a little more, we could end up with what happened with Westway.”

As for Gerson’s confidence that Parks will voluntarily work with the task force to resolve renovation issues, Sharon Woolums, an ECO leader, burst out laughing, then said, “The whole process didn’t work the first time, so why should it work now? We are where we are now because government agencies have failed us.”

The renovation has been on hold since July, when Justice Emily Jane Goodman ruled in favor of a suit by Greenberg, Harris and two other plaintiffs that charged Parks had not accurately informed Community Board 2 and city agencies about the extent of its plans to shrink the size of the park’s central plaza and add a battery of water jets inside the park’s fountain, affecting its historic use as a performance space. Goodman enjoined the renovation work from starting, and told Parks to re-present its plan to C.B. 2. But the city instead appealed to the Appellate Division, which heard the case in October. A decision is pending.

Greenberg said the initial lawsuit on the plaza size and fountain jets is truly “precedent setting,” in that it concerns to what extent city agencies must inform community boards and other city agencies of projects under public review.

In addition, after construction estimates came in millions of dollars over budget last May, Parks has retooled the bid documents, in order to, at some point rebid the project.

Asked about the pair of new environmental lawsuits and also when the renovation is now expected to begin, Ashe Reardon, a Parks spokesperson, said, “There is no start date at this point, and, as you know, we cannot comment on pending litigation.”

© 2006 Community Media, LLC

January 26th, 2007, 05:25 PM
But if Parks won’t negotiate on differences and move a little more, we could end up with what happened with Westway.”

GOOD. I am 100% against this silly and ill-conceived plan. KILL IT DEAD. They don't need to cut down fully grown trees and move the fountain, seats, etc. It's stupid.

January 27th, 2007, 01:07 AM
I know right?

That $16 mil can be better spent elsewhere.

Just amazes me how when you do want them to fix something up, they don't.

But stuff like this that is better left alone, they have to waste so much time and money unnecessarily.

January 27th, 2007, 01:10 AM
They could replace the worn concrete and asphalt with nice stone and be done with it. Clean that bathroom too.

January 27th, 2007, 12:39 PM
Any discussion of Washington Square Park has to take into consideration the amount of influence that the powers that be at NYU have over the issue.

As has been previously posted: NYU sees WSP as their own private quad -- and as they offer $$$ for renovation they all seem a bit befuddled that NYers don't just roll over and say "OK".

Fix the plumbing, upgrade the stone / concrete / surface ares, take care of the plantings -- that would go a long way towards doing what is needed.

Forget (1) the perimeter fencing, (2) moving the fountain, (3) the new raised planters that will constrict pedestrian circulation and let's get on with it.

January 27th, 2007, 02:53 PM
^ lofter for Parks Commissioner. :)

January 28th, 2007, 11:45 AM
That's a job ^^^ I would love to have ;)

January 28th, 2007, 12:09 PM
Washington Square Park does not need any construction whatsoever. It is fine the way it is.

January 28th, 2007, 12:38 PM
Truth be told, the plumbing under the fountain is shot and needs to be re-done.

January 28th, 2007, 01:01 PM
Truth be told, the plumbing under the fountain is shot and needs to be re-done.
If that fountain ever got going would it put a damper on the performances and gatherings?

January 28th, 2007, 02:36 PM
The fountain runs quite often throughout the warm months and most often the performers do their thing around the adjacent plaza, so no it doesn't put a damper on the performers when it's on. I don't want them to go away but I don't think the performers need that space nor are they owed it. As someone who sees these performances on a daily basis, I want to be able to spend time on that wonderfully communal fountain perimeter without the dread of being called upon to take part as a prop in a performance.

However, they don't need to alter the fountain in such a way that it prohibits access when the jets are both off and on. It can be, occasionally, a great performance spot, and I also like that people (and dogs) can splash around in it on hot days.

January 29th, 2007, 10:05 PM
I want to be able to spend time on that wonderfully communal fountain perimeter without the dread of being called upon to take part as a prop in a performance.I'd like to see you boogey down. :D

February 1st, 2007, 10:44 AM
^Who wouldn't? ;)

Last night I noticed the trees in the park were brightly illuminated and assumed they must be filming something. So I walked on into the park, sure enough Will Smith was doing a scene from his movie up by the arch. They had stadium lighting over the entire park and its surrounding buildings, which actually looked pretty cool, though the residents probably had a different take on it.

February 2nd, 2007, 01:07 AM
I noticed those lights last night when I was up on the 10th Floor of Kimmel Hall for the DOS Scoping presentation ...

So I pulled out my trusty cell-cam (Will Smith is in the pic somewhere ;) ):


February 2nd, 2007, 09:51 AM
Tremendous view, that. Notice the Christmas tree beneath the arch, there for the movie. It was redecorated better than it normally is - take note! whoever decorates that tree every year. Evenly spaced lights, not clumps of white here and there, and no gaps.

February 2nd, 2007, 01:57 PM
Lawsuits, not politicians, will save Wash. Sq. Park

Talking Point

TheVillager.com (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_196/talkingpoint.html)
By Jonathan Greenberg
Volume 76, Number 36
January 31 - February 6, 2007

Thank you for last week’s sober, evenhanded editorial in The Villager about Washington Square Park and the lawsuits that we, and others, have filed to stop Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Benepe from their enormously unpopular radical redesign of Washington Square Park. Their plan would transform the unique public park that is the heart and soul of our community into a construction zone for years and years, then reopen it as a garden-style pedestrian pass-though mall with a significantly shrunken, inaccessible, ornamental fountain as its centerpiece.

After reading the admonition in last week’s Villager article on our lawsuit by my old friend Councilmember Alan Gerson that “enough is enough” with our lawsuits, I feel compelled to set the record straight about the role that litigation has played in preserving the Washington Square Park that so many New Yorkers love.

Although Alan’s hard work and good intentions give honor to the title “public servant,” I believe that the positions he has taken on the park’s renovation have not served our community well.

The so-called “Gerson-Quinn Agreement” would allow the park’s central, sunken plaza to be brought to street level, permit an imposing 4-foot fence to enclose the park (replacing a discreet 2-foot tube fence), create a reliance upon private funding (and, likely, a conservancy) for the first time in the park’s 178-year history, allow much of the park to be unnecessarily closed for three years for a gut redesign (instead of repairs and smaller improvements) and allow its walkways to be severely reduced in width and bisected with planters.

Even if this “compromise plan” were not problematic, the city has repeatedly denied that it will be bound by this unsigned agreement, both in the city’s legal filings and during the Appellate Court hearing on Oct. 31.

Despite Alan’s idealistic assurances that the city will “honor” the agreement that they have repeatedly disavowed, the Parks Department bid documents sent out a year ago demonstrate that the city had no intention of adhering to the terms of the Gerson agreement. Although Gerson’s agreement stated that the park’s central plaza could be reduced by no more than 10 percent, the bid documents (which were sent out months after Gerson announced the agreement) showed a plan that reduced the plaza by between 23 percent (the city’s numbers) and 33 percent (our numbers, counting the eastern area of the current plaza).

Now Councilmember Gerson suggests that we back off from our lawsuits and leave the future of the park to him and a new task force that has even less legal influence over the actions of the Parks Department than he has.

Without the court-ordered injunctive relief won through our lawsuit, Washington Square Park would have been closed for construction and a radical redesign nearly a year ago.

Why should we, local taxpayers, leave the fate of our beloved park to politicians who have never provided us with a real choice about whether we prefer the park to be repaired or redesigned; who have refused to survey park users and our community about how we would improve our park; who have refused to provide us with even the most rudimentary professional usage study or even with construction-abatement plans for their radically transformative plan?

It was two years ago last week that I wrote a talking point in this newspaper asking the Parks Department to undertake a survey of park users and the community, and to provide us with a usage study for the enormous changes that the Benepe gang has been demanding.

For two years, Parks has done nothing of the sort, and has instead refused to budge from its radical redesign, or even to disclose its full plans to the public for review. Even when admonished, in Judge Emily Jane Goodman’s court ruling, for omitting material information from its presentations to our community board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city appealed the decision rather than provide its final plans for public review. (Readers can see the Parks Department caught in its lies in a Web video at www.openwsp.com (http://www.openwsp.com/).)

And now we have filed an environmental lawsuit, asking for a real plan instead of the Parks Department’s recent “assessment” that a full environmental impact statement is unnecessary. Given the magnitude of the planned changes, we want to see a usage and circulation study, as well as a plan for how small children, dog owners and surrounding residents will be impacted during three or more years of intense construction. These lawsuits would not be necessary if the Parks Department would simply to do its job and serve the public.

The City Council has no direct control over our Parks Department’s planning. I believe that Alan Gerson is trying to make the most out of a difficult situation, with an incredibly wealthy and powerful mayor lined up behind this plan. But neither Bloomberg nor Benepe own our city’s public spaces. And as Robert Moses and Mayor Robert Wagner found out nearly 50 years ago when they tried to build a highway through the park, Greenwich Villagers do not shrink from challenging the powerful.

Thankfully, we still have an independent judiciary that acts as a check and balance, even on a powerful mayor.

So with all due respect to my old friend, we are not going to leave the future of our park to Alan Gerson. The Parks Department has misled us, our community board, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and our elected representatives. We have taken our fight to court, where we stand the best chance of saving what so many of us cherish most about Washington Square Park.

Greenberg is coordinator of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition and a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the Washington Square Park renovation project

© 2006 Community Media, LLC

March 9th, 2007, 12:04 AM
Village park renovation can move forward

metro new york (http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/Village_park_renovation_can_move_forward/7380.html)
by patrick arden
MAR 9, 2007

GREENWICH VILLAGE. A state appeals court gave the greenlight yesterday to the city’s controversial $16 million redesign of Washington Square Park. Yet the plan may still face a rocky road ahead, with two new lawsuits already pending and a likely appeal of yesterday’s decision.

The ruling overturned an earlier court order sending the Bloomberg administration back for approvals from Community Board 2, as well as the city’s arts and landmarks preservation commissions, because it had failed to notify the voting parties of all the proposed changes.

While various aspects of the plan have sparked neighborhood protests — including the relocation of the fountain, the removal of 32 mature trees and the proposed creation of a conservancy to run the redesigned park — the main issue is the shrinking of the central plaza, which has been used for the last half century as a performance space. Critics claimed the redesign was actually a clandestine effort to rein in park gatherings.

