“In all probability” last performance of Washington Square Music Festival on favored stage at Washington Sq Park

Charles Mingus Orchestra at Washington Sq Park '08

Charles Mingus Orchestra at Washington Sq Park

Peggy Friedman, long-time executive director of the Washington Square Music Festival, sent in this photo from the final performance of this season with this note:

“On July 29, members of the world-famed Charles Mingus Orchestra played jazz by the master on the stage in Washington Square. In all probability it was the last concert for the Washington Square Music Festival on this stage, a perfect site for musical and theatrical performances because of its height and railing. Mr. Mingus’ widow, Sue Mingus is on stage audience left.”

To read about what New York City’s redesign as it stands now does to this stage area, read Part II of our Update on NYC’s Redesign of Washington Square Park. This includes a report back from the Washington Square Park Task Force meeting in which the community and board members of the WSP Music Festival discussed why the new design doesn’t work. The NYC Parks Department took in no input from those who use the stage. But there’s still time! And, ideally, the suggestions offered at the Task Force meeting will be implemented and the Parks Department will turn over a new leaf, so to speak.

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In case you were wondering, Part VII, the final piece in the “update” series, is coming tomorrow!

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Photo credit: Nan Melville

A Recent Comment re: Washington Sq Park

Linda Butler wrote in yesterday in response to the entryContact NYC Elected officials re: Washington Sq Park:”

Well another project that falls under the “our tax dollars at work.” WHY is this wonderful park being overhauled? It only needed some repair not a complete redo. What will happen to the wonderful places to walk through. What about the area where people gather to play chess? It is a shame.

Please stop this before it’s too late.

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Curbed goes inside Washington Square Park Redesign Site.

Well. Call me days behind on my Curbed reading but how is it exactly that Curbed got inside Washington Square Park to take up close photos of the redesign work? Could it be that someone inside the NYC Parks Department (or somehow linked to the work) wanted to counterbalance some of the news that has appeared there from this blog that is not quite so … favorable.

I enjoy reading Curbed a lot. They consistently cover issues around real estate and neighborhoods related to the massive changes going on in our City in a unique, accessible way. They’ve been great covering news from this blog.

But it still makes me go … hmmm.

Read the piece here.

Final Part of Update on NYC’s Redesign of Washington Sq Park Coming Next Week

The Arch

The Arch Pre-Redesign Construction

Part VII, and final piece, Part VIII, of Update on NYC’s Redesign of Washington Square Park Coming Early Next Week. (There’s one piece from WSP Task Force meeting that I need to confirm.)

See Key Posts Column on Right Side Bar to Begin with Part I.

Have a great weekend!

The Soul of Washington Square Park: What the NYC Parks Department Left Out of their Redesign Plans

* Recycled Entry *

While looking up articles on Washington Square Park earlier this year, I came across a research paper by a student at SUNY(State University of New York) Syracuse College of Environmental Science and Forestry entitled: “Searching for the Soul of Washington Square Park: Employing Narrative, Photo-Voice and Mapping to Discover and Combine Pragmatic Issues of Urban Park Design with a Community’s Emotional Needs” (May 2007). It was written by Yamila Fournier as a senior project.

Spending time at Washington Square Park working on her research, Ms. Fournier interviewed Park users as well as Parks Department “officials.” She investigated people’s routines at the Park and what they loved about it as a public space. She explored what the Parks Department procedures are for redesign of a park (the answer: there are no protocols in place).

As she delves into the history and process of the redesign of Washington Square Park and the interactions between government agencies and the community, she ties together themes in ways that have not been fully explored elsewhere. I have excerpted parts of it here.

Excerpts from “Searching for the Soul of Washington Square Park” (note: the formatting is all mine. It’s a 52 page+ paper so this is condensed.):

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When the idea to renovate Washington Square Park was first introduced, the general consensus was that the park is in need of much repair.

That is where all agreement ended. Since the plans for the redesign were unveiled in 2001, there has been no harmony.

The proposed redesign specifies:

*a closable 4′ fence around the perimeter;
*bringing the central fountain up to grade with the road;
*moving the central fountain 22′ to the east to create an axial relationship with the newly renovated arch;
*relocating dog runs;
*enlarging playgrounds;
*adding an adventure playground to replace the highly contentious mounds;
*creating a new building for Parks Department offices and equipment;
*relocating statuary;
*eliminating seating areas;
*adding light fixtures; and
*renovating bathrooms, among other changes.

