Volume 74, Number 37 | January 19 - 25, 2005


Washington Sq. redesign needs a public vetting

After several years of percolating, followed by a year of meetings by a Community Board 2 task force dedicated to the issue, a redesign for Washington Sq. Park will be presented early next month at a meeting of Community Board 2’s Parks Committee.

This page has been a strong supporter of the project to refurbish the park, which has not seen a full-scale renovation since 1970.

The fundraising for the planned $16 million redesign is moving along impressively. As for the redesign — by George Vellonakis, a Villager — not many other than those who have been working closely on it have seen it yet. From what we hear, though, it includes much in the way of improvements that are to be applauded. The task force on the park, likewise, deserves our gratitude for their efforts thus far.

The opening of sightlines in the park is a good idea, as is the addition of more grass lawns. Some will no doubt be concerned about the replacement with lawns of the mounds and Teen Plaza, however. Also, there is clearly concern about whether a renovation of the park’s existing playgrounds will be included in the park’s rehab. And it sounds like the dog run constituency may be unhappy with relocating the run on the park’s perimeter.

Above all, a sentiment is being voiced by some that the park’s redesign process has not been sufficiently open to the public. A member of the task force tells us frequent mention was made at meetings of the Village “crazies” and “the mounds people” and how these individuals would wreck the process if allowed to participate.

While it’s true there is often a tendency in the Village to oppose change, the charge that the community is being blocked out of the process is something about which to be concerned. If the community isn’t allowed to contribute, there will be bad feelings afterwards and an opportunity will have been lost to undertake a major renovation of the park with broad community support.

What is needed at this point is, at the least, a major public hearing on the Washington Sq. Park redesign. It doesn’t seem to us that a run-of-the-mill C.B. 2 Parks Committee meeting qualifies as a public hearing. It’s not a stretch to say that many people will want to weigh in on this plan. Providing a bona fide public hearing, ample notice and a large-enough venue is necessary if the community’s input is to be heard. Yes, the mounds people and the chess players, too, should be allowed their say. That’s just for starters.

Certainly, one Parks Committee meeting on Feb. 2, followed by a full community board meeting on Feb. 20, three weeks later, is simply not sufficient time to solicit, digest and incorporate the community’s input.

Although, Parks would like to start this project in June — and while this page has called for the project to move ahead — perhaps things are being rushed a little too much. Before ground is broken, a genuine effort should be made to insure this plan has had a thorough vetting by the community — by those who use the park and live around and near it. A thorough public review will give this plan a greater sense of legitimacy and make it stronger and better.

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