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A Long-Awaited Opening at Washington Square Park

The eastern half of Washington Square Park, under wraps and off limits for the last twenty months, opened to the public on June 2, 2011. The wait has been so long, especially for local residents, that I resigned myself to the notion that the park renovations were not meant for the living but were for future generations. It's been so long that the last time I devoted a whole post to park developments, outside of posting pictures of the park here and there, was on May 20, 2009, the day after the renovated fountain area and northwest section of the park - the so-called Phase I - opened to the general public. Those areas had been closed for a year and a half. Like last time, waiting for this part of the park to open felt like forever, and like last time, it feels good just to have the park back again.

Washington Square Park, eastern section
the grass is greener...lawns in Washington Square Park


Like the renovated western section, this part of the park feels more formal than the park design it replaced, but that's largely because of its newness and the fact that the older park had fallen into great disrepair. In many ways, it feels and looks the same, just vastly greener with new trees and bright grassy lawns.

Washington Square Park, southeast entrance
southeastern entrance to Washington Square Park

Edward Hopper's home, Washington Square North
Washington Square North. The tallest building was the longtime home of painter Edward Hopper.

Still, many features are new. The park's topography has been altered so that the older flat beds now undulate in varying patterns. All the artery paths ever so gently slope down to the central fountain, the park's main hubbub of public activity and its sunniest spot.

Washington Square Park
to the left, Washington Square Arch. The tall building in the back is the art deco One Fifth Avenue,
still the main skyscraper for the Village.


Washington Square Park, eastern section
curving path toward the historic townhouses of Washington Square North.


Washington Square Park, eastern section
Washington Square East, as seen from the park.


Washington Square Park, eastern section
fans of the old park will find this oval seating area familiar. Washington Square North.


The new oval seating areas off the main paths include more benches than in the previous iteration, and these areas provide sequestered privacy and some shade. In fact, the whole eastern section is surprisingly shady. The statue of Garibaldi has been re-sited and turned around to face south. He faces a relatively small raised stage, but there's a large paved circle for a potential audience. The little dogs have a new playground on the south of the park, and the little humans can now enjoy an improved playground on the north side.

Washington Square Park
on the left, in the background, the familiar sight of Judson Memorial Church;
on the right, in the foreground, the statue of Garibaldi


Bobst Library, home of Pip
Washington Square South. NYU Bobst Library and hawk home. Fans of Bobby, Violet,
and Pip know to look up to the window ledge, second from the right.
Follow your eye up from the little eagle on top of the lamp post.  


Washington Square Park, small dog run
dog run for small dogs


The parks in the city have their different characters, and certainly Washington Square Park has the long distinction of being at the center of bohemian Greenwich Village. Right now it looks a little formal, gesturing more to the Washington Square of Henry James rather than to the freewheelin' square of the folkies and the jazz players. As long as the music plays, however - and I can hear the sound of a saxophonist playing in the park even now, floating on breezes through an open window, the park can break its stodgy rhythms and swing to any beat.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from June 5 and June 6, 2011 with the ProHDR app for the iPhone4. More pictures of the park in this set on Flickr WOTBA. Thank goodness, we have this part of the park again. Now we can sit on the benches and complain about the unfinished southwestern quadrant.

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