More controversy over Washington Sq.Park

Parks Department proposes performance stage and seating areas in Washington Square Park. On March 17, 2009, Landmarks heard testimony on the Parks Department’s proposed modifications to the master plan governing the renovation of Washington Square Park.

The modifications, both on the eastern side of the park, allow for the construction of a permanent performance stage and the retention and alteration of two seating alcoves. The performance stage would be built next to the park’s Garibaldi Plaza, and would have a 20-ft. radius and a 700-sq.ft. performance area. The park currently has seven alcoves, which were built as part of the park’s last renovation in 1970, but all were slated for elimination in the 2005 master plan. One of the alcoves, near the park’s playground, would be essentially retained, and the other would be modified and reduced in size.

District 1 Council Member Alan J. Gerson urged Landmarks to either abstain from taking action or disapprove the modifications. Gerson stated that the community wanted all seven alcoves to remain because they were an integral part of the Washington Square Park experience. Gerson also argued that the stage should be expanded. He believed that, given more time, his office could formulate a plan with Parks that would better please the community. A representative of the Washington Place Block Association testified that the alcoves were as important to the park as its chess tables. Representatives of the Washington Square Music Festival argued that the stage was inadequate, both too low for audience viewing and too small for performers.

Following public testimony, in response to Commissioners’ questions, Parks Design Chief Charles McKinney stated that the majority of the alcoves should be removed because they attracted “undesirable activities” like drinking and drug use. Although Parks desired swift approval of the project, Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney asked that the Commission lay over the vote for further deliberation. Promising that the Commission would take action soon, Tierney closed the hearing without a vote.

LPC: Washington Square Park, Manhattan (Binding Report #09-5939) (March 17, 2009).

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