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PARK LOSS DANGER LEVEL: BLACK
The Dark Days Begin for Washington Square Park
Photo by Ray Brizzi
A New Organization Joins the Fight
Judson Action has started a new organization and website. It contains videos of the recent action meeting at Judson Church
on February 6 and will be adding more information and videos as time goes on.
Their website states:
"Outraged by the recent unearthing of human remains in Washington Square Park, Judson Memorial Church, its members
and the Greenwich Village community are taking action. Their goal is to move the parks department to limit the invasiveness
of their remodel of the Park. There are still thousands of interred bodies under the park, it is our goal to make sure that
they remain undisturbed."
Sadly, this month or so probably had the biggest burst of news about Washington Square Park since the earliest renovation
announcement. Stories about the unearthing of possibly disease-ridden skeletons from the 1800s have been in all the New York
newspapers...and even on television, as here in this segment from NBC. Where were they when we needed them?
We'll be posting park observations from our source as we get them here.
1/25: There is a new dig outside the north/east corner of the dog run on the eastern side. I overheard the archeaologist say
"I don't think they're going to let us do any more digs."
1/10: Found out today more trees in Phase 1 will be either: 1. Dug up & removed to be placed else where; or 2. be
evaluated health-wize & if deemed unhealthy, cut down. Meanwhile, today heavy equipment was left for hours standing on
1/9: Yesterday afternoon around 2:30pm at the northwest corner of the park on Waverly, I observed the following: A portion
of a brick structure was unearthed about 4" or so below ground. Brick was exposed about five feet down. An archaeologist
was in the hole with a hand spade going thru the dirt, delicately putting relics she found in a yellow plastic box, she also
took some measurements of the exposed portion of the structure. When she was done, it was re-covered w/dirt.
1/7: They're cutting down more trees this am.
1/4/08: This morning the trees around the fountain are being cut down.
12/27: Contractors are taking down the sitting wall around the fountain.
12/26: Just returned from the park. There are absolutely no workers there today and no management, unless management is
at a meeting.
12/19: They've started tearing down benches.
12/15: The mulch pile on the south end is being removed & the fountain is being marked w/blue paint for dismantling.
12/11: Continuing putting up fencing & there is drilling @ the south end of the park.
12/10: Was told that George & 3 other people, 2 men & a woman, were looking at the dog run fence. A little perplexing,
then they went into the field house. There are new PEP officers stationed in the park this morning, Also, there was a lot
of activity with Parks jeeps coming and going, but couldn't see who was in them. Also, last Wednesday morning it was discovered
that someone had stolen the top mesh grate from the main drain pipe in the dog run. The parks manager said that some form
of construction could possibly start today. She didn't know what. Fencing is being put up around the fountain. Seems as soon
as the City Comptroller makes a decision, if in their favor, they are going to start tearing the place up.
12/3. Last year there were flyers around the park announcing the tree lighting ceremony, this year there are no flyers.
11/19: The tree lift for cutting down trees was parked by the park's office buildings. It was used to put a WiFi antenna
atop the bathroom building (ed. note: ?!?!?!)
11/18: This morning I saw George Vellonakis in the park talking to a parks employee, who later told me there is a huge
meeting being held this morning in the Olmstead Building in Queens, where George's office is based, about the renovation.
Both the district director, Ralph Musalino, & the park manager, Rebecca Ferguson, are attending. He said he'd find out
more details after the meeting, but from what he's heard the renovation will start in a couple of weeks.
11/8/07: At 4PM, George Vellonakis was in the Park with some woman, specifically pointing at trees in the northeast section
that abuts Washington Sq. East. Not a good sign.
New Videos about Washington Square Park and our Fight
The large video window below is new and includes live music as well as comments by Jon Rettich, who did the many sketches
on this website. It also shows Park designer George Vellonakis saying that the fountain move will add no cost, despite analysis
to the contrary as shown in the next section.
A Letter from Jonathan Greenberg's Openwsp.com Website
Just as the Parks Dept begins construction on the unpopular redesign of Wash Sq Park, a new study by the top building conservation
authority in New York, posted at www.openwsp.com, concludes that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe deceived the New York City
Council when he stated, in Council budget hearings, that it would cost no more to move the park's historic fountain than to
keep it where it is.
In fact, the study, by the prestigious Building Conservation Association (more info about them at http://www.bcausa.com/portfolio.htm)
concludes, it will cost taxpayers an additional $508,000 to move the fountain.
The operative paragraph of the study is on the Executive summary, second page (after title page) last paragraph. The study
shows that $508,000 of the $2,500,000 total cost of restoring the fountain is associated with moving the fountain, not repairing
and restoring it. This has to do with demolishing the perfectly good existing foundation and building a new one, as well as
unnecessarily moving every piece of the fountain offsite.
