Updated January 5, 10:07 a.m. (additional context added — key changes/additions are noted in italics except about three that are my thoughts or comments.)
There is an end in sight to Washington Square Park construction, according to the Parks Department ‘s Manhattan Chief of Staff Steve Simon who gave the update on Redesign Phase III Wednesday night to Community Board 2′s Parks Committee. Richard Caccappolo, the new CB2 Parks Committee Chair who took over from Tobi Bergman (a welcome change), preceded Mr. Simon’s arrival telling the audience that Simon “hates to discuss Washington Square Park” (presumably because the Bloomberg Administration’s plans for the park were so contentious and disliked from the first announcement of them) but that he agreed to attend to give the status. Last meeting in which the Community Board discussed the landmark park, one year and eight months ago, they sent in a Parks Department “Capital Projects guy” who knew none of the finer details. Mr. Caccappolo told me afterwards that he specifically told the agency that that was not what they needed and so Simon agreed to come.
The Washington Square Park redesign project began in late December 2007 with an approved budget of $16 million for its three phases (which ended up being more like four - link to come) and costs have more than doubled (with
little no oversight). It is now projected at $32-$35 million, if not more.
Parks Department rep Steve Simon said the work was “proceeding” on Phase III (it began in June of 2012) with a “completion by the summer.” He mentioned something to do with “geothermal” and “thermal conductivity” but I wasn’t clear on what that was about (and no one asked). He stated that “the new mounds are being covered with safety surface and the play equipment is being fabricated.”
Other completion dates, according to Simon, include “the new building” (the “pergola” - which consists of the long-awaited rest rooms and Parks Department administrative offices, to be housed in one structure) to be finished in January and the large dog run will be done in the spring. It seems questionable that the perimeter sidewalks are being done at the very last stage – I think we could successfully argue, given their condition, that that might have been best done earlier on – but they will be completed over the summer.
Historical Markers vs. Signs
Since it had been awhile since WSP was discussed by the Parks Department at a meeting, I asked about the “historical markers,” one of the components of Phase III, the text of which is supposed to be run by the Community Board (one of the few things that were. Note: This is due to the fact the Community Board let the Washington Square Park Task Force fall to the way side). Simon basically argued that these are just “signs.” If my recollection is correct, they are 5 feet tall and they had been referred to as “historical markers.” They are set to outline some of the history of the park (I have mixed feelings on them especially recalling what they look like – see below). Once we agreed to call them signs, I asked Simon if he would be returning before the end of the summer to discuss this with the Community Board. I think he basically (reluctantly?) agreed and Caccappolo is placing it on the agenda.
At the time of the Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting on Phase III in April 2010, I wrote:
Designs and changes proposed by NYC Parks Department include:
Signage: Pylon signs – outlining WSP history – will be 3 sided, 6 feet 7 inches, with 5 feet of text (a little large, no?).
They will be placed at the Washington Square Arch, the Holley Plaza, the new Garibaldi Plaza, and by Thompson street entrance.
(Note: Somewhere later – probably when Parks Department agreed to run the content by the Community Board, they were referred to as historical markers.)
Another topic that came up, brought up by Committee member and former Village Alliance head Honi Klein, is the signs around the fountain (I believe she was referring to the ones which say “no swimming or wading”). Ms. Klein dislikes them, saying they were “huge and ugly.” (These signs are not taken literally but I believe are just there as a precautionary measure.) Despite the fact that these were actually added around the Fountain post Phase I opening, Simon said that new signs will be coming and, since they are “part of the Vellonakis design, they will not be ugly.” (I’m sure like me, more than a few of you are like, ??)
Lighting at the Dog Run — Don’t ask Parks Department directly, call 311?
It had been brought to my attention recently that there are no lights at the dog run at night. So I asked Simon about this. Simon told me at first that the lights are “handled by DOT” (Department of Transportation) but I think perhaps he meant the perimeter lighting. Then he asked if I was talking about lights post-Hurricane Sandy. (“No.”) Then, Caccappolo asked if I meant the “daylight savings time issue.” (“No.”) Finally once it was clear that this was a current issue within the last week, the Parks Department representative told me (argued to some extent) that people should be calling 311 and that I should tell people this via my blog. I said it was my understanding that the Dog Run people are in contact with the Parks Department. He persisted in saying that the method to get this corrected was via 311. I was bemused (?) to say the least, that someone from the Parks Department was sitting in front of me and is telling me to tell my blog readers to call 311.
SO… ATTENTION, IF YOU ARE INCONVENIENCED BY THE LACK OF LIGHTING AT NIGHT IN THE DOG RUN, CALL 311.
I was later told by someone with knowledge of the dog run issue that “the contractors tore down the building the lighting fixture was on.” The Parks Department should set up something in the interim, no? But apparently they have not. So… call 311!
More on Phase III here.