After two-and-a-half years of renovations, a key part of Washington Square Park is open to the public once again. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
From its iconic arch to its massive fountain, it's hard to mistake Washington Square Park.
"People are playing music, and there's lots of students and all kinds of demonstrations and whatnot and it's so alive," said a New Yorker.
Now the park has the chance to be even more alive as the famous Chess Plaza at the southwest portion of the park is finally open again.
It was closed for several years as part of the overall $30 million renovation of the park, which has been going on for five years now.
"I think that the renovation has really unified the park, making all of the pieces sort of come together. And it's a greener space, a more relaxing space, and just seems to be used more," said Washington Square Park administrator Rebecca Ferguson.
The work on the park has not come without opposition. Mostly there were critics of the design, everything from shifting the fountain to align it with the arch, to the height of new fencing, the location of plantings and lighting.
"Along the way it was a compromise," said Community Board 2 Chairman Brad Hoylman. "We met in City Hall back in 2007 and brokered an agreement with the speaker and the local council member and the community, and I think that was instrumental in putting this redesign back on track. So we are very pleased to see the results today."
Park users who spoke with NY1 on Thursday seemed pleased to simply to be able to enter through the newly renovated section.
"It was a real inconvenience not to, because you had to walk all the way around," said one parkgoer.
"I think they've done a great job and I think it's wonderful," said another.
Now that the second phase of the park's renovation is complete, it is time for the third and final phase. Construction is expected to begin this spring.
"We're going to build a beautiful new playground, just to our left here. It's going to be great for older kids," said Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner William Castro. "We are going to take down three old buildings and create one beautiful LEED-certified public bathrooms and headquarters for staff and for programming here as well and we're going to build a new dog run."
The third phase is expected to take a year to complete.