"If we cannot gather around the fountain because of construction or obstruction, we will gather around the arch," read the announcement for last night's Memorial Vigil for Washington Square Park. And sure enough, the fountain—slated to be relocated as part of the long-delayed overhaul of the park—was off-limits, fenced off (like most of the western half of the park). And anyway, it was raining. So the 30 or so attendees gathered just after 6pm last night beneath the arch, lighting candles and, also as promised, not engaging in rhyming chants or the like. God bless them for that.
Three reasons why the soul of Washington Square Park will never die, all witnessed within 20 feet of last night's memorial service:
1) Dude under arch playing "Sounds of Silence" on bad acoustic guitar.
2) Dude under arch vigorously practicing tai chi.
3) Dude by side of arch who approached us, asked us what the protest was about, told us "They want to tear down all the trees," and followed that up with , "So, need any kind buds?"
Oh, missed the fun yesterday? They're back at it today. From the Curbed inbox:
Press Conference, Rally and Vigil to Protest Bulldozing of Washington Square Park Thursday, December 20th, 4 p.m., at the Park by the Arch (Washington Square North)
$16 million price tag = 32 trees to be chopped down
New York, NY - New York City officials have announced that the City will chop down at least 32 beautiful old trees when it bulldozes world famous Washington Square Park in the coming weeks at the behest of New York University and other private interests.
"The trees are home to squirrels, birds and other local wildlife, and are a significant part of the Park's ecosystem," said Cathryn Swan, an environmental and wildlife protection activist. "Yet City officials are bent on tearing them down."
Parks lovers are singling out City Council Chair Christine Quinn and Council member Alan Gerson for flip-flopping on this issue. "They have the power to stop this massacre of some of the City's most beautiful trees," said Mitchel Cohen, a member of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party and coordinator of the No Spray Coalition. "So why won't Quinn do so? Because NYU is a giant billion-dollar corporation that's pulling the strings in order to gain further control over the Park."
Cohen points out that the City is also planning to bulldoze the chess tables and move the famed fountain.
The tree massacre is just one component of New York City's Parks Department plan for a staggering "overhaul" of Washington Square Park at a cost of $16 million, which includes: reducing the public space; dismantling and relocating the landmarked fountain so that it is "aligned" with the Arch; removing the chess tables, and replacing and relocating the popular dog run. These changes in effect will succeed in destroying the historical character and functionality of Washington Square Park.
In an example of what Cathryn Swan calls "greenwashing," the Parks Department states that it is making these drastic changes to add "more green space." "What happened to Mayor Bloomberg's infamous million trees for NYC initiative?," Swan questioned. "We should be saving our existing trees and wildlife that inhabit the Park to the delight of all New Yorkers, not destroying them."
New York City's Parks Department refused to conduct a much needed Environmental Impact Statement, and the courts, thus far, have allowed them to get away with their submission of a much less stringent "Assessment" letter, which focused solely on (the lack of) rare and endangered species, ignoring any impact on the numerous birds, squirrels and insects that comprise Washington Square Park's ecosystem.
Community and environmental groups call on New Yorkers to protest the massacre of these trees. "It's the best present you can give this holiday season," Cohen says. "Save the trees, save our Park. Dress warm, and hug a tree for Christmas."
Someone, save the squirrels. Please.
· Washington Square Park Memorial Service Tomorrow [Curbed]
· Where's the Washington Square Park Outrage? Right Here [Curbed]
· Cost Questions Still Surround Washington Sq. Park Work [Curbed]
· Evidence of Workers Working in Washington Sq. Park [Curbed]