Washington Square Park Maintenance Issues Remain Unaddressed, City Opts To Place Ineffective and Hawk-Killing Rodenticide in Park (See Update: Rodenticide Removed!)

Updated!

Overflow trash in open top containers

8:24 p.m. — Good news! Roger Paw blogger wrote in to say that the bait boxes have been removed! See more info from that blog here. Now, if the park maintenance issues can be addressed…

Original post follows —

Washington Square Park has been rodenticide-free for awhile – but no longer. Rodenticide bait traps have been placed in locations in the park. (I had a feeling this was coming.)

Throughout New York City this year, Red-tailed hawks have been poisoned by “secondary poisoning” (eating a poisoned rat). Rodenticide is not the answer. Proper maintenance of trash is the only solution —  this has been proven again and again, and yet, at Washington Square, containment of the park’s trash is a serious problem. This is a Parks Department maintenance issue and also education issue of park users. However, if trash cans are full and not emptied, that compounds the problem.

The latest from Hawk cam chat member City Woman who writes:

Many devoted hawk watchers spent the last few weeks writing and calling various City officials concerning plans we learned of to put rat poison in Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that our pleas fell on deaf ears as evidence of the lack of commitment to a poison-free sanitation plan for the park was revealed by posts from photographer/blogger Roger_Paw.

The only real control of rodents comes from proper sanitation. What is so disappointing and frustrating about the Parks Department decision is that there is so much room for improvement in this park. To even think of risking the life of the hawks, who are seen in the park almost daily and get many of their meals there, through the secondary poisoning that can occur when a non-target animal eats a poisoned rat is disgraceful. Their decision shows no real commitment to getting to the root of the problem; they are only going for the quick temporary fix.

Bobby and Rosie, Washington Square’s Red-tailed Hawks

The pictures were taken in the park this past Saturday by a member of Stop the Poison (STP), a group formed to oppose the use of poisons in our parks.

Currently, almost all trash cans in Washington Square Park have open tops. If, the trash is not removed by evening or tops are not put on the cans, there is an open invitation to rats. In addition, a walk through the park, reveals almost no signage about proper disposal of food and the reasons why it is needed.

Washington Square Park could be a perfect location to show how proper sanitary methods can decrease the rodent population, if not completely, at least substantially, without the use of poison.

Suggestions made to NYC Parks Department officials by Stop The Poison:

Solar powered waste compactors (as used in Philadelphia and other locations)
Rat-proof garbage cans
Rodent-repellent trash bags
Summonses for littering
Carry in, Carry out waste policy (bring your lunch or snack with you; take your garbage out with you)
Revision of landscaping that is conducive to rat tunnels

Please ask your readers to insist that a commitment be demonstrated to make the park a model of excellence in bringing all possible resources and expertise to bear rather than resorting to toxic poisons that make each meal a lethal game of chance for our precious wildlife.

“Discarded trash everywhere! In flower beds, under benches, under trees … accumulated for days!”

In addition, a reader, Brant, sent in this comment earlier in the week:

In Washington Square Park this morning (October 6, 2012) and found it so disgusting ! Discarded trash everywhere ! In flower beds, under benches, under trees, everywhere!!!!
The people responsible for cleaning the park are incredibly inept!
We are not talking about trash that accumulated overnight but for many days!
Not only that for a few blocks on each side of University Place, not one garbage pail! Not one!
What will be done? I will contact immediately 311, and for what it’s worth, complain to them as well as the Sanitation Department!

Washington Square East

“Rats” author (and NY resident) Robert Sullivan very clear on how ineffective rodenticide is

I’ve written before on this blog about the problem of rodenticide in our city parks — seven or eight new york city hawks have died this year alone – and would like to reiterate the following (which the Parks Department should know):

Author Robert Sullivan, who studied rats in the city and wrote about his discoveries in his book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” states that removing garbage and the rats’ food source is the key, even tho’ no one considers that was the “sexier” solution – it IS the solution.

Sullivan consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined:

“when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. ‘Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,’ Davis wrote.”

When I told reader Brant that the city’s Parks Department was putting poison out, he said:

Rat poison is the easy way out !
It’s again, putting a band-aid on the problem !  One must be pro-active and they, are reactive !

So true.

This would be an opportunity for new Parks Commissioner Veronica White to take a position her predecessor, Adrian Benepe, would not. Instead of focusing on privatizing public parks, how about creating better models of our existing ones?

