On the Performance Area in Phase II Redesign – “Garibaldi Plaza”

(Updated)

WSP Blog reader Elton wrote in yesterday with the following comment in relation to my post on the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing last week. He raises some good points:

“Praise be to Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz for her stand in redirecting the Phase II design proposals toward stated community needs. Another community need I feel is getting very short shrift in Phase II is the PERFORMANCE STAGE. Its design and location should be restudied, especially in the light of potentially expanding long-range uses of the park, and in line with the recommendations envisioned by many park-use evaluations. For instance, in past seasons, attending musical performances at Teen Plaza, one must contend with competition from being seated in the middle of a crossroads, limited stage area, no accoustical baffles or wind (or even slight, provisional weather) protection, etc., and Phase II envisions even more compromised conditions. Why can’t a STATE OF THE ART PERFORMANCE STAGE be insisted on as a FOCUS and (geometric, if that’s the winning buzzword) FEATURE of that axis of the park, not a badly-served and watered-down afterthought? Wouldn’t this be an essential part of a long-range plan to underscore the park’s continued and expanding viability as a performance venue?”

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Thoughts?

WSP Blog Note: I can’t say I have a clear idea of what exactly is happening to the performance area, the here-to-fore (oops. I mean from here on) renamed Garibaldi Plaza, but I do know the Washington Square Music Festival stated that they were worried about sight lines, the size of the stage, the height of the stage, the fact that there is no railing, and no real back stage. While I think they could have argued more forcefully for what they want, the other side of this is, that, though they are well regarded and historically connected to the space, they only use the stage about five times a year. I’ve heard that other performers, such as “street” performers, may not want a railing although, for any body’s usage, the stage does seem too low. I gather people will be able to just sit on the stage and use that as a “public space.”

So… what is the “every day” use of this space? Will there be more professional performances – and which should the Park be oriented to? … Although I’m sure no matter how you slice it, this area’s design should be reconsidered.

“In all probability” last performance of Washington Square Music Festival on favored stage at Washington Sq Park

Charles Mingus Orchestra at Washington Sq Park '08

Charles Mingus Orchestra at Washington Sq Park

Peggy Friedman, long-time executive director of the Washington Square Music Festival, sent in this photo from the final performance of this season with this note:

“On July 29, members of the world-famed Charles Mingus Orchestra played jazz by the master on the stage in Washington Square. In all probability it was the last concert for the Washington Square Music Festival on this stage, a perfect site for musical and theatrical performances because of its height and railing. Mr. Mingus’ widow, Sue Mingus is on stage audience left.”

To read about what New York City’s redesign as it stands now does to this stage area, read Part II of our Update on NYC’s Redesign of Washington Square Park. This includes a report back from the Washington Square Park Task Force meeting in which the community and board members of the WSP Music Festival discussed why the new design doesn’t work. The NYC Parks Department took in no input from those who use the stage. But there’s still time! And, ideally, the suggestions offered at the Task Force meeting will be implemented and the Parks Department will turn over a new leaf, so to speak.

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In case you were wondering, Part VII, the final piece in the “update” series, is coming tomorrow!

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Photo credit: Nan Melville