Guest Entry: Jonathan Greenberg responds to New York Times article, “The Battle of Washington Square”

washington square park at dusk

washington square park at dusk

Jonathan Greenberg is the founder of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition and lived near Washington Square Park for more than 30 years. He has fought tirelessly to preserve the public space and unique aspects of Washington Square Park despite the obstacles and obfuscations put in play by the Bloomberg Administration and New York City Parks Department. He shared this letter with me and it is today’s guest entry.

Guest Entry: Jonathan Greenberg

Letter to the New York Times

To the Editor:

Your recent front page City section coverage of the “Battle of Washington Square” (November 23, 2008) set reality on its head by distorting and misreporting the truth about why Greenwich Village community activists like me are angry about the radical redesign of Washington Square Park.

Despite the article’s 2,300 word length and the fact that he has confirmed knowledge of every fact in this letter, Times reporter Graham Bowley decided to ignore the most relevant information that the “Paper of Record” ought to have provided readers with. In portraying community activists like myself as “bitterly angry” and full of “fury,” as we tried to “write our desires” on a park that we treat as our “personal fiefs,” while reporting, unchallenged, Parks Department claims that the “transformation of Washington Square Park has been one of the most open in the agency’s history,” the Times leaves readers with the insulting impression that the lawsuits and protests over the park’s redesign were much ado about nothing, except the egos of those involved.

For instance, the Times reports that in October, 2005, Community Board (CB) 2 “rejected” a compromise that would have limited the reduction in the park plaza’s size. Incredibly, the article fails to note that neither the Board, nor the public, were ever provided with the plans for the park redesign, nor were they told the truth about the reduction in the size of the park’s plaza. This was documented both in a judge’s ruling in favor of our first lawsuit, as well as in a web video which my group created and posted. In May, 2007, the same Community Board voted, 40 to 5, to rescind its earlier approval of the plan, because it had been provided with inadequate and incorrect information.

How information about this historically unprecedented vote failed to make it into this Times article reporting the Board’s earlier, ill-informed vote astounds me (more…)

Reportback on Washington Square Park Task Force Meeting & Parks Dept. “Presentation” Phase II WSP on Monday

My Reportback on Wednesday December 3rd’s Washington Square Park Task Force Meeting which featured a Presentation by the New York City Parks Department on Phase II of Washington Square Park Redesign will appear Monday.

Stay tuned…

Union Square Park Court Case Back in Court Monday, December 8th – City Trying to Put Restaurant back on the ‘Table’

Union Square Park Not for Sale

Union Square Not for Sale informs us: “In case you didn’t already know, the only thing currently standing in the way of the city turning our beloved Pavilion into a swank (private) restaurant is a court decision made by Judge Jane Solomon in April 2008. This Monday, December 8th, she will hear the city argue for the dismissal of the case.”

The issue here is further takeover of our public space by a private corporation. The pavilion at Union Square Park has a noteworthy history as a venue for protest and free speech including serving as the site of the first Labor Day Parade Rally. In addition, the interior was open to the public for years and included a children’s space and music area. It is not as if the Union Square area is lacking in restaurants but it is lacking in free, public, non-privatized open space.

Union Square Not for Sale is asking people to turn out to the court hearing.

Here are the details:

Union Sq. Park Court Date

Monday December 8, 2008 – 3:00pm
New York State Supreme Court
60 Centre Street, Room 432 (Part 55)
Justice Jane S. Solomon

Additional Background from Union Sq Not for Sale:
“Union Square Park Pavilion Litigation. In April 2008, the Union Square Community Coalition(USCC) filed a lawsuit (USCC v. NYC Parks, Index No. 08/105578) challenging the Parks Department and Union Square Partnership’s plans to install a restaurant in the historic pavilion.

The court issued a preliminary injunction, which prevents the operation of a restaurant, or the installation of fixtures for a restaurant, pending further order of the Court. In so doing, the court found that USCC is likely to prevail on its central claim – that without state legislative approval, the restaurant would be an unlawful alienation of parkland – once that claim is ripe. The City has moved to dismiss the case, claiming it is both unripe (because, allegedly, several steps remain in the process before a restaurant concession could be offered) and non-meritorious.”