Vanishing New York, the book, released late last month, is a more thought-out, expanded version of the Vanishing New York blog, run by Jeremiah Moss since 2007. The blog has been popular from its inception and the book, with its careful media roll-out to release, has been as well, starting out of the gate with a New Yorker piece, followed by a Village Voice cover, New York Times, and more. Just prior to the publication date, Moss revealed his true identity; he had been anonymous all these years. It was not a surprise to learn that he lives in the East Village; his real name is Griffin Hansbury.
The Vanishing New York book delves into some of the more recent Washington Square Park controversies, chronicled at this blog, such as the moving of the fountain 23 feet east to “align” with the Arch, part of the Bloomberg Administration controversial redesign, and the more recent advent of the “little friends group” / private conservancy and its socialite founding members interference with the park “hot dog” vendors, among other things (kept out of public view and not covered in the book).
Washington Square Park and this blog are mentioned in the Greenwich Village section. Moss addresses the moving of the fountain to “align” with the Arch – after 137 years in its previous location – and quotes this blogger: “‘Something about the fountain not being connected to Fifth Avenue works when you enter Washington Square Park: you escape the city yet you meld with your neighbors within it in unimaginable and unique ways.’ The new design, she [Cathryn Swan] said, ‘aspires to destroy that.'”
The book continues: “In Matt Davis’ documentary Square: Straightening Out Washington Square Park, [re-designer George] Vellonakis* argued that the ‘poor tourists’ had to struggle to get good photos of the arch and fountain lined up together. In 2009, the fountain was moved, giving the tourists their picture postcard shot.”
And then the crazy situation with the hot dog vendors:
Hot dog vendors were another problem for the affluent bunch residing near the park. In 2013, Cathryn Swan revealed on her blog the existence of a private group of “wealthy women” who had incorporated themselves into “a little friends group” they called the Washington Square Park Conservancy for the purpose of keeping the park “clean, safe, and beautiful.” Swan uncovered the fact that this group was interfering with the park’s long standing hot dog vendors. The president of the conservancy, socialite Veronica Bulgari of the international luxury brand, explained to the Post, “We got some word from our neighbors that [the hot dog vendors] were unsightly. We suggested moving them.” The vendors were moved out of “the Arch view corridor.” Again, something was off. Next the conservancy lobbied to remove the hot dog vendors completely, replacing them with more upscale food carts, including one from celebrity restaurateur Mario Batali that would be allowed to remain. Batali just happened to be on the board of the little friends group. Swan organized a pro-hot dog protest at the fountain, garnered high-profile press, and shared the good news on New Year’s Day 2014 that the socialites had been defeated by public pressure. The hot dog vendors would stay.
When pressed as to exactly which neighbors thought the “hot dog vendors” at the park were “unsightly,” the only neighbor Chairman Elizabeth Ely could point to (to the New York Post) was George Vellonakis, the controversial redesigner of the park under the Bloomberg Administration. In a curious turn of events, Vellonakis was recently named Washington Square Park Administrator, working for the Parks Department, and Executive Director of “the little friends group.”
Vanishing New York is published by Dey Street Books/Harper Collins and sub-titled “How a Great City Lost Its Soul.” It is accurately described as: “An unflinching chronicle of gentrification in the twenty-first century and a love letter to lost New York by the creator of the popular and incendiary blog Vanishing New York.”