Washington Square Park Eastern Side Opens Today!

Updated

Looking West Towards the Fountain

Pathway headed East from the Fountain

Garibaldi!

Garibaldi Plaza Stage

Costa Nicholas, first musician to grace Garibaldi Stage !

Playground Opens

Little Girl in the Playground

Some Tiles Salvaged from "Teen Plaza" in Playground

Two Men Chatting on the NorthEast Side

North East Quadrant

Small Dog Run on Wash Square South

Strange little alcove along Washington Square South

And, of course, The Arch (not part of Phase II)

The Eastern Side of Park – under construction for oh so long – opened today and people seem ecstatic to reclaim this large swatch (swath?) of New York City public space. I realized how much I missed the East Side. It was the end of the park I knew better than the Western end. No commentary today – just pictures! And the fountainout from under repair, is on!

Post from earlier today has more details on Phase II specifics and what’s taken so long, how much it cost, what some of the issues have been around the 20 months of construction and park’s redesign.

Commentary and thoughts on Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II-A’s unveiling coming Monday, June 6thTuesday, June 7th!

Photos: Cathryn

WSP Phase II Construction Still At least 2 Weeks Away from Opening Yet Fences Come Down Along Washington Square North. More to this than meets the eye?

Then...

After more than 19 months guarding construction along the Eastern end of Washington Square Park, the fences are down along Washington Square North!

Don’t get too excited — it ends there for now. Phase II’s Eastern end construction is still at least two weeks away from its public unveiling. The decision to begin taking the fences down along Washington Square North was apparently a rush to judgment.

Or was it?

Now... No Fences along Wash Square North

View on Washington Square North

It’s evident that the re-designer of Washington Square has a strong desire to please those living and working along tony Washington Square North. This segment of the block has a heavy NYU presence (many of the university deans inhabit these buildings) and is also the location of the Washington Square Association, an organization which supported designer’s George Vellonakis’s plans for the park, while many did not.

So, it’s impossible not to link the fervor to please the inhabitants of this block and the fence being removed in that location, and only that location, first. Now, those folks have a picture perfect, unfettered view into the park  – after 19 months of construction – before everyone else, except where their view becomes a hilly tree-topped terrain at the far eastern end.

The Hills Are Alive...(fence since removed)

Have you noticed this yet? These newly placed hills and evergreen trees (photo at left — taken before fence was removed) are all new to the park. No one was aware that this re-visioning of the park’s landscape was in store.

(This might have something to do with the fact that efforts to learn exact details of Phase II’s plans were continually stymied by the Parks Department and Community Board 2.)

Previously, you could walk along the perimeter here and look into the park and see what was happening in that Northeast corner. Now, you can’t. A community activist told me that this is to allow the NYU Deans and so forth to “look out on the rolling hills in WSP” and think they are in “Princeton.” It also makes that area of the park dangerous as it creates a true blind spot when you are inside that corner.

It’s hard not to surmise – Is money involved here? Is this an expression of extreme gratitude for support of the controversial redesign plan (strings pulled perhaps?) that these people are being so looked out for and prioritized above all others?

Washington Square Park’s Phase II Construction began in the Fall of 2009. The scheduled completion date was Fall 2010. It is nice to be able to finally look in unimpeded (albeit one section) and know that the remainder of Phase II, after many delays, is at last almost complete (except, of course, for the pieces that were moved into Phase III) for everyone to utilize.

Note: Park’s Phase II Eastern end opened June 2nd and it remained this way for one month.

Told In Pictures: Phase II Construction Update and Spring at the Park

NYPD Watches Over NW Plaza

Squirrel takes Lunch Break behind Fence

Flowers Bloom

Eastern Side Construction Almost Complete

Private Tour Takes Place of Not Yet Opened Eastern End

[See previous WSP Blog post when this blogger encountered designer George Vellonakis giving another private tour in 2008 during Phase I.]

Petanque Court in Trouble? Sloped?

Commenter Seth thinks the petanque court is improperly designed.

Looking Southwest: Still quite a bit of work to do

Chess Plaza (Projected Completion: Early June. Really?)