In a letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe dated August 6, 2007 (also on www.openwsp.com), City Council Speaker Christine
Quinn and Council Member Alan Gerson's wrote:
"We expect to see the documents after bids are received to confirm that there is no more than a negligible cost to
moving the fountain. In the meantime, we will hold you to your City Council testimony dated June 6, 2006 (see attached) that
there is no significant cost differential. Should it be otherwise we would oppose moving the fountain."
To this day, the Parks Department has refused to provide any documents pertaining to its deceptive claim, which was used
to secure city funding for this project.
As a result, the Open Washington Square Park Coalition calls upon Comptroller William Thompson to investigate the deliberate
misrepresentation with which the Parks Dept received taxpayer funding for this unpopular redesign scheme for Washington Square
Park and to use the subpoena powers of his office to investigate a suspicious pattern of circumstances which have led Parks
Commissioner Adrian Benepe and his subordinates to repeatedly deceive the New York City Council, the Community Board, and
In addition, we call upon New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Alan Gerson to stand behind
their public letter of August 6, 2007 to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and withhold capital funding for the Parks Department
until it is willing to disclose and submit for approval a true budget and plan for Washington Square Park.
Concerned New Yorkers Please Call TODAY--and spread the word:
Comptroller William: Thompson 212-669-3450
Council Member Alan Gerson: 212-788-7722
Council Speaker Christine Quinn c/o Grey Elam and Kate Seely-Kirk 212-564-7757
Judge Madden rang the death knell for the Park we know and love on 12/03/2007. The City is ready to go, bid approved and in
place, and they want to start digging in December.
It doesn't look like anything we do now will make much difference. It all comes down to the court's decisions ultimately,
and they all turned out against us. Odds are that future attempts will be rejected before going to trial.
The politicians didn't give us the support we needed despite saying they would. The one-sided agreement by Gerson and
Quinn which the city denied in court was meaningless. People with money not only vote, but give money to campaigns, so ultimately
the winners are those with the cash.
Let's hope that Parks is able to hold onto the money so we don't end up with a permanent dusty rubbled construction site.
That is the worst scenario of all.
This site will stay up indefinitely and we'll continue to report on the construction and Park events if there are any.
Thank you al for your support over the last 2 1/2 years. And especially, thanks to ECO and Jonathan Greenberg for their
tireless work and untold hours in this fight.
The following Washington Square News story from 11/06/07 details a recent donation of $1 million to the Parks Department
by NYU. There are some quotes from politicians, and even a mention of our site...
Scoopy's Notebook in The Villager reported on 11/07/07:
Park politics: Gil Horowitz, a strong local backer of the Washington Square Park renovation project, tells us he's heard "construction
will begin soon, though, as of today, no specific date has been set."; Meanwhile, Susan Goren, an opponent of the renovation,
tells us the antis have been doing a phone blitz of Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris's Office. "You remember, the mayor made
a big thing about open cubicles, rather than private offices--- so everyone's aware of it," Goren said of the telephoning
tactic. "Six hundred people were given the slips and told to call between the 5th and 11th of this month. Each person
is to call once -- we're not trying to stack the deck, we're trying to be honest," Goren stressed.
The quote below is from the 11/12/07 Washington Square News from a series of articles about NYU's future. We have to wonder
whether this will involve NYU laying electrical conduits through the park as the planned digging moves along? If so, will
there be any rental paid for use of the grounds? Could this be the reason for the million dollar donation? The quote from
the story is shown below.
One ongoing project, the expansion of NYU's cogeneration plant, will allow the facility to provide energy for 30 buildings
in the Washington Square area, an increase from the seven buildings it currently powers. The plant is on track for completion
in 2009, said Cecil Scheib, the vice president for facilities construction and management.
This is from an October 5, 2007, protest by ECO, Disabled in Action, and senior citizens from Caring Community against NYC
and NYU's planned redesign for Washington Square Park. There's even live DooWop by the Groundstones.
We added some recent music performance videos in the Music in the Park section. Just click on that tab on the left of the
City Bid Documents for WSP Renovation
To make it harder for people to find online, they didn't put Washington Square Park in the title of the solicitation. They
added it as a "correction".
Here's the solicitation information:
Construction / Construction Services
CORRECTION: RECONSTRUCTION OF THE FOUNTAIN PLAZA - Competitive Sealed Bids - PIN# 8462006M098C01 - DUE 9-18-2007 AT 10:30
CORRECTION: And Northwest Quadrant in Washington Square Park, in the Borough of Manhattan, known as Contract # M098-105MA.
