Three More Trees Felled at Washington Sq Park This Morning; NYC Parks Department Budget Hearing Thursday; Upcoming Film Screening

Washington Sq Park trees chopped down 05-21-08

Mark Your Calendars: On Sunday, June 1st at 7 p.m., Matt Davis, who supplied this photo of the trees in the process of being destroyed and has shared much of his knowledge, will screen his documentary “SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park.” In it, he chronicles the City’s redesign plans over a four year period — how the dramatic “renovation” of Washington Square Park got pushed through, and past, an outraged community. The film, with musical guests, will be shown at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery at Bleecker. More details to follow.

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Three more stately old trees were felled at Washington Square Park this morning. When will it end?

The total number of trees at Washington Square Park which have met the fate of the men with the chain saws is now fourteen.

I highly doubt – despite what NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe would say – that these trees were “dying” or “dead.” They were likely in the way of the City’s redesign plan.

Beautiful mature 80 year old trees are chopped down one morning by a man with an ax directed by the misguided whimsy of a city government to redesign a highly functioning public space to better fit in with our CEO Mayor’s “vision” for our city. There’s something criminal and outrageous about that.

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The New York City Parks Department Budget Hearing is coming up before New York City Council tomorrow Thursday, May 22nd. If you can swing by, please come to City Hall and advocate for our Parks/public spaces. Perhaps if the Parks Department was better funded, we wouldn’t be seeing so many of their privatization games (for example, Washington Square Park Fountain sold off to the Tisch Family with naming rights for $2.5 million).

Important data: City Parks take up 14% of City land and yet the Parks Department receives less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the City budget. Parks workers have been cut by 66% over the last twenty years.

Come to City Hall Council Chambers — 1:30-3 p.m. Parks Department Presentation (a chance to see Commissioner Benepe in action); 3 p.m. Public Comment.


Union Square as Public Commons – Creative Assembly Today 5 p.m. Union Square North

Union Sq Pavilion 2007 and 1960\'s Protest

Union Square Pavilion in 2007 and during a 1960’s Protest Against Synagogue Vandalism

Wikipedia defines a public space as:

a place where anyone has a right to come without being excluded because of economic or social conditions, although this may not always be the case in practice. One of the earliest examples of public spaces are commons. For example, no fees or paid tickets are required for entry, nor are the entrants discriminated based on background.

Public space has become something of a touchstone for critical theory. Its relevance has become more pressing as capital encloses more and more of what were thought of as ‘commons.’

Most streets, including the pavement are considered public space, as are town squares or parks.

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Today, Wednesday, May 21st, a group of creative activists has called for a 5 p.m. gathering to protect our public commons – specifically Union Square where plans to place a private restaurant in the historic Pavilion have been held off – for now. The plans however call for a reduction of the public space. There is also the issue of the cutting down of trees to put in (potentially) that restaurant and expand the playground.

Much of the control and privatization of Union Square Park has been handed over to the local Business Improvement District(BID), Union Square Partnership. The co-chair of this BID is influential restauranteur Danny Meyer.

The announcement for today’s event states:

Our critique, without community space or public space, there can be no democracy.

So we are meeting to attempt to find space to assemble with images of icons of Union Square’s past – Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson – to claim a space to speak, meet, build community, share space, and recite the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Is there still a space in NYC where we can assemble to read the First Amendment?

Come help us find out Wednesday at 5 P.M. at Union Square North (16th Street).