For Earth Day, Banner Launched Via Balloons At Washington Square Arch to Protest Use of Rainforest Wood In New Park Benches


Environmental activists took to Washington Square Park on Friday, Earth Day, with a flamboyant action in which large, colorful, helium-filled balloons ascended to the top of the Arch with a banner proclaiming, “Mayor Bloomberg: Why was the Amazon logged for Wash. Square Park Benches?” The new benches at Washington Square, installed as part of the Park’s “multi-million renovation,” are harvested from Ipe wood, a tropical hardwood logged from the Amazon rainforest. This usage goes against pledges made, according to organizer of the event, Rainforest Relief, over 3 years ago by the NYC Parks Department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to stop its use in city construction.

From Rainforest Relief and NY Climate Action Group:

This ongoing use of ipê contradicts the pledge that Mayor Bloomberg made to United Nations General Assembly on February 11, 2008: “Our City’s agencies will immediately reduce their use of tropical hardwoods by 20%. They will do that by specifying domestic wood, recycled plastic lumber, and other materials in the design of park benches and other construction projects.” He was following the lead of the Parks Department, which had declared an end to the use of tropical hardwoods for bench construction in late 2007.

The ipê wood can be found in new construction at the High Line Park, Union Square, Hudson River Park, & Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The organizations made a statement about the impacts of privatization of our public space:

[These parks] are also part of a larger trend occurring throughout the city: duties and responsibilities concerning public space are largely being transferred from public agencies to private entities such as business improvement districts and public benefit corporations. These entities are assemblages of private investors and stakeholders who operate without public oversight.

The Village Alliance, a business improvement district, had substantial sway concerning both the redesign of Washington Square Park as well as its maintenance.

“The privatization of NYC’s public space is allowing the city’s destruction of the Amazon to continue unchallenged,” stated Tim Doody, the New York City campaign coordinator for Rainforest Relief.

Photo of old Washington Square benches here.

Stacy Walsh Rosenstock commented at the time of that post: Isn’t the 1934 World’s Fair Bench, designed by Robert Moses and Kenneth Lynch, a New York City classic? Why would we ever choose to use some earth-hostile imitation?

As for the new benches, I hear repeatedly from people that the new benches are uncomfortable and they liked the old ones just fine. Perhaps promises could have been kept and that rainforest could have been left alone after all?

** More on the action which took place yesterday (Friday, April 22nd) around noon here. **

Photos: http://rfny.net

Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II Unveiling is Imminent … Well, At least, Some of It is

New York City Parks Department’s Redesign of Washington Square Park: Phase II — modified from its original plan which included additional elements like the Mounds and large Dog Run (now in Phase III) – is close to ready for unveiling. At least, the Eastern side of the Park is. The Southwestern side is still challenged and likely two months from completion.

This brings up the question: Will the Parks Department have two grand opening ceremonies to celebrate first the unveiling of Phase II East and then Phase II SouthWest? How will this be handled? Something should open, don’t you think? And soon.

Washington Square Park’s Phase II construction began in the Fall of 2009. At the time, the scheduled completion date was September 2010. See previous WSP Blog coverage of the delays and reasons for them. The projected cost of Phases I, II and III is now at $30 Million and counting.

Still, additional questions remain:

  • Will the Garibaldi statue soon be refinished and unveiled? (It’s really time for him to get out of that bright blue cloak. I’ve written to the Landmarks Preservation Commission update: it’s the – Public Design Commission – which is – the agency which will ultimately give the go ahead on how Garibaldi should be completed with no response as yet.)
  • Is completion of the large kids’ playground on the Northeast side majorly delayed due to Parks Department, um, actions? Will this further hold up the Eastern side from – at last – opening?
  • Is it even conceivable that the Chess Plaza will open at the same time as the Eastern section? This section is lagging way behind partly due to the fact that the Parks Department’s original design for the area had to be redone (a tree was in the ‘way’ of the circle). The Chess Plaza and surrounding SW Quadrant are still about two months from completion whereas the Eastern side is pretty close to finished (assuming there will be resolution on Garibaldi and Children’s Playground some day soon).
  • The sidewalk that borders the Northeastern section of the park is in terrible shape. (I did not survey every sidewalk around the park but this got my attention; see photo.) Will the park open with it left this way?