The lawsuit brought by residents to block the project juxtaposed the testimony of Parks architect George Vellonakis — who told the city’s landmarks commission that the central plaza would remain “exactly the same” — against construction bid documents that showed the gathering space would be significantly reduced. Plaintiffs claimed the reduction was 33 percent. In response, the city acknowledged the cut would be 23 percent.

Lead plaintiff Jonathan Greenberg later discovered video footage of Vellonakis testifying before Community Board 2. Though he found this after his court filing, he ended up posting clips on YouTube. “There is a slight reduction,” Vellonakis tells the board in one section. When pressed for specifics, he says the decrease is “very small . . . probably 5 percent.”

Greenberg vowed yesterday to continue the fight. “These judges performed mental acrobatics in order to grant the city a license to lie to its citizens,” he said. “We still don’t know what the plan is now.”
© 2007 Metro. All Rights Reserved.

March 9th, 2007, 12:46 AM
Ill-conceived. Waste of money. Mean-spirited. Needs to be stopped.

March 14th, 2007, 10:59 PM
Court: City Can Redesign Washington Square Park

By Special to the Sun
March 9, 2007 (http://www.nysun.com/article/50178)

A state appeals court ruled yesterday that the Department of Parks and Recreation can go forward with its planned redesign of Washington Square Park, reversing a lower court's decision to halt renovations.

Local residents, led by Jonathan Greenberg, had alleged that the department proceeded without enough community input and had withheld crucial details about the plan.

The appeals court, however, found that the department had appropriately consulted Community Board 2, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Art Commission.

Mr. Greenberg said he plans to appeal. "The appellate court has given the city license to lie," he said.

The park renovations include moving the fountain 22 feet and decreasing the size of the plaza.

© 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.

March 14th, 2007, 11:44 PM
An it from the Museum of the City of New York / Robert Moses exhibition:


March 15th, 2007, 03:51 AM
^ was the man free-basinbg absynthe?

March 15th, 2007, 12:46 PM
Looking at the MCNY exhibition it's fascinating to see how Moses really changed course following WW2. His project in th 30's really showed an optimism and humanity. The later projects appear so much more grandiose and overpowering ...

The other thing that changed was the public response, often led by the mothers of NYC.

One particular case was the response to Moses' plan to expand the parking lot near what is now Tavern on the Green, which would have wiped out the play area on the north side of the parking lot that is there today. UWS mothers with babies & strollers come out en masse and fought Moses' plan -- and were successful in scuttling it.

Similarly the Moses' plan to cut a major roadway through Washington Square (and link it up with his proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway via West Broadway) was derailed by locals -- most famously Jane Jacobs.

Here are some pics of models in the exhibition showing the proposal for the Lower Manhattan Expressway -- the model was cleverly constructed so that the blocks-to-go can simply be lifted out and replaced by a model of the Expressway.

This picture below shows the full plan; the model covers the area just above where "MANHATTAN" appears on the map as the roadway splits towards both the Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges (seemingly the connection to Fifth Avenue up West Broadway and through Washiington Square Park is hidden under the words "CROSS MANHATTAN") ...


The area shown below is Broome Street between Chrystie & Lafayette. The roadway was planned to be sub-surface as it approached the Williamsburg Bridge and elevated both west of there (where it would connect to the West Side Hiway at Canal) and south of there (as it approached the Manhattan Bridge). The removable section showing the blocks to be razed in SoHo / Little Italy is on the wall above the model; in the main model NORTH is to the right and the curve at the bottom goes SOUTH) ...


Another view, this time from the SOUTH, with Crosby Street at the far left and Chrystie / Sara Roosevelt Park at the far right (Grand Street is shown at the southern edge of the buildings, with the old domed nearly-triangular Police Headquarters building at Grand / Lafayette / Broome is seen at lower left) ...


The opposite view, with Chrystie Street / Sara Roosevelt Park at the left and the easterly sub-surface approach to the Williamsburg Bridge at the bottom; the elevated Expressway heading west through SoHo is at the right ...


Of course the renderings showed the Lower Manhattan Expressway as a benign transportation artery, promising ease of movement and modernity all around -- even tranquil skies above ...


March 16th, 2007, 02:02 PM
Forward and United on Washington Square Renovation

The VILLAGER (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_202/talkingpoint.html)
By Alan Jay Gerson
Volume 76, Number 42
March 14 - 20, 2007

Now is the time for all sectors of the Washington Square Park community to come together. We need to unite to insist that the Parks Department move forward in accordance with the City Council (“Gerson-Quinn”) agreement. We need to engage the department through the process, established by the agreement, to work out remaining design details in ways that protect and preserve the character of this park we all love.

The recent unanimous decision by the Appellate Division, allowing the Parks Department to proceed without going back to the Community Board 2, Landmarks Preservation Commission or Art Commission, was predictable. The City Charter clearly gives the mayor and the Parks Department, and not the City Council or community board, discretion and control over park designs, explicitly granting them great leeway in the process.

Our agreement makes some compromises with the other party — in this case, the Parks Department — as does any agreement. Those compromises were necessary precisely because the City Charter gives the Parks Department full authority over park designs and redesigns. However, after extensive community input, we were able to use the Council’s limited budget leverage to obtain an unprecedented amount of park protections and improvements. At the same time, the agreement preserves the park’s historic, open and bohemian character.

Community Board 2 has repeatedly endorsed the department’s design with the changes required by the Gerson-Quinn City Council agreement. Both the Art Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission have made clear their positions on the limited issues within their legal purviews. At best, lawsuits will, by the delay they cause, drive up the repair and reconstruction costs, while more and more segments of the park fall into disrepair and join the mounds in being fenced off from use. Additionally, because of the state of the plumbing in the fountain, we need to move quickly to preserve a working fountain.

Highlights of the Gerson-Quinn agreement include:

• Guarantees that at least half the park will remain open during the construction period, and no construction will take place on weekends or holidays;

• Preservation of the elevated concert stage, which the Parks Department had wanted to level, and guarantees of its availability for nonpermitted free-speech events;

• Irrigation, seating, shading and other improvements in both dog runs;

• More usable green space, more trees and more planting — including a children’s garden and restoration of the historic tulip patch;

• Presentation of at least 90 percent of the inner circle, open free performing area, surrounding the fountain with cluster seating — which the department had wanted to decimate;

• A cap on the park fence’s height of 3 feet 6 inches as measured from the ground on the inside of the park, and with the requirement of a delicate design without “spear tips” on top;

• Guarantees that the department will not attempt to put gates on the fence;

• Preservation of all three mounds that the department was going to eliminate, plus the creation of a new, very much-needed preteen play area of at least 8,000 to 10,000 square feet;

• Expanded and improved, more comfortable seating;

• A requirement for the time of identification of a public art location and appropriate markers that celebrate the park’s rich history, going back to pre-Civil War days;

• Unprecedented protections against commercialization and privatization of the park (which no other New York City park currently enjoys);

• New protections against amplified noise;

• Best efforts to exceed legal requirements for making the park as fully accessible as possible to all persons with disabilities;

• An unprecedented task force process for community input on remaining, all-important details on the park design and park furniture.

Unfortunately, the Parks Department remains stubborn in its insistence on slightly realigning the fountain 23 feet to be centered with the arch. Alas, since the department has now received the O.K. for this from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Art Commission and the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, the City Charter grants the department the prerogative to proceed with the move.

The Gerson-Quinn agreement imposes, however, the condition that the department make its proposed change in the fountain’s location only if engineers verify that the plumbing requires total reconstruction and that the change will not add to costs. In any event, the fountain must retain its current size and form, with no change in the public’s historic access to get wet in the interior. On the east-west axis, the fountain must remain aligned with Waverly Pl. Thus, even if the department proceeds with its fountain proposal, there will be no real change in the feel and character of Washington Square Park.

Perhaps we should change the Charter. Until that time, I am developing legislation that would give the public a greater say over public parks. However, right now, the Gerson-Quinn agreement offers good prospects to all Washington Square Park users and lovers. Washington Square Park’s history is one of repeated reincarnation, Greenwich Village style.

When I first played in the park as an elementary school kid, buses rolled through the arch into the central area, until the community chased the buses out. When I was in intermediate school, the community spearheaded a total renovation, which brought several changes and improvements, including the now-fabled mounds. The current agreement reached, based on community input, continues this tradition. The improvements preserve what we have long enjoyed about our beloved park and expands community enjoyment of the park’s special historic character.

I call on all sectors of the Washington Square Park community to work with the Design Task Force to make sure this happens. Now is the time to move forward.

Gerson is city councilmember for the First District.

© 2007 Community Media, LLC

March 18th, 2007, 11:07 PM

stay informed of upcoming screenings...


March 19th, 2007, 09:34 AM
A 10 lane highway through lower manhattan?

And the pic looks like the industrial area on teh BQE, something I have NEVER seen uncrowded.

Although I think the direct link is something that was meritous in its own context, the sacrifices that would have had to have been made to accomodate it would have been unsustainable.

April 14th, 2007, 08:54 PM
Have they started the renvation yet?

April 27th, 2007, 07:41 AM
Board 2 demands Wash. Sq. design presentation, or else

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert
Rasheed Richard Howard from the group NuQ-Lewis blew his own horn, er, horns in Washington Square Park on Saturday.

By Lincoln Anderson

Frustrated with the Parks Department’s stonewalling them on the Washington Square Park renovation designs, Community Board 2 last Thursday issued the department a final warning: If Parks doesn’t re-present its plans for the renovation by May 9, C.B. 2 will rescind its approval of the project.

The defiant resolution — written by board member Keen Berger — was passed overwhelmingly.

Parks has said it doesn’t want to re-present the plans until the several community lawsuits lodged against them are resolved. But by then the project already could be well underway.

Before the vote, however, Shirley Secunda, stood and proposed what she called a “friendly amendment” to her fellow board members — basically a toothless version of the resolution being proposed. Arthur Schwartz, the board’s Parks and Waterfront Committee chairperson, said he didn’t accept it as a friendly amendment to the resolution and that the board should instead put it to a vote as a substitute resolution. But sensing she lacked support, Secunda withdrew her motion and took her seat.

