Today’s Sunday NY Times “City” Section Letters to the Editor: “Face-off in Washington Square”

Two well crafted letters with excellent points appear in today’s Sunday New York Times in the City section where the article “The Battle of Washington Square” appeared last week. The letters are accompanied by a large picture (at last!) of the fenced-off Arch and Park under construction.* The points emphasized by the letter writers – the letters are posted below – are unfortunately missing from the Times’ article. Inclusion of these (and other) aspects would have given readers a better picture of what’s transpired and what is at stake.

New York Times Letters to the Editor — Face-Off in Washington Square

Seeing Larger Issues in a Park’s Redesign

To the Editor:

Re “The Battle for Washington Square” (Nov. 23), about local residents’ criticism of the redesign of Washington Square Park:

There is a motive that the article leaves implicit. Washington Square was a place for people to congregate and exercise free speech, a place to occupy and use. In the new plan, it’s a place to pass through and admire, where fixed installations crowd out the space that people once enjoyed. Gates and fences do not say welcome; they say keep off the grass, do not loiter, keep moving, this space no longer belongs to you.

If there are two things the Bloomberg administration does not like, it is people who exercise their rights of free assembly and speech in public and people who might do so. The victims drag-netted by police tactics during the 2004 Republican Convention know this. Places like Washington Square Park, Union Square Park and the Sheep Meadow are dangerous for demagogues and autocrats.

Sheldon Bunin

Jackson Heights, Queens

*******************************************

To the Editor:

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe‘s contention that “most people will not remember what all the fuss was about” is a poor rationale for replacing a much-beloved Greenwich Village people’s park with a lower Fifth Avenue patrician’s promenade. After all, who in today’s younger generation remembers seeing and experiencing McKim, Mead & White’s glorious 34th Street Penn Station, which was torn down in 1963 and 1964 to make room for today’s ugly replacement?

That destruction helped lead to the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to prevent further desecrations. It is hoped that our experience with Washington Square Park will lead to further preventive measures.

Vahe Tiryakian

East Village

**********************************************

As I mentioned last week, The Times sent photographer Annie Tritt on my Walking Tour in September for photos to accompany the article; however, none of those photos were published. Instead, there were numerous photos of Washington Square Park throughout history – which made this public space seem very impressive – and it is, of course – and showcased its illustrious past. Nonetheless, at least one photo of the park under construction would have been appropriate.

And while I think it’s the great that the Times story on “The Battle for Washington Square” appeared (the whole issue has been woefully under-reported), I did have some further critique and reflection on some omissions and characterizations in the story which you can read here.

Correction: Actually, the Times did run two photos from the day of the Walking Tour of the Park but they are rather small and do not illustrate any of the construction.