The Unveiling of Washington Square Park’s NW Quadrant & Fountain Plaza: Word Is Fencing To Come Down Monday, May 18th

Well, I was close… Word from a reliable source is that the fences that surround the long under construction NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park will start coming down on Monday, May 18th after 16 1/2 months of the area being closed off. The unveiling will be done without much fanfare. Originally, a ceremony with elected officials was also scheduled for Monday; that will now happen at a later date.

Some thoughts: It’s important to note that this Park could have gotten to where we are now without the acrimony if the New York City Parks Department had been upfront and honest and transparent in their statements and their actions.

No one was against a true renovation of Washington Square Park the park had fallen into serious disrepair due to lack of maintenance by the Parks Department. What people were against was the pushing through of a design with a lack of community involvement in the decision-making process.

When you look at the newly completed section, there’s new green lawn and bright flowers, there’s new pathways, there’s new fencing, there’s new lighting, there’s new benches. A true “renovation” of the existing space would have also put forth most of these same changes – except the fence would have been lower and the lighting would have been different (not the stock lighting used at oh so many other George Vellonakis-designed city parks, including City Hall and Abingdon Square). Yeah, the aligning of the Fountain with the Arch seems ridiculous and the leveling off of the sunken plaza unnecessary. That ‘other’ renovated version of Washington Square Park would have looked gorgeous.

Nonetheless, the park is probably opening at the perfect time – people throughout the City are reconsidering their finances and their values. It’s not the same political or cultural climate as it was when the Park’s redesign plans were first presented.

People may look at the newly designed Washington Square Park and have heard of some controversy and mistakenly think “Why were people against this?“. The truth is important here — no one was against a *renovation* of Washington Square Park – it was the process and the design (and lack of input into the design) that people took issue with. (In many ways, the future phases add more dramatic changes than Phase I did.)

The Park will, in the end, be what people make it.

Photo: Cat

Is Yankee Stadium’s Rough Start Bad Karma?

Today’s Wall Street Journal takes an intense look at the new Yankee Stadium with an article entitled, “Yankee Stadium’s Ugly Start : Cheap Home Runs, Empty Seats and Lopsided Losses Have Some Asking, ‘Can a Stadium Fail?‘” It’s a well done piece which looks closely at what (overall) make a stadium succeed. However, the article does not mention the destruction of one and a half Parks in the green-space challenged South Bronx or the axing of the 400 trees in the creation of the new Yankee Stadium. Or the fact that the team could have just played elsewhere for a year and then rebuilt on the site of the former Stadium (as had been done in the past) but that would not happen in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York because corporations are not supposed to encounter any difficulty or inconvenience. Just every day people.

From the article:

The new Yankee Stadium has seemed cursed from the beginning, as if Babe Ruth disapproved of the abandonment of the house he built. That it opened during a recession, with a major-league-high $72.97 average price for a nonpremium ticket (up 76% over 2008, according to Team Marketing Report) has created contempt among fans who otherwise love the team. “They don’t have a good enough team to charge those prices,” says 35-year-old fan Jeff Burrows of Brooklyn, who toured the park recently with his father. “They’ve made almost every mistake you can make,” says Roger Noll, a professor of economics emeritus at Stanford. “There’s nothing that’s been as unpopular as this.”

And then… who pops up at the end of the article? NYU President John Sexton, no stranger to destruction of old, charming and neighborhood-oriented New York.

Some Yankee fans are optimistic. John Sexton, president of New York University and a longtime season-ticket holder, says the park isn’t perfect — he wishes Monument Park weren’t so hidden from view. Still, he says, “In five years we may be looking back on this and saying we’re glad we did it.”

Previous WSP Blog Entry: Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks