Category Archives: Politics

It’s Official: Washington Square Park Renovation Phase I Has Re-Opened (Stay Tuned for Phase II)

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Though the fences had been quietly dismantled last Tuesday to allow a growing trickle of visitors, Thursday May 28 marked the official ribbon-cutting celebration of the now-completed Washington Square Park renovation – Phase I, that is.

A red carpet was rolled out to welcome prominent public figures and everyday parkgoers alike; speakers included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe

A tent was raised near the fountain to house a small group of chairs and a dais for the aforementioned speakers, who asserted that “a Nobel peace prize could have been awarded” for the extraordinary negotiation efforts that occurred throughout the planning and construction process.  Several of the speakers also remarked that even the most vocal opponents of the renovation seemed to be impressed.

After the speeches, the officials gathered in front of the fountain (which had been turned off) to stand behind the official ribbon, scissors ready.  The moment the ribbon was cut, streams of water shot out of the waterjets.

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Additional festivities included a commemorative button-making station, live jazz music, and free food from local eateries like Crumbs Bake Shop, Le Pain Quotidien, and Mario Batali’s Otto (whose “Gelotto” cart will become a fixture in the park this summer).

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Phase I of the renovation added new benches, winding walkways and grand promenades, and 20% more greenspace to the park, and controversially moved the iconic fountain 20 feet to align it with the equally iconic arch.

Though parkgoers are glad to have access to the fountain and central area again, the entire park will not be open for long: Phase II of the renovation, which will be concentrated in the northeast, southeast, and southwest quadrants of the park, is scheduled to begin in the near future.

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Hillary Clinton: Congratulations, NYU Class of 2009

HillaryNYU Secretary of State Clinton delivers her speech at Yankee Stadium.  Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News

The New York University All-University Commencement for the class of 2009 was held in the brand new Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, May 13.  Over 25,000 people attended the event headlined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who received an honorary degree (and a hug from President John Sexton!) and delivered the commencement address.  Recognizing that the class of 2009 is graduating during one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression, Clinton emphasized the challenging yet promising times ahead.  The Secretary of State urged the class to participate in global affairs and to embrace the inevitability of change.   She explained that much is expected of these graduates, and in light of the location, remarked that now they “are up to bat.”  Watch her speech here.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker Hold Discussion at NYU

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It must be VIP week at NYU: first Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina, and other stars show up to film a movie here, then Hillary Clinton is named commencement speaker for the Class of 2009 graduation, and now this:

Today at noon British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker will hold a discussion with NYU students and faculty about “A New Multilateralism in the 21st Century.”  According to the official NYU press release, “The event will include such pressing issues as global economic structures and policies, the challenges of climate change, and the need for cooperative approaches to security.”

Unfortunately the event is invitation-only (which may explain NYU’s last-minute press release).  But those of you hoping to catch at least a glimpse of these renowned people and a potentially fascinating discussion can view the event live on RealPlayer through the NYU website.

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View the complete photo gallery at Zimbio.

Hillary Clinton Named Commencement Speaker for NYU 2009 Graduation, Won’t Be Jumping into Fountain

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Today NYU officially announced that Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for NYU’s Class of 2009.  The U.S. Secretary of State, former U.S. Senator from New York, former First Lady, and Wellesley and Yale Law graduate can now add to her list of accomplishments an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from NYU, which she will receive at the ceremony.

According to the NYU press release, honorary degree recipients also include White House Journalist Helen Thomas, Nobel physicist Albert Fert, health advocate Jessie Gruman, and playwright and NYU alum John Patrick Shanley.  NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will receive the Rudin Award for “exemplary service to New York City.”

This year’s commencement will be held on May 13th at Yankee Stadium – since a substantial portion of the Washington Square Park (notably the fountain into which newly-minted NYU graduates traditionally jump, robes and all) remains closed for construction.  Though the vast majority of renovation, including landscaping, park benches, lampposts, and increased greenspace, appears complete, the closed section is not scheduled to re-open until “spring 2009” (which we really know, translating from construction-speak, is probably summer 2009 at the earliest).

But those of you who had been looking forward to some friendly secretary of state splish-splashing at the fountain, have no fear: if last year’s graduation streaker is any indication, anything can happen.

Kimmel Occupation Ends, Students Suspended and Lose Housing, Take Back NYU: “This is Just the Beginning”

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The third floor of Kimmel was finally cleared of protesters this afternoon, with officials removing the prominent banners displayed on the balcony.

Eighteen of the NYU students involved in the occupation (the ones who stayed after 1:45 AM) have been informed that they are suspended and prohibited from entering any NYU buildings, including dorms.  Their NYU housing contracts have been terminated – and according to one of the affected students they had 10 minutes to go to their dorms and grab all of their belongings – though they are still responsible for housing payments for the rest of the semester. (Ouch!  Maybe parents will have a protest against children’s wasteful use of their parents’ money!)  The New School students involved are being considered “trespassers.”

Negotiations between protesters and university officials have been minimal, and none of Take Back NYU’s 13 demands has been met.

Despite this, members of Take Back NYU! held a gathering for students and press outside Kimmel following their removal.  They discussed their organization’s continued efforts, including plans to bring their grievences to Mayor Bloomberg at an event on March 5.

CAS Sophomore and protester Emily Stainkamp complained about the administration’s handling of the event, accusing NYU officials of promising full negotiations and then only informing students of their suspensions.  She specifically criticized the Aramark Corporation, which provides food for Kimmel (and to protesters…hello?  They fed you!) for engaging in what she claims is “slave labor.”  She declared that, in light of the organization’s continued efforts and the change they expect from the administration, the Kimmel occupation “is just the beginning.”

Thousands Rally for Gay Civil Rights and Marriage Equality, and against Proposition 8 in NYC and Nationwide

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As part of a nationwide effort organized by Join the Impact and held simultaneously at 1:30 E.S.T. today, thousands gathered at New York’s City Hall to protest gay marriage bans recently enacted in Arizona, California, and Florida, and a ban on adoption for unmarried couples in Arkansas.  Protestors focused on the California’s Proposition 8, which passed with 52% of the vote, contradicting pre-Election Day poll predictions.  The ban “eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry” and marks the first time in history that civil rights have been removed from the constitution by popular vote.  Because California is considered influential in public policy, the impact of Proposition 8 is being felt around the country.

Participants listened to several speakers, displayed rainbow flags and signs reading “Give Love a Chance,” “Gay is the New Black,” “I Am Not a Second-Class Citizen,” “Should We Sit in the Back of the Bus, Too?” and “Homophobia is a Sin,” and chanted phrases such as “Gay, Straight, Black, White, Marriage is a Civil Right!”  

Though protestors were of course disappointed over these latest setbacks in the struggle for equal rights, many expressed hope that Proposition 8 would be overturned.  Four lawsuits have been filed with the California Supreme Court arguing that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional: on May 15, the Court overturned the previous gay marriage ban, citing that it violated the Equal Protection Clause by denying gay and lesbian people of their fundamental rights.  That clause, as indicated by its name, is intended to protect minority groups from having their civil rights removed by a tyranny of the majority.  The California Supreme Court is expected to address the lawsuits in the near future.

Breaking News: Provincetown Playhouse Protesters Gather at NYU

 

 A group of protesters from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has gathered at about noon today in front of the NYU Law Building, at the intersection of MacDougal and West 4th Streets.  With posters and chants declaring, “NYU!  Shame on you!” and “Preserve, Don’t Demolish!”, the group is voicing its opposition to NYU’s plans to convert the culturally significant Provincetown Playhouse (which is now actually used for apartments and offices) to a new law facility.  With almost unanimous support from the Community Board to begin construction, NYU has vowed to preseve some original features (such as theatre seats), and the facade and some interior walls of the building (approximately 6% of the total space).  But the Society for Historic Preservation believes this is not enough, and is pushing for NYU President John Sexton to halt the plans and for the city to landmark the building.

Do you have a solution to this contentious issue?  Please comment and be heard!

Update: By the way, The New York Times and the Washington Square News picked up this story, but not before Mazza First Hand Source did – we were on the frontlines, first on the scene!