This procurement is subject to participation goals for MBEs and/or WBEs as required by Local Law 129 of 2005.
This contract is subject to Apprenticeship program requirements.
Bid documents are available for a fee of $25.00 in the Blueprint Room, Room #64, Olmsted Center. The fee is payable by
company check or money order to the City of NY, Parks and Recreation. A separate check/money order is required for each project.
The Company name, address and telephone number as well as the project contract number must appear on the check/money order.
Bidders should ensure that the correct company name, address, telephone and fax numbers are submitted by your company/messenger
service when picking up bid documents.
Vendor source 45033
Due Date 9/18/2007
Solicitation: Competitive Sealed Bids
Agency: DPR / Contract Administration
Contact: Juan Alban
Address: Olmsted Center, Room 64, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Flushing, NY 11368
Below is a link to a status document that the city promised Justice Madden, delivered on 9/28/2007.
Letter about ADA Compliance Sent to the Parks Commissioner
The following letter was sent to District 8 Congressman Jerome Nadler following the presentation of the Park plans in July.
It points out that the city is in violation of ADA compliance laws by following their current plans.
August 8, 2007
Hon. Adrian Benepe
Department of Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
New York, NY 10021
Dear Commissioner Benepe:
We are writing to you because we have concerns regarding the renovation and redesign of Washington Square Park, which
is located within our districts. The plans for the renovation of Washington Square Park, as discussed at the Washington Square
Park Task Force meeting on July 26, 2007, appear to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The regulations implementing Title II of the ADA, 28 C.F.R. § 35.150(d), require that public entities of 50 or more employees
(i.e. the Parks Department) have a transition plan which includes the necessary steps to make facilities accessible to the
disabled. To date, no such plan exists for this project. In lieu of any such plan, the Parks Department has only indicated
to the community that it will make the bathrooms ADA compliant during Phase 3 of construction. It is critical that the Parks
Department make ADA-compliance a priority. Furthermore, the regulations under 28 C.F.R. § 35.105 require the Department of
Parks and Recreation to perform "Self-Evaluations" of accessibility for disabled persons. To our knowledge, the
Parks Department has failed to perform this task, placing the department in further violation of the ADA.
While the Task Force attempted to provide meaningful recommendations to the Parks Department, it was stymied by a lack
of detail necessary for a productive discussion. The information that was provided caused concern because of details that
show non-ADA compliant bench and game table designs. Furthermore, the lack of detail regarding clear pathway width, access
to grassy areas, and bathroom renovation, were of particular concern to the disabled community. This lack of information alienates
not only the disabled community but all park users affected by the redesign and renovation, by short-circuiting the community
It is our hope that the Department of Parks and Recreation, under your leadership, will review any and all documents related
to the renovation and redesign of Washington Square Park to ensure compliance with all ADA regulations and inform the community
accordingly. As dedicated and long time users of Washington Square Park, the disabled community's needs must be addressed
as a priority and as a matter of federal law. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Department of Parks and Recreation to
correct long time concerns at Washington Square Park regarding accessibility.
We look forward to your prompt response to these concerns.
JERROLD L. NADLER Member of Congress
DEBORAH J. GLICK Assemblymember
THOMAS K. DUANE State Senator
cc: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Councilmember Alan Gerson Community Board 2
New Park Redesign Plans "Revealed" at City Hall
On July 26, 2007, the Parks Department revealed a new set of plans for Phase 1 of the Washington Square Park redesign to be
evaluated in terms of the Gerson-Quinn agreement.
Some changes were made that are a bit better than the previous, with the inner fountain circle being 88.2 percent of the
original size rather than the 70% size they presented first. And the fences are shorter than last time by about 10 inches.
But in the new plans, the fountain is still being moved, and there are still 16 jets in the fountain as well as a 45-foot
high plume. They always make the comment that it is adjustable. They just don't say who will be adjusting it. Will this be
a full time position where whenever anyone wants it lowered, the request will be honored?
At least one of the inner circle pathsto bypass the fountain will be removed, forcing more people through the smaller
center and making it even more crowded.
Once again, the Parks Department showed their contempt for Community Board 2 and the Washington Square Park Task Force.
They presented a plan with what looked like about seventy-five very large pages, showing perhaps five pages. Although they
knew that there was going to be a follow-up meeting with the entire task force present, they are not making the plans available
to this influential group so they could be inspected and studied.
A barrage of Park higher-ups were on the bench, primarily to make sure that the presenter didn't give any information
beyond what was on the paper. Questions were very intense, in particular regarding ADA compliance, but the usual stonewalling
was in effect.
