Mike Bloomberg on people in the Village: “the value of their homes, the level of their quality of life is due to the proximity of N.Y.U.”

In case you missed this… In Scoopy’s Notebook, The Villager, May 24, 2012

Positive purple aura? Many people think that Greenwich Village’s cachet — and the value of its property — comes from its beautiful, landmarked, low-scale buildings, its artistic and intellectual ferment and its numerous attractions, from Washington Square to cafes and cultural spots. But Mayor Bloomberg says simply being close to New York University is a major factor driving property values. Responding to a reporter’s question last month about the university’s 2031 plan, Bloomberg said of the Village, “People there, the value of their homes, the level of their quality of life is due to the proximity of N.Y.U.” He furthermore accused the plan’s opponents of “playing politics with it,” adding that this is “not beneficial to anyone.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said, sadly, the mayor just doesn’t get it. “Spoken like a man who comes from Boston and lives on the Upper East Side,” she said. “I don’t think he particularly understands New York — he understands a very limited slice of New York. The neighborhood, day-to-day life of New Yorkers is not something that has value for him or his social set. People will be disappointed, but I don’t think they’ll be the least bit surprised,” Glick said of the mayor’s claims that it’s actually N.Y.U. that is elevating everyone’s quality of life.

NYU And Washington Square “Core” Area Expansion

Continued… Some refreshers on NYU’s Expansion Plan 2031 — Recycled Entry * Originally Published March 11, 2011

From Crain’s NY Business, March 4th, NYU Wants to Polish Its Silver Towers:

New York University is preparing to present landscaping plans for the landmarked Silver Towers block in Greenwich Village to Community Board 2 on Monday [3/7]. The improvements are part of the school’s ambitious 2031 expansion plans. The school officially filed the plans with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on Thursday [3/3].  …

NYU’s plans to add 6 million square feet of space over the course of the next 25 years, half of which will be in Greenwich Village and areas surrounding Washington Square Park, has generated criticism from the Greenwich Village community, who believe that the school is altering the character of the neighborhood.

NYU on Washington Square (the area it considers its “core”) from its 2031 Plan website:

At its heart, NYU 2031 recognizes the primacy of the University’s central location at Washington Square. It’s home there is fundamental to NYU’s identity and mission.

(I couldn’t help but notice this really simple grammatical error in the University’s second sentence.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg from NYU site:

It’s very hard to differentiate where New York University stops and New York City starts.

Well, that’s certainly true. No wonder NYU President John Sexton was so quick to advocate for Bloomberg’s third term.

March 11, 2011
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Previous WSP Blog Post: NYU’s “Marketing of Washington Square” Equals $$

Photo: Buck Ennis

NYU Proposed Expansion Plan 2031 — Is the Fix ‘In’ With the Bloomberg Administration?

I’m posting previous WSP Blog entries as refreshers on NYU and President John Sexton’s “vision” for the University’s Expansion Plan 2031. It’s a very critical time right now.

It raises the question — is the ‘fix’ in with the Bloomberg Administration? Given this Admin’s history over the last seemingly gazillion years (will his term ever end?), that would not be much of a surprise.

If so, how to stop it?

If her statements at the Community Meeting on NYU Plan 2031 earlier this month were any indication, Council Member Margaret Chin likely does not have the strength to stand up to Bloomberg and Council Member Quinn who will put pressure on her to go along with it.

More at WSP Blog on NYU here.

OWS Occupies Thanksgiving; Free Meals & Festive Atmosphere While Zuccotti Park Uber Restricted and Barricaded

Zuccotti Signage

Double Barricaded

Occupiers at Thanksgiving

NYPD vehicles line Liberty Street

NYPD Surveillance Tower across fm park


Food Line - It's Free!

Vegetarian, vegan, turkey options

Handing out water


Bouncers, uh, Security

NYPD Occupy Thanksgiving

WikiLeaks Truck

Ledges Now Off Limits

NYPD "Community Affairs"



Despite being double barricaded in with only two entry points on the north and south sides of the park, Occupy Wall Street occupied Thanksgiving yesterday at Zuccotti with an overflow of free Thanksgiving meals – turkey, vegetarian and vegan options – (Some of the food was later donated to a church in Upper Manhattan and perhaps elsewhere), a multitude of bottled water, ice cream and dessert.

Unlike the previous set up – pre-raid – where the food was allowed to be laid out inside the park, the food display is now only allowed outside on the sidewalk. Among other things, this ends up not being the most environmentally friendly option – endless bottles of water and pre-packaged trays of food – but the spirit remains lovely and strong.