Curb At SW Border Awfully Close to Tree's Roots

Daffodils Hanging On Amidst Construction SW Plaza

This Phase 2 Update bumped Parks Update Part 4 ’til Monday Tuesday Wednesday or Thursday!

Part 2 – Update on Washington Square Park Phase II from Community Board 2 Meeting Last Week

– Updated –

* Washington Square Park Seating alcoves reduced in size contrary to agreement?

* A Look back at Landmarks Preservation 2 Hearings On WSP Phase II in 2009

* Has Community Board 2 Colluded with the Parks Department to Keep Phase II Under Wraps?

* & More!

As I reported in Part 1 of my report back from the April 6th Community Board 2 meeting, Phase II construction at Washington Square Park (parts, of course, that weren’t moved into Phase III) on the Eastern side will be finished and open sometime “around Memorial Day” with the Chess Plaza opening in June.

At the meeting, Community member Margie Rubin asked about the seating alcove in the Northeastern section of the park – across from the playground – which was promised to be the “exact same size.” She said that this alcove is now “1/2 the size. Why was it cut down?

The community fought to keep the seating alcoves in the park; the Parks Department wanted to remove most of them. At the Landmarks Preservation Commission two hearings addressing Phase II in 2009, the Parks Department agreed to increase the proposed number of seating alcoves from 1 1/2 to four. (Previously, there were six, or seven, depending who you ask.)

Brad Romaker from Capital Projects division — who was sent to the meeting by the Parks Department to give the status report on Phase II and was unfamiliar with the finer points of the park’s plan — said he did not know what happened but would find out. (A woman involved with another Parks project at the meeting told me that Romaker can be quite helpful and can get things done.)

This led to discussion in which Tobi Bergman (CB2 Parks Committee chair) said post-Landmarks Preservation Commission hearings that the seating alcoves were never supposed to be the same size.

My understanding was that three of the alcoves remained the same size except for one on the southeast side (which also endured a change of location to the southern side of the park at some point after the LPC meeting). I will revisit the alcoves; nonetheless, it was clearly stated that the alcove on the northeastern side would retain its size.

See highlights from previous blog posts below from the two Landmarks Preservation Commission meetings in 2009 addressing Phase II:

* Highlights from LPC Public Hearing March 17th on WSP (posted March 20,2009):

Currently there are six seating alcoves at Washington Square Park which exist on the north, northeast, and southeast sides of the Park. The Parks Department’s plan is to eliminate all except for one (which will remain in its entirety on the north side, across from the playground) and to retain a 1/4 or a 1/2 of another (on the eastern side).

* Landmarks Preservation Commission Approves Phase II of WSP Redesign; NYC Parks Department agrees to increase # of alcoves (posted April 15th, 2009):

The Parks Department, represented by Charles McKinney and designer George Vellonakis, started out stating that they were prepared to add one or two more alcoves to the originally proposed two. However, they preferred three. George Vellonakis said that ideally a fourth would be omitted because its location inside the Park lawn on the (south) east side “distracts the view and expansion of the lawn.” The other reasons given by Mr. Vellonakis for omitting that fourth alcove were possible damage to surrounding tree roots and that that area in the new design undergoes a “geometry change.”

The Parks Department stated that the fourth alcove would be very small and “intimate” but how small I’m not sure.

Mr. Bergman then said that this was due to “different memories” and stated that everyone had a chance to “look at the blueprints.” Actually, that is not true specifically because of his collusion with the city Parks Department. The CB2 Parks Committee chair has prevented any substantive look at or discussion of Phase II designs.

A Parks Department long-awaited presentation on Phase II that was supposed to happen in February 2010 (after the Department admitted being unprepared at a meeting in December 2009) never happened. The blueprints were dropped off at this February 2010 meeting (over one year ago) and left on a table with no opportunity for discussion or review – this was five months after the work had already started. Mr. Bergman does not have a lot of credibility when it comes to the issue of Washington Square Park, Phase II and blueprints.

