Washington Square Park Flash Flooding: Redesign Fail?

Washington Square Park has experienced extreme flooding repeatedly when it rains of paths leading to the Fountain Plaza shortly after its Redesign by the Bloomberg Administration. It is impossible to walk along the pathways east of the fountain when there is heavy rain; the water pools to unnavigable heights, stranding park users and drowning the trees in their pits.

What is the problem? Could it –  like the situation with the perpetually dying trees around the Fountain – be related to Parks Department politics, specifically related to park re-designer George Vellonakis who has curiously just been given an even greater role at the park*? (*more on this to come next post)

Photos and video from last Friday show Local Ecologist taking action to remedy the clogged storm drain – which Parks Department employees could certainly also do.

However, there appears to be a larger issue here related to the actual redesigned slope of the paths leading west from Garibaldi Plaza to the Fountain. Read more below…
As I wrote in 2011:

The repeated arborcide of trees around the Fountain has not been properly addressed and it’s doubtful there’s a new strategy in place to save future young trees from meeting the same fate of their predecessors. Bloomberg’s folly: The famous fountain, moved from its original location 22 feet east to align with the Arch, after just two years, started falling apart and is still experiencing problems. And now, after rainfall (photos depict scene Friday night), water is building up and not dispersing properly, impeding pathways and causing lake-like conditions near the Fountain Plaza. What’s next?

Installing the person responsible for these problems in a key position related to the park does not seem like the answer. (?!)

I elaborated on this situation in 2014:

Recently, on a tour of the park, re-designer George Vellonakis explained how he re-designed the new park so that one side of the pathway to the east sloped up and other side of the pathway to the west sloped down (or vice versa! – this was all about the “sight lines”) but, clearly, there is a problem with the drainage of water. Is all this ‘sloping’ contributing [to the park flooding]?

Finding the storm drain and clearing by foot!

Local Ecologist
Local Ecologist

Water began draining:


The dead tree pits, only 3 trees of 7 locations around the Fountain remain living, not having been killed by the improper design and its incorrect drainage, a Vellonakis kerfuffle.

14 trees have died around the Fountain, many planted and replanted in the same locations; they replaced healthy 40 year old trees axed to “align” the Fountain with the Arch at Fifth Avenue by moving the structure 23 feet east from its original location – since 1871 – on the east-west axis of the park.
The Mounds don’t drain in the rain properly either:
Chess Plaza looks nice in the rain – and no flooding!

Photos: Cathryn
Video: Local Ecologist via Twitter

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

It Happened at Washington Square: Why is the (New) Park Severely Flooding? July 16, 2014

Latest problem at Washington Square: After Rainfall, Flood-like Conditions Impede Pathways — Rocky year for City’s Parks Department August 1, 2011

Arborcidal Design for Fountain Trees: Will City Parks Department Address This at Last? July 15, 2011

Actually, Mr. Vellonakis, the Washington Square Park Fountain is Already “Aligned” – Fountain is Park’s “Midpoint” June 2, 2008

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