Court enjoins Washington Square renovation

Plans sent back to Community Board, Landmarks and Art Commission. Under Parks’ plan to renovate Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, the off-center fountain would be moved 22 feet to align it with the park’s famous arch at its Fifth Avenue entrance. The new fountain would be raised to grade level, have a 45-foot high water plume, and be 23 percent smaller than its current size. Parks received approvals for renovations from Manhattan’s Community Board 2, Landmarks and the Art Commission.

Four Greenwich Village residents sought an injunction to stop Parks’ renovation, arguing that Parks failed to get needed approvals since it submitted obscure plans, withheld information, and failed to clearly explain its plans at each step. The residents submitted evidence alleging that Landmarks voted on a plan to repair, but not move the fountain; Board 2 later approved a plan to reduce the fountain’s size by only 10 percent; and months later the Art Commission was first to learn of the 45-foot plume of water, which, the residents allege, would eliminate the ability to sit around the fountain to watch performers, a historic use of the fountain since the 1960s.

Pointing to sketches and schematic designs submitted to Board 2 and Landmarks, Parks responded that its plans for the fountain had been consistent in each step.

Justice Emily Jane Goodman disagreed with Parks, finding it “far from obvious” by the sketches and designs that the fountain size would be reduced or the water plume raised. Consequently, Parks failed to reveal essential aspects of the plan, denying Landmarks, Board 2 and the Art Commission of their roles under the City Charter and the Landmarks Law. The court ordered Parks to resubmit plans for the fountain and the fountain plaza to each group for review and approval.

In re Greenberg v. City of New York, N.Y.L.J., Aug. 1, 2006, at 22 (N.Y. Cty. Sup.Ct.) (Goodman, J.) (Arlene Boop, for residents; Michael A. Cardozo, Chris Reo, for Parks).

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