Washington Square Park Conservancy board members Justine Leguizamo, Gwen Evans, Veronica Bulgari and Emails show the fledgling group had already succeeded in influencing public park policy before the group even presented themselves to the public for the first time on June 5, 2013. “This is a private, affluent group of women being given decision-making power unbeknownst to the public,” said Cathryn Swan, who first exposed the removal of hot dog vendors on her Washington Square Park Blog. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.) Click on image to enlarge
By Geoffrey Croft
Critics wary of yet another public-private park group forming and exerting influence over public park policy say their fears have already come to fruition in Washington Square Park.
According to emails obtained the through a Freedom of Information Law the Washington Square Park Conservancy's high profile board were already trying to stick its nose in park business even before the group publicly unveiled themselves to the public in the spring.
The newly formed conservancy is being accused of using its influence to remove hot-dog vendors from areas of the park and replace them with high-end sellers while the group was still forming.
While the hot dogs will be gone by the end of December according to the Parks Department, the city is keeping the gelato stand run by Mario Batali — a conservancy board member — along with a famous Indian cart. It’s also making room for a stand selling gourmet ice-cream sandwiches called Melt.
In an interesting nutritional note the Parks Department apparently thinks ice-cream sandwiches are a "food choice." The move to sell the ice cream is "part of a broader initiative to bring a more diverse selection of food choices to New Yorkers,” according to a parks spokesman Phil Abramson.
The idea to move the hotdog vendors apparently came at the behest of public complaints and once the conservancy complained the group is apparently claiming no responsibly for the Parks Department's decision.
“We got some word from our neighbors that [the hot-dog vendors] were unsightly,” said Veronica Bulgari, the conservancy’s president. “We suggested moving them based on what other people were telling us. The fact that it was done was Parks’ decision.”
However when asked who actually complained the group's chairwoman Betsey Ely named George Vellonakis, the controversial architect behind the $30 million park redesign.
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