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Before NYU Razes It, LaGuardia Park Will Get A Makeover

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As New York University presses forward with its expansion plans, the city Parks Department is planning makeovers of two Greenwich Village park areas, including LaGuardia Park, which will eventually be gobbled up by NYU. The other green space is on the south side of Bleecker Street between Morton Williams and the Coles Sports Center, and the renovations seem to be headed for reality, but not without some controversy. After all, this is the Village and NYU is involved.

The plan for both is to complete the work by fall 2015. Of course, the work on LaGuardia Place would only be temporary. Come 2022, it will become a staging area and later an entrance plaza for one of the university's new buildings. Though it's been known for awhile that the park would be demolished as part of NYU's expansion, the realization of that fact didn't go over very well with the room.

Aside from the changes themselves, the biggest point of contention for Community Board 2's Arts & Institutions Committee was the ownership of the land. Is it NYU or the city? While they are concerned, the issue will eventually be decided by the courts.

As for the makeover, the pathways on LaGuardia Place will be reconfigured to add curved sections and better highlight the statue of late former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. There will be new benches in a circular section that includes the statue, plus additional lighting.

The plan for the Bleecker Street section contains three new 12-foot long benches, one of them facing west and two facing south. Also, the southern fence will be put south of the gutter to make for easier cleaning. Both sections will get new plants and the existing light bulbs will be changed from yellow sodium to LED.

After the public presentation, the committee went into executive session and drafted a resolution to be presented to the full board later this month. They feel that the existing pathways on the LaGuardia Place section are quite functional, especially for those which use the area as a method of passage and not just as an individual park area. Other concerns are safety, how the new light bulbs will affect the birds (really, they say the birds are singing in the middle of the night because of lights), keeping the trash receptacles rodent-proof, making sure there is adequate signage with rules (no alcohol, don't feed the pigeons, closes at 1 a.m., etc.), and that the area would be maintained (snow removal, etc).

On Bleecker Street, they'd like only one new bench. They're concerned about some of the new materials for the paths being a problem for people who use walkers. Also of concern was security and the birds; they say it's become a sanctuary of its own).
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All LaGuardia Park coverage [Curbed]
· All NYU Expansion coverage [Curbed]