Every portion of the design has its critics. One thing that almost all the critics can agree on is that the community felt left out of the design process. (more…)

Part VI Update on NYC’s Redesign Of Washington Square Park — The Corner “plazas” and … Conservancy?

Danger Construction Area

Washington Sq Park: Danger Construction Area

This photo captures a portion of the redesign of the North West corner of Washington Square Park with its “historic plaza” in the background.

The problem with the Plazas (which will inhabit each corner of the Park) is that they are a decent size but not that large and then the re-designer places a huge flower bed in the middle. What happens then? It changes the whole flow and interactions of people within the park. Plus a considerable reduction in the public space.

This is an issue I raised at the Washington Square Park Task Force meeting of Community Board 2 and local elected officials such as Council Member Alan Gerson, Speaker Christine Quinn and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, among others, who sent “representatives.” The Task Force then submits meeting notes to the New York City Parks Department with their questions and concerns and awaits feedback.

My concern with the Task Force is they have not been strong or vocal enough with their questions and concerns and mandates. The WSPTF can weigh in on the size of the flower beds, the plantings, the size and location of the pathways, the design, the amount of public space – significant items.

Conservancy ?

A big question in relation to Washington Square Park is whether — in order to upkeep the extensive redesign work being done and pay for future Phases — New York City will install a Conservancy for the Park.

The Conservancy model is another one of the City’s (and Mayor Bloomberg‘s) favored public-private partnerships. In reality the Conservancy becomes the arbiter of the space. These are our public parks and they need to remain public. Especially Washington Square Park.

At the meeting, the question was asked: “Will there be a conservancy which will have NYU and other corporate interests on the board?” Rebecca Ferguson, Washington Square Park administrator and Parks Department spokesperson stated, “There are no plans for a Conservancy.”

Hmmm.

Stay tuned… there’s more!

See Parts I-V if you are just catching up(go to Key Posts on right sidebar).

Click here for Part VII.

George Washington Statue at Union Square Park and more

George Washington Statue at Union Square Park

George Washington Statue at Union Square Park

For some history on what’s been going on at Union Square Park and New York City’s redesign plans there on the Northern end, refer to this entryUnion Square Park Pre-and-Post-Tree Destruction.”

Community Improvement District(CID) model to counteract the far-reaching Business Improvement Districts(BID)

Community Improvement District
Although this is a Recycled Entry, originally published June 12th, 2008, it’s also a reminder of the Community Improvement District(CID) model. We are going to begin giving out information at Washington Square Park on the Washington Square CID soon!

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It seems every district in New York City has a Business Improvement District, breezily referred to as BIDS. On the face of it, businesses wanting to improve their districts … it sounds so benign, right?

But as artist and activist Robert Lederman outlined in a previous entry Parks for Sale: Business Improvement Districts and the Privatization of our Public Spaces,” the BIDS don’t just stay on their side of the street. In Mayor Bloomberg’s New York, their tentacles spread far and wide, amidst the roots of the trees, up through the dirt or concrete, and busting out into our public spaces.

A new model, Community Improvement Districts(CIDS), works to protect, preserve and promote the well being of the community. The needs of the people are the primary concern, distinguishing the CIDS from the better known and financed groups known as BIDS, whose sole interest is to promote better business and an environment conducive to shopping.

City-wide pattern

The city underfunds the park, pushes aside public funds and then brings in a BID and a few millionaire friends posing as saviors.

Union Square Park

The local BID, Union Square Partnership (co-chaired by restauranteur Danny Meyer), runs all the activities in Union Square Park from clean-up to yoga! A significant down side is that they have unrestrained control over what happens at this public space (including cracking down on artists and free speech). Their latest plans to place a restaurant within the historic Pavilion (more…)

Part VI of Update on Redesign of Washington Square Park Coming

Part VI Resumes Tuesday, August 12th.

(There’s two Parts left. See Archives at Right for Parts I-V.)

Comment du Jour Re: Alignment of Washington Square Park Fountain, courtesy of a Curbed reader

Curbed linked to this site yesterday focusing on the article on whether the Fountain is or is not actually aligned now to the Arch (readers know that the Fountain and Arch inhabited their unaligned positions for over 137 years and that that position is in perfect alignment to the east-west axis of the park itself; therefore centered).

The piece, “Washington Square Park Whoops?,” received a lot of comment, including this:

I predict in another few decades it will be dug up and moved back to its historically correct position.”

It makes one hope that (redesigner) George Vellonakis and (NYC Parks Commissioner) Adrian Benepe are around to witness that.