Christmas Eve Past & Present – Caroling under the Washington Square Arch This Christmas Eve, December 24th, 5 p.m.

An annual tradition, Caroling under the Washington Square Arch, will take place Thursday, December 24th, 5 p.m.

Last Christmas Eve, I stopped by the Caroling under the Arch. The door was open on the right side of the base of the Arch where there are stairs that lead to the top. It was hard to resist the urge to dash up! As the caroling ended, it began to rain and people dispersed quickly.

I wrote at the time:

The rain held off until just as the music ended. Afterwards, a woman with her children (maybe they missed the caroling?) sang their own carols under the Arch. Two people appeared practicing Tai Chi against the inside ‘legs’ of the Arch. There was basically no one else left at this point.

This photo was taken afterwards; it had started raining and the crowd had dispersed but there was something almost meditative and redemptive about the rain against the backdrop of the decorated tree and the magnificent Arch(now out from under its gates), amidst the close-to-deserted Washington Square Park on Christmas Eve.

Looking for some holiday spirit? Get some via this delightful video featuring the Mounds, children sledding and a snow-covered Washington Square Park, from last year’s Christmas Eve blog entry.

Note: The Mounds are currently under construction and will be recreated in Washington Square Park Redesign:Phase II with some (controversial) new features, including the use of artificial turf.

Have a great holiday and best wishes in the New Year!

New Blog Postings Resume in the New Year 2010.

Photo: Cat

NYC Parks Department Concedes Artists Have Right to Sell Art in High Line Park Post Arrests

Visit the recently debuted A Walk in the Park Blog to hear the latest on the High Line Park where artists were arrested three times in recent months for selling artwork in the new park. Artist and activist Robert Lederman is prepared to challenge the City Parks Department with a new lawsuit. He has previously prevailed in federal court where it was decreed that it is a First Amendment right for artists to be able to sell art in a public park.  Mr. Lederman met with NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe after the arrests. Subsequently, the Parks Department has retreated from their original position (that this vending is illegal because a permit is required or an issue of “public safety”) and said they would no longer authorize Park officers to arrest artists in the park.

$153 million of public funding has been allocated to the High Line Park’s creation. Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates writes at A Walk in the Park Blog that that money could have been directed towards “communities that desperately need their already established parks fixed up.”

From the blog:

On Saturday [12/12] artists were allowed to sell their wares on the High Line without incident for the first time. The day before, the Parks Department reversed its position which had resulted in three arrests. Their previous vending policy only permitted selling items which included designer muffins, exotic teas, coffee and gelato. Unlike the “expressive matter” vendors, commercial concessions bring in revenue to the city.  The City is currently negotiating a sole source concession agreement with the Friends of the High Line (FOH) which would allow the group to keep revenue from items sold on the park property. Since its opening in the Spring, the City has allowed 29 different permitted commercial vendors on the High Line but no art vendors.

In addition, Croft writes: “One would think that the Friends of the High Line would have made every effort to accommodate artists instead of actively trying to discriminate against them.”

From the Friends of High Line Park:

Artwork is a logical inclusion for the High Line; artists, gallery owners and art collectors were among the earliest supporters of its transformation into a public park space, and it runs through some of the most culturally significant neighborhoods of Manhattan. “

Washington Square Park in Last Night’s SnowStorm

Saturday Night 12/19, The Scene at the Washington Square Arch

Thank you to Geoffrey Croft from NYC Park Advocates for sending this in!

Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates

SantaCon Winds its way through NYC’s Five Boroughs — Multitudes of Santas Converge At Washington Square Park Saturday Afternoon

Santas Converge at WSP

Santas Just Want to Have Fun

Well, I wasn’t there but it looks like fun! Dozens… hundreds…? A lot ! of Santas converged at Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon (12/12) for SantaCon NYC (it’s part convention, part pub crawl). They met at 10 a.m. at different locales throughout the five boroughs and wound their way throughout the city (and its pubs) before descending upon Washington Square Park‘s Fountain Plaza.

SantaCon began in San Francisco in 1994 but there are now events throughout the world.

If you’d like to join in next year, here are some of the rules from, you will need to follow:

* You MUST address everyone as “Santa.”
* You SHOULD “ho-ho-ho” like Santa.
* You OUGHT to give out gifts like Santa.
* You MIGHT want to drink like Santa.
* Santa doesn’t talk to the press. Even “Ho-ho-ho” is too dangerous these days.

Photos: Katie Killary

Two of Seven Newly Planted Trees Surrounding the Washington Square Park Fountain Have Died — Is the Cause the Design? + WSP Task Force Meeting Update

Dying Tree Lining Fountain, Since Removed

Last week’s meeting of Washington Square Park Task Force/Community Board 2 Parks Committee on December 2nd provided minimal new information about Phase II (currently in progress) and Phase III of the Park’s redesign.

Another meeting of the WSP Task Force is scheduled for February 2010 at which the NYC Parks Department will be prepared to present information on Phases II and III since they admitted they were not equipped to do so at the December 2nd meeting.

[Update: This meeting did not happen; it was the infamous meeting where the blueprints for Phase II were dropped off on a table with no discussion. It was a CB2 Parks Committee meeting; the Task force did not meet.]

There was one item of note: A brief discussion on why two of the new trees planted around the Washington Square Park Fountain died earlier this year. Landscape designer George Vellonakis insisted that there is “no drainage problem” and that it was just a result of the construction (which is troubling, if so, also).

I encountered a landscape architect at the park one day in August when the two trees were being dug up and removed who informed me that the (new) design is not appropriate for proper water drainage with structural soil and that this diminishes (perhaps eliminates) the tree’s ability to survive.

Seven of the trees that lined the Fountain (close to forty years old) were axed because of the Bloomberg Administration’s desire to relocate the Washington Square Park Fountain 22 feet east so that it would align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue. The Fountain had been in its previous location since 1871.

The true test will be if the new trees planted survive. If they don’t, let’s hope that the Parks Department will take some corrective action.  It seems wrong to sacrifice living trees for a potentially flawed design.


Blog Postings in December …

Posting will be a bit sporadic throughout December, blog readers!  I’ll post 1x a week for the next few weeks.  I will update shortly about the Washington Square Park Task Force/Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting last week.  Check back!  Cathryn.

Washington Square Park Tree Lighting 2009 Thursday, December 10th; Caroling Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th — at The Arch


Two Events: Thursday, December 10th and Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Washington Square Park will hold its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony under the Arch on Thursday, December 10th at 6 p.m.  This will be the 83rd year the tree has been lit.  The Washington Square ceremony is older than the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting!  That tree lighting tradition began in 1931 making it now 78 years old.

On Thursday, December 10th, after the tree is lit at 6 p.m., song leader Mary Hurlbut, accompanied by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet, will sing holiday songs.  There will be a Santa Claus present. 

On Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th at 5 p.m. — celebrate the holiday with carols led by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet at the Washington Square Arch.

The Washington Square Park Christmas tree will be lit in front of the Arch at Fifth Avenue between the hours of 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. throughout the holiday season.

At both events, songbooks will be provided by the Washington Square Association which also donates the tree.  The Washington Square Association was founded in 1906 and is one of the city’s oldest community organizations.  For 83 years, it has sponsored carol singing under the arch.

* Note: 2010 Tree lighting info here.

Photo: Ken Howard