Latest problem at Washington Square: After Rainfall, Flood-like Conditions Impede Pathways — Rocky year for City's Parks Department

One of the flooded pathways leading to Fountain Plaza

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.)

People attempting to navigate the terrain
Lake-like conditions
Drowning Tree

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.

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New York Daily News Op-Ed: Why your parks look like this: Because City Hall is slamming them with budget cuts July 3rd, 2011

Photos: Cathryn

3 thoughts on “Latest problem at Washington Square: After Rainfall, Flood-like Conditions Impede Pathways — Rocky year for City's Parks Department

  1. I’ve been in NYC for 30+ years and I NEVER saw Washington Square Park flooded that way!!!! The “Old” Washington Square Park must have been designed with rain as a consideration. There was NEVER that kind of flooding there. Those millions of dollars taken from the “Capital Budget” could have been used to maintain and enhance the “Old” Washington Square Park which was just fine as it was – if not better as so many of the old growth, beautiful trees were destroyed to make way for what seems to be — at least ostensibly — the backyard for NYU students to hold graduation ceremonies. Great job on your blog – what a HUGE waste of OUR money. Thank you Mr. Bloomberg.

  2. The water quality in those “lakes” looks poor.
    I wonder how/where the water eventually drained.
    Aren’t new/redesigned parks supposed to manage stormwater?

  3. Thanks, Johanna, for your comment. Where do you ever see this happening in a city park or even city street? Everything you wrote is so true! And so sad re: continuous death of trees. (Oh, you may have missed the news but even NYU got the short end of the stick with the “new” Washington Square. There’s now so much less seating around the fountain – it’s too small for their ceremony!) Money could have been better spent I agree.

    Hi Georgia, that’s a good point re: water quality. It must be mixing with some backed up water perhaps? Yes parks are supposed to manage storm water. I have no idea how long this is has been going on but people had mentioned it to me previously. It appears that the system is malfunctioning but not sure why the Park staff are not aware of it, or, if they are, not fixing it.

    Cathryn.

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