The board then voted on Berger’s resolution. Only five members voted against it: Maria Passannante Derr, the board’s chairperson; Secunda; Judy Paul, co-owner of the Washington Square Hotel; Rocio Sanz, owner of Tio Pepe restaurant; and Elizabeth Gilmore.
Plaintiffs in lawsuits against the renovation had gotten word Secunda would try something, and were relieved to see her challenge fail, knowing that at that point the tougher resolution would be passed.

“We won! We won!” said Jesse McNab, one of the plaintiffs, once all the voting was over.

It was a major turnaround from October 2005, when Secunda had gotten the board to approve her last-minute resolution to block a resolution by Schwartz that would have thrown a major wrench into Parks’ plans: Schwartz’s October 2005 resolution opposed raising the park’s central sunken plaza to grade level and moving the fountain east to align with the arch — both central features of Parks’ plan — and supported a 30-inch height cap for any fence around the park.

But with an infusion of 21 new board members under new Borough President Scott Stringer since he came into office at the start of 2006, the board’s dynamics have dramatically changed. Stringer has cleaned house, not reappointing members put on the board by his predecessor, C. Virginia Fields, and replacing them with a new crop of community-minded members.

Addressing the board before last Thursday’s vote, Schwartz — a top union attorney — said Parks’ saying it can’t comment because of the ongoing litigation is just a convenient “cover.”

“The fact that you’re being sued by somebody doesn’t mean you don’t participate in the public process,” he said. He noted that although Bruce Ratner’s development plans for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards are being challenged in the courts, it hasn’t stopped public hearings about the project from being held.

The Washington Square plan’s opponents have challenged it on the grounds that what Parks presented during the public review process didn’t accurately reflect the real designs. Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Alan Gerson reached an agreement with Parks on the renovation, under which, among other things, the park’s central plaza is not to be reduced by more than 10 percent. However, bid documents released for the project showed that the plaza would actually be reduced by 23 percent.

In addition, city attorneys representing Parks subsequently said in court that the Gerson-Quinn agreement wasn’t binding because it was never signed. These developments and others prompted the community board to request another presentation of the plans from Parks. The Washington Square Task Force, a group including local elected officials and their representatives, also has requested a re-presentation of the renovation plans — again to no avail.

As a result, C.B. 2 last Thursday passed the hard-hitting resolution, warning that Parks has until May 9, or the board’s support will be withdrawn.

Berger was one of the new members added to the board in Stringer’s first round of appointments in April 2006.

“I am thrilled,” Berger said after the meeting. “I really think it’s time for the community board to say, ‘Enough’ — and, finally, we did.”

A lawsuit by Jonathan Greenberg, head of the Open Washington Square Coalition, and others charging that Parks’ presentation had been faulty prevailed in State Supreme Court in July 2006. In her ruling, Justice Emily Jane Goodman said Parks should re-present its plans to C.B. 2, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Art Commission.

But the city appealed and last month the Appellate Division overturned the ruling. Greenberg is appealing to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

In addition, Greenberg and another group, The Emergency Coalition Organization to Save Washington Square Park, or ECO, have both filed environmental lawsuits against the project. Greenberg said the judge on the case, Joan Madden, has combined the lawsuits for convenience’s sake and will likely hear them in a few weeks.

Asked why Parks won’t re-present the plans — especially in light of Schwartz’s example of public hearings being held on the Atlantic Yards plan despite ongoing litigation — a spokesperson hewed to the department line.

Said Warner Johnston: “The community board is well aware that due to the ongoing litigation, we cannot conduct any presentation or discuss this project until the lawsuits are resolved. We informed them of this about a week ago and also discussed this issue with Councilmember Gerson and Borough President Stringer.”

Although community board resolutions are advisory only, no city agency wants to proceed with a project that the local community board does not support.

The day after C.B. 2 approved Secunda’s resolution in October 2005, The Villager asked Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe his thoughts on it. Benepe said he was happy the board had now “approved the project twice.” The board had previously approved the renovation in April 2005.

Greenberg said he was heartened by the board’s latest resolution, which ultimately could reverse the two earlier ones.

“What’s interesting, is it’s come about full circle,” he said on Tuesday. “This seems to be a ‘preserve the square’ rallying cry. This doesn’t mean it’s over. When Parks doesn’t come back on May 9, they won’t be able to say they have the support of Community Board 2.”

Greenberg said Parks’ full bid documents will be posted on their Web site, openwsp.com, within the week, and that people will be able to see for themselves how the proposed renovation and the existing park plan contrast. Greenberg said Gerson’s office finally provided the plans.

Asked why she voted against the new resolution, C.B. 2 Chairperson Derr said because it was “threatening” and had “punitive language and overtone.” She added that Gerson told her that Parks had checked with the city’s Law Department, which told him they advised Parks not to appear before C.B. 2 until the lawsuits are resolved.

The Villager is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2007 Community Media, LLC

July 31st, 2007, 07:47 PM
Washington Square Park Plans Get Cool Reception

BY SARAH PORTLOCK - Special to the Sun
July 27, 2007
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/59300

The city Parks Department released its latest sketches for a redesigned and renovated Washington Square Park last night, but based on reactions from community and government representatives attending the forum at which they were presented, the designs are unlikely to be approved.

Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Alan Gerson, a Democrat of Lower Manhattan, had called the meeting to push forward the public approval process. A lawsuit filed in 2005 stalled the process, the chairman of Community Board 2, Brad Hoylman, said. "We're hopeful that this jumpstarts" the renovation, Mr. Hoylman said. He is also a co-chairman of the Washington Square Park Task Force, a group of public officials and community members appointed to oversee the process.

The first-phase designs, approved by the community board in 2005 but later rescinded, include aligning the park's fountain with the Washington Arch, leveling the fountain plaza, constructing a 4-foot fence around the perimeter, and changing the pattern of several walkways.

In October 2005, Ms. Quinn and Mr. Gerson sent a letter to the Parks Department outlining specific measures for the park design, including suggestions for appropriate fence height and plaza size. The drawings presented yesterday generally complied with those measures, Mr. Hoylman said. "I think we need to look at it more closely and meet as a group before we come to any conclusions."

A member of the Task Force, Keen Berger, a 40-year Village resident, said she thinks the task force will not agree with the designs. "It's clear to me it does not meet the Gerson-Quinn agreement, and those are minimal, minimal standards," she said.

A spokesman for the Parks Department, Warner Johnston, said, "It's a popular park; people feel very strong about this park, but it's in dire need of restoration."

© 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.

*The plans weren't released to the public. Reporters can view them by calling for an appointment.

July 31st, 2007, 09:46 PM
^ Spruce-up is all it needs.

July 31st, 2007, 10:09 PM
^ Spruce-up is all it needs.

At this point I'm starting to think that that is not a bad idea. Maybe the Park doesn't need an entire replanning, and instead simply needs pavers for the paths, new lighting, new surrounding sidewalk, and maybe a cafe with chairs.

August 2nd, 2007, 09:33 PM
It also needs a return to the tradition of selling loose joints from Sucret tins.

August 2nd, 2007, 10:15 PM
^ Mostly anise or oregano.

August 3rd, 2007, 12:23 AM
Sucrets? You old fart- you'll get the Altoid tins of the early 90s, and you'll be happy about it, goll damn.

August 7th, 2007, 11:12 AM
http://openwsp.com/owsplogo.gif (http://openwsp.com/)

August 10th, 2007, 09:19 AM

Gerson says withholding park funds is an option

By Albert Amateau

The Washington Square Park Task Force on Aug. 3 sent Councilmember Alan Gerson and Council Speaker Christine Quinn a report that could be a last-ditch attempt to convince the Department of Parks to alter plans for the redesign of Washington Square Park.

The report, drafted after a Parks Department presentation on July 26 of the first-phase work on the park’s northwest quadrant, urged that the entire park project, including the renovation of the public bathrooms, comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and be wheelchair accessible.

The report also suggests a reduction of the height of the proposed fence around the park, an increase in the size of the central plaza fountain and the width of some paths in the park. The report was also concerned that large, healthy trees would be removed during the park reconstruction.

But the task force, appointed by Gerson and Quinn to monitor a 2005 agreement about hotly debated features of the design, also said Parks provided too few opportunities to review the plans to make a complete report.

Nevertheless, Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 chairperson and task force co-chairperson, said on Mon., Aug. 6, that he hoped Parks would consider the task force’s suggestions.

“The key is to keep a dialogue going between the community and the Parks Department,” he said, adding, “I’m grateful to the speaker and the councilmember for arranging the latest presentation.”

“The next step is a response from the Parks Department,” said Gerson. “The ball is in their court. The task force message was clear and unequivocal. If the Parks Department’s response is not acceptable, we’ll look at all our options, including withholding funding from the project,” Gerson said in an interview.

At a July 30 task force meeting, several members of the audience, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Arthur Schwartz, a C.B. 2 member and former chairperson of the board’s Parks Committee, urged that Gerson and Quinn withhold funding the councilmembers had previously allocated for the Washington Square project. The task force, however, did not call for withholding funds.

The report noted that while the fence pickets around the park are to be 4 feet tall, in compliance with the Gerson-Quinn 2005 agreement, the fence posts, located along the fence at 8-foot intervals, exceed the agreed height by 4 inches.

“The overwhelming community sentiment is a fence should not be included in the plan, and barring that, any fence should be lower than the proposed one,” the report says.

On the positive side, the report notes the size of the existing “tot” playground in the park’s northwest section will remain the same as it is now.

However, the task force found that the proposed fountain plaza does not comply with the Gerson-Quinn agreement because it is smaller than 90 percent of the current area: “The question is, however, by how much. The task force did not have enough information from the Parks Department to draw a clear conclusion .… Rough calculations of the total square footage of the inner circle [of the fountain plaza] ranged from 88 percent to 77 percent of the current area,” the report says.

On the plus side, the report found that the number of permanent seats between the inner and outer circles of the fountain plaza would be increased from 27 to 39.

But the task force was unable to judge whether the interior of the proposed fountain remains essentially in its current form because of a lack of information. Some task force members found that the addition of fountain water plumes and a change in grade would alter the fountain’s essential form. The report suggests removing side plumes from the redesigned fountain.

