Angela Davis Speaks at Occupy Washington Square Yesterday, Sunday

Angela Davis Speaks Occupy Washington Square

People listening while Angela Davis speaks

Occupy Washington Square General Assembly Takes Place

And perhaps the most exciting sight to see…

The Arch Un-Barricaded!

UpdatedProfessor, author and activist Angela Davis spoke at Occupy Washington Square yesterday Sunday 10/30 in an inspirational and engaging talk with the Arch as a backdrop, stating: “Your movement calls upon the majority to stand up against the minority. The old minorities are the new majorities.”

Update! See really good Village Voice piece on Davis’s visit to the Park!

And see video here:

Part I Video of Angela Davis speaking at Occupy Washington Square yesterday(Sunday 10/30).
Part II Occupy Wash Square Q&A with Angela Davis
She then headed over to Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park.

Next Occupy Washington Square General Assembly Meeting Wednesday, November 2nd 7 p.m.

Top Photos #1, 2 and 3: Johanna Clearfield

Photos #4, 5: Cathryn.

Previous WSP Blog: Occupy Washington Square Hosts Angela Davis Sunday, October 30th 5 p.m., followed by General Assembly

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Village Children’s Halloween Parade Marches Around Washington Square Today

The 21st Annual Greenwich Village Children’s Halloween Parade precedes the big one which starts at 7 p.m.! and winds its way around Washington Square Park this afternoon. Children and families gather at 3 p.m. at the Arch. Hosted by Community Board 2 and N.Y.U., the parade starts marching at 3:30 p.m. It will make its way to LaGuardia Place between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street where there will be candy, rides, face painting, music and other entertainment. This goes until 6 p.m.

Occupy Washington Square Hosts Angela Davis as Featured Speaker Sunday, October 30th, 5 p.m., followed by General Meeting

Occupy Washington Square will be joined by professor, author and activist Angela Davis as speaker on Sunday, October 30th at 5 p.m. (Meet near Fountain or look for chalked directions on the Plaza.) More on Davis here.

This will be followed by Occupy Washington Square’s General Assembly which now meets on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Park typically around 7 p.m.

City Parks Department’s “Regulations” Take Away From the Very Spirit of What People Come to Washington Square Park For – No Performances Allowed Near Fountain, Benches

At the Occupy Washington Square Park meeting last week, I caught the end of a comment from a woman stating that performers were getting ticketed more frequently at the park. I did not know the so-called “reason” behind this but it appears in this week’s Villager“Musicians are told to keep their distance – from fountain, seats!” :

[Doris] Diether, a member of Community Board 2 and a contributor to this newspaper, said that three guitar players who perform in Washington Square told her that PEP officers told them that performers could not play while sitting on a park bench. The rule is that musicians must stand 5 feet from a bench and 50 feet from a monument or fountain.

Diether said she was hand-feeding a squirrel in the south side of the park on Wed., Oct. 26. when a man told her, “Watch out, I got a $50 fine for feeding squirrels here.”

Despite the common conviction that the enforcement policy in Washington Square is stricter than ever, a Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson said on Wednesday that nothing is special about the current enforcement.

At Washington Square Park the existing regulations are intended to keep paths clear and allow all park users to move about freely and see monuments and views,” said Philip Abramson. He confirmed that performers must stand 5 feet away from benches and cannot perform within 50 feet of a monument or fountain.

This “regulation” requiring performers to stand “5 feet away from benches” and not perform “within 50 feet of a monument or fountain” seems to be a rule to have a rule, to put forth arbitrary order. This is allegedly so people can “move about freely” and “see monuments and views” (that last bit sounds like George Vellonakis-speak) – this takes away from the very spirit that people have historically come to Washington Square Park for; away from what the park’s reputation and very essence is all about.

Taste of the Village at the Park – Recap

Updated 10/30 — So, “Taste of the Village,” happened in mid-September at the Park, hosted by the Village Alliance, the 8th Street BID. This post about the event got delayed due to dying trees, stalled construction and the occupying of Washington Square Park. Since I try to mix it up a bit here, even a bit late, I wanted to report back on the event.

Readers of WSP Blog know that I am not in favor of the trend of privatization of public space — which has increased greatly under the Bloomberg Administration — that includes endless reliance on the model of park conservancies and BIDs – business improvement districts – to either oversee or be entrusted with funding and programming at parks.

We could certainly tie the Village Alliance (the BID from nearby 8th Street) among those pushing at the onset to dramatically redesign the park, particularly under former director Honi Klein. (Klein, inexplicably, also held a position on Community Board 2). There’s a new executive director at the Alliance now, William Kelley, who seems a little more of the times.

This was the first “Taste of the Village” — which is considered a “benefit” to raise funds forthe park and has taken place for the last 9 years — under his watch. I thought it might be nice to experience the event. Kelley accommodated my request to attend and here are some photos and commentary.

8th Street Stalwart Eva's

The Lion on University Place

Mario Batali's GelOtto

Band at the Event

The Fountain in the background

wine tasting

Caviar Pie from Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

George Washington looks on

Set between the Arch and taking over part of the Fountain Plaza with the Fountain in the background, the evening focused on tables laid out with sampling – tastings – from local or nearby restaurants. There was a strong emphasis on meat dishes with only two vegetarian and onetwo fish options. The fish, fluke I believe, from Perilla on Jones Street was quite good. (I don’t eat meat so, in my opinion, Taste of the Village could nix a few meat dishes and add some other more vegetarian-friendly options.) There were vendors offering wine – red, white and rose – as a band played against the backdrop of the fountain.

Tastings included offerings from local restaurants and businesses such as Alma, Eva’s, La Palapa, 8th Street Wine Cellar, Gusto, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, BLT Burger, The Lion, Otto and Argo and Rob’s Really Good Teas (which I really like).

The ticket price was $50 and director William Kelley says that about 400 people attended (did it seem that high? I’m not sure). He said that typically the organization raises about $50,000 for the park (includes money from sponsors).

People I noted by sight were members of Community Board 2 and also the city’s Parks Department. I was surprised that there was no talk or introduction as to why people were there — but maybe that was for the best. Overall, it was a festive soiree and those attending seemed to enjoy it.

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Still, it raises questions – We have a city public space undergoing a redesign that started out with a budget of $16 millionwhich many felt was already unnecessarily high. Now, we see that the projected costs have skyrocketed to double that. If money had been properly allocated and monitored to begin with, would we really need private forces to be raising money to upkeep the park?

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Photos #4, 5, 7, 8: David Sigal

Photos #1, 2, 3, 6, 9: Cathryn

Yesterday at the Park (Photos)

Two Squirrels enjoy the "Hanging Elm" NW Quadrant

Cleaning Up Chess Plaza - Work Resumed ?

Plants Arrive SW Quadrant

Arch Still Barricaded Off

??

Chalked Plaza -- Occupy Washington Square Park

Fall Colors or Another Fountain Tree Dying?

The squirrels in the park were in fine form yesterday … enjoying visitors and regulars, and, of course, the park’s trees — pictured at top is the famous and very old “Hanging Elm” in the North West Quadrant. …

Work appears to have resumed somewhat on construction on Phase II-B – South West Quadrant/Chess Plaza  – signs that someone was there appeared in the form of potted plants and a wheel barrow. …

The Arch is still mysteriously barricaded off. It’s hard to know what to make of that. (Think of the “poor tourists” and visitors wanting to get their pictures taken in front of the Arch! Kidding, sort of.) …

Occupy Washington Square chalked the plaza to announce the location of their meeting the other night. Next meeting is on Wednesday (tomorrow), October 26th at 7 p.m. and the community is invited! …

It’s hard to say if the remaining 3 – living – trees around the fountain — the ones that remain — are now exhibiting fall colors or are dying.

Photos: Cathryn

Arch Remains Barricaded … Occupy Washington Square Next Meets Wednesday, October 26th 7 p.m. at Park

Arch Still Barricaded 10/22

Barricades at the ready at fountain

From Occupy Washington Square meeting notes of October 22nd:

Welcome!