 __________________________________________________________________________________

What you can DO; Suggestions from City Woman and Stop the Poison:

Following are some of the NYC Parks Department officials people can write or call:

Veronica M. White, NYC Parks Commissioner, Veronica.White@parks.nyc.gov
First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, liam.kavanagh@parks.nyc.gov phone #212-360-1307
William T. Castro, NYC Dep’t of Parks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner: william.castro@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0201
Namshik Yoon, Chief of Operations, Namshik.Yoon@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0212
Ralph Musolino, Park Manager, Manhattan District 1 & 2; Ralph.Musolino@parks.nyc.gov; #212-797-3142

And here are some things individuals can do to help:
IF YOU WANT TO SAVE OUR HAWKS: Do Not Use Mouse and Rat Poisons, Pellets or Blocks on Your Property
1.) Tell your building management to use covered, latching trash containers and traps instead of poison.
2.) Educate your local institutions and merchants to do the same.
3.) Ask government officials to support a ban on the sale of anticoagulant rodenticides (five California cities have done so).
4.) CONTACT STOPTHEPOISON@AOL.COM to find out what else you can do.

Photos 1 & 3: Stop The Poison

Middle Photo: Bobby & Rosie in Washington Square Park, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Credit: Roger_Paw Blog

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Chalkupy Wall Street “Day of Play” and Musicians’ Jam Via Fandalism Hit the Park Saturday

Free spirits of all ages and shapes and sizes showed up at the park on Saturday. Here shown in pictures, co-habitating the space; I think you’ll be able to tell which shots are from which event:

Occupy Wall Street Day of Play With Judson Church in background:

And, of course, Elmo:

I myself happened upon the best jam at the park I’ve ever heard taking place on a bench east of the Fountain after the Fandalism event had ended (which I missed). At one point it looked like threatening rain. The group had begun singing “Here Comes the Sun” and the sun, did indeed, appear! (This is the type thing that happens at the park.) I didn’t have a camera which forced me, in a sense, to observe and absorb versus document! Some of the other songs… “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele), “Rock the Casbah” (Clash) and many other great ones, none of which I can recall now! (Clearly, I didn’t take notes either. … Oh & musicians if any of you who were there read this. Please regroup and let me know when that will be.)

Photo 1: Imagine Engine Via Twitter
Photo 2: Laughing Squid, More pics Fandalism here
Photo 3 and 4: Mickey Z.

More photos from the OWS Day of Play here via Facebook.

San Francisco-based Start Up, Fandalism, to Hold Musicians’ Jam Today, Sat’y, October 6th, 12-3 p.m., at Washington Square’s Garibaldi Plaza

Fandalism, a San Francisco-based site that connects people passionate about music worldwide, is having a meet up and jam today, Saturday, October 6th at WSP by Garibaldi Plaza (east of the Fountain) from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

The site is a really nice way for artists to showcase their work and unite with other musicians.

For today’s event, 500 people have RSVP’d via Facebook! This should be interesting, to say the least! Check it out.

A writer from Scotland asks: What’s up with the WSP “portaloos”?

“Portaloos” in front of closed off old restroom building

Received this letter in the InBox yesterday:

Hi!,

I’ m  just back to scotland from a week in new york spending most of my time in greenwich village and therefore a lot of time in washington square park.

I just wanted to comment on how disgusting the portaloos are that are there temporarily while a new comfort station is built.

While portaloos might be a good idea,they should surely be kept cleaner. I used one once but would not go near them again. At least being a guy i didn’t have to sit down while using it.

I am a regular visitor to the city. God knows what first time tourists make of them.

I just wondered what you thought.

John A Learmonth.

I told Mr. Learmonth that I hadn’t used the bathrooms pre-redesign at WSP* (they really were in horrendous condition) and I don’t quite see myself venturing into the “portaloos,” especially now reading this account of how “disgusting” they are and apparently in need of more maintenance (something I’m certain is not fun to do).

Oh, and how about “portaloos?” Is that the perfect word? Apparently what they call them in Scotland. Our U.S. version “Port-o-potties” so pales in comparison.

It was a fight to get the portaloos there; there were no plans for them initially and then the Parks Department agreed to it and three very functional looking units arrived (CallAhead, they beckon). Reading an article recently about the glamourous perhaps overdone new $2 million rest rooms at Elmhurst Park, it was stated that they had “portable toilets” while the “edgy design” was being constructed. It didn’t sound like it had been an issue.

