The Park In the Snow – New Photos!

New Completion Date Affixed

Snowmen in the Fountain

Pigeons On High

Garibaldi Under Wraps In Blue

Snowed-In Fountain

North East Entrance (Still Under Construction)

January 28, 2011

Photos: Cathryn

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The Arch in the Snow ! over at Luma Blog.

Washington Square Hawks Attempt New Nest in Nabe & On Hawks in the City

Last Year

Pale Male Irregulars Blog reports that two Washington Square Park hawks – who I’ve never seen – are attempting to build a new nest in the neighborhood. Last year two hawks, perhaps the same ones, attempted to do the same but were not successful. Apparently, it is difficult for hawks’ nests to survive on most city building ledges. Blogger Donegal Browne contacted photographer and hawkwatcher Francois Portmann (who took the photo above) to check out this potential nest location on a building surrounding the park.

Portmann reported back:

If this pair tries nesting there, my bet is: the nest may get blown off in high winds. These window sills have no anchor options. It’s the same kind of set up as last year on One 5th ave! Time for the Blakeman “Nest Nooks”!!

The Blakeman “Nest Nooks” for people, like me, who were not previously aware of their existence, were designed by John Blakeman to assist the birds in keeping their nests secure by providing a structure which could be attached to a tree or building from which they could work off of. There was a Red-tail pair in the neighborhood last year (at One Fifth Avenue) whose nest “disintegrated” because of the challenges of maintaining the nest on buildings.

Browne further writes of some of the troubles with urban nests. For some fledglings [young birds] who left the nest early, “they were not flighted enough to gain elevation for flight once grounded, were found standing on the sidewalk” or if they did not have adequate space for “pre-flight exercises,” they would be found injured upon hitting the ground or sidewalk.

Well, that’s not good! While people love to watch the hawks, is this a sign that this may not be the best environment for them? Urban environments are home to mostly pigeons and other birds, and, in some of the parks and city neighborhoods, squirrels.

The blog then suggests that a structure be placed on a tree within Washington Square Park to help the hawks build their nest. This, I have to say, is a really bad idea. The park’s resident squirrels and pigeons would have way too hard a time surviving that.

While I want the hawks to survive, they can keep a little distance.

This brings up other questions: Should the hawks be encouraged to live in a highly populated city where, whatever issues there are with their existence here, it’s hard for them to survive? Should they be encouraged to live near a 10 acre park (Washington Square) vs. an 843 acre park?

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Previous WSP Blog post with picture of hawk-meeting-squirrel (alive) on a tree at Washington Square.

WSP Phase II Media Curiosity; Smaller Seating Alcoves?; 24 Hour Dog Run

Fall 2010? Well, that's not going to happen...

Updated 1/25 & 31*

Reporters are asking questions about Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II, but has anything much changed since my update in September 2010? (Re-posted below.)

There’s been great progress in the park’s construction on the Eastern side but the project as a whole is still lagging behind and far from completion. Continued Parks Department miscommunication, mishaps and errors. And there’s still NO community or City Council oversight of the project.

*Cost of the project is at $35 $30 million + counting. The initial budget for the entire 3 Phases? $16 Million. (WSP Blog ed.: The $30 Million figure is an estimate for all three phases. I am fairly certain the cost will reach $35 million but it will definitely reach $30 million so I am revising my figure – for now.)

Community Board 2 held a meeting in October last year at which there was a request to the Parks Department to add reconfigured seating, an improvement on what was illustrated on the design for the new alcoves (which some community members finally got a hold of). The request was for seating which would be more conducive to interacting with your neighbors if you chose to do so and viewing what was going on in the rest of the park itself – part of the charm of these spots. (There will be four seating alcoves, previously six, in the eastern quadrants of the park.)

Sounds like a good idea. Small concession, right?

Word on the street is that this got vetoed, likely by designer George Vellonakis — the landscape designer who created the controversial redesign of this historic park — who has a tremendous pull within the city’s Parks Department.

The seating alcoves — which were eliminated in Vellonakis’s original design for the park — were only added back in after the community, former Council Member Alan Gerson and the Landmarks Preservation Commission all strongly protested their removal. (We might have had issues with Alan Gerson but he was involved, unlike current Council Member Margaret Chin.)

In addition, although it was promised that the seating alcoves would retain their original size, it is also believed that they are much smaller in the actual design and implementation. (*1/31 — WSP Blog note: This is unclear tho’ it would not surprise me. Will try to find out — )

The Villager is reporting this week that the large dog run will be 24 hours as if this is news. Way, way back at meetings that perhaps the Villager did not attend (no offense, Villager folks!) it was revealed that the entrance to the newly placed large dog run on the Park’s southern side would be accessible at all hours. (Not sure honestly how that will work but we’ll see!)

Phase II has been split into two pieces with a large portion – including the dog run – moved into Phase III.

