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Washington Square Park Redux

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Out with the old...

“Washington Square Park is in the process of being destroyed and forcibly crammed down the throat of Greenwich Village as a cookie-cutter, picturesque, tourist-photo-background friendly zone.”

“Washington Square Park is being renovated and remade into a more safe, wholesome, aesthetically pleasing place to go.”

Well, that’s the controversy. Is the soul of the park being fundamentally changed forever? Or do some people just fear change? For many, the debate goes beyond preservation for history’s sake or opposing aesthetic viewpoints. Did $30 million dollars (initial proposal: $16 million) really need to be spent on the further Disney-fication of Manhattan when public schools are closing and others are falling apart and homelessness rages on unabated and etc., etc.? Aren’t there things that would be a better use of the taxpayers’ money?

For well over 100 years this park has been used by the people of New York as an area of respite. For decades, it has been the epicenter of the subversive, radical political and artistic movements of Greenwich Village. The new Washington Square Park has shrunk the plaza area around the fountain and dramatically changed the structure of it. One of the main “achievements” of the renovation has been the dismantling and moving of the fountain 23 feet east, so that it aligns with the arch.

Side effects included leveling the area around the fountain with the ground and taking the amphitheater style away from the fountain. Didn’t the previously askew alignment and theatrical quality of the plaza help symbolize the views of the community as askew from the status quo and a desire to speak out about it? Along with the renovation came a four foot high fence around the park. Is the fence there to keep people in or keep people out? And why would you want to do either? This is just the latest effort to make the city “safe” (read: the earnest gentrification of New York City). Will the park retain its spirit of bohemian rebellion? Or had it lost that before the renovation? Go down to Washington Square Park and decide for yourself.

For details about the renovation, you can read a blow-by-blow blog, or watch an hour-long documentary in its rough cut phase on youtube.  Please leave us your feelings about all this in the comment section below.

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Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe grew up in South San Francisco, spent a decade in Santa Cruz, and
relocated to Brooklyn in late 2008. He has been a waiter, a maintenance
man, a record store clerk, a professional radio DJ, an amateur
newcaster and a movie theater popcorn-slinger. Being broke is his
birthright, as he is from broke stock and has limited prospects. He
likes comic books and is obsessed with soul music.


  1. Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe
    October 15, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I thought the construction was finished, I’m way out of the loop, I do know that the neighborhood residents hired a private security force aka mall cops to get rid of those pesky drug dealers, where are all the NYC kids suppose to score now?!

  2. Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist
    October 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I was there last night and was offered weed, though this may have very well been from a cop. And a homeless guy took off his shoes and socks and waded into the fountain to collect change. Perhaps the tourism board put him up to it, though. It’s still got a bit of a Washington Square Park feel, even if it seems forced.

  3. Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist
    October 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Oh, and they’re in “Phase II” now. Most of the non-plaza/fountain part of the park is fenced off now for further “renovation”.

  4. Hugo Fuego
    October 20, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    They moved the fountains 23 feet east? Where did they move all the junkies?