Chess Plaza Opened Today!

Remaining Fences Down!

Among the first Chess Players at newly open Chess Plaza

Path looking South

Well, it took 29 months, but, at last, the Chess Plaza and SW Quadrant – Phase II-B of construction at the Park – has opened today!

It feels smaller and a bit less cozy than before. Well, it IS smaller. The Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and I had a bit of a back-and-forth back in February of 2009 about a # of issues related to WSP, including the Chess Plaza being reduced, and he stated the following:

While the overall size of the plaza is being reduced somewhat, the most critical area of the chess plaza is the chess tables, not the center which is generally empty. The renovation will include the same number of tables, but they will be new, better designed and more welcoming to more chess players – and they will be accessible to people with disabilities. There will be plenty of space for onlookers to stand and watch the games. As with the rest of the park, the renovation of the chess area will likely result in greater use, not less.

The difference is that before it didn’t feel so much like a space you just ‘passed through’ which is the feeling now. Things happened in the center which the Parks Commissioner felt was “generally empty” — a space which is now occupied by a flower bed. Perhaps that space that the Parks Commissioner thought was basically useless served a purpose after all?

(Note: Will add in a photo to illustrate!)

At least Phase II is now officially complete! (Of course, parts of the original Phase II moved into Phase III.)

Previously at WSP Blog:

* Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II

* After 29 Months, Will the Final ‘Piece’ of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II Construction – Chess Plaza – Open Tomorrow? March 1, 2012

The News You’ve Been Awaiting: Eastern Side of Washington Square Park (Phase IIA of Redesign) Opened Today!

The news you’ve been looking for! The Northeast and Southeast Quadrants of Washington Square Park opened today, Thursday, June 2nd! This will complete Phase II – A, a large section of the park, the entire eastern side, which has been under construction for 20 months. PHOTOS COMING!

Phase II was scheduled for completion by Fall 2010; then we heard the end of the year (tho’ doubted it), then “Spring 2011,” then “by Memorial Day,” but park goers looked happy to be finally able to stream through the eastern end of the park.

Of course, this isn’t all of Phase II, since, for one, part of it (The Mounds and the Large Dog Run) was moved into Phase III. And Chess Plaza, technically still in Phase II, now Phase II-B, won’t be finished til the end of the month. At least, at last, it’s something!

WSP Blog chronicled the problems back in September 2010 outlining how the city’s parks department caused numerous delays in getting the job done, how the project was over-budget, and the fact that no governmental agencies were providing oversight.

Washington Square Park’s entire redesign – Phases I, II, and III – was budgeted and approved for $16 Million at the onset. Phase I alone — which moved the fountain to align with the Arch, reduced the public space around the fountain, and re-landscaped the NorthWest Quadrant, opened in May of 2009 — cost $13 Million. Phase II was budgeted at $9 Million but will likely be $8 Million and that’s without the Large Dog Run and Mounds (included in the original figure). Phase III (rest rooms and administrative building – the new “pergola”) had been budgeted at $9 Million (note – that’s before the cost of the Mounds and Dog Run are added in). (Got all that?)

Since the Parks Department’s projects continue to be seriously over-budget with no apparent oversight by any governing body, the project by the end will have more than doubled from its approved budget and is now projected for $30-$35 Million in cost.

The fountain is out from under wraps but not on yet – in case you were wondering.

PHOTOS here.

Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II — Photos

Fences Up SouthWest Side!

Fences Up SouthWest Side!

Where Do Old Benches Go To Die?

Where Do Old Benches Go To Die?

NorthEast Entrance Benches Gone

NorthEast Entrance Benches Gone

Performing Ftn Plaza by Fence

WSP Tree "Protection" Could Certainly be Improved

WSP Tree "Protection" Could Certainly be Improved

Soon to be Demolished Alcove SE Side (4 will Remain; 2 Removed)

Soon to be Demolished Alcove SE Side (4 will Remain; 2 Removed)

Park Closes 12 a.m.?

Park Closes 12 a.m.?

WSP Blog is taking a short hiatus until Monday, November 2nd (right before Election Day!) but there’s still a few posts lingering (more updated photos of the work, and some commentary) that I’ll post in the interim so check back!

Free Chess Lessons Begin Today at Wash Sq Park NW Corner Mondays-Thursdays 1-5 p.m. Through August 6th

Beginning Today — Free Chess Lessons at Washington Square Park!
Mondays through Thursdays * 1 pm-5 pm
July 6th – August 6th

Northwest corner of Washington Square Park near Washington Square West and Waverly Place

Instruction for children and adults! All levels welcome – from first-time players to seasoned pros

Master chess instructor available  * Come every day or just once or twice

This program is co-sponsored by Chess-in-the- Schools, the Friends of Washington Square Park and the City of New York Parks and Recreation.

Part IV: Update on NYC’s Redesign of Washington Square Park – It’s All a Chess Game

chess lesson at washington square park

chess lesson at washington square park

At the recent meeting of the Washington Square Park Task Force, an entity convened by Community Board 2 and local elected officials, there were some items related to the redesign of Washington Square Park in future phases – it’s currently in Phase I – for which answers were not available.

Such as:

*Chess Tables – The famous Washington Square Park chess tables will remain in the southwest corner of the Park. However, based on the “Plaza” that has been constructed in the Northwest corner (all corner “Plazas” will basically look alike – it’s a symmetry thing), the Chess area square footage and public space will be significantly reduced.

I asked Park Administrator Rebecca Ferguson, representing the Parks Department at the meeting, how many chess tables there would be in the new design. It has been speculated that the number will be greatly reduced. She did not have an answer.

*Alcoves – On the northeast, east and southeast sections of the park, there are small alcove sitting areas that add greatly to the charm of the park. They contain smaller groups of people but are used for people watching, reading, quiet conversations, playing guitar. A little removed from the main activity but not too much. The sentiment at the meeting was that these areas should be saved. The present plans call for these areas to be demolished. Steve Simon, Manhattan Borough Parks Department Chief of Staff, commented, “Nothing’s been finalized [but we] have to mirror the pathways built in Phase I.”

As with many comments delivered by the New York City Parks Department, the question remains : Why ?

*Trees14 trees were chopped down in Phase I of the redesign of the Park. This included the trees that lined the fountain — the City states that in order to dig up the foundation around the plaza, the trees had to go — but a good portion of them were just in the way of the redesign. I advocated at the meeting that the Parks Department begin to work existing trees into their design plans.

When asked how many trees were being chopped down in the remaining phases, Rebecca Ferguson stated that she did not know. She said that the Parks Department is conducting an “ongoing survey” (by an arborist) of the health of the trees. However, the issue – when New York City Parks Department redesigns a city park – typically is not the deteriorating health of the trees. Consistently the reason for the destruction of the trees is that they are inconvenient for the new look and splashy overhaul.

At Union Square Park, 14 trees on the North side were chopped down in May. These mature trees clearly could have been worked into the playground design. They were viewed by the Parks Department – the caretakers of our trees – as expendable. Parks Commissioner Benepe told me in April that the Union Square trees headed for the chopping block were all “dying.” One day later, in court, the City admitted that just two of the trees were possibly at risk due to ‘health’ issues. The rest were fine.


Stay tuned… there’s more!

Read Parts I, II and III below to catch up.

Here’s the next installment. Part V.