Make Music NY comes to NYC Public Spaces including WSP’s Garibaldi Stage Thursday, June 21st 12-4 p.m. and 6-7 p.m.

Make Music NY — at which there are “over 1,000 free outdoor concerts on a single day” at NYC public spaces — will happen again this year on the first day of summer, Thursday, June 21st! The event comes to Washington Square and the Garibaldi Stage (which has the action at the park, just east of the Fountain) with a solar powered stage in the afternoon.

Songwriter’s Beat from 12 noon to 4 p.m.:

Songwriter’s Beat is one of NYC’s premiere nights for performing songwriters – where all are encouraged to perform new material in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.

Founded by NYC singer-songwriter Valerie Ghent in 2000, Songwriter’s Beat has presented over 330 songwriters from around the world, hosted over 50 benefit concerts, produced seven annual festivals plus a song contest and has fostered the creation of hundreds of new songs.

Lineup to include: Solar Punch, Marla Mase w/ Tomas Doncker, Valerie Ghent, Fred Gillen w/ Hope Machine, Deborah Berg, Ann Klein, Roshni, and Lucy Foley.

Mass Appeal : Clarinets 5:45 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.

From the choir: For the fourth year, our clarinet choir is performing in the Make Music New York music festival. We’re playing on June 21st, from 6 to 7 pm, in Washington Square Park. It’s free, the setting is beautiful, and the sound is terrific! We’re playing a mix of great old and new pieces by Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart, Grundman, and Ravel, among others.

Everything’s free! To find another location in the city, visit this page.

Make Music NY website.

David Harvey on the Right to Public Space and the 99 Percent

NYC-based author and professor David Harvey often speaks out on the use of public space. While reading this piece (excerpted), I couldn’t help thinking about New York’s billionaire (and out of touch) Mayor Mike “Wall Street, real estate and tourists are all I look out for” Bloomberg.

The Party of Wall Street Meets Its Nemesis (Verso Books blog)

The Party of Wall Street has one universal principle of rule: that there shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective. Those possessed of money power shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labor and creative potentialities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.
The Party of Wall Street ceaselessly wages class war. “Of course there is class war,” says Warren Buffett, “and it is my class, the rich, who are making it and we are winning.” Much of this war is waged in secret, behind a series of masks and obfuscations through which the aims and objectives of the Party of Wall Street are disguised.

The Party of Wall Street knows all too well that when profound political and economic questions are transformed into cultural issues they become unanswerable.

But now, for the first time, there is an explicit movement to confront The Party of Wall Street and its unalloyed money power. The “street” in Wall Street is being occupied—oh horror upon horrors—by others! Spreading from city to city, the tactics of Occupy Wall Street are to take a central public space, a park or a square, close to where many of the levers of power are centered, and by putting human bodies there convert public space into a political commons, a place for open discussion and debate over what that power is doing and how best to oppose its reach. This tactic, most conspicuously re-animated in the noble and on-going struggles centered on Tahrir Square in Cairo, has spread across the world (Plaza del Sol in Madrid, Syntagma Square in Athens, now the steps of Saint Paul’s in London as well as Wall Street itself). It shows us that the collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked. What Tahrir Square showed to the world was an obvious truth: that it is bodies on the street and in the squares not the babble of sentiments on Twitter or Facebook that really matter.

The aim of this movement in the United States is simple. It says: “We the people are determined to take back our country from the moneyed powers that currently run it. Our aim is to prove Warren Buffett wrong. His class, the rich, shall no longer rule unchallenged nor automatically inherit the earth. Nor is his class, the rich, always destined to win.”

It says “we are the 99 percent.” We have the majority and this majority can, must and shall prevail. Since all other channels of expression are closed to us by money power, we have no other option except to occupy the parks, squares and streets of our cities until our opinions are heard and our needs attended to.

To succeed the movement has to reach out to the 99 percent. This it can and is doing step by step. First there are all those being plunged into immiseration by unemployment and all those who have been or are now being dispossessed of their houses and their assets by the Wall Street phalanx. It must forge broad coalitions between students, immigrants, the underemployed, and all those threatened by the totally unnecessary and draconian austerity politics being inflicted upon the nation and the world at the behest of the Party of Wall Street. It must focus on the astonishing levels of exploitation in workplaces  from the immigrant domestic workers who the rich so ruthlessly exploit in their homes to the restaurant workers who slave for almost nothing in the kitchens of the establishments in which the rich so grandly eat. It must bring together the creative workers and artists whose talents are so often turned into commercial products under the control of big money power.

The movement must above all reach out to all the alienated, the dissatisfied and the discontented, all those who recognize and deeply feel in their gut that there is something profoundly wrong, that the system that the Party of Wall Street has devised is not only barbaric, unethical and morally wrong, but also broken.

All this has to be democratically assembled into a coherent opposition, which must also freely contemplate what an alternative city, an alternative political system and, ultimately, an alternative way of organizing production, distribution and consumption for the benefit of the people. Otherwise, a future for the young that points to spiraling private indebtedness and deepening public austerity, all for the benefit of the one percent, is no future at all.

