Volume 75, Number 25 | November 09 -15, 2005

Washington Sq. resolution still unresolved at C.B. 2

By Albert Amateau

The Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee approved yet another resolution on the renovation of Washington Square Park on Nov. 7, calling on the full board to oppose features of the redesign, including moving the fountain, elevating and reducing the size of the central fountain plaza and putting a fence around the park higher than 30 inches.

The committee approved the resolution by a six to four vote with one abstention.

The new proposal, which will go before the full board on Thurs. Nov. 17, also supports maintaining the hotly debated mounds where they are now and calls for a preteen play area in addition to the mounds.

The new resolution follows the thinking of many Washington Square activists who adamantly oppose several features of the Washington Square Park design proposed by the Department of Parks and Recreation

Arthur Schwartz, committee chairperson, noted that committee members Rosemary McGrath and Susan Kent were prime movers of the new resolution, which he also supported. The new resolution contradicts what some board members consider the “stealth” substitute resolution introduced at the October full board meeting and adopted by an 18-15 vote of the full board with one abstention.

The October resolution was submitted to the board by Shirley Secunda and Judy Paul, two members of the Parks and Waterfront Committee. That proposal replaced one authored by Schwartz and passed at the Parks and Waterfront Committee’s Oct. 6 meeting, which was more like the new committee resolution.

Largely in favor of the official park renovation plan, the Secunda/Paul resolution did not take a position on the Parks Department proposals to move the fountain 23 feet to align it with the Washington Square Arch, raise the central plaza to ground level and erect a fence around the park no higher than 4 feet tall.

The committee resolution passed this week called for the full board to rescind its prior April resolution in support of the plan, as well as the October one. Schwartz, Sharon Woolums, Norma Symonds and Suzanne Dickerson, as well as McGrath and Kent, voted for the proposal on Nov. 7. Voting against were Secunda, Elizabeth Gilmore, Honi Klein and Joe Flahaven, with Richard Stewart abstaining.

Secunda was reluctant to comment publicly on the new resolution, but said, “I think it was a little out of hand at this point — I don’t remember the board ever rescinding a previous resolution. It’s very unusual. Well, we’ll see — to be continued.”

But the new resolution says the committee’s Oct. 6 resolution, which was supplanted at the full board last month by the substitute motion that Secunda co-authored, was unfairly attacked by a “scare campaign” against any opposition to the Parks Department’s official renovation design.

The new resolution says, “The role of the community board is to responsibly reflect the sentiment of the community and the sentiment of the community is in support of the Parks Committee resolution.”

The resolution also notes that the Fine Arts Federation, an independent private group which names seven of the 11 members of the city Art Commission, has gone on record opposing moving the fountain. Nevertheless, the Art Commission has not yet made a recommendation on the redesign of Washington Square Park and commission members are in no way bound by the views of the federation that appointed them. The square’s renovation project is not listed on this month’s Art Commission hearing calendar.

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