Next month, the first phase of the $16 million renovation of Washington Square Park will be unveiled (maybe), with the Park Department showing off a realigned and slightly shrunken fountain plaza, new horticulture and benches and other tweaks. It's those changes?along with an eventual four-foot perimeter fence, relocated dog run and other elements?that set off neighborhood activists when the plan was first unveiled in 2005, leading to a number of lawsuits meant to block work from beginning. But work did eventually begin, so now that those bitter battles are in the past (anybody remember this crazy thing?), how are the anti-renovation folks dealing? Not well! The cover story of the Times City section this weekend was titled "The Battle of Washington Square," and it's a fairly comprehensive look at both sides of the Greenwich Village conflict. Even the Washington Square Park blog's Cathryn Swan gets her props in the story (naturally, she has a lengthy rebuttal on the WSP blog today), but as far vocal critics of the renovation go, they don't come any more angry than one Jonathan Greenberg.
"They changed the park from the quintessential hangout space in New York — in the United States — to a walk-through mall,” said Jonathan Greenberg, a 50-year-old Internet entrepreneur and former journalist who emerged as one of the plan's angriest critics. Mr. Greenberg, who founded the Open Washington Square Park Coalition and was among those who filed a total of five lawsuits that sought to prevent the city from going ahead with the plan, grew up in Greenwich Village and SoHo. His children played in the park's playgrounds. When he speaks about the renovations, he is sometimes so bitter that he can barely put his fury into words.
"All that excitement is not going to be part of the park's future," said Mr. Greenberg, who has since moved to California — partly, he says, because of his disaffection over the changes to the park.