In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement the state backed by capitalist class power makes an astonishing claim: that they and only they have the exclusive right to regulate and dispose of public space. The public has no common right to public space! By what right do mayors, police chiefs, military officers and state officials tell we the people that they have the right to determine what is public about “our” public space and who may occupy that space when? When did they presume to evict us, the people, from any space we the people decide collectively and peacefully to occupy? They claim they are taking action in the public interest (and cite laws to prove it) but it is we who are the public! Where is “our interest” in all of this?

David Harvey teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (Anthropology), often writes and speaks on public space, and is the author of many books, including Social Justice and the City, The Condition of Postmodernity, and A Companion to Marx’s Capital.

Arch Remains Barricaded … Occupy Washington Square Next Meets Wednesday, October 26th 7 p.m. at Park

Arch Still Barricaded 10/22

Barricades at the ready at fountain

From Occupy Washington Square meeting notes of October 22nd:


Who we are: The General Assembly of Washington Square Park – we are different from “OWS” in Zucotti Park, which is a 24-hour occupation.

What does “occupy” mean? – can mean ‘occupy your mind’; ‘occupy the space your mind’; ‘occupy public spaces’

This is a space for open forum and discussion, to give all voices a chance to be heard.

In addition, via Twitter:

Our next #GeneralAssembly meeting will be Wednesday, 10/26 at 7pm in #WashingtonSquare. Town Planning – nurturing the local WSP community.

It’s the Prime of Summer 2011 – Is Something (New) Wrong with the Washington Square Fountain?

Updated 4:45 p.m.

Opening Day Phase I - May 2009

Fountain Now, Summer 2011

Fountain, No Side Water Plumes, August 2011

In mid-May of this year, the new Washington Square Park fountain went under repair for two or so weeks. As part of the Bloomberg Administration’s redesign of the park, the famous fountain, in its previous location since 1871, was moved 22 feet east to align with the Arch. It is now a little over two years old. The “new” fountain was unveiled in May 2009 and is pictured at top at the opening of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase I. The fountain was rebuilt from scratch using the stones from the previous structure. The “old” fountain was eighty years old — according to documents I unearthed recently, written by former City Council Member Alan Gersonand still working.

The fountain has side plumes or “jets” that spout water from them. They were working up until June of this year but they are currently not working and haven’t been for over a month. It’s unclear if the issue is (again) related to the construction or to perhaps maintenance of the Washington Square fountain.

Opening Ceremony Phase I 2009 - Side Jets Working

In June -- Plumes Still Working

The plume source -- Now

If you visit the fountain, the experience is somewhat lessened to say the least. It’s perplexing what the exact problem is. (I wrote to the Parks Department Press Office but did not receive an answer on this.)

Will this latest issue be acknowledged, addressed and fixed at some point? Much money and resources were used to dismantle, relocate, align and reconstruct the Washington Square Park Fountain. You’d imagine, at a major city park, in the prime of summer, that those side water jets on a virtually new structure would be working for the public’s enjoyment and use. If something is wrong – which appears to be the case – what could it be?

* * *

On a side note: Yesterday the fountain was drained and cleared of bottles that accumulate underneath it and cause problems and are of a concern to people wading IN the fountain. (Note: this is not the cause of the plumes not working!) I gather later in the evening people are leaving bottles in there. I don’t know if those people read my blog (!) but, if you see someone doing so, perhaps ask them to clean up a bit! There’s also handily now recycling for bottles and cans at the park. Someone just wrote in about seeing cigarette butts in the fountain as well. The Parks Department without a doubt has its issues but we do all need to respect the space that we are using and share.

** Previous WSP Blog Post from May 16th, 2011: Is the New Washington Square Park Fountain Falling Apart? Fountain Now Under Wraps

Photos: Cathryn

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

A Personal Appeal — Support This NYC Blogger/Writer

Dear Blog Readers:

I’m writing you a personal note to ask for your support! Whether you read my blog regularly, stop by from time to time, or totally disagree with some of my views but appreciate the updates and hard work (!!) that have gone into this blog, I thank you! — this note is for you – and you – and you!

It’s hard to imagine that it’s close to two years since I started the Washington Square Park Blog (February 26, 2008) but it is. I’d never written a blog before but jumped into creating it because the issue of New York City’s actions as they affect our parks and public spaces is so important.

As I was figuring out various things in my own life, this blog connected me to other bloggers (I met many of the amazing Brooklyn bloggers in person and the Manhattan & other borough bloggers have been great support virtually). Those connections have been very important to me and this blog.

Washington Square Park Blog has given me the opportunity to delve into this burgeoning concept of citizen journalism and expose the intense – and sometimes joyous – details of what is happening in our City. Today, the idea of hyper-local blogs focusing on specific neighborhoods or places like Washington Square Park as a window onto the larger world has gained more traction.

