Tag Archives: Washington Square Park

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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NYU Graduation Coverage Part 1: Grad Alley

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The streetsign may have been temporary, but on May 12 – the day before graduation for NYU’s Class of 2009 – West 4th Street and LaGuardia Place were transformed into a carnival-like “Grad Alley.” The celebratory street offered food (only at NYU would knishes and falafel be standard fare), a DJ, jugglers, games, crafts, and even human statues (say hi to Lady Liberty!) for graduating seniors and their families.

Washington Square Park Construction Update: And Then There Were Lights, or Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss the Fountain

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This weekend the Washington Square Park fountain was restored to its former glory – if only for a few minutes.

At about noon Friday, the jets were activated, sending gallons of water into the air over the slightly relocated fountain (remember, it was absolutely necessary that it line up exactly with the arch) in the closed portion of the park.  Curious onlookers (who after a year of construction probably forgot the fountain even existed) stood mesmerized, perhaps nostalgic for the days when parkgoers could sunbathe and even take a splash there.

But by about one o’clock, the jets had been turned off, reminding us that this was only the construction team saying “testing, one, two, three.”  Such a tease.

Also this weekend, new (yet old-fashioned) globe light fixtures were installed in the area immediately surrounding the fountain, bringing a much-needed element of grandeur. (Remember those atrocious globe fixtures that looked ugly and soiled enough to be from the ’70s?  You’ve probably been trying to block them from memory.)

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But the fountain test, lighting, and general progress of construction appear to be promising indicators of a re-opening in the very near future – perhaps even before the long summer days have us aching for a refreshingly cool spritz.

The Magic is Back: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Nicolas Cage Returns to Washington Square Park and NYU

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Conveniently for those NYU students who missed it over spring break, the cast and crew of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” returned to Washington Square Park today to film new scenes.  This time, however, the public was afforded an actual Nicolas Cage sighting (if you could recognize him in a long brown trench coat, long hair, and sorcerer’s cap).

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Actor Jay Baruchel could also be seen on set.  The scene itself featured several extras walking along pathways in the park, with Cage and Baruchel among them.  The cast and crew were lucky to be working on a beautiful 65-degree day, though unfortunately for everyone else (who wasn’t interested in star gazing), the filming closed off a large section on the east side of the park.

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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.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Starring Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina, Films at NYU

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The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, Jon Turteltaub-directed Walt Disney Pictures film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Nicolas Cage, is filming at the NYU Law building on West 4th Street.  Yesterday traffic was redirected down MacDougal Street to accommodate large technical equipment and lighting that towered over surrounding buildings and Washington Square Park (including a machine that produced a rainstorm – even though it had been raining earlier that day).  Nicolas Cage was nowhere to be found, but stars Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer along with several extras were filmed running though the artificial downpour, umbrellas in hand.  A sign was even added to the building itself, so that it could temporarily transform from a law building to a science building, but the signature NYU flag remained in place.

The live-action film, which is based on the segment from Disney animated classic Fantasia, is set in contemporary New York (and probably thanks to New York’s discount film credits, can proudly bear the “Made in NY” stamp as well).  This month, it was announced that Alfred Molina has signed on to the project to play the villain.  The film is to be released on July 16, 2010.

The Fallout from Fall Out Boy: Pete Wentz and Company Attempt to Have Concert in NYC, Get in Trouble with Police

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The band Fall Out Boy, headed by Pete Wentz of pop/punk/bi-curious but now Mr. Ashlee Simpson fame, and inspired by Bob Dylan’s impromptu ’60s performances in the same location, attempted to stage a secret free concert in Washington Square Park in NYC at 3:30 on Monday.  Fans who had read about the event on Wentz’ blog the night before gathered near Washington Square South.  But just as the band members were about to play, they got in a bit of a scuffle with police, who arrived to inform them that they had not obtained the proper permit and would not be legally allowed to play instruments.  Apparently, however, they were legally allowed sing.  So instead of being carted off to jail (which certainly could have given the increasingly less-relevant band a jolt of publicity), the group  members decided to perform an a cappella sing-along.  Yeah, we know, not quite as dramatic as their planned massive free concert that would have caught NYC by surprise.  But at least they had their fans in mind – and were blessed with record-breaking 65 degree temps on this New York December day.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Rogers