“Lost New York 1609-2009” Conference Friday 10/2 and Saturday 10/3 at NYU

I just learned of this conference coming up later this week:  “Lost New York 1609-2009” at NYU Friday, October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd:

Lost New York marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage for the Dutch and the 200th anniversary of Washington Irving’s legendary reimagining of this New World encounter in his Knickerbocker’s History of New York. A wide array of conference participants will explore the dynamics of creativity and destruction, nostalgia and invention, that have for centuries marked efforts to “Do New York,” as Henry James advised Edith Wharton.

Apparently, the organizers, Cyrell R.K. Patell and Bryan Waterman (who also have a blog, The History of New York), were inspired by NYC bloggers.  Bryan Waterman writes there (and mentions WSP Blog, among others!):

“When Cyrus and I were narrowing the theme for the conference this coming weekend, our imaginations were led along the lines suggested by diverse a group of blogs that dealt with neighborhood scenes, New York history, and, more often than not, the link between the two. … In the case of many — though not all — New York blogs, we find a new kind of urban literature emerging, much of it focused on nostalgia for a lost city and a desire to create and preserve cultural memory.”

In that spirit, this panel looks interesting:

Saturday, October 3rd 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University), moderator

Lost City
Ephemeral New York
Flaming Pablum: Vanishing Downtown
Bowery Boogie

Location: 13-19 University Place, room 102 (all panels Saturday at this location)

Full schedule for both days here. All free and open to the public. Conference sponsored by the Department of English and Humanities Initiative at New York University. Organized by Cyrus R. K. Patell and Bryan Waterman.

NY Post reports City soliciting of bids for “seasonal restaurant” in Union Square Park to Begin Shortly

All throughout the court case that Union Square community activists brought against the New York City Parks Department and Union Square Partnership, the local BID (Business Improvement District), in 2008 over plans to place a restaurant in Union Square Park’s historic Pavilion — claiming loss of a public space — the City and USP claimed that there were no such plans (despite it being in the official documents and on all the Parks Department’s signs surrounding Union Square North’s construction).  Because of this, the judge ruled the case was “unripe.”

Well, today’s New York Post reports that in the next two months the City will begin taking bids for just such a restaurant.  From the article:

The city plans to issue a request for proposals to operate a seasonal café in the [Union Square] park’s refurbished pavilion — despite objections that the 80-year-old gathering spot should be set aside as public space.

The city concession was outlined in an Aug. 24 letter to Borough President Scott Stringer informing him of the upcoming request for proposals.

The winning bidder would score a 15-year contract to run the private café six months out of the year and also have the option to operate a satellite cart or kiosk.

The restaurant has been a bone of contention during the $20 million overhaul of the Park.

In April 2008, park advocates sued the city and the Union Square Partnership, a business improvement district that which manages the park. The lawsuit halted the restaurant’s construction for nearly a year.

The restaurant would have table service and an outdoor seating area on a deck.

Critics argue that the pavilion, a historic landmark, should not become a privately run space.

Previous WSP Blog coverage on judge’s ruling on Union Square here.

Part II: Washington Square Park Yesterday — Phase II Fencing Off of Park Begins

The Fences Arrive ! - East Side of the Park

The Fences Arrive ! - East Side of the Park

Washington Sq East - Fencing Installed to Left ; No Fence to Right (Yet)

Washington Sq East - Fencing Installed to Left ; No Fence to Right (Yet)

View Through the Fence

View Through the Fence

Fountain On! (Note Poles soon to close off Area)

Fountain On! (Note Poles soon to close off Area)

East Side in Full Swing (but for Not Too Much Longer)

East Side in Full Swing (but for Not Too Much Longer)

No Exit

No Exit

North East Entrance - Still Open!

North East Entrance - Still Open!

To learn more about New York City’s Phase II plans for Washington Square Park, look here.

Photos: Cat

Help protect NYC’s water supply from upstate hydraulic gas drilling. Support NYH2O – Fundraiser Thursday, September 24th

Help protect New York City’s water supply! I received an email from Alicia Mehl, the vice chairperson of NYH20, about her group and a fundraiser to support their work happening this Thursday, September 24th. She writes:

Our organization is puting up a small but mighty fight to inform all New Yorkers about the imminent effect hydraulic gas drilling upstate will have on our water supply, and working toward getting legislation sponsored that would keep us from being tethered to bottled water permanently.

We were privileged to be welcomed by over 20 community boards in NYC, all of whom have adopted resolutions asking for either a complete ban on hydraulic gas drilling in New York State, or at the very least, in and around our watersheds. CB2 was one of the first, and certainly the most vocal and supportive regarding the issue.

