Washington Square Park renovations get go-ahead

Renovations include shifting fountain 23 feet to align with arch. On December 3, 2007, Justice Joan Madden ruled that the Parks Department could proceed with its planned renovations to Washington Square Park, finding the agency’s Environmental Assessment Statement complied with all applicable State and City environmental review statutes and adequately analyzed the renovations’ impact on natural resources, open-space, and the surrounding neighborhood’s character.

The ruling allows Parks to move forward with its plan to renovate the park, which includes expanding lawn areas, decreasing the paved area surrounding the fountain, and restoring and reconfiguring other features within the park such as its statues, pathways, and playgrounds.

In November 2006, the agency completed a 38-page EAS for the project that covered twenty different substantive areas—including neighborhood character, natural resources, and construction impacts— and concluded that the project will not have any significant adverse environmental impacts.

Petitioners claimed that Parks failed to consider the renovations’ impact on the park’s natural resources, such as its trees; the surrounding neighborhood’s character caused by a permanent perimeter fence; and the historical use of the fountain plaza as a place for artistic and political expression.

The court disagreed, finding that the EAS and its findings were reasonable and legally sufficient. The court noted that Parks’ EAS included details about increasing the green space in the park by 20 percent; replacing a wire fence with one of similar height and purpose; and replacing the paved areas surrounding the fountain with lawns, which will accommodate, not suppress, political and artistic expression.

The judgment follows two earlier rulings on the Washington Square Park renovation, all of which were in the City’s favor.

Greenberg v. New York City, Index No. 100760/07 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Dec. 3, 2007) (Madden, J.).

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