The plans will be available for viewing at a Parks Department office all next week. They are located at 24 West 61st Street,
and you need to call to make an appointment to reserve time to see them. The number to call is 212-408-0201. They werent clear
whether only one person or group could look at them at the same time.
Comments will be accepted all next week by Council Speaker Quinn and Council Member Gerson. Links to the agreement and
emails for both of them are below.
On Monday, July 30, there will be a follow-up meeting of the Task Force to discuss the plans, which is open to the public.
The video window below will bring up a short 4 minute video which shows the level of the people we are fighting against. Outright
lies, arrogance, deception and coercion have been the hallmark of this redesign process from the beginning. Just click the
play icon in the middle of the "screen."
Created by Matt Davis with Jonathan Greenberg of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition, it is narrated by NYU journalism
student Kavari Marathe.
Matt has also made an hour-long film about the Park redesign process, including many Park scenes, performances and interviews,
along with scenes from various political meetings and office visits. It really shows the flavor of the Park and the lack of
good faith from the Parks Department from the beginning.
On April 19, the full Community Board 2 overwhelmingly voted for a resolution to put the City's feet to the fire concerning
the WSP redesign. Over the attempted derailings by Maria "You're Out of Or" Derr, a vote was held with only five
voting against the proposal.
The resolution lists the failures of the City to act in good faith by not presenting plans several times as requested
by CB2 in their efforts to make sure the Park redesign meets the public needs.
According to the approved proposal, New York City must present "accurate, written, up-to-date" plans to CB2
for the redesign within 20 days. If the plans are not delivered by May 9, then CB2 will rescind their prior approval of earlier
Congratulations to Board Member Keen Berger and Parks Committee Parks Committee Chairman for finally pushing an approval
with teeth through the opposition on the Board.
The City did not come through with the plans by the deadline, and at this point CB2 has rescinded their approval of the
New York City won its appeal against Jonathan Greenberg on March 8. The court said that the city gave the information required
and were not secretive about it. They minimized the power of the community board and the Gerson-Quinn agreement.
Greenberg said yesterday, "These judges performed mental acrobatics in order to grant the city a license to lie to
its citizens. We still don't know what the plan is now." He plans to continue the fight.
A decision on Ronald Podolsky's appeal against Judge Goodman's negative decision last year is still pending from the hearing
on February 2.
In 2005, Little Steven Van Zandt put on a concert to save CBGB OMFUG (Country, Blue Grass, and Blues and Other Music for Uplifting
Gourmandizers,) which has been open since 1973. The 313 Gallery next door, which was an art gallery and music scene for more
acoustically oriented music, is also closed. New tenants have already been signed.
On 10/15/06, the last show at CBGB's went on with Patti Smith headlining. New York Magazine did an interview with her,
and among her comments were the following. She captures the spirit of Washington Square Park better than the Parks Department
is capable of.
NY Magazine: "Do you remember your first night in New York?"
Patti Smith: "The first couple of months, I didn't have the money to go to a movie or a play; to go anywhere, except
to just walk around. It was beautiful going to Washington Square or Tompkins Square Park and seeing people gathered to read
poetry or sing or play chess. For me, New York meant freedom; I loved that people didn't stop and question you because of
the way you were dressed. I didn't need any entertainment."
It Pays To Write And Call
Back in the early spring, two new PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers went on a rampage, ticketing for every possible offense.
Besides giving the tickets, they were often abusive to the people. They also told their victims that they were working for
taking orders from NYU. Particularly targeted were the dog owners on their way to and from the dog runs. We (as did many others)
wrote to a number of politicians including Benepe from Parks, Bloomberg, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate
Betsy Gotbaum. One of the officers has since been replaced, and the two officers no longer intimidate people by coming on
Writing and contacting politicians may not be enough. We will be putting in email headers for you to write to various
newspapers and blogs over the next few days.
Under pressure from The Villager, the Parks Department released these plans the Friday before the Art Commission meeting.
This photo is very small, but you can download the full size picture (9.5" x 16.5") by clicking on the link above.
Even when printed out at full size, the small text is still unreadable.
The Parks Department sent out a notice on a meeting on Union Square Park in January. It had an interactive map showing
before and after images that could be clicked on to show the changes. Where are those images for Washington Square Park, Mr.
Sites About Performances
One of the most disturbing things about the new plans is that they are drastically limiting the public assembly space. Musicians
will now be crowded more closely together, and will be likely to be sprayed with water on windy days.
There is always the risk that the Park may start requiring permits for musical performances as well. For that reason,
here are links to two websites that advocate public music performance.