People say “You can’t evict an idea,” and that is oh so true. And yet, what is so threatening about the alternative society that Occupy Wall Street set up that all physical remnants of it have to be abolished? Now, double barricades surround the entire park. Books, food, and, yesterday, even a banjo are not allowed in. There are bouncers, uh, security at the TWO entry points and the ledges are off limits. No sleeping lying down. In addition to the much publicized no tents and sleeping bags.

A fellow last night tried to bring in a banjo and security attempted to deny him entry. People began chanting “let the banjo in!” and surrounded the space. There was a negotiation; the NYPD got involved and, at last, guy with banjo was allowed in. Mic check was called. A speaker called out “We’d like to thank” … “the NYPD” … “for letting the banjo in.” (Words to that effect.) Amazingly gracious as that would not have been my first inclination feeling it was already crazily restricted (what right did this security have to keep the banjo out to begin with?, my friend asked).

When I first arrived, I spoke to one of the bouncers. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way but that is the feeling that was given off and clearly he identified with the role. I pointedly questioned and criticized the barricades everywhere and the reduction of entrance to the park to two barricaded-in entry points. He said, “Everyone’s complaining. Look at the festive environment you get to go to going in here.” Clearly his attitude was that Brookfield Properties (which “manages” Zuccotti Park) and the city were doing everyone some favor by allowing them there. Then, as if this was a reasonable argument, “If you went to a club, you’d have to go on a line to get in.” “This isn’t a club,” I replied. “It’s a public park.” He began to argue, “It’s not a public park. It’s a private park.” I said, “It is not a private park. It is a privately owned public space.” He stopped the back and forth; he had to agree that was accurate. He then continued on claiming this was all for everyone’s “safety.”

The site is barricaded in with an imposing NYPD tower with cameras bordering the park with NYPD officers and Brookfield-hired “security” checking people coming in and out. A public park? Certainly doesn’t feel like one. A friend of mine commented that “This feels like a prison camp.” Nonetheless, the vibe inside was festive, upbeat and giving.

“You can’t evict an idea.” Indeed.

I wanted to include this last shot although, on first glance, you can’t tell what it is.  The trees at Zuccotti have tags tied on them (similar to ones you might put on a gift) that said “I’m giving…” and people had filled in sentiments on them.

I don’t expect Mayor Michael Bloomberg and those of his ilk in the 1% to understand but I’m sure many of us do. Written on this tag were the words: “I’m giving thanks for OWS. You gave me hope.

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Interesting post here on Occupy Boston and Community Planning.

Previous WSP Blog post: My visit to Zuccotti and Occupy Wall Street October 7, 2011

My Visit to Zuccotti — aka “Liberty” — Park and Occupy Wall Street

The Scene

CNN

Meditation Circle

The People's Library

The Death of the American Dream

Daily Schedule

Guy Sweeping Up

Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps

NYPD

Pigeons take refuge

Where to Recycle

Free Phone Charge

A final look upon leaving

I was quite moved by the scene at Zuccotti “Liberty” Park. For everyone who has been coerced or lulled into believing that our city — as envisioned by NYC billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg — must be increasingly privatized, homogenized and sanitized, thereby crushing much of the essential character that is so intrinsic to New York; the freewheeling, gritty, and collective spirit of Occupy Wall Street/New York illustrates another alternative: what a thoughtful, colorful, and collaborative NYC looks like.

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Previous WSP Blog post: Downtown Public Park Acts as Home Base for Those Taking a Stand September 28th, 2011

Central Park Bethesda Fountain Off Limits Now to Performance; Designated “Quiet Zone” Where Musicians are Issued Summonses and Risk Arrest

Central Park Bethesda Fountain

The New York Post reported May 29th on the decision to designate Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain a “Quiet Zone,” putting an end to music performances there and issuing summons to those who defy this. The organization pulling the strings behind this decision is the Central Park Conservancy, the private entity entrusted with the care of this 843 acre public park. This is what happens when a private corporation runs a public park. This clearly has also been condoned by the city’s Parks Department under Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe who was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Both Bloomberg and Benepe are big proponents of privatization. (The Mayor also lives near by). A spokesperson from the Conservancy told the Post, “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

From the article at The New York Post:

City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a “Quiet Zone” sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers. …

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

“I have a right to free speech,” said Boyd. “When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, ‘You are not chasing me away.’ ”

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and “Phantom of the Opera” cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Is this what they want to arrest people for — singing joy to the people?” she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

Interesting thread of comments at the Post site. One commenter says, “Bloomberg should be hauled in front of a court for the crime of destroying the soul of New York City.”