A Refresher on Phase II WSP – An Eerie Silence Continues

Re-Post — Originally published September 1, 2010

Lack of Parks Department Transparency; No Governmental or Community Oversight Leads to Eerie Silence on WSP: Phase II

What’s happening with Phase II? It’s been a bit quiet on the Washington Square Park Redesign news front. Hard to believe but there have been no official updates on the current work on the $30 million + project for 9 months now since a brief overview was given in December 2009 shortly after the work got going.

It’s somewhat understandable why Phase I — which included the controversial, and, most would say, unnecessary aligning and leveling of the Fountain Plaza — got all the attention.

Yet Phase II’s tinkering, with no spotlight on it at all, includes some of the most loved aspects of the park, including: the Chess Tables, Mounds and Play Area, Dog Runs, Garibaldi Statue and Performance Site, Seating Alcoves, Children’s Playground, as well as the lawn, pathways and gardens throughout the SW, E and NE sections of the historic park.

So, why the silence? If you read Washington Square Park Blog regularly, you know that I’ve advocated for more governmental and community oversight on the project.

Who, you ask, should be doing that oversight?

  • Body #1: The New York City Council.The two public faces at the onset of Phase I were Council Member Alan Gerson and Speaker Christine Quinn who engineered the famous Gerson-Quinn Agreement. Gerson lost his bid for a third term when he was voted out of office by disgruntled constituents. His replacement, Margaret Chin, has distanced herself from the project. At the rare meetings that have occurred in relation to WSP since she assumed the position early this year, no representatives from her office have attended.
  • Body #2: The Washington Square Park Task Force. Lacking Phase I’s high profile and without Community Board 2 and Task Force Chair Brad Hoylman there, the WSP Task Force has gone silent on Phase II. I’ve emailed Hoylman’s replacement, Jo Hamilton, multiple times reminding her of the Task Force’s purview but she has been resistant, likely believing former Parks’ employee (and chair of the CB2 Parks Committee) Tobi Bergman’s insistence that oversight is not part of their role. (Here, he perhaps intentionally mixes things up between the CB2 Parks Committee and the Washington Square Park Task Force. The latter is charged, in fact, with the role of oversight of the finer details of the redesign.)

For a quick refresher, here are the first three points of the WSP Task Force “goals”:

1. Make sure all points of Quinn-Gerson agreement are adhered to.

2. All bid documents, all changes of plans, and all design details should be run by task force.

3. Enable the community to have input on design details.

Meanwhile, Phase III, yet to come, which reconstructs the rest rooms and Park administrative offices into one elaborate structure, has been the subject of three separate meetings. Numerous questions have been allowed by the community members – and they have been answered. The reason? This leg is being overseen by an outside architecture firm.

Phase II is overseen by landscape designer George Vellonakis, a favorite of NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. Vellonakis dislikes community input; therefore, only cursory details have been presented — these more than a year ago. There have been no substantive updates or opportunities for review since.

In fact, the only time anyone saw the blueprints up close, they were dropped off on a table at a February meeting of the CB2 Parks Committee with no discussion allowed. Tobi Bergman brushed this off; although even he seemed a bit disgruntled that the blueprints were handed over FIVE MONTHS after the project had begun.

It’s no surprise that Phase II is mired in problems that no one knows about, and the Parks Department – with Community Board 2’s and the New York City Council’s complicity – wants to keep it that way.

Wondering what the problems are?

Read Part II here.

Tree at Washington Square Arch Up & Lit for a Little While Longer

Until one day it just disappears…

Photo: Cat

Upcoming Talks on Stanford White & Henry James

Hosted by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

When Architecture Could Fashion a Nation: A Lecture on the Architecture of McKim, Mead & White
Tuesday, January 18, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Cooper Union, Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square (at 7th Street)
Co-sponsored by The Cooper Union

As America matured in the mid 19th century, the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & (Stanford) White provided buildings for a changing society; from wooden houses in the country to regal social clubs in Manhattan. Many of the Village buildings we walk by and use everyday are fashionable creations of McKim, Mead & White—Washington Square Arch, Judson Memorial Church, and the Tompkins Square Library, to name a few. Learn how this firm helped shape a nation in transition and transformed Manhattan into a budding metropolis.

Talk by Professor Mosette Broderick, architectural historian and Director of the Urban Design and Architecture Studies program as well as the London-based Historical and Sustainable Architecture MA Program at NYU, recently released the book, TRIUMVIRATE: McKim, Mead & White–Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class In America’s Gilded Age.

Henry James, A Child of the Village
Thursday, February 3, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Church of the Ascension, 12 West 11th Street (at 5th Avenue)
Co-sponsored by the Beaux Arts Alliance

Henry James was born in Greenwich Village in 1843, a neighborhood which always had a special place in his heart. Cultural historian David Garrard Lowe will discuss the works of James, as well as his life in New York. The Church of the Ascension set the stage for one of the most moving and mysterious passages in James’ The American Scene, a book which grew out of the author’s last visit to his home town in 1905.

(above, modified versions of GVSHP event descriptions)

Each talk is free; reservations required.
RSVP: rsvp@gvshp.org or 212-475-9585 ext. 34

* See Previous WSP Blog Posts on Henry James and Stanford White and The Washington Square Arch