NYU Students Will Never Graduate in WSP Again; New Design Cuts Available Seating from 19,000 to 14,000

It seems all those arguments by the New York City Parks Department that there’d be no loss of public space with the redesign of Washington Square Park, were, um, as we knew, a bit false.

The proposed reduction in public space at the Park was revealed by community activist Jonathan Greenberg and his lawsuit, which aimed to stop the city’s plans from moving forward. Court documents revealed that the reduction in public space around the fountain would be 23%. Although the information was never provided to the Community Board or City Council Members Alan Gerson or Christine Quinn by the Parks Department, they also didn’t seem to look into it too deeply. But now, we have additional proof, by, of all places, New York University!

NYU Local reported Friday that NYU will never hold their graduation in Washington Square Park again (something many – who are not NYU students – will most likely be happy about). 2008 was the first time in 32 years that the graduation was not held in WSP. The ceremony was moved to Yankee Stadium. The park’s redesign causes the Fountain Plaza to accommodate only 14,000 people; it previously could hold 19,000 or more.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told me in person when I asked him in 2008, as Phase I was getting under way, “there is no reduction of public space.” If 5,000 less students can be accommodated on the Fountain Plaza and surrounding area, that’s a reduction of 26%.

This once again brings up the question: Shouldn’t we expect our City officials to provide us with accurate information and to tell the truth?

Many thought one of the major goals of the elaborate redesign plan was to level the Fountain Plaza and make it more “picture perfect” with endless lawn space and pretty flowers for NYU’s Graduation Ceremony; this signals otherwise.

New York University, which hasn’t won over many fans in the Village or much of the city with their overarching real estate domination, contributed $1 million towards the park’s reconstruction. This $1 million was part of the original budget of $16 million for Phases I, II and III of the construction. The expected cost of the plan has now doubled to at least $32 million.

Community Board 2 ultimately rescinded its approval of the park redesign plan, tho’ in a somewhat oblique manner.

Photo: J. Bary via Flickr

See also; video: The Truth About Washington Square Park

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8 thoughts on “NYU Students Will Never Graduate in WSP Again; New Design Cuts Available Seating from 19,000 to 14,000”

  1. No doubt, this is part of the Parks Department’s secret war with NYU against the privatization of public space. 😉

    If only ….

  2. Mitchel, exactly.

    Stacy, this is true! I was so focused on the confirmation of the reduction of public space for use around the fountain plaza in this post. I’ve written before about NYU being better suited (for a # of reasons) to stay with Yankee Stadium as their graduation venue. So, yes, very true! Thanks for writing!


  3. It is incredible how the NYU Admin carried water for this plan and never opposed it. It’s the way the powerful support the powerful over the community and students and all. NYU’s plans for Empire align with Bloomberg/Benepe’s back door privatization vision for the city. More NYU commercial events at the park, a postcard park without public restrooms or quiet seating areas, and NYU campuses around the world “celebrating” in Yankee stadium. Bigger is always better (except when it comes to public gathering spaces). And pay John Sexton that bonus for increasing enrollment!

    Thanks for keeping the public in the loop, Cathryn!

  4. Hi Georgia!

    The Parks Department and the contractor had been a bit at odds causing some unnecessary hold ups in the process. The Parks Department was altering the plans and issuing stops in the work. Those issues have been resolved it seems and things are flowing smoothly.

    Interesting, right? How fast things *can* move!

    Thanks for writing!



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