Latest on Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II in Photos:

New Low Stage by Garibaldi Replaces "Teen Plaza" Stage Area

Garibaldi Remains Under Wraps

Pathway East of the Arch

Seating Alcove Northern End (Playground in Background)

Sidewalks in Disrepair, Northeastern Perimeter

The Hills Are Alive (Washington Sq North)

NE Entrance

Seating Alcove Eastern Side (does look smaller?)

Western End of Park Still Challenged

Tree in Chess Plaza - at Right - Which Caused Drama

Oh, and my vote in how this will be handled is that the Parks Department will have a grand opening of the Eastern section of Washington Square Park in April, possibly May, and then, with less fanfare, open the Chess Plaza area.

*** Previous WSP Blog coverage of the delays and reasons for them. ***

Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II — Progress & Cost Update

To keep you up to date with the latest

Despite initial reports that a section of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II would open in December 2010 (I always doubted that), what is now Phase II – specifically the Northeast & Southeast Quadrants and no longer including the Mounds and large Dog Run on the southern side – will open Spring 2011. The original scheduled completion date was Fall 2010. (More on delays here.)

The corrected signs around the park reflect this and it has been confirmed by the city’s Parks Department. I’ve heard most likely April will be the formal unveiling. You might recall that Phase I had a “soft” opening in May 2009 and was open for a week and a half before a grand opening ceremony was held with the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former Council Member Alan Gerson, et al.

Final cost for Phase II?

According to the Parks Department, it is estimated that the cost for Phase II will come in completed at around $8 million. The middle phase of the park’s reconstruction has now been revised from the original design plans. Sections, including the large dog run and Mounds (I’m unclear if Chess area is included — will update Chess area still part of Phase II), have been reallocated into Phase III, likely to break ground in the Fall 2011, if not later.

A little recap of finances related to the Park’s project:

Phase I NW Quadrant + Fountain Plaza (cost): $16 million
Phase II NE & SE Quadrants + Chess Area (estimate): $8 million
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Phase I & II = $24 million at least (estimated)

Phase III cost : unknown

What we do know is that Phase III’s forthcoming “pergola” — which will house the long awaited upgraded restrooms and Park administrative offices — will, according to a report in the New York Post, cost about $4 million.

Still incomplete, we’re at $28 million.

The entire controversial project, Washington Square Park redesigned Phases I, II and III, was initially budgeted for – and given the green light at – $16 million. Once completed, we’re now looking at Phases I, II and III reaching $30-$35 million & likely higher.

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** Note: WSP Blog new entries will resume February 25th. If something new develops; I will post so check back now and again. **

WSP Phase II Media Curiosity; Smaller Seating Alcoves?; 24 Hour Dog Run

Fall 2010? Well, that's not going to happen...

Updated 1/25 & 31*

Reporters are asking questions about Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II, but has anything much changed since my update in September 2010? (Re-posted below.)

There’s been great progress in the park’s construction on the Eastern side but the project as a whole is still lagging behind and far from completion. Continued Parks Department miscommunication, mishaps and errors. And there’s still NO community or City Council oversight of the project.

*Cost of the project is at $35 $30 million + counting. The initial budget for the entire 3 Phases? $16 Million. (WSP Blog ed.: The $30 Million figure is an estimate for all three phases. I am fairly certain the cost will reach $35 million but it will definitely reach $30 million so I am revising my figure – for now.)