Video from Friday’s Earth Day Action at the Park

Superb video of Friday’s Earth Day Action — nicely edited, concise, fun to watch – and all set to music!
http://vimeo.com/22769441

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The previous WSP Blog post on this action, “For Earth Day, Banner Launched Via Balloons At Washington Square Arch to Protest Use of Rainforest Wood In New Park Benches” was linked to by Forbes (under “billionaires” and tagged “Michael Bloomberg”), Tree Hugger and USA Today!

In the Media

Construction to Align Fountain with Arch 2008

Just when you thought everyone in the mainstream media had forgotten about the Bloomberg Administration’s decision to align the Washington Square Fountain with Fifth Avenue and the Arch as part of its redesign plan (the fountain had stood regally in its original location for 137 YEARS), I came across this piece from writer Michael Gross at Crain’s NY Business. (This was a couple of weeks ago but still worth noting.)

New York Becoming Wisconsin:

The mayor’s domestication of Manhattan has gone far enough. It’s there in the nanny-state bans on foods, sodas and ciggies; the redesign of nasty, grotty, thrill-a-minute Times Square into a holding pen for clueless tourists; the move of the Washington Square fountain 22 feet to the east so it aligns with the arch and Fifth Avenue; even the routing of quirky neighborhood retailers and their replacement by Duane Reades, bank branches and chain stores—a perhaps unintended but definitely unpleasant side-effect of the mayor’s economic miracle. I recently called Time Warner Center the Short Hills Mall and someone said, “Don’t insult Short Hills like that.” Much as I like the visual vibrancy of the new Times Square, shut your eyes and listen to the voices around you, and you could be in Green Bay.

Enough with domestication. New Yorkers don’t want to be domesticated. We don’t want safe. We sometimes like scary. We don’t even always want clean. We’re not afraid of what’s around the corner; we rush toward it.

More at Crain’s.

For some history, see previous WSP Blog Post: Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Park Fountain IS already aligned

NYU And Washington Square “Core” Area Expansion; Latest Plans Filed With Landmarks Preservation Commission; Public Hearing Tonight

From Crain’s NY Business, March 4th, NYU Wants to Polish Its Silver Towers:

New York University is preparing to present landscaping plans for the landmarked Silver Towers block in Greenwich Village to Community Board 2 on Monday [3/7]. The improvements are part of the school’s ambitious 2031 expansion plans. The school officially filed the plans with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on Thursday [3/3].  …

NYU’s plans to add 6 million square feet of space over the course of the next 25 years, half of which will be in Greenwich Village and areas surrounding Washington Square Park, has generated criticism from the Greenwich Village community, who believe that the school is altering the character of the neighborhood.

NYU on Washington Square (the area it considers its “core”) from its 2031 Plan website:

At its heart, NYU 2031 recognizes the primacy of the University’s central location at Washington Square. It’s home there is fundamental to NYU’s identity and mission.

(I couldn’t help but notice this really simple grammatical error in the University’s second sentence.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg from NYU site:

It’s very hard to differentiate where New York University stops and New York City starts.

Well, that’s certainly true. No wonder NYU President John Sexton was so quick to advocate for Bloomberg’s third term.
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Previous WSP Blog Post: NYU’s “Marketing of Washington Square” Equals $$

Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee Public Hearing Monday, March 7th, 6:30 PM addressing NYU’s Proposal to LPC regarding University Village Site Modifications

Location: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, off Washington Square East, Room 20

Other March CB2 Meetings on NYU 2031 Plan here.

Photo: Buck Ennis

NYC Parks Department Drops off Washington Square Park Phase II Blueprints at Community Board 2 Meeting; More Arborcide at Washington Square Park and by NYU

Well, yes, Community Board 2’s Parks Committee met Wednesday night, February 3rd, in the Village with a list of topics to discuss. On the agenda: Design of the Washington Square Park “comfort stations,” part of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase III which will begin later this year or early next. There was, at last, a look at the plans for WSP Phase II construction, currently underway.

The Parks Department unveiled full Washington Square Park Phase II redesign plan blueprints, the first time anyone from the community had seen these despite the fact that the work began in the Fall of 2009. Clearly, these Phase II blueprints have existed for awhile — the fact that the Parks Department just now got around to bringing them before the Community Board is particularly vexing.

At the previous December meeting (a joint meeting of CB2 Parks Committee with the Washington Square Park Task Force), the Parks Department was unprepared and attendees were told that representatives would return at February’s meeting to give the Community Board full and final details on ongoing Phase II construction and design plans for Phase III.

