The Washington Square Park Task Force – What is it and what are its stated "goals?" (Part I)

Part 1 of 2; 3/10/10There have been issues with the lack of follow-through of the Washington Square Park Task Force, the body designated to oversee the park’s redesign, since its inception. Since I touched on this body and issues with it back in November ’08, I thought I’d run an edited version of this post again. If you think about it, if the Task Force had been paying attention to details, as
mandated, they would have been aware that the new benches the Parks Department were installing at the park were rainforest woodmuch called into question now – and could have stopped it. Just one example!

Original post (slightly edited):

The Washington Square Park Task Force was put into play by (former) NY City Council Member Alan Gerson and (present) NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (both of whom voted to extend their own terms in the whole term limits fiasco).

The WSP Task Force is supposed to be the body that follows up on the Gerson-Quinn Agreement and the “stipulations” put forth in that letter (of October 6, 2005 from Gerson-Quinn to NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe).

The WSPTF is run presently under the aegis of Community Board 2 but it is also comprised of members of the public, the Community Board, and representatives of elected officials*.

Co-chaired by Community Board 2 Chair Brad Hoylman — now, Jo Hamilton — and CB2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman, the Washington Square Park Task Force meets infrequently and it is unclear how and when certain decisions are made. Yet it is the only body that has been given some jurisdiction over the Parks Department and the outcome of the redesigned Washington Square Park.

Therefore, the hope would be that it would have some teeth and it would be in there fighting for this dynamic and historic public space. But is it?

Goals of the Washington Square Park Task Force:

I have an undated document which stipulates the goals as such:

1. Make sure all points of Quinn-Gerson agreement are adhered to.

2. All bid documents, all changes of plans, and all design details should be run by task force.

3. Enable the community to have input on design details.

4. Maintain the sense of informality of the park which is so central to its charm and character.

5. Maintain Washington Square Park as a well maintained, diverse, plural park where all sorts of people feel welcome.

6. Maintain as much green space as open to the public as possible while keeping it alive.

7. Maintain as many of the trees as possible.

8. Create conditions which allow funding of bathroom renovation.

9. Step up maintenance pending the resolution of the legal issues.

10. Oppose the establish of a conservancy without a good deal of public vetting.

So how has the WSP Task Force done thus far on these stated “goals” and what are the inherent problems with it?

Part II, which follows, will explore this next.

* The elected officials represented on the Task Force are: Congressman Jerold Nadler, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Member Rosie Mendez, Council Member Alan Gerson(now Margaret Chin), State Senator Tom Duane, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick.

Edited from original post published November 7th, 2008.

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