Updated 7:37 p.m. ––
Community Board 2 Parks Committee met up for its October meeting earlier this month and updates on parks in the district were on the agenda. Washington Square Park was discussed at length. Re-reading my notes on the meeting made me think that Washington Square Park should really have its own committee of people who understand it entirely as a park. I think you’ll see why when you read some of what transpired. (Note: To clarify, park users, well representative and varied who perhaps report back and give feedback to the Community Board — and not a private, elite, moneyed group.)
This is Part II of report-back from this meeting. Part I on the park sidewalks’ repairs delay ran Monday.
As far as the TOTAL COST OF THE REDESIGN(All phases) — At least $40 Million. This was not discussed at the October 2nd meeting. Afterwards, I attempted to get the most recent costs of Phase III construction from the Parks Department press office. This information was previously available to the public online but is no longer. It’s been three weeks now and still no figures. The Community Board was told – by someone – when they were drafting their “stipulations” for the Washington Sq Park Conservancy to insert into the organization’s bylaws – that the total costs of all three phases were $40 million. Let’s assume that’s accurate. (A reminder that the park’s redesign budget at the onset was $16 million and has now more than doubled.)
PHASE III CONSTRUCTION TO OPEN IN THREE (ACTUALLY FOUR) STAGGERED SEGMENTS
Washington Square Park Administrator Sarah Neilson and District Supervisor Ralph Musolino gave the update on Phase III — final phase! — construction at the park. The building being constructed along Washington Square South will house the park restrooms and administrative offices and it is “not done” per Neilson. It was supposed to be completed by this summer and is now — at the earliest — scheduled for completion later this year.
Phase III sections will open in segments according to Neilson and Musolino:
- Former “Mounds” and Landscaped Area by Halloween, October 31, 2013. The Parks Department is looking for the next piece of Phase III to open by Halloween, October 31st. This will be the landscaped area – lawn – and the “Mounds” or what used to be the site of the Mounds – RIP — and the “cable-net play” around them.
- Bathrooms Set to Open – At Long Last! – a few weeks later. Musolino explained that the bathrooms are on the side of the building so they can be opened before the administrative section of the structure opens.
- Administrative Office Section of the Building Will Open Sometime After that. (No Date given.) The building will be geothermal with solar panels on top. It was previously referred to as a “pergola” and it will have a “glass feature on top.” Located downstairs in the building is the “pump room” for the fountain. The building will house District 2 park administrative offices for Neilson and Ralph Musolino and supervisors.
Since the Large Dog Run opened in June, Phase III is actually having a staggered opening in four individual phases.
Note on the Mounds — R.I.P.
The community worked hard and got an agreement from the Parks Department to keep the “Mounds” in the park’s redesign plans. Former Council Member Alan Gerson worked with “Mounds” advocates to ensure that the structures would be recreated as they were. As you can see (photo at top), they were not.
The Mounds were supposed to be six feet tall. And they are not. They are no longer able to be used for skateboarding or sledding or running up and down because there is artificial turf covering the structures with “cable net play” structures above them. In addition, one of these looks quite dangerous with a drop into a ‘hole.’ Maybe this will be another Parks Department playground ‘gaffe’ along side the hot domes and “safety” surface incidents.
I consider the desecration of the Mounds representative of the Parks Department’s dismissive attitude towards the community’s wishes to preserve them, particularly re-designer George Vellonakis, and a lack of understanding of what they were about. Also, the Mounds’ advocates who worked so hard with former City Council Member Alan Gerson got disheartened and walked away. And then Community Board 2 abandoned the Washington Square Park Task Force which was supposed to oversee all these elements of the redesign and guarantee that the community’s interests were looked after.
In today’s parks culture, people don’t ‘get’ the Mounds, and this (as quoted from my 2008 piece on the Mounds, What’s Up With the Mounds? Why People Like Them):
“They are places of spontaneous play which is different from play equipment which sort of mandates play. The Mounds allow spontaneous play, discovery, risk taking, all the things that are part of growing up.”
That the Mounds were created as was agreed to is what the Community Board was supposed to oversee. And the board did not. As they did not understand all the nuances of what a private conservancy means and community concerns either as evidenced by their rush to vote for the body without proper vetting.
I do believe this issue of the Mounds could still be addressed prior to opening – but someone (??) would have to ACT now.
Part III coming from Community Board meeting on Washington Square Park!
(I once wrote an 8 part series / report back on a Washington Square Park Task Force meeting .. this will be broken into a few parts to honor that tradition.)
Previously at WSP Blog:
What is the Washington Square Park Task Force? March 10, 2010
What’s Up With the Mounds? Why People Like Them December 16, 2008
Video: The Merry Mounds December 23, 2011