Well, I was close… Word from a reliable source is that the fences that surround the long under construction NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park will start coming down on Monday, May 18th after 16 1/2 months of the area being closed off. The unveiling will be done without much fanfare. Originally, a ceremony with elected officials was also scheduled for Monday; that will now happen at a later date.
Some thoughts: It’s important to note that this Park could have gotten to where we are now without the acrimony if the New York City Parks Department had been upfront and honest and transparent in their statements and their actions.
No one was against a true renovation of Washington Square Park — the park had fallen into serious disrepair due to lack of maintenance by the Parks Department. What people were against was the pushing through of a design with a lack of community involvement in the decision-making process.
When you look at the newly completed section, there’s new green lawn and bright flowers, there’s new pathways, there’s new fencing, there’s new lighting, there’s new benches. A true “renovation” of the existing space would have also put forth most of these same changes – except the fence would have been lower and the lighting would have been different (not the stock lighting used at oh so many other George Vellonakis-designed city parks, including City Hall and Abingdon Square). Yeah, the aligning of the Fountain with the Arch seems ridiculous and the leveling off of the sunken plaza unnecessary. That ‘other’ renovated version of Washington Square Park would have looked gorgeous.
Nonetheless, the park is probably opening at the perfect time – people throughout the City are reconsidering their finances and their values. It’s not the same political or cultural climate as it was when the Park’s redesign plans were first presented.
People may look at the newly designed Washington Square Park and have heard of some controversy and mistakenly think “Why were people against this?“. The truth is important here — no one was against a *renovation* of Washington Square Park – it was the process and the design (and lack of input into the design) that people took issue with. (In many ways, the future phases add more dramatic changes than Phase I did.)
The Park will, in the end, be what people make it.