When asked about the tiles which previously lay in Teen Plaza that children in the ’70’s had created; some of which were supposed to be moved into the newly designed Children’s Playground, Mr. Romaker did not know if this had happened but also that he would find out. I was also curious about the historical markers which are in Phase III — Mr. Romaker did not know about these and again said he would get the answer.

There’s more! Part 3 from the meeting coming on the other parks.

* In 2008, I wrote an 8 part report after a Washington Square Park Task Force meeting so I certainly can find things to write about after attending these meetings!

What Needs to be Done to Have a Functioning Washington Sq Park Task Force? #1: Separate from Community Bd 2 (Part II)

Part 2 of 2; 3/10/10: The same issues I wrote about when this post first was published in November 2008 seemed abated for awhile but have resurfaced anew. No one has any idea what is being missed in relation to Redesign: Phase II details pertaining to the chess tables, the Mounds, the childrens’ playground, the alcoves, the Garibaldi Plaza, etc., because the questions are not being asked. The heads of the Task Force currently have the laissez faire attitude that since the design is “approved”, there’s nothing for them to do now. In December 2009, the body asked for an update on Phase II. Since the Parks Department said they didn’t have one ready, the Task Force now sits idly by. They do not ask to view the design details which are part of the reason for their existence. No one has any idea how many trees are being cut down in Phase II because they have not asked.

Edited version of post from Nov. 13, 2008:

Washington Sq Park Fence Being Installed

Washington Sq Park Fence Being Installed

I’ve been grappling with how to tackle addressing the Washington Square Park Task Force following Part I in which I listed its purported goals and the NY elected officials who have actual representatives on it. The Task Force has a lot of good people on it from the community who from the beginning wanted to have an impact but as Fusun Ateser, a member of the Task Force, told me recently, “we were not allowed to do anything.”‘

Task Force Linkage to Community Board 2

Part of the problem I believe is the close linkage of the WSP Task Force to Community Board 2. Presently, Brad Hoylman — now, Jo Hamilton — Community Board 2 Chair is the co-chair of the Task Force, with CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman.

Community Board 2 has already made its own share of mistakes around Washington Square Park approving the Parks Department’s redesign plan twice with insufficient data and despite widespread community disapproval. They ultimately rescinded their approvalalbeit on the third try.

There ought to be an independent body monitoring what’s happening at this Park. At Task Force meetings, Mr. Hoylman and Mr. Bergman are adamant that the Task Force was only created to uphold the Gerson-Quinn letter. While others on the Task Force seem ready to go further, they are continually reined in by Hoylman and Bergman. In July ’07, when people attempted to put forth resolutions, Mr. Hoylman stated that he “wanted to be sure it doesn’t resemble a Community Board resolution.” Therefore, resolutions were not allowed.

What would a Functioning Body look like?

The Task Force needs to be taken out of the hands of the Community Board in this instance. We need people to continue fighting for this park. The people who comprise the WSP Task Force feel they have no power. This is a historic park. It is a landmark in New York City. It is a dynamic public space. It deserves to have people fighting for it – who will fight for it.

Problems with Washington Square Park Re-Design not caught by WSP Task Force

Most recent example: As I noted in the updated version of Part I, the Task Force totally missed that the new benches being installed at the Park were made of rainforest wood – a wood from an endangered area that certainly could have been avoided putting into use. They never asked so they didn’t know.

Example: The lamps in the park. Ms. Atessur said the Task Force was never shown the two different lamp choices (the Task Force has oversight on design “details”) and asked for their approval on them. When I asked Brad Hoylman if the body approved the choice of the lamps, he told me he thought so but never got back to me with a confirmation. (Task Force member Doris Diether also confirmed she never saw – or approved – the lamp choices.) If they were not approved by the Washington Square Park Task Force, then what is the Task Force doing? This is part of their charge.

Note: some people wrote to me at the time this post was written and told me that the lamps were a trivial item to focus on, that they were fine enough. But I don’t think it’s trivial to note that the Task Force hadn’t been doing its job. They have not been paying attention to the “details,” as mandated.

