Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Park Fountain is already Aligned. As is (or was – for 137 years), Fountain is Park’s Center

*Recycled Entry * Originally published June 2nd, 2008; Edited version *

Watching the screening of the documentary “Washington Square SQUARED” last night at the Bowery Poetry Club, there was some key footage featuring Parks Department designer George Vellonakis. It is his plan that cuts up and moves all the pieces in this successful park into configurations and contortions that few prefer – and yet the plan proceeds.

There is much discussion of the “aligning” of the fountain in the film — the Parks Department plan is to move it 23 feet east so that it aligns with the Arch at Fifth Avenue. There’s much appreciation by users of the Park of the un-alignment of the fountain and the Arch. Something about the fountain not being connected to Fifth Avenue works when you enter Washington Square Park: you escape the city – yet you meld with your neighbors within it in unique ways. It’s a great public space. Mr. Vellonakis’s design aspires to destroy that.

But a little known fact that is somewhat key is that the fountain actually IS aligned. It’s not a mistake that it was in that specific location.

In Emily Kies Folpe’s book, It happened on Washington Square, she writes at length about the installation of the fountain. She states that the fountain was “placed at the midpoint of the park’s east-west axis, the fountain gave the Square a definitive central focus.” The fountain was installed in 1870 and “dominates its center.” When the park was redesigned in 1871, retaining that focal point was a key part of the design plan. Folpe writes in her 2002 book, “Despite later changes, the legacy of the 1871 design lingers on in today’s Washington Square.”

Until Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Parks Department get their way, and move the famous fountain to align with the Arch, and that’s the end of something that’s worked quite successfully for 137 years.

** The above is a schematic of the new redesign. Don’t let all the greenery fool you.**

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New! — To get a true picture of what the redesign of Washington Square Park entails and additional history of this fabulous Park, come to the Walking Tour! Next one: Sunday, July 27th, 12 noon. Meet at Washington Square Park Arch @ Fifth Avenue.