Volume 81, Number 21 | October 27 - November 2, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Lincoln Anderson

The renovation of Washington Square Park’s southwestern quadrant still isn’t finished, but could be by sometime next month.

Contractor vows to finish park project with own cash

By Lincoln Anderson

Anthony Martucci has been trying to keep quiet. The gag order the Parks Department slapped him with helped — for a while.

Last August Martucci went public in The Villager with his complaints about the Washington Square Park renovation project, which his construction company, Tucci Equipment, is doing. Parks, according to him, was jerking him around and just not doing things the right way to ensure that the park was properly put together and safe.

Hence the gag order, which Parks made him sign.

“They wouldn’t let me talk,” he said.

The park’s southwestern quadrant has been looking pretty quiet, too, lately. It’s still behind a chain-link fence, closed to the public, and for about two months no work was going on.

“The project is a year behind schedule,” Martucci said last week. A more recent anticipated finish date of last month has also been missed.

Obviously, the contractor is no longer respecting the gag order — but it got to the point where he could no longer hold his silence.

Basically, he has filed claims against Parks, saying it owes him $7 million, to repay him for his own money that he’s poured into the project, for unpaid work and also for damages to his company. He said Parks filed a negative report with Vendex, which awards contracts for city work, but never told him about it — “the last straw,” he said. And the department recently didn’t pay him for three months.

In protest, Tucci stopped work in the park for the last two months.

“This is a shakedown,” he said.

But now, he said, he’s going to buy the final needed plants and shrubs with his own money, install them and a few gates that also need to be put in, and that will be it — the job will be done. Everything else is in place, from the chess tables and fountains to the trash baskets, he assured.

“I’m going to finish this job with my own money,” he vowed.

He anticipated the southwestern quadrant will be open by mid-November.

Martucci noted he opted out of doing the large dog run — which had been part of his contract — since he felt it would have been unsafe the way Parks was staging it. The dog run will be located to the south of the bathroom building, which will be renovated in a later phase. But Martucci said for construction equipment to get to the park house site, it would need to go through the renovated dog run, or operate too near it, putting dogs and their owners at risk, and he could not, in good conscience, be a party to that.

“It would’ve been a disaster,” he said.

Parks fought with him over this, but eventually relented. As a result, the renovation of the large dog run has now been pushed back to the renovation’s Phase III.

Martucci was also supposed to do “The Mounds” renovation but wasn’t happy with the logistics of that either, so the replacement of the enigmatic, decrepit, kids’ climbing hills are similarly in Phase III now.

He also felt more sand was needed under the playground swings for kids’ safety, so paid for it out of his own pocket: Parks would only pay for half of the sand he ordered, he said.

Phil Abramson, a Parks spokesperson, said, “Parks is currently working with Tucci to reconcile the payments that are owed. Yes, the dog run and mounds are happening in Phase III. I’m told that Phase II will be done during this fall. It could be mid-November — it could be before then.”

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