On Mike Bloomberg: Term Limits Apparently Off Limits Topic At Mayoral Press Conferences

See today’s New York Times article, In a Term Limits Question, Bloomberg Sees ‘Disgrace,'” with video at the link of yesterday’s press conference. It’s all over the New York press – Daily News, NY1, etc. The Mayor’s a bit testy, eh?

From the Times’ article:

To the growing list of questions that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg does not want to be asked, you can add one more.

At a press conference in Queens on Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg was asked if an economic turnaround would undermine his initial reasoning for rewriting the city’s term limits law and seeking a third term, which was that a city in financial turmoil needed his steady hand and business background.

Mr. Bloomberg interrupted the question, from the New York Observer reporter Azi Paybarah, having deemed it unworthy of his time, and even called the reporter “a disgrace.”

What are the other questions that are off-limits on the “growing list”?

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Washington Sq Park “Official” Opening Ceremony Thursday, May 28th 1:30 p.m. At the Fountain

Oh my… The moment we’ve all been waiting for… (Well, maybe just me…? but still…) Do you think Mayor Bloomberg will show up?

From NY City Council Member Alan Gerson:

DEAR NEIGHBOR:

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and I cordially invite you to join us and other folks in the area to celebrate the opening of Washington Square Park and the completion of Phase I of the renovation. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, May 28th at 1:30 pm at the fountain.

Very truly yours,
Alan J. Gerson
Council Member, District 1

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Additional thoughts on “New” Washington Square follow in post below …

On “New” Version of Washington Square … Reader Comment that Sums it Up…

All in

All in alignment

With a little more time to reflect on the Park changes, I’ll write with some further observations but I wanted to share a comment that was posted last night by a reader here that sums up some of the sentiment.

There was also an interesting observation from a reader who commented over at the New York Times site last week in response to their fluffy, feel good piece about the opening which obscured any real detail about the arguments, cost, changes, or problems that have gone on in relation to the Park to date (and usually I like writer Jennifer 8. Lee’s pieces). He asked… why couldn’t the park have been renovated in stages? Why did a whole half of the Park have to be shut down all at once? Good question. The writer thought it was basically ridiculous in light of the work that was being done. So… stay with me a minute… if that had happened…if the Park had been done in stages, where the NW Quadrant was done first and then opened, and then the Fountain Plaza area worked on and completed, (a) it would not have taken nearly as long to have access to each section and (b) Park users would have had a chance to experience the changes in stages.

Instead, since the Park was closed off for 16 1/2 months, the first reaction anyone has had has been… it’s clean, it’s pretty… it’s OPEN! But once you get past that layer of emotions – and, yes, there are some elements of the design that are lovely and functional (I will go into them at a later date) – there ARE problems.

I know some of the blog readers don’t want to hear that. Some people would like anyone who was opposed to the dramatic changes and the Parks Department’s obfuscations to move on. But that is not appropriate in this situation because that diminishes and obscures real issues. Maybe there’s some way to ‘fix’ what they took away. Although many believe these changes were made purposefully to homogenize this vital public space.

Here is a comment from Mark Milano:

Cathryn,

I agree with your frustration about the awful lack of community input into the renovation.

And while the new Park may look “better than nice,” it is not Washington Square.

The unique sunken performance space invited people to come down and join the fun – you had to make a conscious decision to enter, and once you did you were a part of the action. Now it’s just a wide open space that people walk through on the way to someplace else. The loss of the old trees is particularly tough.

Also, there were places in the original sunken area where you could step back from the activity and just observe – places where you had a sense of privacy in the midst of all the chaos. Those are all gone.

The new space isn’t terrible, it’s not the wonderful, unique space it was. Actually, it feels like a Disneyland recreation of Washington Square, not the real thing.

And the new fence sucks.

“Washington Sq Park: Designs Over Time” Wednesday, May 27th, 6 p.m. at Center for Architecture With Presentation by NYC Parks Department

This Wednesday night May 27th! “Washington Square Park: Designs Over Time” Presented by The American Institute of Architects(AIA) – NY with presentations by NYC Parks Department designer George Vellonakis and Washington Square Park Administrator Rebecca Ferguson.

