On April 2nd at 11:00 a.m., City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and others will preside over a newly renovated Jackson Square Park, the triangle formed by Horatio Street and Eighth and Greenwich Avenues. Among other events at the ceremony, three new pin oaks will be planted to join the older ones already there. Under reconstruction for a year, the park now features not only a beautiful cosmetic facelift and restored fountain, but state-of-the-art infrastructure as well.
The last major renovation—when the park attained its current layout as well as the large central fountain—was in 1990. In the ensuing years, time and nature had taken their toll. According to Harlan Bratcher, president of the Jackson Square Alliance, a 501(c)3 charitable organization that was formed in 2008 to support the maintenance and greening of the park, the timing of this initiative was perfect. “While the park might have looked good thanks to our plantings and irrigation, the infrastructure was a mess,” he says. “The fountain was barely working. When we would hang our holiday lights in December, we could only put up a few strings because the rusted, 30-amp fuse would blow out otherwise. The water fountain was corroded. The park itself wasn’t ADA-compliant, making it difficult for wheelchair users to enjoy it. The cobblestones were breaking up and needed to be replaced. And when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, backed-up salt water flooded the pit that houses the fountain mechanics and corroded everything in it.”
What a difference a year makes. Now all infrastructure in the park is brand new, electricity capacity has been substantially increased, and the water fountain, paving stones, and placement of the benches are all ADA-compliant. The fountain, which is landmarked, was sent to South Carolina for restoration and its base will now act as a pool, lit up from below. The original grant from the City for renovation was $800,000. Final figures aren’t in yet but, no doubt, they will be higher, and many would say worth the expense. As Bratcher explains, “The Alliance did such a good job initially with the park that when it came to renovation the City—spearheaded by Christine Quinn and then Corey Johnson—was supportive of making a greater investment in it.”
As far as what plans Jackson Square Alliance has for the park in the future, much of it has to do with the plantings. “Fundraising expenditures will be for the real gardening of the park, adding color, new plant materials, and softening the pin oaks,” says Bratcher. “That’s the big investment.” In addition, JSA does many seemingly small but essential tasks such as paying to have the garbage bins emptied every afternoon, so they don’t overflow (the City only empties them in the morning). “There are so many things that JSA does that really make Jackson Square Park livable,” Bratcher says. “We’re just trying to augment this little oasis so it’s enjoyable for everybody.”
To find out more about Jackson Square Alliance, please visit their website at www.jsa.nyc.