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Washington Square Park's $30.6M Reno Attracts Fans, Critics

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After six long years of work, a revamped Washington Square Park is finally complete. It got the Times treatment this weekend in a piece that details how the storied Greenwich Village green space has "changed drastically"; the picture painted is a positive evolution from an unsafe wonderland of drugs and general sketchiness to an idyllic retreat for sunbathers, kids climbing playground ladders, and frolicking in the iconic fountain, now aligned with the arch after a move 22 feet to the east. In response, watchdog site Washington Square Park Blog posted a detailed take-down, claiming that the Times story rewrites history.

First, here's a run-down of the many things that the contentious $30.6 million renovation did accomplish: 1) "In the chess area, the asphalt mounds and wooden benches have been replaced with black-and-white tabletops, chairs, greenery and flowers." 2) In addition to moving the fountain, the plaza on which it sits was raised, seating was added, and the public space around it made smaller. 3) There is improved lighting, better paving for walkways, and new bathrooms. 4) The most recent phase of the makeover include a dog run and a building with the aforementioned restrooms as well as Parks Department office space. 5) The asphalt mounds are now covered in fake grass and home to a mini-playground, plus there are pétanque courts, upgrades to fencing and lampposts, expanded lawns, and new landscaping.

WSPB's Cathryn takes issue with the way the Times portrayed the opposition to the park's renovation plans as well as its state pre-renovation, noting that the park was not scary and tourist-repelling prior to construction work beginning in 2007. She outlines other omissions and misrepresentations related to historic context, the fountain's relocation, and NYU's contribution to the makeover, among other topics. Her main beef, though, is the public relations-savvy framing of the whole thing to make it appear like a pretty seamless upgrade when in fact the six-year process was often fraught with tension.

On the bright side: there is a beautifully redone park for everyone to enjoy now, but people who care should probably read all perspectives on how it got that way.
· Blooms Return to Washington Square Park After Years of Renovation [NYT]
· New York Times Rewrites History of Washington Square Park [WSPB]
· All Washington Square Park coverage [Curbed]
—Photo via NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney