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Washington Square Neighbors Don't Want Any Smoke, Smoke

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The completed first stage of Washington Square Park's renovation has been, by all accounts, a smashing success. It kind of makes the years of protests regarding the park's makeover seem a bit silly, no? Not so fast! One conspiracy theory voiced by many park activists is that the renovation is the city's attempt not to update the park's infrastructure, but to crush the park's rebellious spirit. In fact, one Greenwich Villager became so distraught over the park's perceived switch from low-grade marijuana farm to "walk-through mall" that he upped and moved to California. Was he right? The Post reports that an effort to clean up the park is underway, but the strings aren't being pulled by the Parks Department. Rather, The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park, a shadowy coalition of nearby co-op boards and NYU, is planning on reaching into its wallet to protect the park's upgrade. Here comes some class war!

The group has been working for a year on their plan, the paper reports, and will meet with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe next week to discuss the matter. The mostly anonymous "powerbroker donors" plan on footing the bill to hire off-duty NYPD cops to increase the patrolling of the park, as well as adding employees to the maintenance staff. The coalition is hoping to make this happen by next summer, when the second phase of the renovation will be underway. One resident tells the Post, "I think the rich folk who are sponsoring this want to change the character of the park from the free-wheeling street-theater scene to something that resembles their backyard terraces." Coalition founder Dr. Gil Horowitz, a lower Fifth Avenue resident, counters, "Radicals see this as a form of the loss of their public space but we see this as securing the public space so it is civilized and better for them and for us." Meanwhile, somewhere in California, a radical guffaws.
· 'Square' Tactics [NYP]
· Washington Square Park Renovation coverage [Curbed]