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

The ‘New’ Times Square: Public Space as Suburban Mall and Now Also For Rent

New Times Square 1New Times Square 2Seriously, I think I felt more comfortable with how Times Square was before with all the traffic (and even before that when it was really, uh, gritty…) … this is totally geared to tourists. It feels antithetical to what New York is (and can be). Now it is reported that the Bloomberg Administration is selling off the rights to use this “public space,” a definite pattern, according to an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans in February to close stretches of Broadway to traffic to create pedestrian plazas, it was billed as a way to ease congestion and create oases for walkers, people watchers, idlers (chairs and tables were provided) and cyclists. Since the car-free zones were opened in May, they have been home to predictable urban vignettes: tourists resting with their shopping bags, New Yorkers pausing with their cellphones as buses go by a few feet away.

But the plazas can also make money for the city.

Fred Kent, founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, is quoted about the risks involved:  

“If it’s a public event, then that’s O.K., but what can happen very quickly is they can be privatized and limit public use and public access,” Mr. Kent said. He cited the Bryant Park fashion shows as an example of the latter, calling them “the most egregious private use of public space anywhere in the world.”

These “pedestrian plazas” are located: “on Broadway at Times Square from 47th to 42nd Street, at Herald Square from 35th to 33rd Street, and where Broadway and Fifth Avenue meet between 22nd and 25th Streets. Smaller plazas, called Broadway Boulevard, take up one lane of Broadway between 42nd Street and Herald Square.”

Photos:  Cat