West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 7 | July 18 - 24, 2007

Re-present, yo; Washington Sq. plans go public again at hearing

By Lincoln Anderson

The Parks Department will re-present its Washington Square Park renovation designs to the public at a meeting of the Washington Square Task Force on Thurs., July 26, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at City Hall, in the Committee Room, just off the main chamber.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Alan Gerson are expected to attend the re-presentation and will open the meeting. The meeting will then be run by Brad Hoylman, the task force’s co-chairperson. Tobi Bergman is the other co-chairperson of the task force, but Hoylman has rank since he is also Community Board 2’s chairperson.

“The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether the terms of the so-called Gerson-Quinn agreement have been met and how to move forward,” Hoylman said on Monday. It was the Gerson-Quinn agreement that created the task force, he noted.

Hoylman said the public is welcome to offer input and comments, preferably on phase one of the $16 million plan.

“People have a lot of valid concerns about the design,” Hoylman said. “There’s an opportunity for public input at all levels. If people want to go on on other aspects of the plan, I don’t suggest it, because we only have the committee room for two hours. We do have some business that the task force has to conduct on the plan. I would prefer that we focus our attention on phase one — that is the order of business. There will be other opportunities for additional input into future phases.”

The estimated two-year project is planned to be done in two parts, with one half of the park remaining open during each phase.

Jonathan Greenberg, leader of the Open Square Park Coalition and a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the project, wanted to know for certain if there would be opportunity for public testimony. Hoylman assured that members of the public would be allowed to comment at the meeting.

Although an e-mail notice that went out regarding the meeting indicated that there would be opportunity for citizens to comment and offer input at the meeting, Hoylman said he understood the concerns of people like Greenberg who have been scrutinizing and fighting the project.

“They’ve been burned before,” Hoylman said.

For those who can’t attend the re-presentation, written comments will be accepted for one week after the meeting.

In May, C.B. 2 rescinded its two previous approvals — in April 2005 and October 2005 — of the Washington Square Park renovation plan after Parks failed to re-present the designs to the board for a new review. Following the board’s approvals, it was discovered that aspects of the design — such as the amount of the reduction of the size of the park’s central fountain plaza — didn’t jibe with the guidelines of the Gerson-Quinn agreement.

Whereas the Gerson-Quinn agreement stipulated that the central plaza be reduced no more than 10 percent, plans that Parks put out for bid called for a 23 percent reduction. Also, in court, city attorneys have called the Gerson-Quinn agreement nonbinding since it was never signed. More recently, Parks reportedly has stated it now intends to “comport” with the terms of the Gerson-Quinn agreement.

“The community board was asking to see these plans for a number of months,” Hoylman said. “I’m hopeful that the meeting will jumpstart the public process.”

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