Disorientation Guide to NYU (students moved in this weekend!) includes WSP article within it

Downtown Manhattan, NYU Flags Abound
Downtown Manhattan, NYU Flags Abound

Politics as Puppetry Blog has the whole Disorientation Guide to NYU available for download. It contains material on Activism at NYU, a Flow Chart to How NYU Works, Taking Back NYU, Who the Trustees are, and more!

They write: “The Disorientation Guide is a growing tradition at NYU – the first one was published at the beginning of the 2002 school year, and students have published a new edition annually since.”

They asked WSP Blog to write a piece for the Disorientation Guide about what’s going on at Washington Square Park for new students to make them aware, engaged and hopefully involved. I’ve posted it below:

Washington Square Park is world famous for the art, culture, music, politics, and community that has transpired there in its over 150 years as a public park in New York City. For NYC government under Mayor Bloomberg, its importance has become magnified because of its location in the midst of prime real estate in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. New York University owns much of (close to all) the real estate that surrounds the Park. The University rarely misses an opportunity to feature the historic Washington Square Arch in its advertising and promotional materials. The Park is the setting of NYU’s graduation ceremony.

In more recent years, due to neglect by the New York City Parks Department, Washington Square Park — while remaining vital to music, politics, art, students, tourists, people of all ages and from all backgrounds — was looking a little rough around the edges. That didn’t stop it from being a place where people gather in unique ways. A national organization called Project for Public Spaces did a study of Washington Square Park in 2005 and said, “As a neighborhood park and civic gathering place, it may be one of the great public spaces in the world.”

The New York City Parks Department is presently in the midst of a redesign of Washington Square Park. Currently in Phase I (of three phases), this “renovation” is really a complete overhaul of this historic, beloved space. The redesign will: align the Fountain with the Arch (after 137 years unaligned) at Fifth Avenue which entails moving the Fountain 23 feet east, level the unique ‘sunken plaza’ around the Fountain, reduce dramatically the public gathering space around the fountain, add more lawn, reduce the width of the pathways and areas at the corners of the Park, move the two dog runs, lose the small alcoves (sitting areas) on the northern and eastern sides of the Park, and basically move close to every piece of the Park into a different location.

Washington Square Park has been a counter-balance to the upscale, glossy gentrification of New York City. It’s a place where you never know exactly what will happen next. People walk in and in another setting they might ignore their neighbor, all of a sudden there they are open to whatever happens. Conversations flow, music saturates the air, people gather, speak outs occur. It’s all a bit magical.

From Bob Dylan to Joan Baez to Peter, Paul & Mary to more recent years Whoopi Goldberg and Dave Chappelle getting their start there, Washington Square Park has played a role in key moments in culture and history. Henry James, Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, William Glackens and more all were influenced in some way by the charm of Washington Square Park.

The Greenwich Village community has almost overwhelmingly been against the drastic changes being made to their Park. However, due to a lack of transparency and accountability by the New York City Parks Department, and the political climate, thus far, the City has been able to push through their plan which “prettifies” and sanitizes the nature of the Park.

NYU has given $1 million towards the redesign but has stated they are not involved. Due to their real estate holdings around the Park and the direction the University has been going in, many people link NYU to the redesign plan. The Tisch Family gave $2.5 million to the City towards the renovation and moving of the Fountain which gave them naming rights with a plaque on each side.

There are still pieces of the plan that could be challenged – increasing the public space around the fountain, keeping the alcoves (sitting areas) around the north and east sides, saving more trees from being unnecessarily destroyed (14 have been chopped down thus far in Phase I of the plan), and more. Having NYU students plan activities in the Park highlighting and protesting the changes, coming to Community Board meetings, talking to other students and the community, and using imagination – all are key. The privatization and corporatization of public space is going on across the city. Stay up to speed on what’s happening. There’s still time to perhaps have some influence. You can take part in making Washington Square Park whatever you want it to be and preserving its uniqueness.

Cathryn —

Washington Square Park Blog
& Washington Square Community Improvement District

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