Community Board 2 Washington Sq Park Task Force Meets Thurs. July 17th

After a long hiatus, Community Board 2’s Washington Square Park Task Force meets this coming Thursday, July 17th, at 6:30 p.m. NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 520 (ID Required). I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that it’s being held in an NYU Building (although it would be more reassuring if it was in a different location).

This is the agenda, as posted on Community Board 2’s web site:

1. Status report on phase 1 construction.
2. Status report on phase 2 planning and design, including initial report on dog run design.
3. Status report on comfort station and maintenance building planning.

4. Design of playgrounds including “mounds” area.

When I encountered Council Member Alan Gerson at the City Council Parks Department Budget Hearing in May, he alerted me that the Task Force could weigh in on the pathways and design elements (planters, benches, etc.) which are clearly already underway at the Park. And not just the playgrounds and the “mounds.” (I would call Council Member Gerson’s office to clarify this but, as his office does not return my phone calls, I have no way of getting his take on this.)

Is that not so? None of the items on this agenda seem to have any empowering aspects to them or any regulation over the look or design of the park. (For those who have been entrenched in this issue for the long haul, I realize that may sound naive.) It’s not the playgrounds that are going to change the entire character of the Park.

What do we want this Task Force to be doing? What should the Community Improvement District be asking for? The Community Board has a tendency to shirk back and then attribute this to their “advisory” status (which is also used as an excuse for not taking stronger positions), now it’s time for them to step forward.

Thoughts on Construction at Washington Square Park

new fountain hole at washington sq parkSomebody mentioned the other day that they walked by Washington Square Park and it looked like the whole place had been bulldozed. (Which … of course… a lot of it has.)

It’s true – when you walk by the Northwest Quadrant where the work is being done now – everything that was connected and seemed intimate and inviting about the space has been made to appear barren. There’s large concrete paths. There’s “plazas” but you won’t see or interact with the people sitting across from you because there will be ornamental flower beds between you and them. (Think suburban park.)

Flowers are beautiful, of course, but part of the charm of Washington Square Park is the ways in which you’d connect with others there. There will now be impediments to that. And it doesn’t feel like you would want to stroll through, it feels like a passageway. Of course, it’s not done yet.

Which brings me to the information I was told by City Council Member Alan Gerson at the City Council Parks Department Budget Hearing. He mentioned that Manhattan Community Board 2 has some say in some of the design (not the things most of us would like to see changed, but still) but they have not met to discuss it. He wasn’t sure why.

(Council Member Gerson – Washington Square Park falls in his district – acts as if there was just nothing he could do about the redesign of Washington Square Park – when clearly there was. He took the easy route and sold out his community.)

The work at Washington Square Park is proceeding and the Community Board hasn’t met to discuss it … do they think the Parks Department is waiting for their input?

J. Bary, who took this photo and has been photographing the work there, says there’s trees being dropped in around the new fountain location but – if so – I haven’t noticed them. It’s possible that they are mostly visible from high up – where he is taking his photos from. It’s also probable that I focus so intently on the hole in the ground where the “aligned” fountain is supposed to appear that I’ve missed them.