Squirrel Meet Nut

Before the rain… More on that Monday. I’m a bit backlogged on posts but they’re coming!

New Posts Coming Monday!

Check back! (Needed to take a few days break…)

Scene at Union Square Park

Near George Washington Statue

South of the Plaza

Eastern Perimeter -- NYPD "Command Post"

Last week — Union Square Park.

Photos: Cathryn

Today: Same Sex/Gay Marriage Ceremonies Performed Under the Arch 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Free, too)

“Gay-Friendly” NYC Wedding Officiants Rev. Annie Lawrence and Rev. Will Mercer will perform gay marriages, today, Tuesday, July 26, 2011, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Washington Square Park under the Arch. This is the first week that Same-Sex Marriage is legal in New York. Free and open to all gay couples with a Marriage License.

Reverend Annie says Walk-ins are welcome! Couples who have their marriage license just show up. As long as there is room (reservations were also taken in advance), they will fit you in.

Info (slightly edited) from Time Out NY:

You need to have your marriage license for 24 hours before a ceremony can be performed. Applications were opened for Marriage Licenses at all Marriage Bureau locations in the 5 Boroughs of New York City on July 5, 2011, and for pick up on *Sunday, July 24*. You must wait 24 hours from the date and time noted on your Marriage License before your Ceremony can be legally performed. City Hall Marriage Bureau.

Then again, I keep hearing that marriage is a “dying institution.” Of course, everyone should have the right to go there. But, according to The Week, even the founder of E-Harmony advised people (straight and gay, presumably): “don’t do it.” Oh well.


From the New York Times: New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, June 24, 2011

New York Civil Liberties Union FAQ’s on Marriage Equality Act (2011)

IntenSati Fitness Flash Mob Hits Washington Square Early Friday Morning

DNAInfo has the story and video — Flash Mob Brings Fitness Moves to Washington Square Park:

Searing heat failed to halt a flashmob of fitness fanatics from gathering in Washington Square Park Friday(7/22).

With temperatures already close to 90 degrees, more than 50 dancers streamed into the park at 8:30 a.m. for the impromptu intenSati cardio workout.

“I am the change I want to see!” the group chanted, as part of a sequence that was a mixture of aerobics, spoken affirmations and meditation.

“It sucks you in. The positive affirmations are great,” said Shanna Fried, 33, a personal trainer who began taking intenSati two weeks ago at Equinox Gym.

“It’s a great workout…and Patricia is very inspirational,” Fried said of intenSati creator Patricia Moreno.

Participants at the Park were encouraged to jump in.

“I have no idea what this is, but nothing surprises me anymore,” laughed [Ivo] Entchev, a Canadian native who came to New York eight months ago. “It was like power yoga.”

“On some level, I wanted to get up and join them, but I didn’t because the moves are too complicated.”

He plans to Google the practice to learn more, but he still said he’d never stand up and join.

“I’d be embarrassed,” he said. “It’s a lot of girls and they’re more coordinated.”

Here is intenSati Website.

Classes are offered at Equinox at 97 Greenwich Avenue (at West 12th).

A little bit of history: This location (97 Greenwich Avenue) formerly housed the Art Greenwich Twin movie theater from 1936/early 1940’s to June 2000; soon after it was demolished to become an Equinox. Flaming Pablum has a photo of the theater’s former marquee. (I could not locate a photo of the old building. Anyone have one?)

Photos of IntenSati Flash Mob: Meredith Hoffman/DNAInfo

Seen at the Park — Friendships

There are friendships, alliances and an appreciation of all wildlife in Washington Square Park.

Photo: Cathryn

Young Dancemakers Company Performance At the Arch Today, July 22nd, 6 p.m.

Young Dancemakers Company Performing Mark Morris Repertory

Today, Young Dancemakers Company, a dance ensemble comprised of New York City public high school students who create and perform their own choreographed work at free concerts throughout the city, will perform at the Arch at 6 p.m.

New York Times:

Selected by audition, the teenage members of Young Dancemakers each year present their own works and one by a well-known choreographer: in this case an excerpt from José Limón’s “Psalm.” Even audience members get in on the act: directed by Alice Teirstein, every show ends with “Dance With Us,” an opportunity to go onstage and improvise with the company.