The design features accepted by the Gerson-Quinn agreement include moving the entire fountain to the east to line up with the Washington Square Arch and Fifth Ave. and bringing the fountain up to grade level. But the agreement called on the department to provide the task force with documents on the condition of the fountain’s plumbing and infrastructure with a cost comparison of renovating the existing fountain and relocating it.

“The issue is of concern because the community was told by the Parks Department during public meetings in 2005 that it would cost no more to move the fountain than to repair it,” the report says.

The task force found that while the redesign has game tables in the northwest corner of the park as provided in the agreement, “the tables do not allow for seating on four sides, as is common for Scrabble, or space to accommodate wheelchairs and there may be insufficient space for viewers to congregate without blocking the paths.”

The proposed plan provides for a possible increase in the number of trees with 14 new plantings and also provides for a professional arborist to maintain them, but the task force was not sure about the size of trees that would be replanted.

Moreover, the task force was not sure that walkways in the redesign would be wide enough for people in wheelchairs or provide sufficient space for people to congregate. The placing of benches in some walkways would reduce their widths to less than 13 feet, the report notes.

The task force was satisfied that the number of people accommodated by the park’s benches would increase from 141 to 175, but called for reconsideration of the backless bench design. The task force also urged that a current park entrance between the arch and the park’s northwest corner should be kept open.

Co-chairperson of the task force with Hoylman is Tobi Bergman, a C.B. 2 member. Other task force members include Fusun Ateser, Matt Bardin, Ric Bell, Keen Berger, Doris Diether, Erin Drinkwater (representing Congressmember Jerrold Nadler), Ian Dutton, Grey Elam (representing Quinn), Erich Hahn (Representing Reverend Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church), Anne Hearn, Gil Horowitz, Alicia Hurley (representing New York University), Hunter Johansson (representing Borough President Scott Stringer), Mary Johnson, Lisa Kaplan (representing Councilmember Rosie Mendez), Honi Klein (of the Village Alliance business improvement district), Rita Lee (representing Gerson), Bess Matassa (representing Glick), Lois Rakoff, Adam Riff (representing State Senator Tom Duane) and Anne-Marie Sumner.

Gerson also issued a prepared statement about the task force:

“The Washington Square Park Task Force, with its findings, spoke clearly, constructively, and with consensus — despite the inclusion of a wide cross-section of park perspectives,” Gerson said in the statement. “The task force, to its credit, resisted irresponsible calls to, in effect, walk away and scuttle the entire process.

“Defunding the renovation, before receiving the Parks Department’s response to the task force, risks harming the park with costly, indefinite delay, greater disrepair and the loss of many improvements and protections required by the Gerson-Quinn agreement. The agreement mandates improved and expanded children’s play areas, adult seating areas, grassy lawns, improved accessibility and unprecedented protections against noise and commercialization, while preserving the performance area, fountain access and the open and free flavor and character of Washington Square Park.

“The Parks Department now bears the legal and ethical responsibility to live up to its end by honoring the agreement and respecting the task force’s input. The commissioner must now decide whether to proceed in good faith or bad faith, with the community or against a clear community consensus, with a design which enhances the park or one that undermines what the community most treasures in its main, very special community park. The community will know that any further delay, whether from politics or new lawsuits or loss of funds, will be due solely to the commissioner’s refusal to implement the reasonable and simple but important adjustment to the phase-one design required by the agreement as supported by the task force.

“Hopefully,” Gerson said, “we have entered a new phase in the protracted Washington Square Park process, in which the community and the Parks Department work collaboratively on behalf of Washington Square Park. It’s up to you, Commissioner Benepe.”

August 24th, 2007, 11:12 AM

Washington Square design put out to bid, with a shorter fence

By Albert Amateau

The Parks Department on Aug. 17 put out for competitive bidding the reconstruction of the northwest quadrant of Washington Square Park and its fountain plaza, according to the City Record.

The bid documents are available for $25 to contractors or their messengers at the department’s Olmsted Center in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. The bids are due Sept. 18.

The project, currently the subject of two lawsuits by groups seeking to block the redesign, was also the subject of a last-minute review on July 26 by the Washington Square Park Task Force, a group appointed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Alan Gerson to monitor whether the plan complies with an agreement about design features that Quinn and Gerson made with Parks.
Quinn’s aide, Kate Seely-Kirk, said on Tuesday that department officials had declined to provide bid documents but that they did reveal some details of the design as it related to the so-called Gerson-Quinn agreement.

Although many Villagers insist there should by no fence around the park perimeter, the Gerson-Quinn agreement called for a fence no higher than 4 feet. At the July 26 Task Force review, the department plans specified a perimeter fence whose pickets were 4 feet high, except for the posts, spaced every 8 feet, which rose 4 feet above sidewalk level

Seely-Kirk said that Parks officials told her that the bid documents call for a 3-foot-4-inch perimeter fence on a 6-inch concrete curb, for a total height of 3 feet 10 inches, except for the fence posts at 8-foot intervals which would be 4 feet 2 inches high from the sidewalk level.

Task Force members on July 26 found the game tables near the entrance of the northwest corner of the park, where many seniors play Scrabble, were too large to allow people in wheelchairs to get between the tables to watch or take part in the games. Seely-Kirk said Parks officials told her the bid documents called for tables that would allow wheelchair users to move between them.

Task Force members also called for bathrooms in the redesigned park to comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and be wheelchair accessible. But Parks personnel told Seely-Kirk that bathrooms are not to be included in the first phase of the two-phase reconstruction.

While bids are due in September, the beginning of construction is likely to be decided by the decisions on the court cases — or final resolution of any appeals. Moreover, an earlier round of bids on a prior design for the first phase went out last year, but all the bids were rejected in June 2006 because they came in too high for the $6 million phase-one budget.

September 28th, 2007, 09:48 PM
After today's surprise rain showers ...




September 28th, 2007, 09:52 PM
Across the Square the recently scrubbed red sandstone of NYU's Bobst Library (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Holmes_Bobst_Library) was all aglow ...




December 19th, 2007, 10:01 AM
Heard through the grapevine:

There will be a couple of informal events in the park today, December 19th.

At 1 pm:

Come to protest the dismantling and relocation of Washington Square's landmarked, historic fountain; the betrayal of the community by politicians and bureaucrats, the gentrification of our city, the loss of a spontaneous gathering and performance space. The hubris of institutions whose educational mandate is sorely compromised by their rampaging capital construction goals. And the loss to park users of full grown shade trees for years to come. And the misappropriation of half a million dollars to relocate the fountain which would be better spent in the Bronx with the highest rate of asthma where children are deprived of park land.

Due to some confusion, there may be a similar event at about 4 pm, then at 6 pm:

A few people have suggested holding an impromptu "Memorial Service for the Spirit of Washington Square Park" this Wednesday evening at 6 pm (the date was suggested as just before many NYU students leave--the Open WSP Facebook group doubled in size to 330 the past few weeks), and also, late enough for people not to have to leave work early, but a date before people leave town for Christmas break.

Proposed format: A peaceful candlelight farewell. No speeches, no amplifiers, no civil disobedience or arrests. Just circle with candles; a farewell vigil around the fountain or arch (if they have closed the fountain by then); hold hands if people feel like it. Invite the media to see how we feel about the actions (and inactions) of our elected officials.

December 19th, 2007, 01:37 PM
What whiners :rolleyes:

December 19th, 2007, 10:45 PM
Much of the plan -- beyond the rehab of below-grand infrastucture -- is ill conceived.

The walkways are being narrowed and planting beds added at the center of the east <> west walkways, making he actual pedestrain space less wide.

No doubt it will look very "pretty" but the moving of the fountain and other large scale changes seem to be an attempt to tame & regulate WSP.

alas ...

December 20th, 2007, 11:13 AM
The low wall around the tree wells provide the perfect space for small gatherings of musicians that flock to this park and are the source of the unique intimacy here - not to mention fantastic shade by the trees themselves. Altering that is what I hate the most about this sterilization.

Didn't know the Catholic Center is coming down. What's replacing it?

December 20th, 2007, 11:14 AM
Notice the Christmas tree beneath the arch, there for the movie. It was redecorated better than it normally is - take note! whoever decorates that tree every year. Evenly spaced lights, not clumps of white here and there, and no gaps.

By the way, the tree this year is decorated very nicely. Thanks for listening, whoever you are!

December 20th, 2007, 11:59 AM
What's replacing it?

Being bought, I believe, by NYU. Haven't heard about a replacement.

December 20th, 2007, 12:10 PM
NYU, big suprise. :rolleyes: (If true)

December 20th, 2007, 12:23 PM
Again, from the grapevine:

Press Conference, Rally and Vigil to Protest Bulldozing of Washington
Square Park

Thursday, December 20th, 4 p.m., at the Park by the Arch

New York, NY - New York City officials have announced that the City
will chop down at least 32 beautiful old trees when it bulldozes
world famous Washington Square Park in the coming weeks at the behest
of New York University and other private interests.

"The trees are home to squirrels, birds and other local wildlife, and
are a significant part of the Park's ecosystem," said Cathryn Swan,
an environmental and wildlife protection activist. "Yet City
officials are bent on tearing them down."

Park lovers are singling out City Council Chair Christine Quinn and
Council member Alan Gerson for flip-flopping on this issue. "They
have the power to stop this massacre of some of the City's most
beautiful trees," said Mitchel Cohen, a member of the Brooklyn Greens
/ Green Party and coordinator of the No Spray Coalition. "So why
won't Quinn do so? Because NYU is a giant billion-dollar corporation
that's pulling the strings in order to gain further control over the

Cohen points out that the City is also planning to bulldoze the chess
tables and move the famed fountain.

The tree massacre is just one component of New York City's Parks
Department plan for a staggering "overhaul" of Washington Square Park
at a cost of $16 million, which includes: reducing the public space;
dismantling and relocating the landmarked fountain so that it is
"aligned" with the Arch; removing the chess tables; and replacing and
relocating the popular dog run. These changes will destroy the
historical character and functionality of Washington Square Park.

In an example of what Cathryn Swan calls "greenwashing," the Parks
Department states that it is making these drastic changes to add
"more green space." "What happened to Mayor Bloomberg's infamous
million trees for NYC initiative?," Swan questioned. "We should be
saving our existing trees and wildlife that inhabit the Park to the
delight of all New Yorkers, not destroying them."

