Volume 75, Number 8 | July 13- 20, 2005

Wash. Sq. fountain is to be named for N.Y.U. donors

By Albert Amateau

In recognition of the $2.5 million gift the Tisch family made at the end of last year, the new fountain in the central plaza planned for the redesigned Washington Square Park will bear plaques that read:

The Fountain and Plaza Restoration
Made possible by the families of
Laurence A. Tisch and Preston R. Tisch

For opponents of the controversial $16 million park redesign, the naming confirms their worst fears that private interest is taking precedence over public space. Jonathan Greenberg, a founder of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition, said, “I see it as a backdoor encroachment on the park by private donors like N.Y.U. and its benefactors like Tisch.”

The Tisch family is one of the largest donors to N.Y.U.

Greenberg learned about the naming from the response to a Freedom of Information Law request that included a January agreement about the donation signed by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Joel Getz, president of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and Wilma S. Tisch, senior vice president of the Tisch Foundation.

“I want to know what’s next,” Greenberg added. “Will we have to call it the Trump Arch if Donald Trump donates money to maintain the Washington Square Arch?”

Margie Rubin, a Westbeth resident who filed the FOIL request, said, “I don’t think anyone knew about naming the fountain before. I think its part of the Bloomberg parks-for-sale policy.”

Greenberg said, “It confirms that the city plans to name the Washington Square Park Fountain, for the first time in two centuries, after a private donor.” Although the $2.5 million Tisch donation for the restoration of the fountain and the central plaza was announced in December of last year, the naming of the fountain was not mentioned, and Greenberg feels it was deliberately hidden.

However, Warner Johnston, Department of Parks spokesperson, said naming a fountain or other park feature after a donor was part of a long tradition that includes the Pulitzer Fountain in Grand Army Plaza on Fifth Ave. at 59th St., the James Fountain on the east side of Union Square Park, and the Schiff Fountain in Seward Park on the Lower East Side. The ice-skating rink in Central Park is named the Wollman Rink after its original donor, although Trump paid for a restoration in the 1980s.

Johnston also said the department intends to make a special announcement about the naming of the fountain at the end of July. He also said a FOIL application was not necessary and insisted that he would have told anyone who asked about the plan to name the new fountain after the Tisch family.

The first installment of the Tisch donation, $500,000, came to the city last month and a $750,000 installment is due in December of this year. Another $500,000 will come before June 2006 if phase two of the project begins on schedule, and the final $750,000 will come on completion of phase two 2007.

The Art Commission, which reviews works of art, architecture and landscaping on city-owned property, is scheduled to review the park redesign on Aug. 3.

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