Volume 75, Number 6 | June 28 - July 5, 2005
Villager photo by Bob Kreizel
Chuck participated in a dog show for Best Sign.
‘Don’t fence me in,’ protesters sing at park rally

By Lincoln Anderson

In what was billed as the People’s Rally to Save Washington Square, musicians, acrobats, activists and small dogs wearing pint-sized protest placards came together last Saturday to condemn the park’s renovation plans.

To generate some interest and excitement, things started out with a dog show, with awards given for Best Sign and Most Aggressive, among other categories.

Speakers included Councilmember Margarita Lopez, architect Ed Tafel, Doris Diether of Community Board 2, and Jessie McNab.

Lopez, who was joined by her 80-year-old mother, Julia, in town from Puerto Rico for the Gay Pride March, said her mother always told her to speak the truth. The truth is, the renovation plan is terrible, Lopez said.

Diether said removing the elevated Teen Plaza — on which the rally was held — from the park was a mistake. The Parks Department’s plan to use the Holley and Garibaldi ovals for concert spaces with portable stages will necessitate closing off sections of the park, because pedestrians won’t be able to walk through these spaces, she said. Meanwhile, performances on the Teen Plaza don’t inconvenience anyone, she added.

McNab blasted the renovation plan, designed by local landscape architect George Vellonakis, as “official vandalism.” Commenting on Vellonakis’s plan to replace workaday asphalt hexagonal pavers with tony granite slabs, McNab said, “Pink granite in this kind of environment is vulgar…. Nobody notices that it’s a little off center, and nobody cares,” she said of the plan to shift the fountain, another contentious aspect of the design.

Tafel, who designed the Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church addition and St. John’s in the Village church, attacked the plan as generally ill conceived.

The $16 million, two-year renovation, slated to start at the end of the summer, would add lawns and small viewing gardens, move the fountain to center with the arch and add a 4-foot-high fence ringing the park.

Sharon Woolums, the event’s organizer, got the park’s musicians to provide entertainment. Sing-along selections included “Don’t Fence Me In” and “They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot.”

Tic and Tac, tumbling twins who have performed in the park since they were 10, treated the protesters to a show, climaxing with their signature move, one of the twins spinning the other at dizzying speed on his head like a helicopter.

“I don’t think that’s the right outlook that we should show — that we should fence ourselves in,” said Tac. “You don’t fence people out — that’s a jail.”

Edy Selman, a local resident, said the next big date will be July 11 at the Art Commission, which has to approve the moving of the park’s statues and fountain. The statues will be moved to the north of the two small ovals under the proposal. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has already approved the renovation.

Woolums said a planner she had hoped would bring in some big names to the rally, dropped out at the last minute. So Woolums conscripted the musicians. They luckily found a sound system on the street and were able to scrounge up an electric bullhorn from State Senator Tom Duane’s office. “It just had to be a people’s rally,” she said.

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