Instead, the Parks Department dropped off some blueprints (which were nice to finally see, of course), placed them on a table and focused on presentations related to other parks.

No information was presented about the design of the Washington Square Park comfort stations/restrooms. (You might recall that the Greenwich Village community repeatedly insisted over the last five or so years that WSP’s failing rest rooms be addressed first in their redesign plans to which the New York City Parks Department smiled and nodded their heads while ignoring this request all along the way.)

At the meeting, other village neighborhood parks got the spotlight, including Bleecker Street Playground, Petrosino Park, and Minetta Playground. I miss the presence of Community Board 2 Chair Brad Hoylman (who left his position at the beginning of this year after a 2 year term).

With Hoylman there, the spotlight shone a bit brighter on WSP – and park – issues. CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman, previously a Parks Department employee, is more likely to dismiss items when they might get a bit thorny, not holding the Parks Department accountable. I can’t say for certain that Hoylman, who works for Partnership for New York City (a pro-Bloomberg, pro-development entity), increased the Parks Department’s responsiveness but the process felt more open.

Arborcide by NYU and at WSP

For example: NYU devastatingly chopped down 6 trees along Thompson Street between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street recently during construction of their new Interfaith center at 58 Washington Square South. Their reason: to install an intricate heating system. Clearly, the design could have been configured otherwise.

In December, Bergman took a strong stand, with the rest of the board’s committee, when NYU officials came before them with these plans. The Parks Committee disapproved of this arborcidal concept and instructed NYU to find a new way to proceed. Yet, it was revealed on Wednesday that the Parks Department went ahead and gave the University the jurisdiction to send the trees to the chopping block.

Trees now gone. To those who objected when this news was brought to light, Bergman told them, quickly shutting down any discussion: it was done, yes, we objected, move on.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is in favor of a MillionTrees, there may be some planting going on, but it seems for every one tree planted, another is axed. (See Union Square and Yankee Stadium Parkland, as well as Washington Square Park14 trees axed in Phase I, unclear # in Phase II to be destroyed.)

Another example: the two magnificent, non-uniform, non-aligned trees that graced the path from Garibaldi Statue alongside Teen Plaza to LaGuardia Place at WSP. I’m not certain the type tree they were but they had character, were clearly very old, and their branches drooped at bizarre angles, infusing immediate charm and an eclectic feeling.

When landscape designer George Vellonakis walked me through a tour of his plans for Phase II in May 2009, I asked specifically about those trees. As he had stated previously in public, he confirmed to me that those trees would remain. But, like most everything that shows a bit of non-conformity at the Park, as I walked through Wednesday night, I noted those trees are gone.

Parks Department Given Way Too Much Latitude

In the end, there was no presentation from the Parks Department on WSP. Bergman was vague about when they would return (March was fleetingly mentioned) and didn’t seem to recall the stated agenda items from December slated to be readdressed at this meeting.

It wouldn’t be hard for the city agency to detect that Bergman is quick to forgive – or more pointedly ignore –  failings on their part. He’s very adept at pointing out that CB2 role is advisory, instead of forging a more activist and assertive front. I’m not certain why, when the CB2 Chair was rotated at the beginning of this year, new committee chairpersons were not put into play.

Blueprints Dropped Off: Washington Square Park Phase II

The Parks Department dropped off diagrams displaying Washington Square Park Phase II which were placed on a table for viewing.

Evident from the plans:

*There will be 19 chess tables. I can’t recall the previous number (does anyone offhand?) but it looked like an increase although the Parks Department had initially said the number would remain the same. That SW corner becomes reduced in size – becoming another conformed, aligned “Plaza,” like the other three that grace the corners of the Park’s quadrants.

*Nine NYPD security cameras and devices, four within the Park, installed on poles. “2 cameras will be installed on new poles that currently do not have security devices installed.” I gather the other five will be along the perimeter of the Park.

*As we knew, four of the six seating alcoves will be preserved. Three are supposed to remain as they were, one reduced in size.

*As previously outlined, the two dog runs will be relocated along Washington Square South. (Designer Vellonakis previously has stated that no trees would be disturbed there. We’ll see…)

*Garibaldi is being moved from his position facing West to a position a bit further North, facing South.

As for Phase III design plans, it seems that they will be unveiled by the Parks Department at the Parks Committee meeting in March – at least that’s what was implied. Whether the Parks Department will keep to their word, we shall see. We’ll also see whether Community Board 2’s Parks Committee holds them to it.

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For a look at the Phase II diagrams and a report about the meeting from Curbed, go here.

My previous WSP Blog post on Phase II plans.