Washington Square plan gains commission approval

Parks presented revised design that included additional seating alcoves. On April 16, 2009, Landmarks voted to approve modifications to the master plan for Washington Square Park’s renovation. The modifications include the construction of a performance stage and the alteration and retention of seating alcoves. At a March 17th hearing, residents, as well as Council Member Alan Gerson, urged Landmarks to deny the proposal, stating that the stage was too small and the alcoves were too few. 6 CityLand 47 (April 15, 2009). When Parks returned to Landmarks on April 16th, Design Chief Charles McKinney and Parks Designer George Vellonakis presented two plans: one with three alcoves and one with four. They also submitted a sight-line study that confirmed the proposed stage would not be so low as to hinder audiences’ views of performances. Parks urged Landmarks to approve the three-alcove plan, as the fourth could harm two existing trees, would require a retaining wall, and would cut into the lawn. McKinney pointed out that, even without the additional alcoves, the park would have 37 percent more seating than before the renovation.

Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney, who had emphasized the importance of a timely resolution at the last hearing, stated that three alcoves seemed appropriate. Commissioners Margery Perlmutter and Libby Ryan concurred, with Ryan saying that the fourth, smaller alcove would be “like a cave,” and that it had no historical precedent. Commissioner Christopher Moore preferred four alcoves, provided no trees were impacted. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz advocated for the four-alcove plan because she believed, in this instance, use was more important than the lawn. Brandes Gratz thought the fourth had the potential to be used the most because its smallness allowed for intimacy. Brandes Gratz stated that this was a matter about which she felt “very strongly.” Persuaded, Landmarks voted unanimously to approve a modified plan that included four alcoves.

LPC: Washington Square Park, Manhattan (Binding Report #09-5939) (April 16, 2009).

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