Example: The fence. The fence (coming in is 4 feet high, as opposed to the more welcoming 3 feet that exists currently) is not supposed to have decorative spears or points on top (this is actually stated in the Gerson-Quinn Agreement). And yet – it does. (See photo above.) Is anyone looking after this?

There needs to be a point person from the Washington Square Park Task Force walking through the park regularly and monitoring each aspect. There needs to be a point person talking to the Parks Department. Now, unfortunately, if Council Member Alan Gerson is the designated elected official you go to if you are not getting answers from the Parks Department, then you may be in trouble because he will not rock the boat. But at least get the boat in the water!

Washington Sq Park Fence Now

Washington Sq Park Fence Now

Top photo (fence being installed): Cathryn/WSP Blog
Bottom photo (girl with guitar sitting on fence): Louis Seigal

Edited version of post originally published November 13th, 2008

Updated Part I here.

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.

********************************************************************

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.

Community Board 2 Parks Committee to Meet Wed. Feb. 3rd – Will discuss WSP

Updated 2/3
* Wednesday, February 3rd, 6:30 p.m., Community Board 2 Parks Committee Meeting – on agenda: status report by NYC Parks Dept on Phase III design of Washington Sq Pk comfort stations/bathrooms. As far as Phase II updates…

At the last WSP Task Force/CB2 Parks Committee meeting in December, the Parks Department was admittedly unprepared and said they’d return in February 2010 with details on current status of Phase II construction including presentation of various final details of the plan plus current status of plans for Phase III, the Washington Square Park maintenance building and rest rooms. Will that be part of this meeting or will that happen at another time?

Update: According to CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman, the Parks Department was asked to bring information and diagrams relating to Phase II to this meeting.

Location: St. Anthony’s Of Padua, 154 Sullivan (between Houston & Prince), Lower Hall

Washington Square Park Task Force to Meet Wednesday, December 2nd to Address Final Phases of WSP Redesign Plan

On Wednesday, December 2nd, the Washington Square Park Task Force and Community Board 2’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee will meet to address the following in relation to the final phases of Washington Square Park’s redesign:

* Review of the current status of Phase II construction including presentation of various final details of the park plan.

* Review of current status of plans for (Phase III) the Washington Square Park maintenance building and rest rooms.

The meeting will begin at 7:15 p.m. Various NYC Parks Department representatives will be present.

Earlier that evening, at 6:30 p.m., CB2’s Parks Committee will be addressing a proposal by NYU to remove 6 trees on Thompson Street in connection with construction of the Interfaith Center (58 Washington Square South) and installation of heating pipes under the sidewalk.

Location: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 714

Phase II Washington Square Park Redesign: The Signs Arrive!

"Working to Improve Your Park"

"Working to Improve Your Park"

To get to the Dog Run Now...

To get to the Dog Run Now...

SouthEast Corner WSP Sign (Knocked over...)

SouthEast Corner WSP Sign (Knocked over...)

Last week, I was wondering where the signs were that would alert people as to why 1/2 of Washington Square Park, a public space, was now suddenly shuttered to public use.  The signs have now arrived – although sporadically placed – and the top official NYC Parks Department “Working to Improve Your Park” sign states that work on Phase II will be completed Fall 2010.  In case you were wondering…

Photos: Cat

Part I: Washington Square Park Late Last Week: Calm Before Construction (Taking a Last Look Before Phase II Fencing Arrives)

Fountain Plaza Looking East

Fountain Plaza Looking East

Entrance to Park on North(East) side, path being eliminated

Entrance to Park on NorthEast side being eliminated

Looking NorthEast

Looking NorthEast

Behind Garibaldi

Behind Garibaldi

Sparrows on Old Benches

Sparrows on Old Benches

Possibly the cutest squirrel

Possibly the cutest squirrel

The Park's Disrepair (Why did it get this bad?)

The Park's Disrepair (Why did it get this bad?)

Tucci Arrives

Tucci Arrives

Picnic Table View of the Fountain (this area soon to be gone)

Picnic Table View of the Fountain (this area soon to be gone)

Photos: Cat
More Photos to Come!