New York City's Parks Department refused to conduct a much needed
Environmental Impact Statement. The courts, thus far, have allowed
them to get away with a much less stringent "Assessment" letter which
focused solely on (the lack of) rare and endangered species, and
ignored any impact on the numerous birds, squirrels and insects that
comprise Washington Square Park's ecosystem.

Community and environmental groups call on New Yorkers to protest the
massacre of these trees. "It's the best present you can give this
holiday season," Cohen says. "Save the trees, save our Park. Dress
warmly, and hug a tree for Christmas."

We're asking you to call Christine Quinn's office and ask that she
block the chopping down of trees in Washington Square Park. Her
office numbers are

(212) 564-7757 and (212) 788-7210

District Office Address
224 West 30th St (Suite 1206)
New York, NY 10001

District Office Fax

Legislative Office Fax
(212) 788-7207

212-788-7722 and 212-788-7259

December 20th, 2007, 01:36 PM
Give Dorothy at Mr. Gerson's office a call -- folks over there are not at all pleased with the fact that residents of the community want to express their thoughts on this matter directly to Mr. Gerson. From the response I got they'd rather not be bothered.

And it looks like Ms. Quinn is out of the office / on vacation.

How convenient that politicians should arrange to be away from the City while the cutting of trees in WSP takes place.

Cowards and sycophants.

December 21st, 2007, 12:52 AM
They decided. They're not changing their minds.

BTW, how many of them are going to be up for reelection anyway. Isn't this the first 'class' of city councilcritters who came in after term limits who're going to be term limited out themselves. Some may move up the food chain. Others will be looking for jobs. I bet NYU will pick up some of them.

December 21st, 2007, 01:12 AM
Christine Quinn wants to be Mayor. The cash she gets from real estate interests could give her a nice head start.

Alan Gerson is proving himself to be enough of a sycophant and patsy to make many a Corporate boss proud.

December 22nd, 2007, 12:20 PM
Maybe they just don't feel the need to change policy to suit a handful of local malcontents.

Christine Quinn wants to be Mayor. The cash she gets from real estate interests could give her a nice head start.

Alan Gerson is proving himself to be enough of a sycophant and patsy to make many a Corporate boss proud.

December 22nd, 2007, 12:29 PM
Gerson either flat-out lied (he's claimed all along that he'd allow them to move the fountain basically over his dead body) or he was played by the NYU $$ gang -- either of which proves he's a dupe and ineffective.

Quinn practically bathes herself in RE cash, but pretends to be a protector of the working class.

Typical NYC pols.

We've had worse.

Unfortunately the City is being re-made under their watch.

One of the blessings for you younger folks is you'll never know how fantastic NYC was before it became a corporate theme park :( .

Not that it's not still a terrific place, but twenty years from now?

December 22nd, 2007, 12:40 PM
I think a lot more than "a handful of malcontents" are opposed to it.

And it's not like anyone is asking for more - more like less.

A big waste of money.

December 24th, 2007, 02:18 AM
the City
will chop down at least 32 beautiful old trees

Really disgusting.

Maybe they just don't feel the need to change policy to suit a handful of local malcontents.

^ that too.

And besides you ain't exactly little miss sunshine.:rolleyes:

December 24th, 2007, 12:42 PM
Let's face it whenever anyone wants to do anything in this city, there's going to be someone who doesn't like it, and is likely to make noise about the fact. If we stop every project that someone bitches about, nothing would get done (and we've come pretty close to that situation as it is now).

December 24th, 2007, 06:05 PM
As if 2007 saw no construction whatsoever :confused:

December 24th, 2007, 10:34 PM
whenever anyone wants to do anything in this city,

anything?? there are good things, and there are bad things, right? Neglecting to acknowledge a distinction between the two, as you have, is lazy thinking.
Cutting down 32 mature and healthy trees in a PARK for no good reason is a bad thing, and opposing such an action isn't being a 'malcontent' it is being sensible.
Here is a case when they're spending more money to do something unnecessary and destructive. In other threads you express opposition to the waste of money, yet here you embrace it.:confused:

If we stop every project that someone bitches about,
Maybe it's you who's bitching for the wrong reason in this case.
Lighten up, it's the season of the baby Jesus and disco unicorns. Do you have something against trees too?

December 25th, 2007, 12:10 AM
You know what? It's not like the opponents of the plan didn't have their say. They we're heard both in the legislative process, in the courts, and were rejected by both.

At some point someone has to make a decision. It's time to move on.

December 28th, 2007, 10:53 AM
Something of an update on the fountain (wherein the term-limited-and-thereby-soon-to-be-out-of-work-pol-seeks-future-job-opportunites-from-NYU-friendly-bosses aka City Councilmember Alan Gerson -- who formerly declared "Give me the Fountain As Is or Give me Death" -- exhibits his true politician's stripes by prevaricating and saying nothing of any substance :mad: ):

Fountain and trees (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_243/scoopysnotebook.html): Because of a bad stomach bug, Councilmember Gerson didn’t attend last Thursday’s C.B. 2 meeting, after having said he would give the final word there on whether the cost of moving the Washington Square Park’s fountain 20 feet to the east would indeed be negligible, as the Parks Department claims, or half a million dollars, as stated by a new study commissioned by the park renovation project’s opponents. However, Paul Nagle, Gerson’s aide, said an independent expert would be consulting with Gerson on Wed., Dec. 26, to get to the bottom of things on the fountain costs. Speaking of the bottom of things, Nagle later said, no one even knows exactly what the fountain’s foundation is made of. “It could be railroad ties…or wood,” he noted. As for concerns over the park’s trees, Nagle said, of the 16 trees originally slated for chainsawing as part of Phase I of the park’s renovation, two have gotten a reprieve based on an arborist’s determination. Of the 14 remaining trees, nine will definitely be removed — four of which arborists determined were not viable — while the five others are still being evaluated. Nagle said he doesn’t know where a New York Post article last week came up with the idea that 32 trees were being felled. He said it’s not known yet how many trees will be cut down in the renovation’s Phase II and Phase III work. …

News flash: As we were going to press, we heard from Gerson, who gave us the scoop on the fountain situation ... back to the more pressing matter of the fountain: Gerson said Parks is saying that because its foundation is 80 years old, it actually would cost more to repair the fountain in place, since it would be tricky to thread all the needed new pipes into the rickety, old foundation for the fountain’s new water jets. It sounds like Gerson is leaning toward accepting Parks’ rationale — however, he’s not making an official statement just yet. “I think the process requires that I consult with an expert that is not part of either faction,” :cool: he stated, noting he’s a bit behind on the whole matter because of both the stomach bug and the holiday :mad: . Long story short, he’ll have the definitive answer on the fountain by next week, he told us.

December 28th, 2007, 11:38 AM
To summarize: The renovation is going to happen exactly how the Parks Dept. wants it to happen.

December 28th, 2007, 12:00 PM
Yes, after all - the City owns it and not the public. We should be so thankful they haven't sold it off to the highest bidder to be developed. We should be thankful for the mercy the City has shown to its humble subjects.

December 28th, 2007, 12:06 PM
To summarize: The renovation is going to happen exactly how the Parks Dept. wants it to happen.Parks Dept or NYU?

December 28th, 2007, 12:27 PM
The renovation is going to happen exactly how the Parks Dept. wants it to happen.
Yes, I would change that ^ to "how NYU wants it" ...

Except it will cost twice as much ... And taxpayers will end up paying the difference.

Just wait and see.

December 28th, 2007, 12:33 PM
Okay, I bite. What's the NYU angle? You guys think they're planning on plopping a new campus in the middle of the park or something? What do you think their agenda is on the renovation?

December 28th, 2007, 01:05 PM
NYU uses WS Park for graduation ceremonies, has for years. As is they've complained that it's hardly big enough for all the graduates and their families. They want it more user friendly.

NYU is also moving to enlarge the campus, which takes money -- which comes fom wealthy Alumni & their families.

Hardly approprate for NYU to ask those folks to empty their pockets in the midst of chess players and pot sellers and folks frolicking in the fountain.

Better in their view to have more flowers + less room to hang out. Idle hands / brains are the Devil's Playground, ya know ...

When the renovators dig down to move the fountain and hit all the bones of folks who were buried on this site 150+ years ago then it will be interesting to see how much that slows down progess of the renovation.

December 28th, 2007, 01:21 PM
Also, the original plans called for a higher perimeter fence. Although the park remains public, there's been an attempt to move it in the direction of the controlled Gramercy Park.

The fountain plaza is being reconstructed at one grade to accommodate NYU's ceremonies. No one at Parks can defend the design superiority over the present amphitheater.

Moving the fountain is just a diversion. The only thing that needs to be moved is Garibaldi - about 4 feet north.

December 28th, 2007, 01:59 PM
Maybe part of the idea is to control the legendary drug sales in the park. Or do you consider this a good thing?

December 28th, 2007, 02:21 PM
Any sense of lawlessness in the park comes from its rundown appearance, not a design flaw. No one is saying that the park shouldn't be renovated.

And it could be done in less time for less money.

New paving for all paths and perimeter sidewalk.
New railings and park furniture.
New park house
New playgrounds.
Repair the fountain (I don't buy the cost claim)
New stonework in the plaza.

December 28th, 2007, 03:02 PM
While this aspect of the fountain's destruction isn't new, this sad chapter in the park's history is now so long that I think it worthwhile to remind newcomers that it is NYU (through one of its largest donors, the Tisch Family), not the City of NY, that is paying for the vandalism, as reported 2.5 years ago in the Times:

July 14, 2005

Dropping $2.5 Million, and Name, Into Fountain


The usually bone-dry concrete heart of Washington Square Park is about to get a formal name after being known simply as "the Fountain" for 130 years.

But because the soon-to-be-called "Tisch Fountain" is the quirky center of a self-consciously unorthodox park in Greenwich Village, some neighbors have objected to the christening, particularly since the fountain is being named at the request of the Tisch Foundation. The organization, run by members of the family known for real estate, media and other holdings, has agreed to donate $2.5 million to restore the leaky fountain, which is rarely switched on, and the surrounding plaza.

