Volume 75, Number 24 | November 02 - 08, 2005


C.B. 2 process on Wash. Sq. has been flawed

With the passage of a new resolution on the Washington Square Park renovation on Monday night, Community Board 2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee has reopened the board’s debate on the divisive park project once again. Now the full board will have another opportunity to vote on a resolution on the project at its meeting on Thurs. Nov. 17.

Although it’s not good to keep flip-flopping back and forth between conflicting resolutions, we think in this case it’s appropriate for the full board to have another opportunity to vote on a resolution from the Parks and Waterfront Committee.

What happened last month seemed to circumvent the normal process a community board resolution should follow. On Oct. 6, the committee, led by its chairperson, Arthur Schwartz, passed a resolution supporting not moving the park’s fountain or raising the central sunken plaza and supporting a new fence around the park of no higher than 30 inches. However, two members of the committee, Shirley Secunda and Judy Paul, then crafted a substitute resolution that was silent on the issues of the fountain and plaza, while supporting the board’s earlier position of a fence no taller than 4 feet. After furious lobbying, including by the renovation’s designer, George Vellonakis, this substitute resolution — not the committee’s — was approved by the full board last month.

That process, we feel, was flawed. Scores of community members turned up at the Oct. 6 committee meeting wanting input into the process. They left feeling their voices had been heard as reflected in the resolution.

To have a seemingly substitute backroom resolution then passed by the full board was tremendously frustrating to these community members.

In the long process of the review of the Washington Square renovation, the community’s view has not been accurately represented or reflected.

We agree with Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 first vice chairperson, who chided the board for not treating the community fairly throughout this debate. The board is supposed to represent the community, not make policy.

Glaringly, the board has failed to weigh in on the moving of the fountain and the raising of the central plaza. How can the board simply punt on these key issues and, in effect, let the Art Commission decide for it?

While we praise Councilmember Alan Gerson for crafting an agreement with the Parks Department to preserve the mounds, include a permanent performance space, expand the chess tables area and so on, we’d also like him to take a firm stand on the fountain and plaza.

We hope the new committee resolution gets a fair shake at the Nov. 17 board meeting. If a vote is allowed, at least people will be able to say the proper process was followed and that the community’s position had a chance to be heard.

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