Anyway, has anyone else used them? Comments?

If you’re wondering what the new bathrooms at WSP will look like when Phase III construction is completed, the architectural plans call for an ivy-covered, trellis-topped “pergola.”

*Oh, and a tip of my top choices of nearby restrooms: Think Coffee, Lifethyme Natural Market, and even sometimes Starbucks Sixth Avenue.

Washington Square Fall 2012 at Dusk

View from Fifth Avenue At Dusk

Closer, Towards The Arch

(Still) Plume-less Fountain

People in the Fountain, Including…

This Gal Deep in Thought

The Fountain Plaza and the Arch… Look Closer

Halloween comes early at Washington Square ?


Photos: Cathryn

Washington Square September 2012: Khalil Gibran on the Plaza, Fountain Plumes (Still) A Bit ‘Off,’ and Direction “To Happiness”

Khalil Gibran Near the Fountain…

A Closer Look

This artist, Honschar, has chalked memorable quotes on the Plaza at WSP a lot lately. He has a Facebook page.

So, if you look at the Fountain from the west, the fountain plume looks as if it is tilting south (left)…

The Fountain, looking East

When you look from the north looking south, it looks a bit more balanced.

(Still No Side Plumes.)

Looking South…

Then, on the Plaza (maybe left over from Occupy Wall Street Saturday? These photos are from Monday), this made me think … wouldn’t it be nice if there was an arrow leading the way? But maybe there is, and we don’t always realize it. Or, as my sister said, “maybe the arrow is YOU! ;)” Exactly.


In the meantime, I’d like to note where the arrow is pointing…

Washington Square Park Folk Festival Returns for Year Two at WSP This Weekend (9/15 & 16, 2012)


For the second year in a row, the Washington Square Park Folk Festival will take place for 2 days at the park this coming weekend on September 15th and 16th. I spoke to Eli Smith, the organizer, a musician and host of the Down Home Radio Show who also produces the Brooklyn Folk Festival (now in year four) about the upcoming festival at the park and year two!

This is your second year doing the festival at Washington Square Park. What did you learn from last year?

I thought it went great. I felt it could have been bigger. Last year, we had 9 bands; this year we have 13. We’ll set out more chairs! (laughs)

(Ed. note: Last year, there was a bit of a chair issue. There did not seem to be many set out!)

When did you find out you got the go ahead for year 2?

They told me right away after the first festival that they wanted it to continue. I was relieved when I checked in six months later to find out that it was [definitely] confirmed.

Rebecca Ferguson, the Park Administrator, whose idea the festival was, recently left her position. How has that impacted things?

She was super cool and kept on it as her final project of the park.

The folk music I saw last year was a bit more blue grass and string-oriented than perhaps what some think of when they hear the term “folk music.” Some might consider it to be a bit more “pop” such as the music associated with artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, for example. Are there different types of what is considered “folk” music?

Folk music is a very wide, expansive genre. With [advent of] Bob Dylan {and his success], seemingly anyone who wrote their own songs was considered folk music. in my mind, folk is the more traditionalist, old-time string and blues as well as some wonderful and talented singer-songwriters. The festival will have something for everybody – a wide range of what people think of as folk music and think of as Washington Square Park. We’ll also have some venerable performers with a history in Washington Square Park including Tracy Schwarz and Ginny Hawker. Schwarz played in WSP with the New Lost City Ramblers in the ’50s and ’60s. John Cohen, also of the New Lost City Ramblers, has a history at the park as does Randy Byrnes who played in the park in the ’60s and ’70s. The festival will feature those with a history of performance associated with the park as well as young talent from the city.

You have a lot of different sponsors for the festival, including Mario Batali. How did that come about?

Becky [Rebecca Ferguson] took care of that from her connections from Washington Square Park. Of course, Matt Umanov from Matt Umanov Guitars was the one who first recommended me to do the festival [last year]. Also, the Washington Square Hotel and Mario Batali Foundation. It’s super nice of them to kick in like that. I heard that Mario Batlai lives in the area of the park and is super into music. I started buying his pasta sauce.

I didn’t know he had a pasta sauce. Where do you buy it?

I buy it at Fairway. (laughs) I think he stopped by one day last year. (segues)

I also was contacted by Occupy Wall Street as there’s going to be an Occupy Wall Street Action at the same time on Saturday. We’re trying to give each other space.

* * *

Stop by Saturday, September 15th * 2-8 p.m. and Sunday, September 16th * 1- 8 p.m. It’s free!

