Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Washington Square, the end of an era

I've been paying attention to the discussions over the renovation of Washington Square for a while now. The debate was between those people who wanted to maintain the character of the park as it was fixed up and the city planners who wanted to remake the park. According to Gothamist, the agents of change won out. Significant elements of the park will be moved and changed, decreasing the amount of public gathering space among other changes. What has been apparent throughout the reporting is the sense that the city would prefer to follow its own plan rather than listening to neighbors and users of the park.

Then again, given some of the park's more fascinating history as well as its well-earned reputation when I moved to the neighborhood as an outdoor drugstore, their pursuit of plans to change the park and how it is used is not so surprising. Certainly, there was a similar hue and cry when Tompkins Square Park was closed, renovated, and reopened in the 90s. What saddens me about this, though, is that there was a funkiness to the park and the fountain and the odd mix of students, performers, homeless, dogwalkers, chess players, and so much more. I took a lot of pictures of the park and spent a lot of time learning its rhythms in those years. Now, it's another of my old stomping grounds that will be cleaned and remade to fit the new New York of the new millennium.