Community Board 2 held a meeting in October last year at which there was a request to the Parks Department to add reconfigured seating, an improvement on what was illustrated on the design for the new alcoves (which some community members finally got a hold of). The request was for seating which would be more conducive to interacting with your neighbors if you chose to do so and viewing what was going on in the rest of the park itself – part of the charm of these spots. (There will be four seating alcoves, previously six, in the eastern quadrants of the park.)

Sounds like a good idea. Small concession, right?

Word on the street is that this got vetoed, likely by designer George Vellonakis — the landscape designer who created the controversial redesign of this historic park — who has a tremendous pull within the city’s Parks Department.

The seating alcoves — which were eliminated in Vellonakis’s original design for the park — were only added back in after the community, former Council Member Alan Gerson and the Landmarks Preservation Commission all strongly protested their removal. (We might have had issues with Alan Gerson but he was involved, unlike current Council Member Margaret Chin.)

In addition, although it was promised that the seating alcoves would retain their original size, it is also believed that they are much smaller in the actual design and implementation. (*1/31 — WSP Blog note: This is unclear tho’ it would not surprise me. Will try to find out — )

The Villager is reporting this week that the large dog run will be 24 hours as if this is news. Way, way back at meetings that perhaps the Villager did not attend (no offense, Villager folks!) it was revealed that the entrance to the newly placed large dog run on the Park’s southern side would be accessible at all hours. (Not sure honestly how that will work but we’ll see!)

Phase II has been split into two pieces with a large portion – including the dog run – moved into Phase III.

A Reader of WSP Blog writes: “Let’s catch the persons responsible for the horrid destruction of the Park and misappropriation of funds”

On November 30th, a reader “pattycake” responded to the blog piece, “The Squirrels of Washington Square Park have many fans but Now also a Killer in Their Midst,” with the following comment:

so stupid.. im sure the girl isnt intentionally letting the dog kill them. Forget “catching” the squirrel killer..lets catch the person or persons responsible for the horrid destruction of the park and misappropriation of funds…where is the money? why isnt the park done? where is the new dog run? why are the trees cut down? WHAT ABOUT THAT?

I responded, on December 1st, as follows (this version is slightly expanded from the original response):

Hi Pattycake, I’ve heard enough to believe that some malicious intent may be going on in relation to the woman and the squirrels. She knows her dog(s) is(are) aggressive – I don’t blame them, they’ve been encouraged by her – and I’ve heard other dogs have been attacked, to the point where she’s been banned from the LeRoy Park Dog Run.

Re: the park itself, I agree with you!

I’ve tried to get questions answered and more scrutiny on the process of the redesign of Washington Square Park at Community Board 2 meetings.

The chair of the Parks Committee, Tobi Bergman, is very evasive and states there’s nothing more they can do. (He is a former NYC Parks Department employee, it should also be noted.) The chair of Community Board 2, Jo Hamilton, hasn’t given it her attention, leaving it in Parks Committee’s hands, but I don’t think people are pressuring her about it either.

I’ve written to City Council Member Margaret Chin – who took Alan Gerson’s place – with finally a response from her sister who works in her office. I sent a bunch of follow-up documents and then received no further communication.

Without a loud yet effective group asking questions, I don’t know how anything can be achieved. People who were involved for years need to become visible and outspoken again; too many have become silent. And new voices are needed as well. I am happy to have others speak out !

PLEASE CONTACT City Council Member Margaret Chin at chin@council.nyc.gov. It’s her district. She took Alan Gerson’s place but has not been involved at all. She needs to hear from people that they want her involved.

You ask good questions but asking them of (CB2 Parks Chair) Tobi Bergman and (CB2 Board Chair and WSP Task Force Chair) Jo Hamilton and Margaret Chin would be a great follow-up.

Thanks for writing.

Cathryn
WSP Blog

p.s. Which trees are you referring to?

