Updated May 21st, 2009
Updated: So… The thing is … some people seem to think that because the newly unveiled (yesterday) NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park looks “great,” “nice,” “pretty” (insert adjective) that that means there was nothing to oppose. That just doesn’t hold up. Of course, there were things to oppose.
Some of the issues were – and are:
– digging up 18th and 19th Century burial grounds;
– chainsawing Fourteen 40-80 year old trees(including all but one of the trees that lined the fountain);
– dismantling and moving the circular fountain 23 feet east to “align” with the Arch (after 138 years in that location in the exact center of the Park);
– Reducing the public space around the Fountain which has been used as a theater-in-the-round;
– Changing the historic nature of the Park;
– The Cost: a pricetag originally quoted at $16 million, now skyrocketing to over $30 million;
– Selling off the naming rights to the famous Fountain to the Tisch Family for $2.5 million
– Adding lawn space — more “picture perfect” for NYU‘s graduation ceremonies
– Fencing off the Park: increasing the height of the exterior Fence around the Park from a welcoming 3 feet to a more daunting 4 foot fence.
In addition, there were serious issues of non-transparency, evasiveness, lies and minimal consideration to community concerns by the NYC Parks Department along the way. There did not have to be such acrimony. That could all have been avoided if the Parks Department had given true consideration to some of the changes a majority of the Community asked for. Yes, people will use the Park but there is a level of bitterness that will most likely never go away. That didn’t have to be. If the Parks Department, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, et al, would realize that in retrospect, and perhaps going forward, then there might be something gained from this.
That being said, I had a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with Park designer George Vellonakis yesterday (and it was actually a nice one) and he walked with me around the Park and pointed out some things about the new design that I wasn’t aware of that I’ll go into over the next few days.
A look at Day Two at the Park (Today):