Washington Square Park Sidewalk Fix News, Arch LED Lighting Makeover To Commence in Spring, More

Arch to Go Green!
Arch to Go Green!

Continued report-back from the February 4th meeting of Community Board 2’s Parks Committee addressing Washington Square Park follows.

(See previous posts related to this meeting on NYPD moving into building and real-time surveillance at park and issues with wi-fi in parks.)

Park’s Sidewalks To At Last Begin Construction This Summer 

The long-awaited rebuilding of the sidewalks at the park is now set to begin this summer. The date has changed repeatedly as the sidewalks have gotten in worse shape. Apparently, they are being entirely reconstructed. The “sidewalk procurement process is at the Mayor’s office” according to Washington Square Park Administrator Sarah Neilson. The contract is for 365 days but the Parks Department is hoping (assuming) it will be completed quickly as it typically does (although will we believe this when we see it?).

LED Lighting Makeover at the Arch Coming This Spring

I wrote about the Arch LED Lighting Makeover in August. Per Sarah Neilson, “the lights are being manufactured as we speak” and will arrive in April. It will take about a month to do the installation. There is a “transition time” — they will not look good for awhile (I did not quite understand why) but then the lighting will look greatly improved, brighter and will be more energy efficient!

Three Sided Historical Markers – Six – Eight Feet Tall (?!) – To Arrive at Some Point

Long ago, during the many meetings at which plans for the park’s redesign were battled over, it was agreed that Historical Markers would be installed with some of the square’s historical highlights. There used to be a sign (made of metal? bronze?) near the Garibaldi statue before being moved from its previous location. The sign described the significance of Giuseppe Garibaldi and contained some information about Samuel Morse as the first public demonstration of the telegraph was conducted by Morse (who was an NYU professor) at Washington Square Park in 1838. However, once Garibaldi was moved, the sign disappeared. (I wonder where that went. Some Parks Department warehouse or else perhaps it was tossed…?)

The design for the historical markers set to come was prepared for the presentation before the Landmarks Preservation Commission and also shown first to the Community Board Parks and Landmarks committees.

A note: They are way too tall! I thought they were over six feet which seemed too tall but looking at the mock up (see photo at bottom), I think they are actually eight feet tall. They are also bright green and three sided. (Eeek.)

The text will eventually be run by the Community Board. Neilson said, “It is taking a long time editing it.” She said that there are four of these signs and “they tell the park’s history in segments.” C.B. 2 Parks Committee Chair Rich Caccappolo asked to see a mock up of them.

James_jackson_headstone-480_washington_square1-300x205The 1799 Tombstone Discovered at the Park – Where will it go?

Remember when a tombstone was discovered during Phase II construction at the park in 2009 which dated back to 1799? (The tombstone was for a gentleman named James Jackson.)

At the time, the Parks Department heralded the discovery and said this tombstone would be placed in the park. At the meeting last week, when asked what was going on with the tombstone, Ms. Neilson said “it is an ongoing discussion – the question is whether it would go in the park as a tombstone or whether there is something else we could do with it.” She mentioned that the park had been a potters’ field at one time and not a graveyard.

However, in Emily Kies Folpe’s book “It Happened on Washington Square,” she wrote that “in 1890, … workmen digging the foundation for the Arch came upon headstones with German inscriptions dating to 1803, thought to be from a private German graveyard at the north side of the field.” Same time frame too (this tombstone was found in the southwest portion of the park).

Mock up - Historical Marker
Mock up – Historical Marker

More of this meeting report-back on Washington Square Park to come! Including news on the PEP (Parks Enforcement Patrol) officers, dying trees around the fountain, concessions, Wi-Fi & more. Check back!

Photos Top and Bottom: Cathryn

Middle Photo (tombstone): New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

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2 thoughts on “Washington Square Park Sidewalk Fix News, Arch LED Lighting Makeover To Commence in Spring, More”

  1. “She mentioned that the park had been a potters’ field at one time and not a graveyard.”
    I wonder how Ms. Neilson differenciates a potters’ field from a graveyard. Granted, a potters’ field is traditionally a burial place for the indigent but it’s still a graveyard, no?

    I was under the impression that there were a number of churches along what’s now, Washington Square South, and it was presumed the Jackson tombstone was from one of those. According to Wikipedia, which cites the Parks Department Archeological Assessment, ( which in turn cites a May 13th 1890 article in the NY Times) that a full casket, containing human remains, headstones and other remains, was found 10 feet below the east leg of the arch during construction. The Parks Assessment also cites a 1965 discovery by ConEd workers, of a vault beneath Washington Square East containing human remains, so apparently not everyone burried under the park was indigent. For whatever reason, various officials have continually tried to discount the belief that over 20,000 people remain in shallow graves beneath WSP. Or maybe if more bones are showing up in places where they weren’t expected indicating earlier surveys weren’t as accurate as the City might like?


  2. This is great information, Stacy, and certainly thought provoking. Just shows how important it is to know the history. Wish you were at the meeting!! Maybe next one.

    I will *dig* into this a bit further. 🙂



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