** ACTION YOU CAN TAKE **

Write to New York City Council Member Margaret Chin. Some of the unanswered areas and concerns around Washington Square Park are:

1) the delay (Phase II – currently under construction and encompassing the Eastern and Southwestern sections of the park – was supposed to be completed Fall 2010; it is now projected for Spring 2011 with some of the work moved into Phase III)
2) the budget having more than doubled (budgeted at $16 million; now $32 million + counting)
3) the destruction of trees
4) lack of Community Board 2/Washington Square Park Task Force oversight
(basically : zero oversight)
5) no attention being paid to the details of the redesign, etc.
(see point #4)

Write to her at: chin@council.nyc.gov

Did you notice with NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg that libraries, senior centers, animal protection, firehouses, police department and more are cut from the City Budget but never elaborate and unnecessary redesigns of parks?

Oh, and I never wrote a report back on the last Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting held October 6th addressing Washington Square — after 10 long months of silence — because it was mostly an exercise in frustration. (Although any doubts about Tobi Bergman’s role in stopping closer scrutiny of the redesign of the park were put to rest.) The Parks Committee has not met for the past two months following the meeting.

** To get up to speed on some of the issues, see previous WSP Blog Post: Washington Square Park Phase II: Lack of Transparency & Oversight Continues

Community Board 2 Will At last Address Longstanding Questions around Washington Sq Park Redesign Phase II – Ten Months Late

Update 11/6: Well, I was perhaps overly hopeful. Community Board addressed WSP but only in relation to the benches in the seating alcoves. Attempts to get them to draw a bit more scrutiny onto Phase II’s progress were met with apathy and stutters of “there’s nothing we can do… that’s not our role” from CB2 Parks Committee chair Tobi Bergman.

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Ten months after the topic was scheduled to be discussed, Community Board 2‘s Parks Committee will at last address long-standing questions around Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II this coming Wednesday, October 6th.

Many questions have been asked and concerns have been raised in the last month about the status of Phase II, currently ongoing. We would surmise that CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman and Community Board 2 Chair Jo Hamilton will be responsive and prepared to discuss at length the issues and that some of our elected officials will have representation at the meeting.

This really should be a meeting of the Washington Square Park Task Force and not the Community Board but at least it’s something! Discussion on design for benches in the four seating alcoves; update and further information on project construction to date and changes to the design.

Many other area parks to be discussed at this one meeting: Christopher Park, Bleecker Playground/Sitting Area, Minetta, Seravalli, and Bleecker Street Comfort Station.

Time & Location: Wednesday, October 6th, 6:30 p.m. – Little Red School House, 196 Bleecker St. (enter on Sixth Avenue)

Washington Square Park Redesign Phase II: An Eerie Silence – What’s Going On? – Part 1

Well, that's not going to happen...

Lack of Parks Department Transparency; No Governmental or Community Oversight Lead to Eerie Silence on WSP: Phase II

What’s happening with Phase II? It’s been a bit quiet on the Washington Square Park Redesign news front. Hard to believe but there have been no official updates on the current work on the $30 million + project for 9 months now since a brief overview was given in December 2009 shortly after the work got going.

It’s somewhat understandable why Phase I — which included the controversial, and, most would say, unnecessary aligning and leveling of the Fountain Plaza — got all the attention.

Yet Phase II’s tinkering, with no spotlight on it at all, includes some of the most loved aspects of the park, including: the Chess Tables, Mounds and Play Area, Dog Runs, Garibaldi Statue and Performance Site, Seating Alcoves, Children’s Playground, as well as the lawn, pathways and gardens throughout the SW, E and NE sides of the historic park.

So, why the silence? If you read Washington Square Park Blog regularly, you know that I’ve advocated for more governmental and community oversight on the project.

Who, you ask, should be doing that oversight?

