Volume 76, Number 12 | August 9 - 15, 2006

Villager photos by Milo Hess

People and their pets cooled off in the Washington Square Park fountain during last week’s intense heat wave.

City will appeal Wash. Sq. lawsuit in November

By Albert Amateau

The city last Tuesday won the Appellate Division’s permission to appeal Justice Emily Jane Goodman’s decision that the Department of Parks and Recreation must take its plans for the redesign of the Washington Square Park fountain and fountain plaza back to Community Board 2 and to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Appellate Division granted the appeal for its November calendar, rather than the October date requested by the city.

That means the city has until the first week in September to file papers while lawyers for the four Village residents who sued to block the Parks Department’s redesign of Washington Square Park have until the first week in October.

“This is a good-government suit,” said Daniel Alterman, a partner in the law firm that filed the action against the city. “I asked the city attorney why they didn’t take their plans back to the community board and let the people decide,” Alterman said, adding the process could be faster than a court appeal.

But city attorneys noted that Community Board 2 had previously on two separate occasions approved the entire Washington Square Park renovation plan.

The plan has bitterly divided the neighborhood, especially the proposed redesign of the fountain — moving it eight yards to the east, centering it on Fifth Ave. through the opening of the Washington Square Arch, installing water jets in the fountain and reducing the size of the fountain plaza and raising it to grade level.

After the plan was approved by Community Board 2, L.P.C. and the city Art Commission, the plaintiffs went to court to block it on the grounds that several changes in the design had not been disclosed to the community board and other reviewing agencies.

Justice Goodman based her decision on two narrow issues: whether the placement and capacity of the fountain water jets and the decreased size of the fountain plaza were clearly revealed to both the community board and the Landmarks Commission.

Goodman ruled they were not and she enjoined renovation of the fountain and the fountain plaza pending further review by C.B.2 and Landmarks. But Goodman found the department did not mislead the community board or Landmarks concerning the need to raise the fountain plaza to grade.

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