Volume 75, Number 14 | August 24 - 30, 2005

Council thinks user study will be useful in park programming

The Washington Square Park Council has launched a user study of Washington Square Park to determine how many people are using different park amenities, and how well the current park design supports people’s interests. The user study will include a survey and systematic observations and counts. There is no current usage data for the park, according to the council.

Washington Square Park is slated for renovation by the Parks Department this year, and a hotly debated draft plan — against which a lawsuit was filed several weeks ago — is well advanced in the approval process, but still needs the O.K. of the Art Commission to move forward.

The study will be used by the council to gauge the appropriateness of various elements of the redesign, and to help it understand how people use Washington Square Park at different times of day and night.

“The council is a strong supporter of the park and wants to see it successfully renovated,” said Brad Burnham, a board member of the council. “We hope that through the survey, use studies and a workshop, we can help develop a consensus around the renovation of the park that reflects the needs and character of this community.” The council also plans to conduct a public workshop on design and programming in the park, but a date for the workshop has not been set.

In early August, observers monitored park use on weekends and weekdays, noting what benches were most popular, where people sat and gathered, what activities they engaged in, what entrances and exits were most used and the condition of the park’s various amenities. Further observations are scheduled for September. The results of the study will be presented to the council and, later, to the neighborhood as part of the workshop.

The user study is designed to reveal the primary uses of the park and the perceived needs of park users. The effort will not poll people on their perceptions or opinions about the proposed redesign of the park.

Members of the council sat on the Washington Square Park Task Force along with Community Board 2 members and representatives of New York University and the Village Alliance business improvement district, among others. The task force met privately during the past year in meetings not open to the public with Parks Department officials to discuss and plan the renovation.

The council has retained Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit organization that specializes in community-based planning and public space observations, to administer the survey and conduct the user study, as well as to run the upcoming workshop.

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