The Fundraiser for NYH2O is Thursday, September 24th on the Frying Pan, that famous barge at Pier 66, 26th Street and Hudson River Park (formerly considered – the Hudson River), from 6-10 p.m. The event is to raise funds to help them continue their work to protect New York’s drinking water from the imminent threat of natural gas drilling.  Tickets are $65 and include one hour of open beer and wine bar from 6:30-7:30 p.m.  (After that, cash bar!)

To purchase a ticket, click here.

To learn more about NYH2O’s work and to get involved, go here.

Part I: Washington Square Park Late Last Week: Calm Before Construction (Taking a Last Look Before Phase II Fencing Arrives)

Fountain Plaza Looking East

Fountain Plaza Looking East

Entrance to Park on North(East) side, path being eliminated

Entrance to Park on NorthEast side being eliminated

Looking NorthEast

Looking NorthEast

Behind Garibaldi

Behind Garibaldi

Sparrows on Old Benches

Sparrows on Old Benches

Possibly the cutest squirrel

Possibly the cutest squirrel

The Park's Disrepair (Why did it get this bad?)

The Park's Disrepair (Why did it get this bad?)

Tucci Arrives

Tucci Arrives

Picnic Table View of the Fountain (this area soon to be gone)

Picnic Table View of the Fountain (this area soon to be gone)

Photos: Cat
More Photos to Come!

New Posts Return Tomorrow!

Anyone who follows the Washington Square Park Blog regularly would know that I typically ALWAYS update on Mondays.  But not today!  New posts return tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22nd.  Thanks for stopping by.  Cathryn.

Jane Jacobs Night At Judson Memorial Church Tuesday, September 22nd, 7 p.m.

Readings and musings by those inspired by the defender of neighborhoods – MC’d by Rev. Billy Talen and Savitri D!

Tuesday, September 22nd * 7pm to 9 PM with Afterparty to follow!

Presented by Reverend Billy Talen for Mayor NYC:

Why?: After a street in the Village was named Jane Jacobs Way –and the presiding city official of the ceremony was Christine Quinn– we learned a lesson. The legacy of our heroes will be appropriated by our opponents as a matter of strategy. The letter to Saving Coney Island by Ned Jacobs, Jane’s son, urging resistance to the Bloomberg-and-Quinn backed highrises of Coney – underscores the need to hold our values in the face of sophisticated public relations spin.

What: Jane Jacobs Night. Activists and authors read excerpts from “Death and Life of Great American Cities” and correspondence that Ms. Jacobs sent in support of neighborhood-saving campaigns over the years.


Michael Premo, New York Hip Hop Festival and Picture the Homeless

Cathryn Swan, Washington Square Park Blog and Save Union Square (Yes, that’s me! Come say hello.)

Christabel Gough, NYC preservationist hero

Bob Holman, Howl Festival, Bowery Poetry Club

Joy Chatel, Defender of the Duffield House Brooklyn Underground Railroad landmark

Philip Dipaolo, The People’s Firehouse and Brooklyn neighborhood activists

Carol Greitzer, City Councilwoman, Landmarking of Tammany Hall building on Union Square

Evening is hosted by Rev. Billy Talen and Savitri D

We celebrate Jane Jacobs Night to share the personal impact that she has had on our campaigns to save neighborhood diversity here in the city.

Where: Judson Memorial Church
239 Thompson Street and Washington Square South
Take the B, C, D, E, F, or V trains to West 4th Street, or the R, W trains to 8th Street/NYU station

Free. Donations encouraged for space rental.


More on Jane Jacobs (one of my first blog entries) and Washington Square Park here.

Park Update: Work on Phase II is Beginning at Washington Square Park but Fencing Not Up YET

As of 2 p.m. today — I went by the Park earlier and although there are Tucci construction trucks along the Southern rim of Washington Square Park (as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the bid for the work was “awarded” to Tucci Equipment Rentals) and there are some small locking fences put up there, the 10 foot high fencing (made in China) has not yet started to envelope the park.

Why is such a large area of the Park going under construction all at once in Phase II?  NE, SE and SW Quadrants all to be shut down at once

When you stroll through the park and realize how much of this public space is getting shuttered all at once, I still can’t fathom why more of Phase II did not get shifted to and combined with Phase III (which includes the bathrooms – which pretty much EVERYONE wanted completed first except for the Parks Department – and Parks Dept. administrative offices).

A HUGE portion of the Park is being shut down unnecessarily all at once in Phase II – the NorthEast, SouthEast and SouthWest Quadrants.