Who we are: The General Assembly of Washington Square Park – we are different from “OWS” in Zucotti Park, which is a 24-hour occupation.

What does “occupy” mean? – can mean ‘occupy your mind’; ‘occupy the space your mind’; ‘occupy public spaces’

This is a space for open forum and discussion, to give all voices a chance to be heard.

In addition, via Twitter:

Our next #GeneralAssembly meeting will be Wednesday, 10/26 at 7pm in #WashingtonSquare. Town Planning – nurturing the local WSP community.

Among Other Things, Phase II Contractor Confirms WSP Fountain is Not Aligned with the Arch After All (Part II)

Oh Dear...

Updated 3:45 p.m. — I’ve written here about the problems and certainly the delays on Washington Square Park’s redesign over the last few years. Now it has been confirmed that the stalled work on Phase II, halted for six weeks now, is due to a dispute between the city’s Parks Department and the contractor, Tucci Equipment Rental Corporation. Anthony Martucci, the head of Tucci, says that the Parks Department has not paid him a large sum he is owed and is cutting payment amounts for work for which costs were approved in advance by the city agency.

In an email to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Community Board representatives, City Council members, and select press this week, Martucci says that he agreed to a “gag order” after speaking out last fall about problems at the park (see this post from September 2010 for some details of the problems at that time). He says he came to an agreement at that time with the Parks Department and the relationship was relatively harmonious for awhile. That harmony ended at some point earlier this year.

In his email, Martucci outlines some significant pieces of information. Perhaps the one of most interest relates to the aligning of the fountain with the Arch.

A little history of WSP Blog coverage on this topic — I wrote about this possible misalignment in August 2008 and also after a reader, Steve, commented in August 2009, as follows:

Is anyone ever going to admit that the fountain is now aligned to nothing — not the center of the park as it was before, not the arch and not 5th Avenue? What was the point of moving it?!?!?! It is NOT aligned to either the arch or the avenue.

The Bloomberg Administration’s grand “vision” for Washington Square Park included moving the Fountain from its historic location to a new placement 22 feet east so it would align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue. Pretty much no one agreed with this change in location but the administration would not be deterred.

The fountain had been in its previous location – which was the actual CENTER OF THE PARK – since 1871; over 137 years, until Mayor Michael Bloomberg became in charge.

The Parks Department claimed that it would not cost any additional money to construct the fountain in a new location — a new location which involved rerouting water lines — but that is up for much debate and likely untrue – an obfuscation of the truth. Moving water lines would have to add additional costs.

In 2007, community activist Jonathan Greenberg hired a company to assess the costs of moving the Fountain and presented the findings to Council Member Alan Gerson. The company’s assessment was that it would cost at least $500,000 to move the Fountain. Gerson queried the Parks Department about this and the agency insisted there was no additional cost involved and the former Council Member took them at their word. It was one last try, after ongoing attempts to persevere by the community, to get the fountain location move stopped, as even the Landmarks Preservation Commission caved to Bloomberg’s wishes (and tactics).

From Martucci’s email:

So Tucci did some investigating, found out the center of the fountain was actually 4 ft out from the center. This threw all the designers dimensions off, and Parks knew it but didn’t tell Tucci because they didn’t want to let the public know.

When Tucci exposed this, Parks to protect them self was going to default Tucci from the project.

I have fought very hard to finish this job, Tucci hasn’t gotten paid now for 3 months, and just recently parks has cut payment 13 from $650,000 to $276,000 without explanation.

That is one reason the chess plaza was stalled last year — remember when a tree was in the way of the planned curb? It seemed at the time like a small error which the Parks Department and contractor could not come to an agreement on how to resolve. Actually it was due to a BIGGER ERROR – the mis-aligning of the Fountain. (And, as we know, other errors have caused casualties such as the repeatedly dying trees around the fountain — young trees which replaced perfectly healthy 40 year old trees in the original location.)

What else has this thrown off?