Friday, July 22nd at 6 p.m. (rain date, Saturday), Washington Square Park, the Arch.

It’s unlikely it will rain as the forecast is sunny and expected to reach 100° in the city today.

They may want to improvise and leap from the Arch right into the fountain!

In the News: Washington Square Music Festival

Today’s New York Times features a review, Unusual Sounds to Play in a Park,” of this week’s concert by the Washington Square Music Festival (it was the second performance of the season):

The programming at free outdoor summer events often favors standard repertory, but the Washington Square Music Festival veered far off the beaten path with a concert called “The Joy of Unfamiliar Music” on Tuesday evening. A large crowd braved sweltering weather to hear the Festival Chamber Ensemble play works by Berio, Emmanuel Séjourné, Corrado Maria Saglietti and Vincenzo Gambaro.

Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052) was the only chestnut in the lineup, and it was offered with an unusual twist. The marimba player Pius Cheung, who has transcribed Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations for his instrument, played the solo part with flair, although the softer passages were sometimes barely audible despite amplification, and there was some shaky ensemble work.

More at the New York Times.

Of course, braving the “sweltering weather” was not easy for those in the audience because the amazing two trees that previously surrounded that location amidst the walkway were chopped down. I was told people were complaining at the premiere performance July 12th that there are no trees and therefore no shade to absorb some of the heat. The designer told me personally that those two trees would not be axed – but they were. If they still remained, the stage would have some shade. (There’s a lot of tree issues going on at the park right now.)

There’s no mention in the review of the low stage (which was 36″ high and is now 28″) and how this affected sight lines. (Previous WSP Blog coverage here.) I have not attended a performance this year so I cannot report personally yet.

There are two more concerts of the Washington Square Music Festival Tuesday, July 26th and Tuesday, August 2nd. All shows begin at 8 p.m.

Squirrel Meet Hawk

Violet or Bobby? Probably Not Pip

Bird's Eye View?

That’s a squirrel box in the Park (erected by the Parks Department) and, yes, there’s a squirrel in there! Who, apparently, survived — at least, that day.

Last week, I posted commenter Drew’s thoughts as to how to help the Washington Square Park squirrels. He wrote:

I entered WSP again today shortly after 2pm and immediately came upon one of the hawks, just west of the arch. The hawk was sitting directly on top of one of the squirrel houses. Just inside the squirrel house was one terrified occupant. The hawk sat there for quite some time, at least 20 minutes, before finally flying off.

It seems like the squirrels are easy pickings for the hawks. Perhaps the Parks Department might consider a modification of the squirrel houses (to make the tops less like attractive as a perch) and/or a relocation of some of the houses.

The hawks are a sight to behold – but it would be a shame to lose the playful squirrels that have been a fixture of the park for, well, ever.

The hawks are going to eat squirrels or rats or pigeons but we don’t have to make it quite so easy! It seems like modifying the top of the boxes would be the easier thing to do and contemplating better locations.

Roger_Paw Blog has been documenting newest Red-tailed Hawk Pip’s exploration of Washington Square Park with some amazing footage. Pip is still being assisted with food from parents Bobby and Violet and Bobby is still looking out for her around the Park.

One of the hawk blogs said, within a few days of fledging (leaving the nest), Pip would be on her own and she might not make it if she didn’t figure how to survive quickly. But, like a lot I’ve read about the hawks that seems to be stated as fact and then seems to be a bit off, she is still acting like a young bird who needs her parents.

Pip isn’t quite in killing mode yet it seems. Here is footage of Pip taunting and being taunted by the squirrels. If this was Bobby or Violet tho’, this would not be the case!

More on Violet, Bobby and Pip on WSP Blog.

Previous WSP Blog Post: With 3 Hawks in the hood, Can we give the Washington Square Park squirrels a little assistance?

Photo: Drew O.

Part II – Arborcidal Design For Fountain Trees at Washington Square. Will City’s Parks Department Address This At Last?