Further, city officials say the plan took them by surprise. Alan J. Gerson, who represents the district on the City Council, and several representatives of Community Board 2, which approved the park's $16 million makeover this year, said they had no idea the fountain was to be given a name until a few days ago, even though Mr. Gerson said he had asked the Parks Department whether it had considered granting naming rights in the park in exchange for contributions for the redesign.

"This was done secretly by the Parks Department out of either total incompetence or total bad faith," Mr. Gerson said. "This raises a lot of questions beyond Washington Square Park about the public domain and privatization."

Mr. Gerson said that when he had asked a Parks Department official this week why only a handful of people had been informed about the January 2005 contract between the city and the Tisch Foundation - which was signed by the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe - the official told him, "Well, no one asked us."

Mr. Gerson said he did not favor returning the donation to the Tisch Foundation, but he was not exactly sure what his next step would be.

The Parks Department declined to respond directly to Mr. Gerson's charges, but said it was common for fountains and other structures to be named for the people who underwrite their installation or restoration, including the Pulitzer Fountain, named for the newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who contributed $50,000 for a fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel.

"It follows in a very long line of philanthropic gifts going back many decades where the structure that is given or restored is named in honor of the donor," a Parks Department spokesman, Warner Johnston, said in a statement. "The Tisch gift has been widely discussed, and in fact was announced at several public events." He said the department had planned to announce the naming of the fountain later this summer.

The agreement between the city and the Tisch Foundation, which was not made public but was obtained by a woman who lives near the park through a Freedom of Information Act request, calls for the foundation to make a $2.5 million gift dedicated to the fountain and plaza restoration.

"We understand there will be two naming plaques on opposite sides of the fountain," which will be inscribed Tisch Fountain, the agreement states.

The path toward Washington Square's redesign has been bumpy. Following a series of often rowdy public hearings this spring, the Parks Department backed down from a plan to place a fence and gate around the park. The redesign now calls for a short fence but no gate. The plan also calls for the fountain to be shifted about 20 feet to the east, to align with the Washington Arch.

The fountain has for years been used by amateur performers to entertain crowds that grow to as many as several hundred on weekends. During graduations at New York University, when the fountain does spout, it has become a tradition for graduates to kick off their shoes and hop in.

Copyright 2005 and 2007 The New York Times Company

December 28th, 2007, 08:28 PM
Some points about that article ....

1) Evidence that Gerson (City Councilman for the WSP District) is a dupe a fool and now a tool.

2) The Tisch Foundation / NYU could hardly have written a better PR pice -- it pretends to show both sides but really just greases the wheel for moving the fountain.

3) $2.5 Million donated "to restore the leaky fountain, which is rarely switched on, and the surrounding plaza ..."

a) "Rarely" turned on? Quite a broad, and not necessarily true, statement.

b) As I said before, let's see what the cost overruns are --and who will end up paying for amounts over that $2.5 M.

December 28th, 2007, 08:44 PM
A blog posting from earlier this month, which includes a link to the text of
the judge's decision allowing the WSP renovation to move forward ...

A Lost Fight Over Washington Square Park’s Renovation

City Room blog (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/in-a-park-known-for-battles-a-fight-over-its-renovation/)
By John Sullivan
December 6, 2007

A schematic showing the renovation plans for Washington Square Park. Enlarge this image. (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/12/06/nyregion/06schematic.cityroom.large.jpg)

It seems appropriate that the renovation of Washington Square Park would involve six years of planning, arguing and fighting. After all, a spot that has played host to marching suffragists, picketing workers and protesting beatniks should not ease into changes without a brickbat or two, even if they are only rhetorical.

But after all the shouting, the city’s proposal to shift the park’s fountain into direct line with the Washington Square Arch (http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GV/GV046WashingtonSquareArch.htm), add more lawn and spruce up the statues and fixtures finally seems about to move forward. In a decision issued on Monday, a judge dismissed two remaining claims against the renovation plan. Filed on behalf of community activists, the lawsuits claimed that the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation (http://www.nycgovparks.org/) plan would violate environmental rules and alter the nature of the park.

Justice Joan A. Madden, of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, ruled that the changes proposed by the Parks Department (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20071203_MADDEN.PDF) [pdf] would not alter the free-speech and free-spirit nature of the park. But she seemed to put the Parks Department on notice in her ruling. She noted that she presumed the department’s “clear and unambiguous” promises that “the adjacent lawn areas be used as grassy extensions of the fountain plaza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Central_Fountain_Wash_Square_Park_by_David_S hankbone.jpg) and will be open and accessible for political protests and artistic expression are true, and that both the Parks Department and the city will be bound by these representations in the future.”

Under the plan, the fountain will shift 23 feet and move into line with the arch. The 9.3-acre park will have more area dedicated to lawns, and the dogs runs will be moved and spruced up. The statues of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a revolutionary and Italian national hero (http://www.answers.com/topic/giuseppe-garibaldi), and Alexander Lyman Holley, an engineer who revolutionized steelmaking (http://www.answers.com/topic/alexander-lyman-holley), will be restored and relocated.

Officials at the Parks Department said on Thursday that they were not sure when the work would start, although city lawyers said it would probably begin before the end of the year. The Law Department said the first of three phases, which involves moving the fountain and renovating the northwest section of the park, would take about a year. The entire job is expected to take two to three years.

Daniel L. Alterman, the lawyer who represented people fighting the renovation, said his clients are considering an appeal, but he did not seem too upset with the ruling. Mr. Alterman pointed out that the judge echoed the primary concern of the opponents, that the park continue to serve as focus for free speech.

“When freedom of expression conflicts with security these days we find government siding with security even when it does not have any meaning,” he said.

Mr. Alterman also admits to a concern that the Parks Department could change a spot that has profound meaning to Greenwich Village.

“This is Washington Square Park, it’s where Dylan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/bob_dylan/index.html) played,” he said. “It’s all very special.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

December 28th, 2007, 08:54 PM
to restore the leaky fountain, which is rarely switched on,

http://img288.imageshack.us/img288/9426/washsq012hj.th.jpg (http://img288.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsq012hj.jpg)

December 28th, 2007, 09:13 PM
One of the most objectionable parts of the plan is the removal of the banquettes around the fountain area, which have served as wonderful gathering places for musicians, artists, and just people relaxing. Every park has grass to sit on, we don't need more lawns, what was special here was the circular arrangement which is so conducive to small groups of people hanging out with friends and then ending up talking to the strangers seated nearby.
It is a unique kind of space in this city and quite wonderful.

December 28th, 2007, 10:02 PM
Unfortunatatey Tisch and the folks driving this could give a flying f about people hanging out.

[as if those types are even in the City during summer months]

December 28th, 2007, 10:30 PM
I've lived in the Village more years than I'm going to admit to in a public space tonight though not close to WSP; like many other parts of the neighborhood, I've always loved it while being repelled by the usual sentimental tales of its supposed lost Bohemian glory days (Dylan or, godhelpus, Ed Koch playing guitar down in the fountain).

Possibly because I believed that the fix was in from the beginning, no matter how loud and long anyone tried to shout about or litigate the park's fate, I didn't pay much attention to the fight now lost. But when I did read up on the clamor every year or so, I do remember being frustrated at seeing so much energy being wasted over aspects of the redesign that no serious person could consider truly important (a difference of a few inches in the height of the perimeter fence, the fate of the asphalt "mounds," or even the precise ratio of grass vs. paving) and so little (comparatively) focused on the only proposed change that could alter the very character of the place -- the leveling of the fountain and the destruction of the gathering places that is surely the actual purpose of the redesign. Such fools.

December 28th, 2007, 10:49 PM
As you say ^ the FIX was in ... from day one the endgame decided by the powers that be was that the fountain area would be moved / leveled.

The rest -- fence height, the mounds, placement of the dog run -- was a distraction to keep folks from focusing / having any real impact on the main item: the fountain. Then they gave in on those lesser items, just to make it appear that they were amenable to an open discussion. All BS. Classic tactic.

December 28th, 2007, 11:11 PM
a dupe a fool and now a tool.

That's a great little phrase you came up with there; it's very Shakespeare-like, with excellent rhyme and rhythm :)

December 28th, 2007, 11:19 PM
iambic quadrameter ;)

December 28th, 2007, 11:36 PM
. . . the fountain area would be moved / leveled.

I think that moving the fountain was merely a pretext for leveling it (Who actually realized that it is [was?] 23 feet off-axis with the arch/5th Ave. anyhow? Not I.) Now I understand how the unnoticed asymmetry energized the space. I found it particularly galling and outrageous when the redesigners argued that the fountain needed to be raised to grade level because of the supposed requirements of the ADA, as if no one knows how to design functional and attractive ramps for the use of everyone.

January 9th, 2008, 09:25 PM
It's going to get a lot uglier here before they finish up in the Spring of 2009 ...







January 9th, 2008, 09:39 PM
You know they're gonna do it, but it's still a jolt when you see it.

January 9th, 2008, 10:07 PM
Yep ^ Quite the jolt -- and imagine the growl of the bulldozers as you look at the photos :eek:

Something else I don't understand is why they are making the main southern entry into the Park at the place opposite narrow little Thompson Street (although I know that going bakc 50 years + that scheme has historic precedent). But the way it's been for the past 30+ years is that the main pedestrain pattern north <> south goes from Fifth Avenue / The Arch and through the plaza area around the east side of the fountain and then south to LaGuardia Place / West Broadway -- a roadway which is much more of a thoroughfare down to SoHo and beyond than little Thompson Street.

It's no big deal -- but it is another consequence of centering the fountain whereby the plaza gets narrowed on the east side.

January 9th, 2008, 10:08 PM
The plan ...


January 10th, 2008, 12:36 PM
Construction is always disruptive. But I'm wondering if, and strongly suspect that, after it's all said and done and the park is fully back in service, no one will mind the changes, and it will just be a nicer environment for being renewed (which it needs).

January 10th, 2008, 02:29 PM
I hope they keep most, if not all the trees.

One of the hardest things to keep, and in some instances to work around, are trees.

But w/o them, the fully grown ones, the park loses its feeling of age and authenticity.

Go to a house with 30 year old trees in teh front lawn and you get the feeling it has been there a while, even if the house itself was built recently.

Rip down all the trees and plant small new ones and it loses its personality no matter what age the remainder is.....

