What’s happening with Phase II-B / Chess Plaza & Southwestern End Construction? Will it Reach Completion This Year?

Checking in on Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II

September is around the corner and while Phase II-A – the entire Eastern end – finally opened a few months ago in early June; the remainder, Phase II-B, the Southwestern Quadrant which includes the Chess Plaza, is still lagging far behind.

Lately, it looks like the work has stalled. Are the same issues that I first reported one year ago still occurring now? One thing is certain, the absence of oversight by any city governing agency continues.

While neglecting to provide a reason for the prolonged delay, Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson pointedly commented that the construction will be finished “by end of summer” which he clarified “is mid/late September.” The Parks Department web site says Fall 2011.

WSP’s Phase II construction: A story of moving parts and roving completion dates

Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II originally included the entire Northeast and Southeast side as well as the Southwest Quadrant of the Park including the Chess Plaza, Mounds, Large Dog Run and Perimeter Sidewalks.

These last three areas have been removed from Phase II entirely (moved into Phase III) although, all of Phase II, with these sections included, was initially scheduled to be completed by Fall 2010. That date then moved to December (tho’ I doubted it); next came word of Spring 2011. After this, Phase II was split into two parts with the city’s Parks Department reporting that the Eastern end was scheduled to open “around Memorial Day.” That date was pretty close to being realized — Phase IIA opened June 2nd of this year.

Phase II B was supposed to follow a similar trajectory. In April, it was announced that its completion was scheduled “in June,” to follow close on the heels of the Eastern side. However, as the SW section dragged behind, the date changed to “August 8th,” and now, as you see, the official word is end of September.

As a relatively small section of the park, what could be the hold up? Some days there’s barely any work done and yet two Fridays ago, there was much action with numerous workers and multiple trucks (that was the day the trees were removed). At that time, it seemed like the work could be completed momentarily. Since then, not so much.

Will people be able to actively use Chess Plaza again this year? Will the London Plane tree in the Plaza survive?

As you see, questions remain with no concrete answers.

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Coverage Close to One Year Ago at WSP Blog:

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 & Oversight Continues September 7, 2010

Phase II Parks Department WSP construction signs — “Working to Improve Your Park” —

Completion Fall 2010

Completion Spring 2011

Summer 2011

Washington Square Park Dog Run Flooding Ignored; Rainwater and Restroom “Runoff” Creating Disease-Producing Conditions

Gothamist reports on the status of the Washington Square Park Dog Run after a reader informed the site that a combination of rain and “runoff from the adjacent restrooms” was causing a huge flood in the middle of the dog run. The reader wrote:

Backed up drain from restroom filling the run, mosquitos everywhere, hookworm and giardia epidemics. This is crazy, where are our dogs supposed to go and why doesn’t the city care about this diseased cesspool in the middle of Washington Square Park?

I don’t venture into the Dog Run much but this situation sounds beyond horrible; yet fixable and in need of priority attention.

A commenter (“washingtonsquareparksucks” – hmm…) at the site wrote:

The dog run has been like this for over a month. There have absolutely been sick dogs with hookworm and giardia. One vet said he saw five cases in one day and they all were dogs who attend this run. It is a shame that the entire park has had a facelift and the dog run has become a festering waste.

As a dog walker with over 25 dogs a day to exercise there is no way I would bring my clients animals in there. This is a disgrace. The park manager Becky has supposedly tried to get a city plumber but to no avail. She has also been spread thin because of budget cuts and is now managing Union Square Park and Washington Square Park making her unavailable to really prioritize this issue. The dog park manager Pat has blown this issue off because she is frustrated with the whole remodel and never being able to get anything done via the parks department.  Village residents are disgusted and have been campaigning everyone to call 311. We all know how that effective that is… useless. PLEASE FIX OUR DOG RUN!

So, does this further confirm the fact that the city’s Parks Department, under Commissioner Adrian Benepe, entirely has its priorities backwards? Parks are being overhauled left and right (Union Square, Washington Square, Prospect Park, the High Line) with no regard to how to upkeep them – during or afterwards.

Where is the City Council? Where is Margaret Chin? (It’s her district but she’s been profoundly low key unlike her predecessor Alan Gerson, who may not have been perfect, but was responsive in his own way.) How is there NO oversight?

Seen At George’s Dog Run, Washington Square: Help the NYC ACC Shelters

Dog Run, Washington Square

Items needed for Animal Care & Control Shelter System in NYC. Totally problematic system in need of reform (see blog post below), but, if you have any of these items (blankets, cat litter, toys, cleaning supplies) and can help New York City’s animals, you can leave them there at the park.

Previous WSP Blog post: *How the New York City Shelter System – ACC, Animal Care & Control – system is ‘broken’; 13,000 animals killed in 2009

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.