While I’ve been writing my blog, I also have been writing a book.

Connecting the Dots

At times, finding the connections between disparate news items — such as the City’s attempt to put a privately owned restaurant in Union Square Park, or the construction of the new Yankee Stadium (which involved confiscation of 22 acres of public park land that still has not been fully replaced), privatization of our parks, or the question last year of Mayoral and City Council term limits! — and writing about these topics on this blog has been so compelling that I couldn’t turn away and not write about it, sometimes at the expense of working on the book!

And, of course, all the material directly related to Washington Square — the Community Board, Task Force & Landmarks Preservation Commission meetings, outlining the Phases of the redesign of the Park, letters to – and from – the NYC Parks Commissioner, write-ups in the mediaNY Times, NY Daily News, NY1, Time Out NY,,, Curbed (Curbed has kept me going at times and always made me laugh!), and numerous other blogs, the re-opening of the park upon Phase I completion, highlighting events at the park, the history of the park, to, more recently, breaking the news of the discovery of the tombstone from 1799 during recent construction! – it has often been difficult to turn the stove down to simmer.

I realize that when we read blogs – I read many of them! – we consider the content “free.” As it SHOULD be! There’s something really nice about the fact that it is.

But, as you probably know, A LOT OF WORK goes into researching and writing this blog. So, I’m asking you, now, to help support your local blogger! For a number of personal reasons, this would be a very good time to do so! And there’s good reason to: You can help me publish my book. (more…)

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

Washington Square Arch: A Fall Evening

empire state bldng blue thru arch 10 09

People gathering.  Music under the Arch. The Empire State Building in Blue.  Fifth Avenue. A Fall Evening. Washington Square Park.

p.s. I feel like I’m venturing into travel brochure-like territory with this post.  But it was a nice moment there.

Photo: Cat

Brooklyn Book Festival Held Sunday on Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza

Brooklyn Borough Hall

Brooklyn Borough Hall

book fair-10-1

International Stage

International Stage

book fair-100-1

Parks Department Logos Abound!

Parks Department Logos Abound!

A free public event, the annual Brooklyn Book Festival was held yesterday, Sunday, September 13th, honoring writing and publishing with focus on a wide range of literary stars but also emerging authors.  You can find information about new authors, books and indie publishing companies at the many booths and there is a day long program of talks and panels, all mostly outdoors.  There’s a very open, electric – and very Brooklyn! – feeling to the event and it is worth checking out.

All the Brooklyn ‘stars’ come out (Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Ames, Paul Auster, Amy Sohn, etc.) and Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised novelist Edwidge Danticat was honored with a “Best of Brooklyn” award.  Other appearances:  Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Pete Hamill, Lewis Lapham, and many more! The event is held once a year on the Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza and apparently the New York City Parks Department is proud to be a sponsor (note: excessive signage)!  But, nonetheless, I applaud this over some of their other ventures.

Photo #1: Tom_Hoboken

Photo #2: Jon Nalley

Photo #3: minicloud

Photo #4: Jon Nalley

Photo #5: Cat

Updated: Today’s Los Angeles Times reports back on the Brooklyn Book Festival here.

Some Thoughts on Completion of Phase I Washington Sq Park Redesign … And A Rainbow in the Fountain!


Rainbow in the Fountain Wednesday afternoon May 20th, 09

Rainbow in the Fountain Wednesday afternoon May 20th, 09

More thoughts on the newly opened, reconfigured Washington Square Park Phase I, which, as you most likely know, involved moving of the Fountain 23 feet east to align with the Arch … coming next week.

However, I think it’s important to give it a minute and see how it all works together before making quick judgments. All the press I’ve read thus far speaks as if people somehow thought a newly renovated park wouldn’t look … nice? It seems to me the long standing dispute between a large portion of the community and NYC government/Parks Department has made the situation confusing – for most – to assess.

As you most likely know, I have critiques of the NYC Parks Department. However, I did not question that they could pull off a nice-looking park. Some of the design aspects Park re-designer George Vellonakis pointed out to me on Tuesday, Phase I’s Opening Day, may work well (I’ll get into some of them another day). However, there are still serious questions that arise.

Yes, the Park looks pretty. But it had also been allowed to fall into serious disrepair. A lot of time, money and thought went into the last 16 1/2 months while the NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza were closed – attention that hadn’t been given to Washington Square Park, a world famous park in New York City, in years. Why?

Some questions to ask are :

* did the City integrate key public input into the process? was there purposeful evasiveness and lack of transparency to avoid doing so?

* does the space work without losing the unique character it had by becoming sanitized ?

* why was the Park allowed to fall into such disrepair?

* are private interests driving some of the decisions?


Oh, and I’ve been wondering, why do only children go in the Fountain… what stops the adults?

Note: Blogging Break ’til Tuesday, May 26th. Unless I appear with some new photos, news or random thoughts on Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Have a great weekend.

See you at the Park..?

Photo: Cat