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Washington Square Park Makeover

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Washington Square Park, Haven for Eccentricity, Is Set to Fall Into Line

By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS | May 10, 2005

Washington Square Park, the scruffy spot with an anything-goes tradition, is about to get a perimeter fence and a lock, courtesy of a Parks Department makeover.

Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to approve a $16 million redesign, the last step before the 9.75-acre park will be altered in its most significant way since Eleanor Roosevelt helped lead the fight to ban automobile traffic from Washington Square in 1959.

Under the plan, the park's centerpiece fountain would be shifted into precise alignment with the Washington Square Arch as seen from Fifth Avenue. The park's quirky changes in elevation would be leveled off. Two popular dog runs would be moved. Three six-foot-high asphalt mounds, part of an old playground, would be flattened. A large plaza would be replaced by a lawn. And a four-foot-high granite and iron fence would go up along the perimeter, along with gates that would be locked at night.

"They're sanitizing the park, taking away a lot of its charm and freedom," said Carol Massa, president of the MacDougal Block North Association. "It's overkill."

Few people disagree that Washington Square needs a face-lift. The fountain leaks, the pathways and pavement are badly cracked and the grass is often not green. But in a park in which there is a vice president in charge of the dog runs, and the asphalt mounds have their own preservation group, change does not go down smoothly, said the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe.

"There's a constituency for every little part of the park," he said, "and there are going to be people who are going to be contrarian no matter what."

The Landmarks Preservation Commission vote will determine only whether the plan violates city landmark laws. The plan has already been approved by the local community board and no further approval is needed. The three-year project could start in late June. Officials say that the work will not disrupt New York University graduations, which take place in the park.

Continue reading at: The New York Times

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I sorta like the quirkiness and unkempt nature of Washington Square. It could use better lighting at night but I wouldn't necessarily care for a lawn or filling of the fountain.

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