I would surmise that if there hadn’t been so much controversy and disdain over the details of the Parks Department’s redesign (and also so much attention placed on Phase I – which included the moving of the Fountain to align with the Arch and the removal of the sunken plaza and reduction of public space), more attention would have been paid to this. (Of course, our City Council Members providing “oversight” should have noticed – Alan Gerson (soon to be leaving office) and Speaker Christine Quinn.)

The Costs of the Redesign Project: Doubled from Originally Projected (And Approved) Figures

As it was pointed out yesterday in the comment section by Matt, Phase I of the project alone exceeded (just slightly) the budget originally laid out — for all three phases — which was set at $16 million. And although they say Phase II is coming in at $9.1 million, at the end of the day, the budget for this project will most certainly have doubled from what was approved by our City Council.

How long will Phase II take?

Ray commented yesterday asking how long til completion.  Phase I took one and a half years (which seems SO long now).  I have not heard a projected time yet but will find out.

** I took photos today which I’ll post in a day or two. **

Washington Square Park Phase II Work To Begin This Week – Fencing Off of NE, SE, and SW Quadrants of Park Imminent


According to the New York City Parks Department, park goers’ access to all of Washington Square Park — which has been SO nice over the past four months after the NorthWest Quadrant and Fountain Plaza were previously closed for one and a half years — will soon end.

Work on Phase II of the Washington Square Park redesign is scheduled to begin shortly and the fencing around the NorthEast, SouthEast and SouthWest Quadrants of the park will be going up THIS WEEK.  (Today? Tomorrow? Friday? Not certain.)  It will take several days to get these sections fenced off.

According to the Parks Department press department:  The contract for phase II of the work was “awarded to Tucci Equipment Rental Corporation. Contract amount is $9.1 million. The work will incorporate the NE, SE, and SW quadrants of the park.”

You might recall that the entire budget for the park’s redesign was initially $16 million.  Phase I costs skyrocketed from a projected $6 million to $13 million. Update: I stand corrected. Phase I alone was $16 million. We are now upon Phase II and there is also a Phase III (bathrooms and Park administrative offices) up ahead.

Read more (previous blog entry) about Phase II plans for Washington Square Park here.

As I reported back in July, Phase II will see dramatic changes to : the Garibaldi Plaza, the Dog Runs, the “Teen Plaza” / Performance Area, the Chess Area, the “Mounds” and more!  A positive has been the Parks Department’s agreement to preserve four of the Park’s seating alcoves – one reconfigured on the Southeast side while the two on the East side and the one on the Northeast side of the Park will be preserved as ‘is’.

Alan Gerson Loses NYC Council Democratic Primary in District 1 (covers Washington Square Park); Christine Quinn Prevails, but Barely Maintains Majority against Challengers


It was much stated during the NY City Council term limits hearings that one reason to limit New York City elected officials’ terms is that incumbents are re-elected 98% of the time.

Apparently; however, if you cross the voters on term limits (and perhaps other things), you may not be.

And so the big news of the morning is that Alan Gerson did indeed lose the Democratic primary held yesterday in District 1 (which covers Washington Square Park) to Margaret Chin. (In the district, people didn’t expect him to win but he was the incumbent so you had to wonder…)

From today’s New York Times’ story, “Voters Reject 3 Council Members Backing Longer Term Limits:”

At least three veteran City Council members were ousted by angry voters Tuesday, the greatest repudiation of incumbents in a generation. All three had voted last year to change term limits, allowing them to run again.

Until Tuesday, council members were more likely to lose their seats by being convicted of a felony than by being defeated in an election. Voters more than evened those odds. They rejected Alan J. Gerson of Manhattan, Kendall Stewart of Brooklyn and Helen Sears of Queens in a rare rebuff to incumbency.


This was the voters’ first opportunity to register their disapproval, and a record number of candidates took advantage of the backlash by mounting challenges in the primary.

The groundswell may be a bad sign for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who was instrumental in persuading the Council to grant the extension so that he, too, could seek a third term.

I think voters had issues with Alan Gerson other than term limits and this tipped the scale.  Under a stronger City Council member, what transpired at Washington Square Park would never have happened and would have played out much differently.  Under wishy washy Alan Gerson, Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration persevered in their quest to change the nature of the Park, repeatedly ignoring and bypassing Washington Square Park users and community input. This was done hand-in-hand with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.  (It’s time for her to go too.)  No word yet on #’s for District 3, Quinn’s district (tho’ Quinn prevailed against Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannante-Derr) but the Times did say in this article:  “Even Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, barely mustered a majority against two challengers.”

Updated: #’s for District 3 from the Downtown Express:
Quinn won with 6,868 votes (52 percent), versus Kurland’s 4,108 votes (31 percent) and Derr’s 2,117 votes (16 percent).

The general election, including the offices of Mayor, City Council, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, will be held on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009.

(Above image from The New York Times)