“Chunk” of the Washington Square Arch Falls To Ground Overnight Sunday


NY1 reports that a “chunk” of the Washington Square Arch fell off to the ground overnight between Sunday and Monday. It happened when the Park was closed and no one was injured. The piece of the monument which “crashed to the sidewalk” was 6 inches by 10 inches according to the Parks Department.

From NY1:

Crews are working to inspect and repair the arch in Washington Square Park after a piece of it broke off and fell to the ground. …

No one was hurt.

The area has been cordoned off until crews can make repairs.

The structure underwent a $3 million restoration in 2006.

I reached out to the Parks Department for further information such as — who will be hired to figure out if something is wrong structurally, what the repair process is, etc. I will update accordingly. It’s a bit scary to say the least since there could easily have been someone there – there would have been – if it had happened at any time the park was open.

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Why did Henry James hate the Washington Square Arch? Meanwhile, the Arch officially turns 117

Washington Memorial Arch Original Plans

Writer Henry James used Washington Square as the name (and setting) for for one of his well known novels published in 1881; it was also one of his least favorite of ones he’d written. James grew up nearby on Washington Place and his grandmother lived at 18 Washington Square North (now part of 2 Fifth Avenue). He was in Europe in the late 1890s when the Arch was built.

The official dedication ceremony and unveiling of the Arch took place on May 4th, 1895. This makes the Arch now 117 years old! Gothamist marked the Anniversary with photos from the history of the Arch taken from the Municipal Archives (thanks Gothamist!).

Henry James returned to the Washington Square area in the early 1900s to find the new Arch erected and his childhood home demolished (by NYU … some things don’t change?). Both occurrences were seemingly sources of great displeasure for him. James described the Arch as “the lamentable little Arch of Triumph which bestrides these beginnings of Washington Square–lamentable because of its poor and lonely and unsupported and unaffiliated state.”

Walking off the Big Apple wrote about Henry James’ Uneasy Homecoming to Washington Square, recounting his reaction upon finding these changes upon his return:

Henry James (1843-1916) … was really ticked off at NYU when the university tore down his boyhood home. During the 1890s, while James was living in Europe, the school pulled down its older main building on the east side of Washington Square to make way for new buildings. In “New York Revisited,” James describes his return to the city in 1904 after a long absence, and though he comes across many familiar sights, he’s startled by the loss of his home on Washington Place. 

James continues by observing that with the destruction of his house, a commemorative tablet about his life would not be placed on its wall; “the very wall that should have borne this inscription had been smashed as for demonstration that tablets, in New York, are unthinkable.”

Tablet equals plaque I believe.

In Pete Hamill’s Downtown: My Manhattan, he writes that Henry James “hated” the Arch and surmises that the new “bohemia” taking place in the area might have been the reason that in 1915 the writer became “a British subject.” But I wonder if it was more the loss of his childhood home which he did not take well and perhaps the advent of the Arch a bit too that pushed him in that direction. Notably, James died one year later.

* Previously at WSP Blog: History of the Washington Square Arch and “Exitus Acta Probat”

Photo: NYC Municipal Archives

May Day Happenings in NYC Parks Today: Free University at Madison Sq, Rally Union Sq, Pop-Up Occupation Bryant Park, More

Union Square (1882?)

* NYU Occupy Wall Street 2 p.m. Washington Square (will add in link)

* Rally at Union Square for May Day at 4 p.m. The first Labor Day March was held there in 1882 and was huge. Today, there will be a rally and then march beginning at 5:30 p.m. heading to Zuccotti Park.

* Bryant Park (40-42nd St. bet. 5th & 6th Ave.) 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Fun and friendly “Pop-up Occupation” featuring free food, a free market, free services, skill-shares, workshops, teach-ins, speak-outs, meditation, public art, performances, discussions, and trainings. (ed. note: love this!)

GuitarArmy rehearsal with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) at noon.

March at 2 pm to Madison Sq. Park and on to Union Square.

* Free University in Madison Square Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Free University is a collective educational experiment that will be held on May 1, 2012, from 10am-3pm. In solidarity with the general strike, the Free University offers a public space for the 99% to disengage from an unequal system and imagine a model for alternative education. Those gathered in Madison Square Park, and those meeting in other spaces in solidarity, will create a university that is open to all, without debt or tuition for students, without pre-requisites, age limits or any other disqualifying requirements. Learning can only happen through interaction, exchange, and dialogue. To create a living future together, all must be included and welcome.

The Free University is an open invitation to educators around New York City to participate in May Day 2012. During the day, lectures, workshops, skill-shares, and discussions will be held — all open to the public. …

No single day, park, or effort can contain our vision; instead, we propose and will struggle to make all our universities places of free education, inquiry, and access to knowledge for all. We demand that our society put forward the necessary resources to provide such an education for all.

Free U is a project made in partnership with educators and students from Brooklyn College/CUNY Grad Center/Eugene Lang College/New School for Social Research/Hunter College/ /Pratt Institute/New York University/Queensborough Community College/ Rutgers/Columbia University/Princeton.

There’s more!