January 10th, 2008, 04:38 PM
This part of the scheme includes rehab of the central and NW parts of WSP. For the most part the trees that are coming down seem to be the ones which encircled the fountain. Almost all the other trees in the wrok area are now enclosed in wooden framing -- and seem NOT to be on the road to destruction.

I think one thing that will change is the amount of area within WSP which becomes "off limits" -- there will be much larger tracts of lawn (look at the diagram above) and fewer pathway crossing diagonally through the park (particulary in the west / central part of the Park). On the diagram it reads "Graceful lawns shall frame central plaza". As with the grassy areas in Central Park & Madsion Park it has been the practice of the Parks Department over the past 10 years to fence off large portions of grassy areas ("stay off / re-seeded"). Perhaps that is necessary to keep the lawn green and "graceful". But in such a well-used park as WSP perhaps giving over much needed park space to more lawn is not the best design choice.

We'll see.

The other main concern is in regards to how it will impact future use of WSP is the design of the new plaza / fountain area.

January 10th, 2008, 06:13 PM
They should consider using a lawn system such as Grasspave2 (http://www.invisiblestructures.com/GP2/grasspave.htm) or other non-compactable underlayment to allow unlimited harmless use of the grass surface. There are better options than astroturf or 'stay off grass' signs.

January 12th, 2008, 01:35 PM
If the rumor below (http://sohopolitics.blogspot.com/) proves true then in the near future there could be a certain ex-City Councilmember who might find things a tad unwelconing during strolls in the vicinity of WSP ...

A rumor has circulated that Alan Gerson will be going on to NYU after leaving his City Council spot in ’09 – as he is term-limited.

Talk about playing both sides :mad:

January 12th, 2008, 02:51 PM

January 12th, 2008, 03:06 PM
Besides being raised, the fountain plaza is smaller.

http://img181.imageshack.us/img181/3176/washsqpaths01gie6.th.jpg (http://img181.imageshack.us/my.php?image=washsqpaths01gie6.jpg)

January 13th, 2008, 11:01 PM
There's a lot of tree cover over those "graceful lawns" in that satellite photo.

January 16th, 2008, 10:42 PM
Guys. Forgive me but I really didn't have the time to read through 11 pages, so can someone just tell me what they're doing to my beloved Washington Sq. Park? Oh my God. :eek:

January 16th, 2008, 11:41 PM
Turning it into "Ye Olde Washington Square Parke" :cool:

Start reading HERE (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4299&page=9) (3 pages back).

You will find everything you don't want to know.

Here's how she looks this week :( ...


January 17th, 2008, 11:41 AM
In fairness, construction isn't usually pretty.

We'll see how it turns out.

January 17th, 2008, 11:50 AM
The Villager (http://www.thevillager.com/villager_245/finalfountaininfo.html)

Jan. 9 - 15, 2008

Final fountain info a no-flow

By Lincoln Anderson

On Tuesday evening, Councilmember Alan Gerson said he still did not have a final answer on whether the cost of moving the Washington Square fountain 20 feet to the east would be excessive or justified. He said he would have an answer on Wednesday.

Gerson said his office met with two architects from the A.I.A. center on LaGuardia Pl. who are “totally uninvolved” with the park renovation project to get their assessments. Gerson said the two experts have questions for the Parks Department concerning the fountain’s so-called ring foundation.

“That’s the crux of the disagreement,” Gerson said, referring to the ring foundation under the fountain, “and whether the Parks Department is right in saying that the plumbing work that everyone agrees needs to be done” would actually cost more if the fountain is left in place. If the substructure is in good enough shape and the new plumbing could be installed without too much cost, then, Gerson said — reiterating his warning of last week — he would be compelled to take “further action” against the renovation project.

January 17th, 2008, 12:31 PM
You better hurry up and move oon that "further action", Mr. Gerson ... the crews are getting ready to rip up the fountain's existing "ring foundation" any day now. After that any discussion of cost will be moot as the existing foundation will no longer exist.

Could it be that the needed construction information is being withheld from Councilmember Gerson in order to hamper any investigation until it is too late to do anyting about it?

January 18th, 2008, 08:58 AM
Fountain challenge doesn’t hold water

By Albert Amateau

City Councilmember Alan Gerson on Tuesday issued a finding that the Parks Department has essentially told the truth that the cost of the proposed moving of the Washington Square Park fountain would not significantly exceed the cost of repairing the fountain in place.

The one uncertainty, according to Gerson’s finding, is whether relocating the fountain would interfere with water mains and force the city to spend considerable money to reinforce or relocate the mains.

Gerson said he put that question to the city Department of Environmental Protection and the agency has not yet come up with an answer.

The Parks Department has said that if left in place the ring foundation underneath the fountain would require an expense for reinforcement or replacement about equal to the expense of moving the fountain.

Gerson said that he consulted with the American Institute of Architects and its executive director Ric Bell about reasonable engineering practices regarding the fountain issue and came to the conclusion that the ring foundation would sooner or later need reinforcement or replacement.

Gerson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had made an agreement with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe in 2005 regarding the fountain issue, and the finding issued on Tuesday was to determine if the department complied with the agreement.

But Jonathan Greenberg, a plaintiff in a lawsuit that would have required the city to conduct a more extensive environmental impact statement on the park plan, rather than the environmental assessment statement that the city did conduct, called Gerson’s findings a “whitewash.”

Greenberg and other opponents to the park renovation plan contend that moving the fountain about 22 feet to the east as called for in the plan would cost $500,000 more than leaving the fountain in place.

Greenberg dismissed the A.I.A. consultation as not qualified and biased in favor of the park renovation plan. He noted that he had presented a report by Building Conservation Associates stating that moving the fountain would cost over $500,000 more than leaving it in place.

The B.C.A. report found that the ring foundation under the fountain could last for years with minor adjustments at minimal cost. But Parks rejected the B.C.A. report.

Greenberg noted that the Parks Department had engaged Jabonski Building Conservation to draw up plans for repairing the fountain but had never consulted Jabonski about the cost of moving the fountain. Greenberg has demanded the hiring of a “bona fide professional expert or even Jabonski” to assess the B.C.A. report.

The Villager is published by Community Media LLC.

January 18th, 2008, 10:37 AM
And thus ^ a public official secures his future employment :cool:

January 18th, 2008, 11:09 AM
Well he can't stay in the City Council. He has to find something do. Otherwise he might have to really work.

January 20th, 2008, 04:57 PM

January 20th, 2008, 05:22 PM
Sadder than sad. After seeing that park designer, I know Washington Square will not recover.

It'll never be the same.

January 20th, 2008, 05:31 PM
^ Then again, it didn't score the top spot with WNY forumers: http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10703&page=3

January 20th, 2008, 08:02 PM
It makes me angry.

January 20th, 2008, 08:08 PM

January 20th, 2008, 10:26 PM
Sigh. This stuff is just really, really sad. Why not keep things the way they are and do other things to "fix" the problems (pave the sidewalk, re-tar, fix up the dog run)? I personally have always loved Washington Square Park during the summer and think the circular layout is really conducive to good social vibes.. but that's just me. I've also always loved the mild edge of danger and irreverence it has had, but that could also just be me. Where else could you see homeless men, transvestites, and Rastafarians all getting along and making beautiful music together?

I am so, so, so glad I didn't go to NYU.

January 20th, 2008, 11:55 PM
Hold on all there doing is moving the fountain a little? Theres no need to do it but how is it going to be so different than before, what other changes are they making?

January 21st, 2008, 01:04 AM
Why not watch the video? It will take time but you will learn lots.

January 21st, 2008, 03:16 AM
Good video's both of them. Thanks MTG.

I must say that guy from the Parks Dept. is a real piece of work

January 21st, 2008, 07:32 AM
Hold on all there doing is moving the fountain a little? Theres no need to do it but how is it going to be so different than before, what other changes are they making?
The changes are subtle, but they're just enough to close the long-running bohemian production into which Washington Square so naturally cast its visitors. Before, it was a bit ragged, carried a whiff of danger, and naturally demanded to be filled with deviants and artistes.

Now it will be prim and proper, filled with flower beds and baby strollers. There will be room just insufficient to do a triple back-somersault. The fountain's spray will get your guitar wet and drown your strumming with white noise, and you'll lose forever that descent five steps closer to Hades, that pit where rebellion seemed a natural consequence of being down. Here every bourgeois kid could be a member of the underclass, and revolution was in the air with cannabis.

Now there will be security guards, rules, an iron fence, rules, security guards, rules, closing hours, a management, and a maintenance trust of nannies. Oh, and did I mention security guards, rules, closing hours and management?

And did I mention a respectable place for the NYU admissions folks to parade skittish parents through, from Chillicothe?


January 21st, 2008, 11:46 AM
Exactly ^

A good and properly corporate greenspace -- controlled within an inch of its life.

And oh so secure (in case that wan't mentioned before).

January 21st, 2008, 12:27 PM
^ After decades as an Anarchy, Washington Square will be reborn as a Meritocracy --with NYU officials and perambulating mothers as the meritorious.

January 21st, 2008, 01:32 PM
Can strollers be included in the Congestion Charge plan?

January 21st, 2008, 02:26 PM
At least they will be rennovating their, um, "skate park".

Stupid asphalt bumps. :p

As for teh rest? Moving the fountain is wasteful. It woud be nice to have it lined up with the avenue and the arch, but not at a cost of $22K per foot of movement.

I do not know what they are talking about with the foundation and its need of repair, or what the original fountain is constructed of/on, but if they are having a problem with the existing structure and really DO need to replace the foundation, doing so w/o damaging the structure above is very difficult and costly.

On a side note, I always found it funny to see the permanent temporary police precinct on wheels parked at the side of the park where, less than 100 feet away, people were selling and smoking out in the open.

WS Park never struck me as the dangerous place that you people describe. At least, not in the past 10 years or so. There was still the irreverance and obvious law breaking, but it was not of the type that made me feel for my wallet and walk faster.

Maybe this corporatization of the park has already happened and it is only going through its final facelift before it is filled at the wide look-at-me strollers and toy-dog walkers.

Maybe we can get a Starbucks to open near the fountain! ;)

January 21st, 2008, 02:30 PM
WS Park never struck me as the dangerous place that you people describe. At least, not in the past 10 years or so. There was still the irreverance and obvious law breaking, but it was not of the type that made me feel for my wallet and walk faster.
Somebody said it was dangerous?

