On January 7, 2011, the New York Times published "Just 7 Strips of Green, or a Park Worth Fighting For?" about seven small parcels totaling 2.5 acres located in Greenwich Village, four of which New York University would like to purchase to accommodate its expansion plans in the neighborhood. The article listed the owner of the parcels as the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). We wish the article had provided an actual list of the seven parcels as well as photographs of all the parcels. For example, the online version of the article was accompanied by a single photograph of a section of the Mercer Playground parcel. (Additional photographs of the playground can be seen on the Save Mercer Playground website.) Based on our reading of the article, we developed the image below to illustrate the locations of the seven parcels mentioned in the article as well as parcels mentioned in a Community Board No. 2, Manhattan (CB2) resolution submitted to the NYU 2031 Plan. Mercer Playground webpage states that the playground was transferred from NYCDOT to NYC Parks in 1997.
The cherry tree garden on Bleecker Street is listed as one of the contested parcels. We assumed the university owned this parcel because the garden is maintained by the NYU Garden Shop (read our article about some of the garden shop's gardens here), but apparently the university would like to acquire the greenspaces on the south side of Bleecker between La Guardia Place and Mercer Street which includes the cherry tree garden as well as two groves of large-stature trees, according to the afore-mentioned CB2 resolution.
Maintenance is not always a sign of ownership as is the case with Mercer Street Plaza. The parcel is owned by the City but the plaza space is maintained by the university. Also, the university led the redesign process; the plaza was renovated after the completion of the school's co-generation power plant. (Read more about the plaza renovation here.)
Between the dog run and the entrance to the university gym on Mercer Street is the inactive Children's Playground. The afore-mentioned CB2 resolution stated that unsafe conditions led to the closure of this playground, specifically the sinking of the playground's surface. A 2004 article in The Villager provides more detail about the playground's condition: "when the property was designated as a federal urban-renewal project, the site was backfilled. Shifts in the surface are caused by settling of whatever was used in the backfill" (from an interview with university spokesperson John Beckman). However, we are left wondering why the playground has not been repaired by the property owner NYCDOT, or transferred to a playground-oriented agency like NYC Parks.
For background on the university's expansion plan, read The Villager's "N.Y.U. unveils rezoning for its two superblocks" and the university's own NYU 2031: Growth documents.
|Cherry tree garden on Bleecker Street|
|Time Landscape on La Guardia Place (I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers in background)|
|LaGuardia Corners Gardens (grocery store and NYU faculty housing in background)|
|LaGuardia Park on La Guardia Place (future site of Adrienne's Gardem a toddler playground, in mid-ground)|
|Mercer-Houston Dog Run|