Updated March 12th, 2011 (except where noted)

2011: This blog has been ongoing for three years! The focus has expanded somewhat and I will continue to update on the park’s redesign, currently in the midst of Phase II! Washington Square Park Blog has been written up in the New York Times, Daily News, Time Out NY, Curbed, Eater, Gothamist, Idealist.org, MSN.com, NY1.com, and numerous other blogs and sites. This blog began as an attempt to outline what had transpired as of 2008 with regards to the city’s controversial redesign plans for this historic landmark park. Its scope expanded over time to cover history of and events at the park, as well as preservation efforts, nearby happenings and local businesses in the Village around the park. WSP Blog has continuously covered issues at Washington Square and other New York City parks, such as privatization of public space, the democratic process, the actions of the Bloomberg Administration and all levels of city government.

Thanks for visiting!

Cathryn, WSP Blog

*Also: Cathryn’s World, my personal blog.

Originally Published June 2008:

Washington Square Park blog began after I attended an exhibit on Jane Jacobs and her New York City activism presented by the Municipal Art Society in January. The purpose of the exhibit was to educate about Jane Jacobs (who had a strong attachment and viewpoint on Washington Square Park and had engaged with others to stop cars from running through the Park in the late ’50’s), and to encourage city-wide activism. An eye-catching brochure was handed out entitled “The City is You.” The point of it was to lay out the steps of advocating for issues and causes in your neighborhood, believing that doing so is what keeps New York City vital.

“Observe. Think. Assess. Learn. Assemble. Participate. Advocate.”

The last ‘topic’ in the brochure is titled SPEAK. It states: “Go outside the process and the system. If you’ve done everything by the book – contacted city agencies and local officials, gone to community board meetings, taken part in public hearings, used all of your rights to participate – and you feel that you voice hasn’t been heard, engage the media, or create your own website or blog. Sponsor a neighborhood event to raise awareness.”

As a more recent arrival to the Washington Square Park issue, I tried to bring myself up to speed with the help of several dedicated people on what has transpired over the last few years and how New York City “officials” (led by the NYC Parks Department at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg) pushed through their redesign plan. When I read the paragraph above, I thought of all the people who tried to play the game within the system. Unfortunately, the system is broken. It’s corrupted and the process – if you can call it that – isn’t transparent or accessible. So what do you do?

Washington Square Park Blog is an attempt to outline what has transpired thus far at, and to, this amazing beloved, historical public space, and see where it can go. The writing includes other parks and public space / new york city issues because this is happening – reduction in public space, privatization of public space, cutting down of mass numbers of trees in our parks, and pacification of our public spaces – across our city. It’s more powerful if the issues are aligned, than taken on one by one. With a background in public relations, I have delved into other grassroots issues. This one really captured my attention.

Our City/Elected Officials

It became clear very quickly that the numerous phone calls and large amount of correspondence that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council Member Alan Gerson (it’s Gerson’s district – now Council Member Margaret Chin – and Quinn’s is right nearby) received on this issue was not taken seriously. The Parks Department as run by Mayor Bloomberg is a City Agency with too little oversight and the City Council is where this oversight should be coming from – yet, it, for the most part, looks the other way.

Who to contact?

2011: See WSP Blog post from December 6th, 2010
Regarding contacting Council Member Margaret Chin (she replaced Alan Gerson).

Note: Contacts below are now outdated. Information left on the site for historical purposes.

[Contact: NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. The mission of her office is to investigate city agencies and programs. If there was ever an agency that needed investigating, it would be the New York City Parks Department. Contact: Betsy Gotbaum at : phone # 212-669-7250;email: ombudsman-at-pubadvocate.nyc.gov.]

[Contact: NYC Comptroller William Thompson, Jr. phone #212/669-3500; fax # 212/669-2707 ; email: action -at- comptroller.nyc.gov The total budget for this redesign of Washington Square Park began at $16 million – already too high since much of the work was not what the community, or anyone, wanted – and has now skyrocketed to $25 to $30 million. Sentiment is pretty much against taking the private money of the Tisch Family and placing their name on the Fountain for $2.5 million.]

