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Thread: Washington Square Park

  1. #106

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    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.

  2. #107
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    People are up in arms that the new plan for Washington Square Park apparently involves tearing out a whole bunch of trees ...

    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?

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  3. #108

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    So...they have started this ruinous and unnecessary project?

  4. #109
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    Absolutely infuriating!!!

  5. #110
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post

    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

  6. #111
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The truth will out:
    Concerns on park renovation mount

    thevillager.com
    Volume 76, Number 23
    October 25 - 31, 2006


    Editorial

    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

  7. #112
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Park battle back in court

    Councilman expects city to honor handshake deal on redesign

    ny.metro.us
    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 [it] 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.”

    © 2006 Metro. All Rights Reserved.

  8. #113
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    This whole plan stinks. Cutting down 36 trees?
    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.

  9. #114

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    "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.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; October 31st, 2006 at 08:53 PM. Reason: typo

  10. #115
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    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!!!

  11. #116
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    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.

  12. #117

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    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_...ountainis.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/

  13. #118
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    WSP fight goes to Facebook

    nyu.news
    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

  14. #119
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Gerson: Wash. Sq. agreement ‘still valid’

    thevillager.com
    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. [ ]

    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

  15. #120

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    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
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    145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013

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