Dead Tree #1 - by the Arch (3rd time)

The New York City Parks Department has a page on their web site dedicated to tree damage and arborcide which states:

It is illegal and punishable by law for citizens to remove, kill, or damage a street or park tree, whether intentionally or accidentally.

In April 2008, The New York Times wrote of two incidents of person(s) killing trees in Soho and Inwood Hill Park. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said at the time: “there is a city law against arborcide, passed during Mr. [Henry] Stern’s tenure as commissioner, that provides for fines of up to $15,000 and even jail time for tree killers.”

So what can be done when the tree killing is being done by the Parks Department itself?

It’s striking enough that under this Parks Department and Mayor thousands of trees have been unnecessarily felled. When Mike Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Benepe talk about their “MillionTrees Initiative,” it’s one of the biggest greenwashing ruses possibly that exists, at least within this urban environment.

Dead Tree #2 - east side (3rd time)

The seven trees that have died around the fountain – planted and replanted; it totals seven over 2 years – presumably weren’t meant to be killed, but, due to an inappropriate design and lack of follow-through by the Parks Department, that is the result. In two locations, new trees have died three times after being planted. (Seven of the tree locations that surround the fountain are new and part of the park’s redesign; the new trees have replaced the previous 40+ year old trees which were healthy and thriving. More on this below.)

The dead trees were brought up at a Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting in December 2009 (note: the Community Board has not addressed this since).

I wrote at that time:

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 [note: when I asked] 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.

Latest #3 - west (as it was dying)

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.

What I didn’t write when I first reported this — the landscape architect I encountered had strong ties to, and inside knowledge of, the Parks Department and was very familiar with structural soil (which is what is being used around the Fountain trees). He told me at the time that it was possible that all the trees would eventually die (and now we see that a third one has).

I’ve since also been told more recently by another expert that the roots are too deep and the tree’s roots are being suffocated. (Also, see this informative comment at WSP Blog left this morning.)

Neighborhood activist Sharon Woolums interviewed a “tree expert” who looked at the trees and confirmed all of the above. From her piece in the Villager from December 2009:

First, the tree pits they were planted in were a huge mistake because there appears to be no drainage capability! [Richard] Hawthorne surmised it was a design detail that won, over advice from any certified arborist.

“Instead of planting them in a pit,” Hawthorne explained, “they should have been planted at ground level with a small retaining wall built around them, the same diameter as the pits, preferably larger, making sure holes are built at the base of the walls to allow excess water to drain off. The walls would even offer a bench for people to sit on while listening to bluegrass music.”

I said, “Isn’t that what we used to have?

Second, Hawthorne maintains that some of the trees around the fountain were not properly planted. Too much dirt was piled over the “root flair,” which Hawthorne maintains can smother and kill them. A tree bought in a nursery, balled or burlapped, has only 15 percent of its required root system: That’s why it’s so important to make sure they are planted correctly. The worst and most common mistake is planting a tree too deep.

It doesn’t seem to be much of a secret — by those knowledgeable in this area — that the design is the problem. In effect, our city’s Parks Department is committing arborcide. The agency has not moved to properly evaluate – and remedy – the situation due to (what can only be attributed to) internal politics, bureaucracy, and a lack (seemingly) of anyone stepping forward to attribute the dead trees to the design.

At the time I met this landscape architect with connections at the Park in August of 2009, I asked him (somewhat naively, it seems), “If it’s known that there’s a problem and the trees will die, wouldn’t someone send a memo to the Parks Commissioner?”

He gave this some thought for a moment; then responded that they could … but they likely won’t. He said no one would step forward to implicate the design and contradict George Vellonakis, the park’s re-designer (who is on staff at the Parks Department), because of the ramifications for doing so within the city agency. The trees, he said, would keep dying until eventually it could no longer be ignored and required acknowledgement that there was an inherent problem. And that is exactly what has been happening. But will it be acknowledged this time?

Such is the dysfunction of this city’s Parks Department. Killing our park’s trees.

Tree #3 officially dead (west)

Part I from Monday July 11th: Why do the Newly Planted Trees Keep Dying Around the Washington Square Fountain?

Photos: Cathryn
Note: The three dead trees, pictured above, are no longer there; they were removed Tuesday morning.