From the announcement:

In recognition of the re-opening of Washington Square Park’s central plaza, the New York Chapter of the ALSA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and the AIA (American Institute of Architects) New York Chapter welcome designers, enthusiasts and community members to:

Washington Square Park: Designs over Time

Presentation and dialogue with:

* Adrian Smith, Landscape Architect, EDAW

* George Vellonakis, Landscape Designer, City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation

* Rebecca Ferguson, Administrator, Washington Square Park, City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation

* Nancy Owens, Landscape Architect, Nancy Owens Studio

Adrian Smith, ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), will present an historical overview of the park’s past iterations as a marshland, potters’ field and military parade ground, and review prior design proposals and implemented plans since Washington Square first became a recreational space. Park Designer George Vellonakis will discuss the freshly completed phase and the next steps of the current renovation. (more…)

On Bryant Park — Wednesday May 27th Hosts Author Dennis Cooper

Bryant Park Lawn Closed Sign May 09

Bryant Park Lawn Closed Sign May 09

I have mixed feelings on Bryant Park (take note of that sign posted a few weeks ago … everything is just so … precious).

It is one of the most commercialized and controlled of NYC’s parks (I suppose it’s also smack in the middle of midtown and not really in a neighborhood, per se). I have the feeling that the NYC Parks Department would like all the Parks to be like that one. Yes, it is governed by a private Conservancy. A true story: at one point the Conservancy hired a hawk to keep pigeons away. This went astray when the hawk attacked a small dog and they had to abandon the practice. Can’t we co-exist with the pigeons in a … park?

It’s not Washington Square Park – it has a whole other purpose as a park and public space. More about getting away from it all quietly then communing with or being entertained by your fellow New Yorkers — although City Search NYC says to come to the Dennis Cooper reading and talk (info below) to meet people!

Bryant Park does seem to have a wide array of activities going on perhaps because they need to create some as they don’t happen naturally (… am I being too hard on them?).

Nonetheless, here is the event info:

This Wednesday, May 27th from 12:30-1:45 p.m. the Bryant Park Summer Reading Series presents:

Dennis Cooper, Novelist, Poet, Critic, Editor, Blogger, and Performance artist (per Wikipedia), will be discussing his new book, Ugly Man, a book of short stories (published by Harper Perennial), and career. Hosted by Tony O’Neill.

Cooper’s site.

You can ‘follow’ Bryant Park on Twitter!

Bryant Park is at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue.

Some Thoughts on Completion of Phase I Washington Sq Park Redesign … And A Rainbow in the Fountain!

Updated

Rainbow in the Fountain Wednesday afternoon May 20th, 09

Rainbow in the Fountain Wednesday afternoon May 20th, 09

More thoughts on the newly opened, reconfigured Washington Square Park Phase I, which, as you most likely know, involved moving of the Fountain 23 feet east to align with the Arch … coming next week.

However, I think it’s important to give it a minute and see how it all works together before making quick judgments. All the press I’ve read thus far speaks as if people somehow thought a newly renovated park wouldn’t look … nice? It seems to me the long standing dispute between a large portion of the community and NYC government/Parks Department has made the situation confusing – for most – to assess.

As you most likely know, I have critiques of the NYC Parks Department. However, I did not question that they could pull off a nice-looking park. Some of the design aspects Park re-designer George Vellonakis pointed out to me on Tuesday, Phase I’s Opening Day, may work well (I’ll get into some of them another day). However, there are still serious questions that arise.

Yes, the Park looks pretty. But it had also been allowed to fall into serious disrepair. A lot of time, money and thought went into the last 16 1/2 months while the NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza were closed – attention that hadn’t been given to Washington Square Park, a world famous park in New York City, in years. Why?

Some questions to ask are :

* did the City integrate key public input into the process? was there purposeful evasiveness and lack of transparency to avoid doing so?

* does the space work without losing the unique character it had by becoming sanitized ?

* why was the Park allowed to fall into such disrepair?

* are private interests driving some of the decisions?

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Oh, and I’ve been wondering, why do only children go in the Fountain… what stops the adults?

Note: Blogging Break ’til Tuesday, May 26th. Unless I appear with some new photos, news or random thoughts on Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Have a great weekend.

See you at the Park..?

Photo: Cat

On the Fences around the Park… And Kids Will be … Kids?

