After 29 Months, Will the Final 'Piece' of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II Construction – Chess Plaza – Open Tomorrow?

WSP SW entrance -- will these fences really be coming down at last?
Completion date on sign: "Summer 2011" (Formerly Fall 2010)
The Lonely Chess Plaza




Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase IIB — the Chess Plaza and Southwestern Quadrant — under construction for 29 months (that’s 2 years and 5 months) is more than 17 months behind schedule (that’s one year and five months) from the original scheduled completion date and 9 months behind Phase IIA’s opening (June 2011) at which point it seemed likely it would be finished shortly thereafter.

It is now scheduled to be opened to the public at any moment – perhaps even tomorrow, Friday, March 2nd. At this point, we’ll believe it when we see it!

Depending on whom you ask, it was either the Parks Department’s stalling the project, a lack of any oversight by any governing body, or a problem between the contractor and the Parks Department which led to the monumental delay. Or some combination of all three.

This is what I wrote on June 2nd 2011 when Phase IIA – the eastern side of the Park – opened:

Phase II was scheduled for completion by Fall 2010; then we heard the end of the year (tho’ doubted it), then “Spring 2011,” then “by Memorial Day,” but park goers looked happy to be finally able to stream through the eastern end of the park.

Of course, this isn’t all of Phase II, since, for one, part of it (The Mounds and the Large Dog Run) was moved into Phase III. And Chess Plaza, technically still in Phase II, now Phase II-B, won’t be finished til the end of the month. At least, at last, it’s something!

WSP Blog chronicled the problems back in September 2010 outlining how the city’s parks department caused numerous delays in getting the job done, how the project was over-budget, and the fact that no governmental agencies were providing oversight.

Washington Square Park’s entire redesign – Phases I, II, and III – was budgeted and approved for $16 Million at the onset. Phase I alone — which moved the fountain to align with the Arch, reduced the public space around the fountain, and re-landscaped the NorthWest Quadrant, opened in May of 2009 — cost $13 Million.

Phase II was budgeted at $9 Million but will likely be $8 Million and that’s without the Large Dog Run and Mounds (included in the original figure).

Phase III (rest rooms and administrative building – the new “pergola”) had been budgeted at $9 Million (note – that’s before the cost of the Mounds and Dog Run are added in). Got all that?

Since the Parks Department’s projects continue to be seriously over-budget with no apparent oversight by any governing body, the project by the end will have more than doubled from its approved budget and is now projected for $30-$35 Million in cost.

A review of the finances:

Phase I cost: $13 Million (budgeted at $6 Million)
Phase II cost: $9.1 Million (budgeted at $9 Million but that figure was including the Dog Run and Mounds — both of which have been moved into Phase III)
Phase III: bid came in at “approximately 5.4 Million” according to the Parks Department
_______________________________________________________
Total projected thus far: $27.5 Million but there is no way Phase III will come in at $5.4 Million so we are at least $30 Million for a project which was approved at $16 Million at the onset.

It should be noted that Phase III contains the piece that the surrounding community and park users wanted completed first – the much neglected and deteriorating rest rooms. The Parks Department refused to accommodate this request; the city agency practically went out of its way to make sure this was completed last in the 3 phases of the project.

Work is presently scheduled to begin on Phase III — which now includes the Large Dog Run, the Mounds, Administrative Building, Rest Rooms and possibly perimeter sidewalks (much in need of repair!) — in April of this year.

At least, at last, the Chess Plaza will finally be opening! Will it be tomorrow? We’ll see…

9 thoughts on “After 29 Months, Will the Final 'Piece' of Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II Construction – Chess Plaza – Open Tomorrow?

  1. More whining and complaining? Be happy it’s about to open and will be amazing (just like the rest of the park) when it does!

  2. Hi M (with no full name) —

    Welcome back.

    You might have noticed that I refrained from writing for about the last two months about how much further delayed the project was! Pointing out legitimate concerns about delays and financial issues is not really “whining and complaining.” There’s sort of a pattern going on with this Parks Department and someone has to point it out somewhere (other than a few other sources for this info; they get ‘away’ with quite a lot). This blog was created initially to chronicle the history of the redesign of the park – that’s why it originally started and so that’s what I do.

    I have never heard anyone use the word “amazing” in relation to the redesigned park truthfully. Some people think it’s “pretty” but lost a bit of its soul (which is why the word “amazing” doesn’t usually come up).

    Truly, all the points I raised in this post are valid and worth pointing out. How else does the city government get held accountable ? Or maybe you’d suggest just looking the other way… I gather.

    I did (basically) state I was happy it was (finally) opening. On that we agree!

    Thanks for your comment —

    best,
    Cathryn.

  3. I enjoy your blog and it’s good to have a dissenting opinion publicized. Just wish there more positivity sometimes. Perhaps that’s hard given that you seem to prefer the old park.

    I for one find the new park to be amazing. It’s bright, clean, safe and has loads of character. Despite what you perceive as changes for the worse, it still attracts a diverse set of characters.

    Keep up the great work with this blog! 🙂

    M

  4. Valid points, though I don’t remember anyone advocating that the rest rooms were the highest priority.
    The redesigned and opened areas of the park are pretty… and amazing. As a local resident, I can only say that they’re much better than I even hoped. It is so beautiful, so well designed that it feels almost too good for the NYC that I’m accustomed to. I love to bring visitors here.
    No nostalgia here for the old waist-high pipe fences that made the park feel like a place you didn’t want to linger. I only hope that the renovated park is well maintained in the decades to come. And I wish that parks in other, poorer areas of the city could get all the love, attention (and money) that our WSP does.

  5. Hi M,

    Thank you! That is very much appreciated – your comment. When I post photos from walking around the park and things going on at WSP, I consider that “positivity.” Also highlighting fun and interesting things happening and the history of the park. I really do think there’s balance — but I have thought about what you wrote and, believe me, I feel ‘better’ when I can focus on the positive.

    I definitely agree re: WSP still attracting a diverse set of characters and perhaps it’ll age well – the redesign. I just walked through and was sort of – am continually – amazed and moved by an interaction I witnessed.

    I enjoy experiencing the ‘new’ park – I just think there were things that could have been ‘left’ and it would still be a really nice, vibrant park. It also felt like spite on behalf of the Bloomberg Admin that pretty much everything was changed.

    Thanks for reading my blog and appreciating it despite our ‘differences’!

    Cathryn.

  6. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your comment —

    The “Gerson-Quinn Agreement” prioritized the bathrooms based on community comment at CB2 meetings and via the Washington Square Park Task Force which was comprised of members of the community and representatives of government officials (Gerson, Quinn, Deborah Glick, etc.).

    It’s interesting reading your perception of the previous fences – other people liked them because they felt you *could* linger by leaning against them. I guess there can be many different perceptions of everything going on!

    You are right re: other parks in other poorer areas needing more “love, attention (and money).”

    I’m sure the park will age well but it’s true that maintenance will be an issue going forward.

    Thanks for writing and reading!

    Cathryn.

  7. Thanks, Jennifer! I was there in the morning and early afternoon and fences on some sides were down but not all and last minute work of some kind was being done. Thank you for the update!

    Cathryn.

Leave a Comment