  • Body #1: The New York City Council.The two public faces at the onset of Phase I were Council Member Alan Gerson and Speaker Christine Quinn who engineered the famous Gerson-Quinn Agreement. Gerson lost his bid for a third term when he was voted out of office by disgruntled constituents. His replacement, Margaret Chin, has distanced herself from the project. At the rare meetings that have occurred in relation to WSP since she assumed the position early this year, no representatives from her office have attended.
  • Body #2: The Washington Square Park Task Force. Lacking Phase I’s high profile and without Community Board 2 and Task Force Chair Brad Hoylman there, the WSP Task Force has gone silent on Phase II. I’ve emailed Hoylman’s replacement, Jo Hamilton, multiple times reminding her of the Task Force’s purview but she has been resistant, likely believing former Parks’ employee (and chair of the CB2 Parks Committee) Tobi Bergman’s insistence that oversight is not part of their role. (Here, he perhaps intentionally mixes things up between the CB2 Parks Committee and the Washington Square Park Task Force. The latter is charged, in fact, with the role of oversight of the finer details of the redesign.)

For a quick refresher, here are the first three points of the WSP Task Force “goals”:

1. Make sure all points of Quinn-Gerson agreement are adhered to.

2. All bid documents, all changes of plans, and all design details should be run by task force.

3. Enable the community to have input on design details.

Meanwhile, Phase III, yet to come, which reconstructs the rest rooms and Park administrative offices into one elaborate structure, has been the subject of three separate meetings. Numerous questions have been allowed by the community members – and they have been answered. The reason? This leg is being overseen by an outside architecture firm.

Oh, Garibaldi...

Phase II is overseen by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe‘s favorite, landscape designer George Vellonakis. Vellonakis, as it is widely known, dislikes community input; therefore, only cursory details have been presented — these more than a year ago. There have been no substantive updates – or opportunities for review – since.

In fact, the only time anyone saw the blueprints up close, they were dropped off on a table at a February meeting of the CB2 Parks Committee with no discussion allowed. Tobi Bergman brushed this off; although even he seemed a bit disgruntled that the blueprints were handed over FIVE MONTHS after the project had begun.

Do you sense a lack of respect – and even disdain – by the Parks Department for the community and everyone involved?

It’s no surprise that Phase II is mired in problems that no one knows about, and the Parks Department – with Community Board 2’s and the NY City Council’s complicity – wants to keep it that way.

Wondering what the problems are?

Read Part II 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.

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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.

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

Two of Seven Newly Planted Trees Surrounding the Washington Square Park Fountain Have Died — Is the Cause the Design? + WSP Task Force Meeting Update

Dying Tree Lining Fountain, Since Removed

Last week’s meeting of Washington Square Park Task Force/Community Board 2 Parks Committee on December 2nd provided minimal new information about Phase II (currently in progress) and Phase III of the Park’s redesign.

Another meeting of the WSP Task Force is scheduled for February 2010 at which the NYC Parks Department will be prepared to present information on Phases II and III since they admitted they were not equipped to do so at the December 2nd meeting.

[Update: This meeting did not happen; it was the infamous meeting where the blueprints for Phase II were dropped off on a table with no discussion. It was a CB2 Parks Committee meeting; the Task force did not meet.]

There was one item of note: A brief discussion on why two of the new trees planted around the Washington Square Park Fountain died earlier this year. Landscape designer George Vellonakis insisted that there is “no drainage problem” and that it was just a result of the construction (which is troubling, if so, also).

I encountered a landscape architect at the park one day in August when the two trees were being dug up and removed who informed me that the (new) design is not appropriate for proper water drainage with structural soil and that this diminishes (perhaps eliminates) the tree’s ability to survive.

Seven of the trees that lined the Fountain (close to forty years old) were axed because of the Bloomberg Administration’s desire to relocate the Washington Square Park Fountain 22 feet east so that it would align with the Arch at Fifth Avenue. The Fountain had been in its previous location since 1871.

The true test will be if the new trees planted survive. If they don’t, let’s hope that the Parks Department will take some corrective action.  It seems wrong to sacrifice living trees for a potentially flawed design.

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