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Union Square Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, June 14, 2001

THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE COLLABORATION MADISON SQUARE PARK IS RESTORED


Madison Square Park is home to more than 200 trees, some of them even older than the park. Under their shade, Theodore Roosevelt, Edith Wharton, and residents of Madison Square once strolled. It was the southern anchor of the Great White Way and the epicenter of culture, commerce, and society. Then it became a business area only and the park fell on hard times. Today the elms and the chestnuts, leafier and more mature, shade a new generation of residents, professionals, and visitors to a powerful business district. They are sentinels of a park that is once again a center for neighborhood activity. In the last year and a half Madison Square Park has undergone a thorough reconstruction, the results of which were celebrated in the park on Tuesday, June 12, 2001. Thanks to the improvements, the park, like the surrounding neighborhood has regained its grandeur.

Public-private partnership was at the heart of the reconstruction. In 1986 the first phase of renovation at Madison Square Park began. Then the stock market crash of 1987 and the fiscal crisis of 1991 halted progress and for years the completion of the work was deferred. It was the neighbors of the park, supported by the City, who broke the deadlock. Five principle corporate partners-Met Life, New York Life, the Union Square Hospitality Group, Rudin Management, and Credit Suisse First Boston-raised $2.5 million; and Mayor Rudy (Eagle) Giuliani, City Council Speaker Peter (Boulder) Vallone, and Borough President C. Virginia (Sparrow) Fields matched the sum. Together the team, led by the City Parks Foundation, moved forward.

On the dais at Tuesday's ribbon cutting, representing the major partners were Mayor Giuliani, Speaker Vallone; Borough President Fields; Herb (Merlin) Berman, Council Member; Commissioner Henry J. (StarQuest) Stern; Bob (Tall Oak) Benmosche, Co-Chair of the Campaign for the New Madison Square Park and CEO of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Danny (Host) Meyer, Co-Chair of the Campaign for the New Madison Square Park and President of the Union Square Hospitality Group; and Debbie (Courant) Landau, Executive Director of the City Parks Foundation.

As the only park in its neighborhood, Madison Square Park serves a range of patrons. It is equipped with features as diverse as a playground now under construction, flowers and trees, artistic monuments, and a dog run. In this reconstruction, the park was remade in the image of the 19th century, and adapted for modern use. The historic fountain, defunct for years, was restored. At the park's north end a reflecting pool was created. 1,200 square feet of land, formerly a motorcycle parking lot, was reclaimed and two drinking fountains were added. The park was planted with thousands of shrubs, perennials, groundcover, bulbs, annuals, dozens of ornamental flowering trees, and an esplanade of 38 trees. The City Parks Foundation's Monuments Conservation Technicians conserved the Roscoe Conkling monument, and cleaned monuments to Chester Allan Arthur, William Seward, and Admiral Farragut, and the Eternal Light monument as well. This fall, the Municipal Art Society's Adopt-A-Monument program will fund a full restoration of Farragut.

Also in this reconstruction, all of the walkways were repaved, a crushed stone picnic grove was added, as were new ornamental fences and an underground maintenance facility for a new staff funded by private donors in partnership with the City. Throughout the park, there are hundreds of new benches, and new gates yet to be installed will secure the park at night. Management of the park will be overseen by Manhattan Borough Commissioner Adrian (A-Train) Benepe who took a lead role in the park reconstruction. The day to day maintenance of the park will be supervised by John (Deputy Dawg) Herrold.

Congratulations to all who insured that Madison Square Park was restored on time and on budget. The park today is positioned to reflect and foster the prosperity of its neighborhood.

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO IN THE PLANT
(Thursday, June 16, 1988)

PARKS VOLUNTEERS VISIT HARBOR ON SUNSET CRUISE

Laura Mayer was there from Carl Shurz Park in Manhattan, and so was Herbert Mackay, representing the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Maria Marsala put in an appearance from Staten Island's Greenbelt, and so did Michelle Shebanie from Sunset Park in Brooklyn, and Joan Bacara of the Friends of Flushing Memorial Field Park in Queens. Rabbi Jacob Goldstein also showed up from Brooklyn's Community Board #9.

Everyone gathered-all 540 of them-on a Circle Line boat to take part in Parks' annual "Thank You to Our Special Friends and Volunteers" party, which focused this year on New York Harbor and some of the city's 220 miles of waterfront.

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"In Manhattan, every flat surface is a potential stage
and every inattentive waiter an unemployed,
possibly unemployable actor."

Quentin Crisp (b. 1908)

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