Volume 80, Number 25 | November 18 - 24, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
East Side, West Side, park improvements all around; It’s a green golden age
BY ADRIAN BENEPE
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
A laborer at work on Tuesday in Washington Square Park’s eastern half, which is currently under renovation.
Despite the current economy, we are experiencing a boom period for parks in the Village area, a very special time in which the community’s green spaces and recreational facilities are being improved to extend their life for years to come. As Mayor Bloomberg has often said, we cannot stop building or improving this city and its parks, because we need its neighborhoods to remain vital, attractive places — magnets for people to live, work and visit. With 2010 coming to a close, I am pleased to provide an update on several of these park projects.
Let’s begin with the heart of the Village — Washington Square Park, a historic park, a neighborhood green space and a great forum for diversity and public expression. With the completion of the first phase of the renovation in 2009, it looks better than ever. Our goal was to create a renewed sense of place, with a design that restored and upgraded the significant features that make Washington Square Park an iconic destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike. The first phase included a renovated and accessible plaza, a restored fountain and expanded lawns and new planting beds that dramatically increase the green space in the park.
We look forward to unveiling the improvements of the second phase in the near future. Work is continuing on the eastern half of the park as landscaping is in progress and perimeter curbs, fencing and asphalt pavers are being installed. New play equipment is now being installed along with safety surfacing so that the playground can be reopened in December. The rest of the park’s northeast quadrant should be completed later that month, while the remaining work in the southeast quadrant — including the stage, petanque courts and small dog run — and in the southwest corner around the chess plaza should be ready in the spring.
The next phase of the park’s renovation, including a new park house —with a comfort station for the public and space for Parks Department maintenance staff — and the large dog run, should be put out for bid in early 2011, and construction would start later in the year.
While much of the focus has been on Washington Square Park, there is much more good news at other parks in or near Greenwich Village.
Only a block away, Minetta Playground is being renovated with new play equipment, a spray shower, swings and landscaping. This highly visible site in the middle of the Village will be greatly enhanced and become a prime spot for kids at play.
Working with the Friends of LaGuardia Place, next year we will build a new playground for toddlers, Adrienne’s Playground — named for the late community activist Adrienne Goldberg — just south of Washington Square Park.
In the West Village, Seravalli Playground, at Hudson and Horatio Sts., following the completion of a shaft for the city’s new water tunnel, is also being reconstructed to become a greater recreational asset for the community. The central open space has been designed for children’s and adult sports, such as soccer or football, along with general play activities. The playground and the basketball courts also are being redone.
We are also making improvements to the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, at Seventh Ave. South and Clarkson St., and will be installing a new, state-of-the-art, artificial-turf field next door at J.J. Walker Park, to replace the decade-old field that has been worn down by intensive use.
Another exciting project, the renovation of the north end of Union Square Park, is nearing completion. The playground, tripled in size, quickly became a huge hit with the young crowd with its varied and unique play features. The plaza has been renovated, and the Greenmarket is thriving as before. The new comfort station serving park users and Greenmarket patrons, with a separate bathroom for kids in the playground, is open.
We have plans to improve another historic park nearby, Stuyvesant Square Park. With help from the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, we will be improving the fountains on both sides of the park and restoring the bluestone on the west side of the park. A new irrigation system is being installed on the east side of the park to help maintain the beautiful plantings. We also are
planning the long-awaited restoration of the historic 1847 fence and sidewalk on the east side.
Located at the crossroads of Little Italy and Soho, Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino Square Park is a small but significant park that has been reconstructed and almost doubled in size to become an even greater community asset. The park is named for the only New York City police officer to die while on duty outside the U.S. It now features new benches, trees, landscaping, irrigation, a drinking fountain and lighting. We look forward to finishing the remaining work, which includes the fencing, gates and granite curbs.
Moving over to the waterfront, dramatic improvements are happening at the 57-acre East River Park, the largest park south of 59th St. in Manhattan. The promenade runs the full length of the park and is a vital link in the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. In 2001, an inspection of conditions revealed serious deterioration of the promenade’s structures and the promenade was ordered closed by the city.
At East River Park, we have been reconstructing approximately 6,600 linear feet of the promenade, including a relieving platform, bulkheads and the seawall between E. 14th and Jackson Sts. This $80 million project is the most major reconstruction of a park in Lower Manhattan history. The work has progressed to the point where 6,000 linear feet of the promenade down to Grand St. is currently open to the public. Final structural work on the last 600 linear feet should be completed this winter. Landscaping for the entire project should be completed by next spring, and work on the two embayment bridges over portions of the seawall will be completed by next summer.
All this great and important work in the Village area’s parks has been made possible by generous funding allocations by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other local elected officials, including Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilmembers Rosie Mendez, Dan Garodnick and Margaret Chin and former Councilmember Alan Gerson.
As we continue to build new parks and restore old ones, we remain committed to building and maintaining a beautiful, green and enlivening network of open spaces that make New York the best place to live, work and play.
We appreciate the community’s input and patience as these projects proceed, and we look forward to seeing you in the parks!
Benepe is commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation