Updated 8:25 a.m. — It’s been a rocky road for the New York City Parks Department at Washington Square Park this year.
Phase II of the controversial redesign of the landmark park was nine months behind schedule – and that was just Phase IIA which opened in June. (Phase IIB – Chess plaza and Southwestern end – still not complete.) The repeated arborcide of trees around the Fountain has not been properly addressed and it’s doubtful there’s a new strategy in place to save future young trees from meeting the same fate of their predecessors. Bloomberg’s folly: The famous fountain, moved from its original location 22 feet east to align with the Arch, after just two years, started falling apart and is still experiencing problems. And now, after rainfall (photos depict scene Friday night), water is building up and not dispersing properly, impeding pathways and causing lake-like conditions near the Fountain Plaza. What’s next? (For why this is happening, keep reading.)
The primary problem is that the Parks Department operating model, as envisioned by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg), is not sustainable. The agency recklessly spends endless millions out of the “capital projects” budget to create new and spiffy parks without then paying attention as to how to sustain any of them properly. And there’s continually no oversight by the City Council or Community Board.
At Washington Square, the Parks Department callously insisted on tinkering with – and endlessly rearranging – a successful and well liked design. A budget was approved for three phases of construction for $16 Million. It was clear at the onset that the costs would more than double — which is indeed what has happened. The cost is now projected at $30-$35 Million — + counting.
This is the New York City Parks Department – care of trees, fountains, water drainage should be City Parks 101. The Parks Department has had a 66% reduction in its work force over the last 20-30 years. Instead of addressing issues related to that, the Parks Commissioner would rather focus on privatizing all the public parks.
The agency persists in expansion-with-no-foreseeable-plan-in-place-for-maintenance-for-the-future. As City Hall News wrote, in a piece entitled “Money Trees,” this [begs] “the question of how much longer the department can keep up its balancing act.”
As we see at Washington Square, not much longer.
New York Daily News Op-Ed: Why your parks look like this: Because City Hall is slamming them with budget cuts July 3rd, 2011