Volume 75, Number 33 | January 4 - 10, 2006

Parks Department releases revised Washington Square renovation design

By Lincoln Anderson

The Parks Department e-mailed this image of its revised design of its hotly debated Washington Square Park renovation plan to The Villager on Friday morning Jan. 6 at 11:57 a.m.

On Monday morning Jan. 9, at a meeting starting at 8:45 a.m., the Art Commission is expected to vote on three elements of the renovation: conserving and moving the parkís historic fountain 22 feet to the east to align it with the Washington Square Arch and Fifth Ave. and conserving and moving the parkís Garibaldi statue and Holley monument about 15 feet north and rotating them 90 degrees to face south. The meeting will be held in at City Hall, on the second floor.

Critics of the plan who have been trying to obtain the final design were angry that it had been released so close to the hearing.

Sharon Woolums of the group Emergency Coalition to Save Washington Square Park, which has a lawsuit pending against the renovation, said their attorney, Ronald Podolsky, put in a Freedom of Information Law request on Dec. 20 to see the revised design.

ìThe fact that theyíre doing it a half day before [the Art Commission hearing] is ridiculous," Woolums said. ìThey had plenty of time to respond."

Woolums said her group will be meeting on Saturday afternoon. She said she was glad Parks had finally released the design so that members of her group wonít be ìin the dark" when they present testimony at Mondayís hearing.

Joel Kupferman, an environmental attorney, was recently quoted in The Villagerís Scoopyís Notebook saying he had also put in a FOIL request to see the plan and was outraged that the department wasnít providing it. The previous week, The Villager had run a Scoopyís Notebook item in which the Parks Department said they wouldnít be releasing the design until the hearing ó and that they wouldnít even give it to The New York Times.

However, Kupferman said the Parks Department called him on Friday asking him to review the design.

ìI got a call from them and theyíre begging me to come look at this stuff," Kupferman told The Villager. ìI think weíre getting to them. ó I canít do it right now. Iíve got people here from Nepal on a human-rights case."

Kupferman said the notice was too late anyway, because itís not enough time to really give a good look at how the plan has been updated. He said Parks, in its defense, told him it ìonly became a final document today." But heís skeptical, since that wouldnít give the Art Commission much time to do their own review, either.

Warner Johnston, a Parks spokesperson, said he sent The Villager the design on Friday because he would be at the hearing on Monday and so unable to send the plan electronically.

Johnston said he believed the design was finalized on Friday.

ìWhen designs are finalized, thatís when theyíre FOILable," he said. ìIf itís in draft form, itís not FOILable."

Johnston said that the Art Commission wonít be voting on the entire plan, anyway, just the issues of the fountain and statues.

Villager photos by Bob Arihood

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