Brooklyn Book Festival Held Sunday on Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza

Brooklyn Borough Hall

Brooklyn Borough Hall

book fair-10-1

International Stage

International Stage

book fair-100-1

Parks Department Logos Abound!

Parks Department Logos Abound!

A free public event, the annual Brooklyn Book Festival was held yesterday, Sunday, September 13th, honoring writing and publishing with focus on a wide range of literary stars but also emerging authors.  You can find information about new authors, books and indie publishing companies at the many booths and there is a day long program of talks and panels, all mostly outdoors.  There’s a very open, electric – and very Brooklyn! – feeling to the event and it is worth checking out.

All the Brooklyn ‘stars’ come out (Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Ames, Paul Auster, Amy Sohn, etc.) and Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised novelist Edwidge Danticat was honored with a “Best of Brooklyn” award.  Other appearances:  Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Pete Hamill, Lewis Lapham, and many more! The event is held once a year on the Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza and apparently the New York City Parks Department is proud to be a sponsor (note: excessive signage)!  But, nonetheless, I applaud this over some of their other ventures.

Photo #1: Tom_Hoboken

Photo #2: Jon Nalley

Photo #3: minicloud

Photo #4: Jon Nalley

Photo #5: Cat

Updated: Today’s Los Angeles Times reports back on the Brooklyn Book Festival here.

Local Business Improvement District hosts “Taste of the Village” at Washington Square Park Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.

Updated (See my question at the end)

Well, I’m not the biggest fan of the Village Alliance, the Business Improvement District, formerly named the 8th Street BID that at some point changed its name to the much more benign Village Alliance.  As the BID that promotes business in the Village down along 8th Street, they have worked to change the character of that strip to more high end (think Marc Jacobs/Magnolia Bakery end of Bleecker Street) – maybe some for the better, and some not (they’ve prompted the booting out of stores they don’t consider up to the proper caliber).  They have an interest in Washington Square Park being as un-counter culture and spruced up and non-controversial as possible.  And there is a concern that they are in line to be part of a private conservancy at Washington Square Park.

But, who’s to say this isn’t a nice event nonetheless? They will present a benefit, “Taste of the Village,” to raise money for Washington Square Park at Washington Square Park on Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.  Tickets are $40 and part of the park will be closed off for the event.

Here’s what they say about it:

Celebrate the best tasting and wine festival of the year with a benefit for Washington Square Park. Mark the seventh anniversary of this event by inviting friends who love extraordinary food from award-winning chefs such as Dan Barber, named the nation’s top chef in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation; Mario Batali of International Acclaim and Chef Akhtar Nawab of Eletteria. With the purchase of a $40 ticket, you’ll enjoy more restaurants, more wines, and more pleasure gathered under one big tent.

Location: Washington Square Park

More Information:
(212) 777-2173
Village Alliance


Oh, does anyone have any opinions on this event?

Washington Square Park

Photo: Beau-Dog
From the Washington Square Park Flickr Pool. Join and add your photos!

The High Line Park and Refining Public Space, Questions Raised

A perspective on the High Line appeared in Thursday’s New York Times (9/3) from Ashley Gilbertson who in 2005 explored the at-that-time abandoned elevated rail road tracks and the life that remained and sprung up around them. This was before the work began that resulted in what we have there now, the High Line Park, which opened in June, a mostly privatized endeavor.

Gilbertson writes in the The New York Times articleThe High Line – Up Over Chelsea, Something Saved, Something Lost” of his experience getting up there :

The tracks and sleepers were still in place. The grass and weeds grew higher than my head, and I saw that someone had cleared a plot among them and planted a little vegetable garden. Smashed beer bottles and the occasional crack pipe crunched underfoot. The old covered loading bays that cut into the buildings had become guerrilla art galleries, crammed with graffiti murals by some of New York’s legends, and in one case, an illegal iron installation welded to a steel beam.

I did not see anyone else up there that day. The noise and hustle below were mostly muted. If the city were ever abandoned, I imagined, this was how it might look.

Then, his return:

Four years later, almost to the day, I returned to the High Line, now a refined urban park. Appropriately, it was a perfect sunny day. I held my camera in the same spots, and saw a landscape transformed. It was very pleasant, but I felt as though something had been lost.

The graffiti murals have been cleaned off the walls. The iron sculpture was dismantled to give a better view of Spencer Finch’s public art project; his colored windows are pretty, but feel spineless and manufactured compared with the raw, unsanctioned work that used to be there. Walking the manicured paths, I could no longer bring myself to imagine the city in a different age. I found myself wishing that the High Line had never been touched.

Gilbertson concludes that, if the High Line Park hadn’t been built, it would have been destroyed entirely and lost to luxury housing development. But his article and reflections on The High Line Park raise questions:

* Is there a way to update and improve a public space, to make change, without irreparably altering the character and history of that space?

* Why does the current New York City government, under billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who hails from, uh, Boston), seem incapable of doing so?

* And:  Does everything in present day New York City have to be shiny and glossy and made for high end consumption?


You can see photos of The High Line in 2005 and 2009 from the article at this link.

Blog Musings…

There are many things I would have liked to have covered over the summer here on the Washington Square Park Blog, but, alas, could not … such as:

*the unnecessary and cruel killing of the resident Canadian geese (and Mayor Bloomberg‘s role in it) rounded up from many parks across New York City;

*the Mayor’s re-election campaign for that third term and his spending on it – many interesting articles on this;

*NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has some spirited challengers for her re-election campaign as City Council Member in Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannente- Derr, and who, uh, won’t commit to support the Democratic candidate for Mayor (which is code for … how can she not support Mayor Michael Bloomberg with whom she has a co-dependent relationship …? they need each other at this point. The other option being discussed is that she just won’t take a position on endorsement vs. backing him.) and Council Member Alan Gerson also running for re-election (and, whose name, last I checked, didn’t make it on the primary ballot because of an error on his petitions)*;

*The High Line Park opening ;

*The sad demise of many Central Park trees because of an intense storm a couple of weeks ago.  (There were some interesting comments in articles from NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe who, on the one hand, has such an attachment to trees, but, on the other, is so quick to chop them down if he has some fancy design plan in mind that might raise his profile…)

I had to focus a bit less on this blog and a bit more on some other life things so these things were not covered here on the blog.

And what about Washington Square Park…?

I will definitely write when I find out more about plans for Phase II – which unfortunately, to date, the Parks Department Press Department has been less than forthcoming about.  What DID that accepted bid come in at for Phase II? Rumor is work will begin around mid-September. I still strongly believe the work should be done in two parts so that the Eastern side of the park and the Southwestern portion are not unnecessarily gated off all at once, closed to all.

Next blog post Wednesday, September 9th!  See you then!

** Check back for this post to be Updated later this week because I’ll try to add other links and sources for you to find out more about all of the above. **

* To read more about Alan Gerson and Christine Quinn’s roles in the redesign of Washington Square Park, scroll down to Categories on the right sidebar and click “Gerson-Quinn.”