At Washington Square Park, the “Tisch Fountain” Plaques Arrive!

"Tisch" Fountain Plaque

"Tisch" Fountain Plaque

One of the many controversial, widely disliked aspects of New York City’s redesign of Washington Square Park is the renaming of the century old — here-to-fore unnamed — fountain, its name sold off to the Tisch Family for $2.5 million. This agreement, between the Parks Department and the Tisch Foundation, took place in January 2005.

Yet, in another instance of its duplicitous and non-transparent agenda, the New York City Parks Department, under the direction of Commissioner Adrian Benepe, withheld this information from Community Board 2, the New York City Council and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was only when a community member and activist had the foresight to file a Freedom of Information Letter (FOIL) Request that the information was revealed.

The Tisches have their names on more than enough NYU buildings in the area. Did they really need their name on the Washington Square Park Fountain? There are so many famous and noted people affiliated with Washington Square Park, imagine if they had offered to name it one of those – Henry James, Bob Dylan, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Eleanor Roosevelt – and left their giant egos at the … fence?

tisch-plaque-arty1The plaque reads: “The restoration of the Fountain and Plaza was made possible by the families of Laurence A. Tisch and Preston R. Tisch.” I mean, c’mon. If the city had “renovated” Washington Square Park as requested, and not reconstructed every last inch of it, don’t ya think the city could have paid for it with our own funds and left the Tisches out of it? Of course, that doesn’t work with Mayor Bloomberg‘s privatization agenda.

Then there’s the matter of the cost. $2.5 million? I am against privatization of our parks and public spaces but let’s do a comparison. Chanel recently paid the Central Park Conservancy for an advertisement/exhibit in Central Park, according to Metro, “at least a million dollars for a three-week stay, and the city will collect another $400,000.”

And yet the Tisch Family paid a paltry $2.5 million to get their name – arguably – forever on the Washington Square Park Fountain?

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** This plaque (one of two) is awaiting its installation on the aligned, leveled off fountain.

Update: Thanks to Curbed for linking to this site … check out the interesting comments over there.

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15 Comments

  1. Jason

     /  December 4, 2008

    Who cares?? With all the problems in the world, why not dedicate your time to a cause that really matters.

  2. cat

     /  December 4, 2008

    Hi Jason,

    Well… I’d say “a cause that really matters” is one which draws attention to how our city government lies and deceives the public; one that attempts to save our public spaces – of which we have so few – (which are so important to democracy and community) as they are being minimized and pacified; one that vocalizes the problems with a government which sells everything off to corporations and developers; one that offers a place for people’s voices to be heard *over* those corporations and developers.

    This IS a problem in the world — particularly New York City under Mayor Bloomberg.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Cathryn.
    Washington Square Park Blog

  3. avessa

     /  December 4, 2008

    Sad that so much money has brought so little good taste, no sense of history, nor awareness of the instrinsic value of community. The blanding of NY is indeed a great loss.

  4. sam

     /  December 5, 2008

    Hi Cat,

    I’m with Jason.

    It doesn’t seem like you’re “saving” this public space in any way. It seems like you’re hanging onto its shabby old self out of sheer oldey-timey nostalgia and paranoia.

    But worse, you’re wasting your time. And we have limited time on this orb, and more important matters to see to.

  5. karen

     /  December 5, 2008

    By raising the question “who cares?” one is implying “certainly I don’t care…” and Jason you have every right not to care– however you are wrong to think that this issue is unimportant to others. I, for one, am grateful to bloggers who are able to level the playing field of information, and draw attention to local issues that involve New Yorkers and our day-to-day quality of life.

  6. Tara

     /  December 5, 2008

    Right on about the 2.5 million to get a fountain named after you forever. I mean, I’m not in the public fountain purchasing business or anything, but that sounds like quite a steal for the Tisch family!

    I actually had a glowing feeling when you mentioned who the Parks Department could name the fountain for. “The Bob Dylan Fountain”. “The Mark Twain Fountain.” All of the people you listed would actually deserve the honor of having the fountain named for them. They lived their lives, expressed themselves, listened, and were listened to in Washington Square Park. They are the fabric of WSP. To then in contrast, see people with zero appreciation for what makes the park a desired place to be in the first place, who WANT recognition for essentially buying a service (centering the fountain, reducing public space, and providing a reason to “beautify” the rest of the park) that only benefits them (nothing in the way of getting a perfect cover shot for the freshman info booklet now!) shows that they see WSP as a business and marketing opportunity, nothing more. Doesn’t Washington Square Park, and Greenwich Village deserve better than this?

  7. Be

     /  December 5, 2008

    Let’s have an un-naming ceremony and call it schiT fountain.

  8. Ray

     /  December 6, 2008

    I am pleased that the parks department was able to forge ahead with their renovation plans. I want to say up front… Thank You Tisch Family for contributing your hard won treasure to improve this important public space. I am glad your contribution was recognized by the city.

    Yet, while the plaque is a small price to pay for the contribution and it may be subtle enough – there is a trend at hand worth commenting on. Modern philanthropists are putting their names on ‘extant’ facilities all over the city – some in a garish way – our gorgeous main library comes to mind. Our landmarks commission needs to do a better job of policing the grant of “naming rights” in exchange for private recapitalization. Not for profits could use the leverage of the law in guiding donors to more appropriate (and tasteful) recognition.

    While the plaque will not bother me, others may find it offensive. I think it entirely appropriate for us to discuss a landmark’s policy – accepting the fact that public private partnerships have always been an important part of how institutions sustain. Yet, I’m at a loss on how to appropriately recognize donors in the park. So WSPB… how might you recognize the Tisch family for their contribution?

    Ray

  9. Mitchel Cohen

     /  December 6, 2008

    The choice becomes the PISCH fountain vs. the SCHIT fountain. I’ve heard rumors of a mass “urination party” in the fountain (whose nation? URInation!) when it opens, hope Benepe is on his toes!

    Washington Square Park had also become one of — if not the — most surveilled public spaces in the United States. I’ve read reports that one tree was cut down because it was blocking a clear view by the police cameras, and that was also an additional reason for flattening the old sunken fountain — to provide police surveillance a clear line-of-sight.

    At the next relevant meeting, can we get details on some of this, maybe FOIL interchanges between the police department and Parks? Also, any info on where the new cameras will be placed, how many there will be, and the rules for keeping and maintaining videos of people who are not committing any crimes but who are oggled by the cops while “making out” in the grass?

  10. Be

     /  December 6, 2008

    I do not think it is appropriate to recognize the Tisch family for their contribution. They insisted that the fountain be moved and rebuilt. THey should be scorned.

  11. Miriam Mergatroyd

     /  December 7, 2008

    If I didn’t know that every website has their brethren, I’d wait for Jason and Sam to explain why, with all the problems in the world, they have spent precious moments of their limited time on this orb posting on a site dedicated to a cause they consider unimportant. Shouldn’t they be putting these precious moments toward those problems they consider important?

  1. Tisch Plaques Arrive At Washington Square Park « Politics as Puppetry
  2. Washington Square Park, As It Looks Now, and What’s Been Happening Of Late « Washington Square Park
  3. Bloomberg’s Privatization of Washington Sq Park: NYU, Tisch, Who Else? « Washington Square Park
  4. Tisch Plaques Arrive At Washington Square Park « Duncan Writes!

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