[Contact: Council Member Alan Gerson 51 Chambers St., Suite 429, NYC 10007; phone # 212-788-7722; fax #: 212-788-7727; email: gerson -at- council.nyc.ny.us. Council Member Gerson did not stand up to the Parks Department and hold them accountable to a transparent and non-manipulative process while representing his district and their disapproval of this redesign of the Park; did not hold back City Council funds showing he meant business. He also did not stipulate no moving of the fountain. No cut back of public space. No total redesign.]

What else?

Bring your ideas! E-mail me at cathryn.be -at-gmail.com.

If nothing else, exposing what’s transpired and the future from here on is worth doing. It’s (still) a wonderful park and perhaps we can help other parks and public spaces in the future, and influence what transpires from here.

Washington Square Park Blog

Leave a comment


  1. Gene Richards

     /  September 16, 2008

    Living on Thompson St for the past 16 years I can’t figure out why I am the criminal; I’ve had a dog for the past nine years and she goes to the park twice a day when she is in town; yet I’ve received numerous tickets for being in the park after it is “closed” Is it not a thouroghfare? Fifth Ave is connected to Thompson St via the park; When it is 20 degrees out and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, why should I have to walk a 1/2 mile out of my way with my dog because the park is “closed”? We are not sitting on the benches or having a rally or selling dope, we are merely taking the most direct route to get home; On a Friday or Saturday night Bleeker St becomes unpassable with a dog. What is there to protect in the park between 12am-6am? The bathrooms are locked so is the playground; loitering is illegal, but walking through is also? We are the people who are the eyes and ears and keep visitors safe; when mischief occurs we are the ones to alert the Police; what are all the cameras in the park for anyway? It would seem unconstitutional to “lock” a public space; Yes activities and services can have a timeframe but not the air and physical space! Are my taxes limited to activities between the hours of 6am-12am? I think not! So why is my ability to pass through a public space, a walkway, being denied? I can walk on a sidewalk at any time but not a sidewalk that is not bounded by a street with cars- seems pretty silly! I’m all for upgrading the park; fixing the bathrooms, the benches, regular resodding of grassy areas, emptying and maintaining trash bins, improving the children’s playground and the dog runs; but why must we spend so much money that the City claims we don’t have to fix something that’s not broken? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to spend 3/4’s less money and just maintain “our” jewel of a park? Jane Jacobs must be spinning in her grave over this misuse of a great, historic public place!

  2. taylor

     /  November 22, 2008

    Why can’t the money go to our schools or somewhere much more productive? The only way to keep the magic of New York alive lies within the people. An nowadays, the people are not about much.

  3. m. driver

     /  November 22, 2008

    you are just another unfortunate soul opposed to change. keeping it as is probably makes you feel “grounded” on some level. change is the natural order of the universe. stop fighting it. the park redesign is great, stop standing in the way of progress.

  4. ktoto

     /  November 23, 2008

    How very tragic and sad to see all of this transpire..
    I am reading this while in another great city that gave way to mayoral strive for power and utter corruption. Moscow, Russia – once, one of the greenest and most beautiful cities in the world, is forever gone!!!
    Never thought that I would see the same thing happen in New York City. The apathy of the crowd, is what to me is most surprising. Thousands of young people, hanging out in the park, not even a glimpse of mental spark as to what is happening around them.
    How did this happen to America? How did it happen to NYC? The very heart and soul of what once was the incarnation of Freedom of Speech, the Right to Self Expression and all that seems to be vanishing so fast..