99 Picket Lines (one at WSP at 8 p.m.)
Midtown Manhattan
Community groups, unions, affinity groups and OWS
more info
8am – Chase Building (NYCC) – 270 Park Ave (@48th St)
8am – New York Times Building (UAW) – 620 8th Ave (@41st St)
8am – Sotheby’s (Teamsters) – 1334 York Ave (@72nd St)
8am-10am – US Post Office (Community-Labor Alliance) – 421 8th Ave (@W31st St)
8:30am-9am – NYU Bobst Library (NYU for OWS) – 70 Washington Square South (@University Pl)
9am – Paulson & Co (Strong Economy for All) – 1251 6th Ave (@50th St)
10am – Chase Branch (NYCC) – 401 Madison Ave (@48th St)
11am – ABC Studios (NABET-CWA) – 66th Street (@Columbus)
12pm-1:30pm – Investment Banker Stephen Berger (CSEA AFSCME) – 46th St @ Park Ave
12pm-2pm – Immigration Court (NMASS) – 26 Federal Plaza (Worth & Lafeyette)
1:30pm – Capital Grille (ROC-NY) – 155 E 42nd St (@3rd Ave)
2pm – Chase and Citibank (Occupy Sunset Park) – 5th Ave & 54th St (BROOKLYN)
3pm – Strand Bookstore (Strand workers) – 828 Broadway (@12th St)
3pm – Beth Israel Hospital (Workers United) – 10 Union Square East (14th St & Park Ave)
8pm – Washington Square Park Arch (Musicians 802) – Washington Square North @ 5th Ave

Full Occupy Wall Street May Day Schedule Everywhere

The Park At Dawn


Arch pre-Tree!

The Arch in the Rain


Yesterday.

Photo: Cathryn.

Mike Myers and Mario Batali Film Atop the Washington Square Arch

Updated June 15th, 9:59 a.m.How does one get access to the top of the Washington Square Arch? A few months back, a Wall Street Journal reporter gained access. But a tv show or commercial? Yesterday, I looked up to see people atop the Arch! Not realizing at the time those people being filmed were actor Mike Myers and chef Mario Batali (they later played ping pong together on the Plaza). The filming was apparently done for some Mario Batali venture. According to Pam Levy, Batali’s publicist, it is for “a private Internet webisode project.” She added: “I can’t tell you anything more than that at this point.”

Mike Myers and Mario Batali wave (tho' no one seems to notice!)

Men Guarding Entrance to the Arch

Mike Myers Looks Pensive (Imagine the view!)

The full picture

Picture at left captures the ping pong part of Myers’ and Batali’s venture to Washington Square. Not sure how it all works together.

I wrote to Batali’s publicist and the Parks Department for additional information (Parks Dept. has not responded as of Wed. a.m.).

Questions such as: What were the arrangements and terms under which Mario Batali filmed on the Plaza and was able to enter and film within/from the Arch? If financial, what was the amount agreed to?

Has Mario Batali given money towards Washington Square Park in the past and/or pledged money in the future towards maintaining, renovating, or some other aspect of the Park? (WSP Blog Note: Batali was in photos with City officials when Phase I opening ceremony occurred.)

And, of course, how does the Parks Department determine who is allowed access to the Arch?

As Batali was walking away from the ping pong table, he said to the people gathered around: “support and give money to the Washington Square Park Foundation.” An organization, to my knowledge, that does not exist.

Batali runs a host of restaurants in the neighborhood and his “GelOtto” vending cart recently appeared in the NorthWest corner of the Park.

Photos: Cathryn.

Washington Square: The Arch, Fifth Avenue

The Arch and Fifth Avenue

March 2010.

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

Wall Street Journal Goes Inside the Washington Square Arch!

The Door (Easy to Miss)

Well that’s the Washington Arch to you (and me). A reporter from the Wall Street Journal gains access to inside – and top of – the Arch.

Inside the Washington Arch:

“We don’t allow people up here,” the [NYC] historic preservationist explained. “The stairway is quite dangerous and the roof is quite fragile. If we allowed the public up here, the roof would fail quite quickly.”

That’s a pity because the view from the top of the arch is unparalleled, quite literally at a crossroads of the city’s history.

Looking north, you get a clear shot all the way up Fifth Avenue. The skyscrapers of Wall Street rise to the south, the construction of the Freedom Tower proceeding apace and now clearly visible. Just below you is the park itself, brittle and beautiful in the winter morning light, and the genteel Greek Revival townhouses of Washington Square North.

Mr. Krawchuk [Parks Department] said that in 1917 a group of “Bohemians” led by the artists Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan and the poet Gertrude Drick broke into the arch and climbed to the roof. “They had a picnic and a party and drank tea late into the night,” he said, though one suspects stronger beverages might also have been involved. “Gertrude Drick read a proclamation declaring the free and independent state of Greenwich Village. Sloan did an etching of them all huddled here in the early morning hours.”

I’ve always secretly wanted to go to the top of the Arch. One Christmas Eve, a few years back, the door was left ajar and I stepped in the entryway and peeked up the stairs. I was tempted. I could almost see as much as the pictures that accompany the article show (Parks Department must have put restrictions as such). The view from the top does sound quite impressive; as for now, I can only imagine.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman

Inside the Arch

Great shot!

Photo by Park Slope Lens