NYU Students Will Never Graduate in WSP Again; New Design Cuts Available Seating from 19,000 to 14,000

It seems all those arguments by the New York City Parks Department that there’d be no loss of public space with the redesign of Washington Square Park, were, um, as we knew, a bit false.

The proposed reduction in public space at the Park was revealed by community activist Jonathan Greenberg and his lawsuit, which aimed to stop the city’s plans from moving forward. Court documents revealed that the reduction in public space around the fountain would be 23%. Although the information was never provided to the Community Board or City Council Members Alan Gerson or Christine Quinn by the Parks Department, they also didn’t seem to look into it too deeply. But now, we have additional proof, by, of all places, New York University!

NYU Local reported Friday that NYU will never hold their graduation in Washington Square Park again (something many – who are not NYU students – will most likely be happy about). 2008 was the first time in 32 years that the graduation was not held in WSP. The ceremony was moved to Yankee Stadium. The park’s redesign causes the Fountain Plaza to accommodate only 14,000 people; it previously could hold 19,000 or more.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told me in person when I asked him in 2008, as Phase I was getting under way, “there is no reduction of public space.” If 5,000 less students can be accommodated on the Fountain Plaza and surrounding area, that’s a reduction of 26%.

This once again brings up the question: Shouldn’t we expect our City officials to provide us with accurate information and to tell the truth?

Many thought one of the major goals of the elaborate redesign plan was to level the Fountain Plaza and make it more “picture perfect” with endless lawn space and pretty flowers for NYU’s Graduation Ceremony; this signals otherwise.

New York University, which hasn’t won over many fans in the Village or much of the city with their overarching real estate domination, contributed $1 million towards the park’s reconstruction. This $1 million was part of the original budget of $16 million for Phases I, II and III of the construction. The expected cost of the plan has now doubled to at least $32 million.

Community Board 2 ultimately rescinded its approval of the park redesign plan, tho’ in a somewhat oblique manner.

Photo: J. Bary via Flickr

See also; video: The Truth About Washington Square Park

In the News… NYU Student goes for home run at graduation at Yankee Stadium — First time in 32 years graduation not held at Washington Sq Pk

Yesterday, for the first time in 32 years, NYU Students NYU Student at Yankee Stadium Graduation May 14, 08graduated somewhere other than Washington Square Park, and one ambitious student, William Lopez, decided to try for a home run at replacement graduation site, Yankee Stadium. He got to third base before he was tackled by a security guard. (Seriously, he got that far. They couldn’t have let him score a home run?)

As the Daily News reported, “NYU held the ceremony at the Stadium because of ongoing construction at Washington Square Park, where previous graduation ceremonies had been held.”

Lopez is on the cover of many of the papers (Daily News, Metro) and was cheered on by fellow NYU graduates for his pants-less act.

For a picture of it, see the cover of Metro in which Patrick Arden also has an alarming cover story, “City gives a pass to Toxic Turf Ballfields: Shrugs off data indicating heat would release gases from rubber base.”