The debate over the Parks Department $16 million dollar plans to renovate Washington Square Park just got interesting again. In a last ditch attempt to stop the two-year project that some say would radically alter the character of the park, an ad-hoc group has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court arguing that the the planned redesign is "arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and illegal."
The plan, which would move the central fountain and statues of Girabaldi and Holley into alignment with the Arch (not to mention re-christening the fountain after the Tisch family who are throwing $2.5m into the renovation), has been hotly debated from the start (see the battle of the gate). This new suit though brings in some new issues, specifically recalling the Parks history as a potter's field (a Gotham history lesson!: Before becoming a park Washington Square was a burial ground for a synagogue, an African Methodist church, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Veterans, not to mention poor people from the state prison on Gansevoort Peninsula and the Alms House by City Hall). Over 20,000 bodies are anywhere from 8-13 feet below the surface of the park and the suit argues that in renovating it they might be unnecessarily disturbing "hallowed ground."
Washington Square has had a long and varied history, from Henry James to drug dealers, and the arch is one of the city's better known landmarks. So we guess it shouldn't be surprising that people would fight over any changes to it... but what do you think of the planned renovations?