Kids find a new use for the chain fence

Kids find a new use for the chain fence

Updated: When they redesigned Phase I (the NorthWest Quadrant and Fountain Plaza) of Washington Square Park, the NYC Parks Department opted to replace the well-liked piperail fence — which surrounded the Park at a welcoming 3 feet high — with a new 4 foot high, less inviting fence.

In the interior of the Park, the piperail was replaced with a post-and-chain fence. I don’t mind the interior fence that much (I think the exterior fence is more problematic) although it’s true the old fence you could just lean against leisurely. However, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe explained to me in one of his letters that the fence was never meant to be sat on. Hmm. Nonetheless, I don’t think that they anticipated that the new fence would be used for this purpose (above). I would think people sitting on the fence would be preferable to them, uh, walking on it.

But I suppose as kids will find play spaces in areas we wouldn’t anticipate, perhaps the park will change in ways we can’t even imagine at this moment. So that people will feel they can reclaim the things that were perhaps lost or create new traditions and new uses that are their own within this public space, not engineered by our City government and private interests – NYU, the Tisch Family, a possible conservancy – with their own agendas.

Previous WSP Blog Entry: A Tale of Two Fences

** Yesterday’s post updated also! See below. **

Day 2 at Washington Square Park Since Reopening of NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza Yesterday

Updated May 21st, 2009

Day Two - Fountain Plaza

Day Two - Fountain Plaza

Updated: So… The thing is … some people seem to think that because the newly unveiled (yesterday) NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park looks “great,” “nice,” “pretty” (insert adjective) that that means there was nothing to oppose. That just doesn’t hold up. Of course, there were things to oppose.

Some of the issues were – and are:

digging up 18th and 19th Century burial grounds;

chainsawing Fourteen 40-80 year old trees(including all but one of the trees that lined the fountain);

dismantling and moving the circular fountain 23 feet east to “align” with the Arch (after 138 years in that location in the exact center of the Park);

Reducing the public space around the Fountain which has been used as a theater-in-the-round;

Changing the historic nature of the Park;

The Cost: a pricetag originally quoted at $16 million, now skyrocketing to over $30 million;

Selling off the naming rights to the famous Fountain to the Tisch Family for $2.5 million

Adding lawn space — more “picture perfect” for NYU‘s graduation ceremonies

Fencing off the Park: increasing the height of the exterior Fence around the Park from a welcoming 3 feet to a more daunting 4 foot fence.

In addition, there were serious issues of non-transparency, evasiveness, lies and minimal consideration to community concerns by the NYC Parks Department along the way. There did not have to be such acrimony. That could all have been avoided if the Parks Department had given true consideration to some of the changes a majority of the Community asked for. Yes, people will use the Park but there is a level of bitterness that will most likely never go away. That didn’t have to be. If the Parks Department, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, et al, would realize that in retrospect, and perhaps going forward, then there might be something gained from this.

That being said, I had a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with Park designer George Vellonakis yesterday (and it was actually a nice one) and he walked with me around the Park and pointed out some things about the new design that I wasn’t aware of that I’ll go into over the next few days.

A look at Day Two at the Park (Today):

View of the Fountain from the East (Note: Picnic tables heavily in use)

View of the Fountain from the East (Note: Picnic tables heavily in use)

"Old" Section (Eastern Side) Still Heavily in Use

"Old" Section (Eastern Side) Still Heavily in Use

Squirrel:  It's all the same to me; just don't cut down any more trees

Squirrel: It's all the same to me; just don't cut down any more trees

Okay, Not Day Two ... The afternoon before the Park Opened: Calm Before the Storm?

Okay, Not Day Two ... The afternoon before the Park Opened: Calm Before the Storm?

Photos: Cat

Washington Square Park Opened Today ! (A first look)

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Not Quite Finished… Lookin’ Like Tomorrow Tuesday May 19th for Fence to Come Down at Washington Square Park

Lots going on today at Washington Square Park. I gather there were some last minute details to finalize — watering the plaza down (to rid it of construction dust), mowing the lawn – by hand, testing the Fountain again … — before tearing down the fence that has long surrounded the Fountain Plaza and NorthWest Quadrant. Word is the date is now tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19th. Pictures of the scene today:

Watering the Plaza

Watering the Plaza

Watering Plaza -- Fountain ON

Watering Plaza -- Fountain ON