Greenwich Village Daily Photo takes a look at Washington Square Park before the Phase II redesign in a post this week.
When asked what I think of Phase I’s redesign (encompassing the Park’s recently opened NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza), I sometimes search for words and say, as a question almost, “it’s … pretty?” Usually, it’s clear if the person has already come to that conclusion but may not have the larger context in mind (and may or may not realize that’s not meant exactly as a compliment). Many who have looked on from afar still fail to assimilate the fact that no park users and community activists “fighting” the Bloomberg Administration’s dramatic redesign plans wanted the park left in disrepair, as the ‘bones’ of the park – the paths, the lawns, the lights, the bathrooms – clearly had been allowed to decline.
What people wanted – and fought arduously for – was a design that illustrated some acknowledgment of the park’s rich, more recent history (not sweeping back to the 1800’s, as if that is relevant to today) as well as its lived-in beauty and familiarity and (counter) culture. The recently opened NW Quadrant and Fountain Plaza are deceptively pretty because is a “pretty” park what we all were looking for? For some, yes. Unfortunately, New York City government, under the Bloomberg Administration (which placed this task in the hands of landscape designer George Vellonakis) wanted to erase the past, and under Mayor Bloomberg, this is going on across our entire city. So, I think GVDP sums up well how a lot of people feel about what’s going on at Washington Square Park but perhaps it’s been difficult to put into words:
Next week the final alteration/destruction of Washington Square Park begins. Last year the City updated the west side of the park, and it’s lovely. Lovely as a freshly scrubbed townhouse, devoid of soul, character or anything resembling history. The east side of the park (seen here last night) has that lived in look. Dig the old railings, the worn out fountain, the broken latches. This is where the Beats and the 60s folkies and all the lost artists held court from the 40s to the 70s. Gone. No more Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger and Alan Ginsberg. Soon the City will wipe the slate clean. This will all be new and improved! Goodbye.
GVDP’s photos here.