Part III: Update on NYC's Redesign Of Washington Square Park – The Bathrooms

See Parts I and II if you’re catching up.



There are a few items identified as imperative to the community in relation to freshening up Washington Square Park‘s current state and fast-tracking its maintenance, mainly: (1) the bathrooms’ renovation and (2) repairing the walkways. (It’s been so long since any basic maintenance that the paths are cracked and uneven in many places.) I’ll come back to the walkways another entry.

At the presentation at the July 17th Washington Square Park Task Force meeting, WSP Park Administrator and Parks Department employee Rebecca Ferguson tried to put a positive spin on when the bathrooms (in Parks Department lingo : comfort stations) would be up to speed. That part of the project, she explained, is in “Phase 2b.” Which means Phase III. (The work is presently in Phase I.)

The reality is that it is the very last thing being done.

In the end, the new building will be “green” as in LEED-certified with possibly a “green roof.” There will be a men’s room, a women’s room, a family unisex bathroom, and a staff bathroom!

Causes for concern:

The current bathrooms are grungy and have been for years. They are in need of repair. They are not accessible to the disabled. The men’s room stalls have no doors. Instead of fixing these problems over the last four to five years while talking about and then implementing the redesign , the Parks Department places this issue at the very last spot on their redesign agenda.

The Washington Square Park Task Force in August ’07 came out and said that the Parks Department and City Council should pony up the funds NOW and not later.

Nothing changed.

What did district New York City Council Members Gerson and Quinn say?

In the Gerson-Quinn Agreement, the 2005 document with the stated mission of “resolving the outstanding major issues [between the community and the Parks Department] pertaining to the renovation of Washington Square Park,” Gerson-Quinn weighed in on the bathrooms, an item designated as important to the community. (It was already known at that point that the City intended to place the bathroom renovation at the end of their agenda – despite widespread disapproval.)

Gerson-Quinn write:

Public Restrooms: “The [Parks] Department shall make this a priority item to be undertaken as soon as finances permit.”

So. Apparently, there are finances to: dig up the fountain and shift it 23 feet east, transfer virtually every piece of the Park into new positions, move the two dog run locations, change the construction of the pathways, remove trees unnecessarily, and reduce and reconfigure the public spaces. And yet, the most City Council Members Gerson and Quinn could argue for, in support of their community’s needs from the New York City Parks Department on the subject of the public restrooms at Washington Square Park, is “as soon as finances permit.”


Stay tuned… there’s more!

(Next installment: Wednesday, August 6th) Here’s Part IV.

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