January 21st, 2008, 02:49 PM
... I always found it funny to see the permanent temporary police precinct on wheels parked at the side of the park ...

If they don't move that pile of junk -- along with the attendant cables and wires strewn above from pole to pole -- then any re-do of WSP will be silly.

Speaking of which: Any guesses as to how many cameras and where they will be placed once the re-do is done?

January 21st, 2008, 03:04 PM
There are already about a dozen.

January 21st, 2008, 03:08 PM
^ They keep a faithful record of the deals?

(Or does it not matter, coz it's mostly oregano or anise?)

January 21st, 2008, 03:53 PM
The changes are subtle, but they're just enough to close the long-running bohemian production into which Washington Square so naturally cast its visitors. Before, it was a bit ragged, carried a whiff of danger, and naturally demanded to be filled with deviants and artistes.

Now it will be prim and proper, filled with flower beds and baby strollers. There will be room just insufficient to do a triple back-somersault...

Now there will be security guards, rules, an iron fence, rules, security guards, rules, closing hours, a management, and a maintenance trust of nannies. Oh, and did I mention security guards, rules, closing hours and management?

And did I mention a respectable place for the NYU admissions folks to parade skittish parents through, from Chillicothe?


I've also always loved the mild edge of danger and irreverence it has had, but that could also just be me....

A good and properly corporate greenspace -- controlled within an inch of its life.

And oh so secure (in case that wan't mentioned before).

^ After decades as an Anarchy, Washington Square will be reborn as a Meritocracy --with NYU officials and perambulating mothers as the meritorious.

Somebody said it was dangerous?

I don't know where I could have picked that up... ;)

January 21st, 2008, 03:58 PM
It's the whiff, not the reality. Like going to the movies or a Halloween House. No one said it was actually dangerous.

Careful reading will reward you.

January 21st, 2008, 04:16 PM
Like the whiff (http://www.jomalone.com/templates/products/sp_nonshaded.tmpl?CATEGORY_ID=CATEGORY6542&PRODUCT_ID=PROD9058) of difference between a trustafarian (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trustafarian) and the homeless (http://www.artthrob.co.za/99feb/images/hobbs-piss.jpg).

January 21st, 2008, 05:48 PM

The fact that I said I never really felt any danger myself, but that others may have had "whiffs" of it, and that parents might feel more secure now with its gentrification facelift (including guards and iron fences).

The general feeling of the thread was that WS park will be losing ANY hint, whiff or otherwise of danger along with its "rebel attitude" or Protest Vibe.

My original post just said that I never got a whiff. Hell, noone ever tried to sell me anything or play chess either. I think I am too "clean" looking (*cough*wus*cough*) for anyone to try that with me.

Or maybe they thought I was a Chess Narc.

January 21st, 2008, 06:04 PM
You honesty never heard anyone say "loose joints" as you strolled through the park?

January 21st, 2008, 06:36 PM
The general feeling of the thread was that WS park will be losing ANY hint, whiff or otherwise of danger along with its "rebel attitude" or Protest Vibe.

Drug dealers hardly constitute "protest vibe." I can't believe people are actually complaining about making this more family-friendly. The dope peddlers should take their wares inside the NYU dorms where they belong.

January 21st, 2008, 06:57 PM
Bryant Park is family-friendly, Times and Union Squares are family-friendly, Columbus Circle and Grand Army Plaza are family-friendly --and truth is, Washington Square was also plenty family-friendly.

Also had some grit.

That will be diminshed.

January 21st, 2008, 08:09 PM
As if anybody was harmed by guys selling a joint or two.

If one is afraid something like that will despoil the kids then best to go somewhere else ... and most likely well beyond NYC.

Besides, as ablarc points out, WSP has always been "friendly" towards families of all sorts.

Anyone here afraid to take Mom for a walk through WSP?

January 21st, 2008, 10:41 PM
Nope I have taken dates on walks through WSP as nice romantic cap to the eveing with the arch lit up. My mother protested in WSP, but she also grew up in JC and was in the city frequently during it's grittiest years. So my mother afraid of WSP...nonsense!! :)

January 22nd, 2008, 10:27 AM
Don't worry, if they couldn't keep the pot dealers out before, they won't be able to when it reopens.

January 22nd, 2008, 10:52 AM
Drug dealers hardly constitute "protest vibe." I can't believe people are actually complaining about making this more family-friendly. The dope peddlers should take their wares inside the NYU dorms where they belong.

I'm not complaining about it at all. Trust me, if I was complaining, you would know about it.

The "protest vibe" was something unrelated to the weed dealers. That was the groups of people singing a-Capella in the middle of the park for no reason. The guy doing an impromptu Shakespeare, or independent playwright near the fountain, the groups of people just hanging out. It feels more like a pre-concert scene for Phish than a college courtyard/city park..... ;)

OK, maybe not Phish, but I hope you know what I am saying.

Also realize that sometimes when different things are mentioned in the same sentence, they are intended to be separate items not directly related to each other. A guy playing guitar in the park has nothing to do with the dealers, but they are both there, one contributing to the "protest vibe" and the other to the "whiff" of danger.

January 22nd, 2008, 10:53 AM
Don't worry, if they couldn't keep the pot dealers out before, they won't be able to when it reopens.

I guess they will just have to dress nicer? ;)

January 23rd, 2008, 09:17 PM
January 23, 2008, 3:40 pm (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/bones-evoke-washington-square-parks-past/?hp)
Skeletal Remains Discovered in Washington Sq. Park

Updated, 6:31 p.m. | Mostly intact skeletal remains from at least four people were discovered this morning by city archaeologists doing soil testing as part of a restoration of Washington Square Park (http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/historical_signs/hs_historical_sign.php?id=6537) in Greenwich Village, city officials said. The discovery could have significance for scholars studying the history of the early United States; the area of the park was used as a common burial ground, or potter’s field, from 1797 to 1826.

The Parks Department immediately announced that the skeletons would be left in the ground out of respect and that some of the plans for renovating the site would be adjusted so as not to disturb the burial site.

According to Jama Adams, a Parks Department spokeswoman, said that four to five relatively intact burial were found. At one site, 70 to 80 human bones, possibly belonging to two individuals, were found. At a second site, three to four sets of skeletal remains were found. The archaeological work is being done under supervision from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has responsibility for maintaining the historical integrity of the park.

On Monday, several dozen human bones were found in the park (http://www.silive.com/newsflash/metro/index.ssf?/base/news-31/120104727749420.xml&storylist=simetro). As The Associated Press reported on Tuesday, archaeologists testing soil for new utility lines discovered the bones, the equivalent of two skeletons, near a men’s restroom at the south end of the park, on Monday. The bones, which were not accompanied by a coffin, were to be analyzed by a forensic archaeologist and “reburied respectfully,” The A.P. reported.

According to the Parks and Recreation Department, it appeared the bones had been moved from their original burial site repeatedly over the years. Jama Adams, a spokeswoman for the department, said that bones had been discovered in the park during at least three previous excavations, including during the 1895 installation of the arch and during a Consolidated Edison project in the 1960s.

According to The Encyclopedia of New York City and the Parks Department’s official history (http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/historical_signs/hs_historical_sign.php?id=6537), the area of the park was once a marsh fed by Minetta Brook near a settlement of Sappokanican Indians. After two decades as a potter’s field — a role that Hart Island (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/26/searching-for-names-on-an-island-of-graves/) plays today — the city acquired the land in 1827 for a public park, which began to emerge in the 1850s, as development in the surrounding community accelerated.

After the Parks Department’s creation in 1870, work continued, with statues of Giuseppe Garibaldi erected in 1888 and of Alexander Lyman Holley in 1890. A temporary arch, erected in 1889, was replaced in 1895 by a permanent one designed by Stanford White.

Until the 1960s, the park was bisected by Fifth Avenue, when a through street and a bus turnaround were closed off and the park, now free of traffic, became a gathering spot for Village residents and New York University students.

A current plan by the Parks Department to renovate the park has encountered some community opposition. Under the plan, the fountain will be shifted 23 feet and placed in line with the arch. The 9.3-acre park will have more area dedicated to lawns, and the dogs runs will be moved and spruced up. The statues of Garibaldi and Holley will be restored and moved within the park.

Community groups have filed two lawsuits to stop the renovation project, but have so far been unsuccessful (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/in-a-park-known-for-battles-a-fight-over-its-renovation/). The groups asserted, among other things, that the Parks Department did not give local groups enough input; that the project would harm the park’s status as a place for political expression; and that the work’s environmental impact needs to be studied. The community groups also assert that the Parks Department has not been completely honest about the project’s scope.

Asked about the discovery of the bones, Daniel L. Alterman, a lawyer for the community groups, said in a phone interview today of the Parks Department, “One would hope that if in fact they have found an archaeologically significant site in Washington Square Park that they would preserve the integrity of the scene until they can determine what, if anything else, exists there.”

Jonathan Greenberg, a longtime Greenwich Village resident who has spearheaded opposition to the renovation project, said the discovery of the bones disturbed him. In a phone interview today, he said the Parks Department had told community groups that the work would not be so disruptive as to uncover human remains because workers did not intend to dig more than three feet deep.

“There has never been a request by the community to change the walkways of Washington Square Park,” Mr. Greenberg said. “We only would like them to repair the pavement. We have been assured from the very beginning that they would not dig more than three feet deep.”

The presence of human bones under the park is not particularly surprising, Mr. Greenberg said, given that local historians have estimated that as many as 20,000 people may have been buried there during the area’s use as a common burial ground.

Ms. Adams said the archaeological work was begun precisely to ensure that any findings of historical significance would be treated appropriately. She noted that until this week, multiple soil tests had been conducted, following archaeological protocols, without any bones being found.

January 24th, 2008, 03:15 AM
January 23, 2008, 3:40 pm (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/bones-evoke-washington-square-parks-past/?hp)
Skeletal Remains Discovered in Washington Sq. Park

The Parks Department immediately announced that the skeletons would be left in the ground out of respect and that some of the plans for renovating the site would be adjusted so as not to disturb the burial site.

The presence of human bones under the park is not particularly surprising, Mr. Greenberg said, given that local historians have estimated that as many as 20,000 people may have been buried there during the area’s use as a common burial ground.

It looks Like this could be a long job.