At Washington Square Park, the “Tisch Fountain” Plaques Arrive!

"Tisch" Fountain Plaque

"Tisch" Fountain Plaque

One of the many controversial, widely disliked aspects of New York City’s redesign of Washington Square Park is the renaming of the century old — here-to-fore unnamed — fountain, its name sold off to the Tisch Family for $2.5 million. This agreement, between the Parks Department and the Tisch Foundation, took place in January 2005.

Yet, in another instance of its duplicitous and non-transparent agenda, the New York City Parks Department, under the direction of Commissioner Adrian Benepe, withheld this information from Community Board 2, the New York City Council and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was only when a community member and activist had the foresight to file a Freedom of Information Letter (FOIL) Request that the information was revealed.

The Tisches have their names on more than enough NYU buildings in the area. Did they really need their name on the Washington Square Park Fountain? There are so many famous and noted people affiliated with Washington Square Park, imagine if they had offered to name it one of those – Henry James, Bob Dylan, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Eleanor Roosevelt – and left their giant egos at the … fence?

tisch-plaque-arty1The plaque reads: “The restoration of the Fountain and Plaza was made possible by the families of Laurence A. Tisch and Preston R. Tisch.” I mean, c’mon. If the city had “renovated” Washington Square Park as requested, and not reconstructed every last inch of it, don’t ya think the city could have paid for it with our own funds and left the Tisches out of it? Of course, that doesn’t work with Mayor Bloomberg‘s privatization agenda.

Then there’s the matter of the cost. $2.5 million? I am against privatization of our parks and public spaces but let’s do a comparison. Chanel recently paid the Central Park Conservancy for an advertisement/exhibit in Central Park, according to Metro, “at least a million dollars for a three-week stay, and the city will collect another $400,000.”

And yet the Tisch Family paid a paltry $2.5 million to get their name – arguably – forever on the Washington Square Park Fountain?

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** This plaque (one of two) is awaiting its installation on the aligned, leveled off fountain.

Update: Thanks to Curbed for linking to this site … check out the interesting comments over there.

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Washington Square Park

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Washington Square Park

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Our Park

This flyer counters the NYC Parks Department’s spin on what is actually happening behind the fencing to Washington Square Park at the hands of the Bloomberg Administration. It’s been pretty effective since people read it quite thoroughly. The question everyone asks is “Why?” The flyer attempts to answer the question while putting into context the politics and involvement of everyone from Mayor Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to private interests like New York University and the Tisch Family in the unwelcome redesign of this dynamic public space.

However, there are still things that can be done:

1. No Conservancy: We want Washington Square Park to remain a public park without corporate influence.

2. Preserve the Seating Alcoves Along the Northern, Eastern and Southeastern Edges. In the redesign plan, these areas are scheduled to be removed. People utilize and enjoy them for reading, music, studying, talking. They further contribute to the charm of the park.

3. Maintain the public space around the Fountain. Numbers vary as to whether the entire Plaza will lose up to 23% of its valuable public space. The NYC Parks Department has been less than forthcoming in confirmation of this number.

4. Save the Park’s Trees. Work all existing, mature trees into the design. They are part of our urban habitat and deserve to be treated as living entities that are an integral part of Washington Square Park.  (At least 14 of the Park’s trees have been axed thus far in Phase I of the redesign.)

5. Change the Planned Fencing. The height of the fence at 3 feet has been a core design element of the park and is welcoming and desired. The fence being installed is 4 feet (which makes quite a bit of difference) and contains decorative spears on top in direct violation of the Parks Department “agreement” with Council Member Alan Gerson and Speaker Christine Quinn.

6. Save the “Teen Plaza” and maintain height of the stage. This stage has worked well for many years for the Washington Square Music Festival and other events. The current height is 36″. The proposed height of the stage at 22″ is much too low for classical music performances and other usage (protests, other performances, etc.).

7. Leave the Dog Runs as they are. Moving every piece of this park at this time does not make sense.

Write in with any and all ideas, of course.

Read an expanded version of the flyer’s information here.

Bloomberg MillionTreesNYC: What I really think about trees

bloomie_trees.jpg

I have no idea how NYC Mayor Michael (“No One’s Ever called me a Tree Hugger Before”) Bloomberg really truly deeply feels about trees but his MillionTreesNYC “initiative” strikes me as mostly bluster and p.r. In case you missed the news, Mayor Bloomberg has designated April MillionTreesNYC Month.

Assessing the # of trees that have hit the chopping block during his administration (with his Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe), it becomes clear that when there is a chance to privatize or add a corporate interest to a public space, in Mayor Bloomberg’s book, it’s time for the fellows with the chain saws to move in.

No matter what Mayor Bloomberg’s press releases say, that is not “green” nor “sustainable” nor “ecological.” (Click here for a refresher on “greenwashing.”)

Nor is it how I think our city Parks Department is supposed to function — putting private interests over the care and stewardship of our city trees, open space and wildlife. You can read a previous entry on this here.

Trees that once stood in our boroughs prior to the Bloomberg administration:

*11 trees at Washington Square Park felled thus far to align the fountain — Naming rights sold to Tisch Family. Tisch Fountain, anyone? — with the Arch

*THOUSANDS of trees at Randall’s Island levied for private development to swoop in

*400 trees destroyed from two Bronx Parks, Mullally and Macombs parks, paved over for Yankee Stadium

*Over 105 trees sacrificed at East River Park for its “reconstruction”

And on the way:

*The proposal by Parks Commissioner Benepe to destroy 14 trees at Union Square Park to expand the restaurant space for his friend restauranteur Danny Meyer; and,

*Thousands of trees at Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park in Queens to cover over the naturally occurring landscape with Benepe’s favorite dangerous synthetic material: artificial turf.

At Washington Square Park, no one actually knows how many trees are coming down in later Phases of the City’s redesign plan. However, upon a closer look recently at the widening of the paths at the Park to accommodate machinery, it looks awfully tenuous how the living trees are being treated and questionable how many will survive the city’s “renovation.” (Trees affected by construction don’t die immediately so we wouldn’t see the results of this for 8-10 years.)

I think the picture above is fairly accurate in representing Mayor Bloomberg’s relationship to NYC’s trees. Something is wrong with the Mayor’s p.r. machine and how smoothly it is able to hide these statistics and machinations. (Yes, I know that’s what good p.r. people do but hopefully – ? – the media would see through it.)

*Thank you to the Queens Crap blog for unearthing this Bloomberg photo. They cover steadfastly the craziness that too often represents our city government and how it relates to the over-development of the borough of Queens, in ways that affect us all!