Updated Wednesday’s Community Board 2 Parks Committee Meeting with both Washington Square Park and the Washington Square Park Conservancy on its agenda had many fascinating and also curious aspects to it. First, here, a report-back the status of the park’s redesign construction, now entering its seventh year:
An end is in sight for Phase III construction! The time frame for completion is late March/April, according to the Parks Department. Washington Square Park administrator Sarah Neilson, who spoke at the March 5th meeting, said late March, but, in an email received prior to the meeting, Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson said: “April is the target – we’re shooting for late March if possible.” Seeing the way things have been going, I’m going to say April as the opening date. Neilson said there will be “a ribbon cutting in the spring.”
Phase III construction began in June of 2012 with parts of the much beleaguered Phase II moved into it (large dog run and the “Mounds”). The target completion date for Phase III initially was Summer 2013 but that date came and went.
The large Dog Run opened in June of 2013 but everything else has lagged behind. At a Parks Committee meeting in the fall of 2013, Neilson said that Phase III would open in three segments with the “Mounds” opening by Halloween, followed by the building in two phases. Well, that date came and went too. At last, Phase III – the “Mounds”/cable-net play equipment, new Administration offices/bathrooms, and lawn area — will open soon. Part of the issue is these HVAC vents atop the building that are way too large and need to be reduced (more on that below) but … there is more!
The new building replaces three separate red brick little buildings (mens/womens bathrooms, administration offices, and a shed of some kind) which pretty much blended in with the park but desperately needed repair. The new building looks like a suburban train station, and it always did – from the minute the plans were viewed. Alas, the new building, termed by the architects a “pergola,” will house the long-awaited bathrooms — the one thing everyone wanted renovated and completed FIRST (Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was not much for listening to community “wishes) was done last — as well as the Parks Department District Administration offices, a storage room, and… the NYPD?
NYPD MOVING INTO THE PARK
The NYPD has long had a building, a trailer of sorts, on Washington Square South; unclear if it’s been operational in the last few years, and now it is moving into the park itself. ??
Neilson was asked by this blogger if the new building would also house the NYPD. Neilson responded, “There have been conversations.” I asked if this included holding cells (I had been told by a source who had been in the building that there are “holding cells” within it). Neilson said that it does not include holding cells. She said, “I would be very surprised.” (Not saying ‘no’ tho’ – presumably she, too, has been IN the building.) When audience member Mitchel Cohen followed up, asking if there would be prison cells in this building, Neilson made a joke of it as if this was an outrageous suggestion. When I asked if the NYPD trailer on Washington Square South would be moving INTO the park, the Park Administrator basically confirmed this.
Washington Square Park is under 10 acres. WHY do we need the NYPD *in* the park? Shouldn’t this go under some form of review? (There are already a bazillion cameras around.)
Well, not according to Community Board 2 Parks Committee Chair Rich Caccappolo who quickly moved to shut down the discussion – saying I should contact the NYPD. I said that I had and they had not responded.
I would think that the Community Board would recognize this as an issue – but, in ever protective mode, of Neilson and the Parks Department, the discussion was promptly shut down. It was suggested that I attend a Sixth Precinct meeting.
OBTRUSIVE, SILVER HVAC VENTS ATOP THE BUILDING SET TO BE REDUCED IN SIZE AND HEIGHT
Then, there are those silver vents atop the building – never visible in any plans shown. Neilson said that they are working on having “shorter HVAC ducts, painted a dark color, much less obtrusive” and there will be “a glass canopy on north side.” At the meeting, former C.B. 2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman stated that he was very much aware of them and they were in the plans. A note: these plans were reviewed while Bergman was committee chair and many issues related to WSP were rushed. I went back to look at the plans and I suppose they are there in one of the diagrams which I don’t recall seeing at any meeting. They certainly are not visible in completed renderings (see below).
THE MOUNDS, ETC.
(I have written at length at this blog about how the “Mounds” are nothing like the original Mounds. I won’t go into that but you can read about it here.)
Much more happened at this meeting — Coming up: report-back on the Community Board 2 Parks Meeting, the Board’s response to issues and concerns expressed by community surrounding Washington Square Park private conservancy – and what the Conservancy had to say for themselves!