  5. Giulia Alexandra

     /  December 8, 2008

    I just can’t understand this. First of all, how long will this take- whatever they say, we all know it will take much longer for them to do what they like. This is OUR park, this is OUR city, why do a few people with lots of money- in fact, with control of our money, get to spend it destroying something most New Yorkers would love to preserve? A 2.5 million dollar donation from the Tisch family, and about 30 million dollars will be spent on all of these so called renovations. That is absurd! There are so many ways that this money can be spent to maintain our city, it is a waste to do what they will most probably end up doing. They cut down trees, but if I recall correctly, didn’t Mayor Bloomberg boost about planting a million trees or something around the city? The park can definitely use some of that money to be kept up a bit, fix a few things here or there, and make it prettier. But it is absurd to ruin our park and completely change it, and therefore spend 30 million dollars! People are saying change is good and people are dwelling on the past too much, but the allowing this to occur means that as citizens we choose to be ignorant, and let funds go to waste, and let history be lost. What a disgrace.

  6. Lois C.

     /  April 11, 2009

    So when will they reopen the Northwest section? “Spring 2009” is here and it appears the work has been finished.

  7. Do you have any recent reports when WSP maintenance are scheduled to remove the unsightly dead trees around the fountain?

  8. Bill

     /  July 20, 2011

    What can be done about the high-decibel musicians in Washington Square Park?

    Sometimes the blasting arrhythmic noise comes from a delusional street person playing a trumpet or drum set with violent force. Sometimes the noise comes from groups of men who are imposing their version of music on the thousands of people around them whether anyone likes it or finds it unbearable: “Listen to us, or leave this public space.”

    NYC’s few green spaces were saved to provide residents with some peace and quiet, not to showcase this level of noise from anyone.

    Their blasts even makes it difficult to hear and enjoy the more traditional, lower-decibel musicians that are an attraction to everyone. Anyone can elect to stand by the traditional musicians and listen, but no one can dodge the assault of the louder musicians.

    I am sure that many residents think twice about going to the Park at all for fear that they will not be able to get away from a loud trumpet of drum.

    These few, rude, sometimes narcissistic, sometimes mentally ill, men who make assaultive noise should be told to leave the Park.

    Visitors who only want peace, to read a book or have a quiet conversation should have the Park returned to them.

  9. Hi Bill,

    I get mixed reports on this situation and I’m not sure where I ‘fall’ on it but I was under the impression, particularly in the last few months, that loud decibel music was being stopped and even ticketed.

    It’s a tricky balance for sure — I understand what you are saying – it’s taking away the choice to listen vs. it being imposed on you.

    And rude or out of control folks on top of this make the situation even more difficult. I suppose we get a little of everything at WSP!

    Thanks for writing – I’ll pay a bit more attention to this. I usually find there is always a place to ‘escape’ but maybe not in your experience.



  10. Monica McLaughlin

     /  November 25, 2011

    The job of City Councelmembers is to get the tax dollars out of the kitty. They give the tax dollars to the Parks Department who gives them to the contracter who gives the kickbacks.

    This system is lucrative. Park after park in NYC is undergoing unnecessary “renovations”


  11. Hi, there. Thanks for stopping by and ‘liking’ my blog post that included WSP. Seeing who you are now, I understand why. 🙂

    My Mom and I enjoyed a wonderful Friday afternoon at the dry fountain listening to a jazz quartet on our revisit to NY several weeks ago. We did have to navigate some finger-flipping and psycho banter in the park before arriving at the fountain. I think that is just the world in general today; so many disgruntled and displaced people in our world with this horrible economy.

    At the fountain, Mom recalled how during WWII, they had bond rallies in WSP right by the arch. They’d close off the streets and avenues in the area and Bob Hope and other stars would promote the sale of stamps and bonds for the war effort. And, yes, Mom recalls splashing around in the water of the fountain as a kid. 🙂

    WSP has a friend in you and that is a good thing.

  12. Hi Finally_write, I really enjoyed that post and this new information about your mom and the bond rallies is amazing. I will definitely use it and link to your post. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Oh and I loved the spirit of your blog in general!


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