There is further description of the Festival at the Parks Department web site and a breakdown of the performances at the Festival’s site.

This Blog on last year’s festival!

Four Gals by the Fountain


The three ladies together are admiring the Arch I believe (correction: one is texting or looking up directions on her cell phone); the lone gal leaning against the (plume-deprived) fountain is perhaps reading a book.

Should Downtown Sixth Avenue’s Bluestone be Replaced with “Tinted Concrete?”

On the agenda tonight, Tuesday, September 11th, for Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting is the following: “Proposal by Village Alliance for capital replacement of bluestone on Ave. of the Americas from West 4th to W. 14th St. (excluding the Jefferson Market Library & Ruth Wittenberg Triangle blocks) with tinted concrete.”

Interesting, right? First of all, do I think a Business Improvement District should be in charge of decisions relating to our city streets and sidewalks and be paying for that? Uh, no. I think that should be a governmental expense. The lines get too blurred otherwise.

I did a quick search and found some more information on bluestone and the push to preserve streets made of it at a New York Times’ article from 1994, Preserving the History That Lies Underfoot; Bluestone Sidewalks on Comeback Trail. Not sure what’s been happening in the last 18 years but apparently the preservation of bluestone has been big in Park Slope. I’d love to hear more of the argument for replacing it (surely it’s cost-motivated). More from the article:

The path toward extinction has been the same for other old-time paving materials — the granite sidewalks of SoHo and TriBeCa; the red brick streets of Queens; the Belgian block, commonly called cobblestone, of lower Manhattan and dockside neighborhoods in Brooklyn, all inexorably fading away.

But bluestone, indigenous to neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, seems to be making a comeback. Prompted by pressure from the city to fix decrepit sidewalks of all types, and after years of campaigning by preservationists, many more property owners are making the historically correct choice and creating a bluestone boomlet.

And —

Preservationists estimate that bluestone made up half the city’s sidewalks at one time, chiefly areas near the harbor that were developed first, while today it accounts for just 5 percent. But they say hundreds of sidewalk strips have been renovated in the last two years, and that bluestone has been used in major new restoration projects like Bryant Park.

Lurching progress is also being made in setting up new city contracting procedures that would lower prices and make installation easier. Cost is still a stumbling block, and many home owners in historic districts, where sidewalks must be replaced with bluestone or concrete tinted to look like it, have complained about having to pay almost four times the cost of poured concrete. …

Though the movement to save the material began in Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope and other neighborhoods in brownstone Brooklyn, proponents say interest has spread to areas with a bluestone heritage in Harlem; Long Island City, Queens; Yorkville on the Upper East Side, and Staten Island.

The revival is being catalyzed by stick and carrot. The stick is violations issued by the Department of Transportation to property owners whose walks have been heaved about by tree roots or erosion. Owners have 45 days to fix them or the city sends contractors in to do the job and sends owners the bill. Though the city offers bluestone replacement, the cost is four times the $4.81 per square foot it charges for pouring concrete. (Note: this is in 1994.)

Some background also from the Times:

Concrete has been the preference for New York sidewalks and streets since the turn of the century. But glimpses of the stones of the past are still to be found.

BLUESTONE Often confused with slate, the dark stone is quarried in the Catskills and Poconos. It can still be seen in Brooklyn’s brownstone neighborhoods, lower Manhattan, Harlem, Long Island City in Queens and the northern part of Staten Island.

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WSP connection: I’m fairly certain the fountain is made of bluestone if I recall correctly. And also maybe the Fountain Plaza is bluestone pavers ? Happy to be corrected if this is inaccurate!

To attend tonight’s meeting, it’s at 6:30 PM at Church of Our Lady of Pompei, 25 Carmine St. Father Demo Hall.

The Fountain, (Side) Plume-Less Again

Fountain, No Plumes

Side Jet Uncovered

For a brief period beginning in late August, the fountain regained its side plumes but, alas, as of sometime last week, the fountain is plume-less again. In case you’re wondering, it seems one source of the trouble is this ‘jet,’ above, on the Northern end of the fountain which is uncovered at the moment. All the other jets, which are the source of the fountain’s side plumes, have brass coverings.

A reminder of the fountain in its glory (for a brief period, late summer, after no plumes for more than a year) – from a week and a half ago:

What a Difference a Plume (Or Two) Makes!

Top Two Photos: Cathryn
Bottom Photo: Scott Steinbaugh