PROGRESS REPORT: In tight budget times, green spaces are flourishing

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A young environmentalist in Washington Square Park at Friday’s mass march and rally against the N.Y.U. 2031 mega-development plan.

BY RICH CACCAPPOLO  |  C.B. 2 PARKS  |  Ours is a park-starved district. We rank second to last in the city in terms of green space per 1,000 residents. But in the last year, even in this time of significant budget constraints, the quality of the few open areas we do possess has been dramatically upgraded, which has improved the quality of life of our residents.

Thanks to the diligent, long-applied efforts of the Parks Department and the Community Board 2 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee, chaired by Tobi Bergman, and the support of our local elected officials, new spaces have been developed and existing parks have been updated.

The largest and most obvious project has been the revitalization of Washington Square Park, one of the city’s best-known and most beloved spaces — and our backyard. In early March the majority of the western side of the park, including the “Chess Plaza,” was officially reopened. Reviews have been extremely positive; it was worth the wait.

A few blocks away, on the site of what was a downtrodden McDonald’s Playland, a great new playground at Minetta Park was recently opened. Featuring a unique design, clever new features and no hamburglars, it has been widely praised and extremely popular from the day the gates swung open.

Not to be outdone, the standard-bearer of neighborhood play spaces, Bleecker St. Playground, has been given a well-deserved facelift. In fact, the whole block, including the Bleecker Seating Area and the walkway between it and the playground, called Jane Jacobs Way, the trees and the sidewalks, have all been repaired, replaced and refreshed.

Further west and a couple of blocks north, past the gem that is Abingdon Square, residents have been enjoying another recently completed, long in-process project — the redesigned and reopened Seravalli Playground.

Back across town, the updates to Petrossino Square have been completed. Look for some exciting artwork displays there this summer.

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Recently seen hooping it up in Washington Square Park.

Looking to the months ahead, there are even more great park developments to come. Work has begun on the new Adrienne’s Garden children’s playground on LaGuardia Place, and efforts are underway to improve DeSalvio Playground in Nolita. Budgets and designs for the renovation of J.J. Walker Playground have been approved and work was set to begin, but the Parks Department graciously delayed it so the 2012 Greenwich Village Little League season could proceed. Work will begin in September.

Washington Square Park Phase 3 is underway, the scope of which includes the large dog run, the Mounds and a brand-new comfort station. Parks has also agreed to renovate Father Fagan Square, the section of open space on the east side of Sixth Ave. stretching south from Prince St.

Finally, and most dramatically, work will begin on transitioning the St. Vincent’s triangle from a closed, private, locked area into a public open space, with great features, including an AIDS Memorial.

So, much has been done and there is much more to come as we work to make our part of the city not just more beautiful, with a consistently increasing quality of life, but even better neighborhoods within a vibrant urban community.

Caccappolo is vice chairperson of the Community Board 2 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee

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