Does this just confirm that, after all, the famous Washington Square Park Fountain could have been left in its well-liked and historic original location as the “mid-point” of the park?

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Previously on WSP Blog:

* Wouldn’t it be ironic if – after everything – the Washington Square Park Fountain was still off-center to the Arch? August 7, 2008

* So … *is* the Washington Square Park Fountain aligned to the Arch? August 10, 2009

* Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Fountain is already aligned. As is, Fountain is Park’s midpoint. June 2, 2008

* What’s happening with Phase II-B / Chess Plaza & SW End? August 31, 2011

* Part I: Washington Square Park Phase II: An Eerie Silence — What’s Going On? September 1, 2010

* Part II: Washington Square Park Phase II: Lack of Transparency and Oversight Continue September 7, 2010

* Part I: Community Board 2 and NY City Council Disavow Oversight of WSP Redesign Project as Phase II Construction Stalled for Five Weeks October 18, 2011

Photo: J. Bary

Part II on Status of Park, Problems, Delays & Reasons Why… Next

Stay tuned!

— update: coming Friday!

Part I: Community Board 2 and NY City Council Disavow Oversight of Washington Square Park Redesign Project As Phase II Construction Stalled for Five Weeks

Amended sign- Completion Date: "Or whenever... zzz"

On September 29th, I wrote about how construction on the SouthWest Quadrant/Chess Plaza at Washington Square Park had been stopped for about 3 weeks. 5 weeks passed with no movement or signs of life on this last piece of long overdue Redesign: Phase II work. At this point, delays in the project do not surprise me. Why this is happening is due to a dispute between the Parks Department and the contractor (more on that later).

What does surprise me is the lack of oversight by just about everyone you’d expect to be monitoring this project.

Let’s review the players —

Washington Square Park Task Force

There IS a Washington Square Park Task Force – although you’d never know it – this body seemed to dissolve once City Council Member Alan Gerson left office – replacement Margaret Chin has been totally MIA on the project. Community Board 2 has pretended that the Task Force doesn’t exist and Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not prompted it to keep going. The body was part of the “Gerson-Quinn Agreement,” created for the express purpose of giving the community an opportunity to provide oversight on the project and monitor work on the park’s redesign. In March of 2010, I wrote a piece about how the only way the Task Force would function properly is if it was separated from Community Board 2. Clearly, that remains accurate.

Community Board 2

Trees are dying, work is stopped, project is months behind schedule, budget continues ballooning, something is wrong with the Fountain … and yet Community Board 2 has only chimed in – with regards to WSP in the last year – when they sent out Bob Gormley to talk to the media about the bathroom hours being cut.

Brad Hoylman is back after a 2 year hiatus as Chair of the Board (CB2 chairs only serve 2 year terms). Some may have mixed feelings on his role in the negotiations for the park’s redesign years prior, and he does, after all, work for pro-Bloomberg entity, Partnership for New York City. My experience was that he was pretty decent at moving things along and bringing up and addressing issues during the period I first became involved (2008).

However, since Hoylman returned in June of this year, there’s been no progress or spotlight on the park by the board. He’s left Parks Committee chair Tobi Bergman in charge. As I’ve mentioned, Bergman is a former Parks Department employee who doesn’t take a very hard look at anything related to the Parks Department (in fact, his current job is somewhat dependent on the city agency).

NY City Council

No involvement at all. Council Member Margaret Chin’s office completely unresponsive. Council Speaker Christine Quinn – who was a huge part of the “Gerson-Quinn Agreement” – is hands off at this point but, then, she’s not being pushed to be involved by the bodies that ought to be doing so – the Community Board and Task Force.

We know that the Parks Department is a dysfunctional agency, and so, at this point, this is a project run amok.

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An Overview:

Phase II Original completion date: Fall 2010. Work was split into two parts earlier this year — Phase II-A (eastern end) opened June 2nd. Budget for all three phases of the park’s elaborate redesign was $16 Million – that figure has now doubled.

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Previously on WSP Blog: Has Phase II just stopped? September 29, 2011