OHNY’s program coordinator, Jailee Rychen, got an invitation this week to visit the Sasaki Garden in Washington Square Village by Ruth Rennert, Chair of the Save the WSV Sasaki Garden Committee and other members of the committee. Jailee got a tour of the garden and learned just how special and important the garden is to the community.

The garden was design by Hideo Sasaki, a modernist landscape architect who co-founded Sasaki, Walker and Associates. with Peter Walker in 1957. It was completed in 1959 and sits at the middle of Washington Square Village. The garden and residential towers make up one of two superblocks, a controversial urban design initiative that was led by Robert Moses and originally part of the Mayor’s Committee on Slum Clearance project. The superblock in which the Sasaki Garden is located was purchased by NYU in 1964.

Georgia Silvera Seamans, a member of the Save the Sasaki Garden Committee, points out the location of the garden between the residential towers.

This block was designed to create an isolated urban space for its residents. As Ellen Jouret-Epstein writes, “you feel that the buildings have turned their back on the street. But, walk inside, and you find a secret garden.” (read Jouret-Epstein’s Garden Rehabilitation Plan here).

The garden and the architecture of the building (designed by Paul Lester Weiner) was developed together to create a harmonious central green space to be enjoyed by the local community.

One of the defining design elements of the park is the crab apple tree bosquet with concrete planters that form benches. The use of materials and structural design of the garden display the influence of modernist architecture of the time.

At the time of its construction, the garden was also an innovation in roof-top green spaces as it sits four feet above ground level on top of a 670-car parking garage.

Another charming element that is from the original design of the garden are the globe light fixtures.

Admittedly, this bleak and snow-less winter is not the best time to visit any garden so the Save the Sasaki Garden Committee member, Hubert J. Steed, was kind enough to supply me with photos with more picturesque views.

Click here to view a full archive of Hubert’s photos of the garden.

Much has changed since 1959, plants have died and have been removed. Other lighting elements have been taken out (as you can see from the empty concrete and metal bases) and the park’s fountain has gone into disrepair. But, the cultural and historical significance of the garden still remains. It is a historical monument to modernist design and the integration of green space in urban planning during the 1950s. It is also an integral part of the daily lives of the local community.

The cardinal, a frequent visitor to the garden, is the mascot of the Save the Sasaki Garden Committee. Under the NYU 2031 Plan, the spacious and green children’s playground just next to the garden will be destroyed and moved into the garden to make room for a temporary NYU sports complex. Countless trees will be cut down in the process. The new buildings of NYU will tower over the garden and will highly reduce the amount of sunlight it receives.

As NYU pushes forward with their 2031 plan, it is obvious where the local community stands. It is a hot political issue in Greenwich Village as can be seen from signs up on all of the trees in the neighboring green space that lines LaGuardia Place. The plan stands to completely alter the urban landscape of this area and destroy a large amount of public green space.

I want to extend my thanks to the members of the Save the Sasaki Garden Committee for their hospitality. Hubert and Georgia gave me a great tour. I learned so much about the park that seems so hidden but is also so welcoming once you step inside.

This short video was shot by Jordan Rennert during my visit to the Sasaki Garden. Take a look!

The Sasaki Garden is open to the public and is located within the block of LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street and West 3rd Street and Bleecker Street. You can enter the garden by walking through the entrances to the residential towers on either the north or the south ends of the block.



3 Comments to Field Trip Friday: Washington Square Village Sasaki Garden

  1. Sandra Marraffino's Gravatar Sandra Marraffino
    January 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I now reside in Central Florida, where more people are relocating to from South Florida then from out of state. One of the reasons being too much development, leading to very crowded traffic patterns in their areas, both pedestrian and vehicle.

    Having visited the Sasaki Gardens several times, often with visitors to NY, we found this garden was an oasis of tranquility and a delight to the eye and offered a quiet place to visit off the main Greenwhich Village venues.

    Gardens like this in an urban setting provide areas of play for child;ren, places to read, write, paint and/or contemplate outside a confined apartment. When planted with native plants and with a water attraction installed, this garden can also be a magnet for migratory or residental birds and butterflies, further adding to its enchantment.

    This garden should indeed be preserved for not only the residents of the area but the visitors who know of its existance and enjoy this quiet haven.

    Sandra Marraffino

  2. Ellen Jouret-Epstein's Gravatar Ellen Jouret-Epstein
    February 17, 2012 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    A friend alerted me to the reference to the report I did a number of years ago. Are you actively fighting the NYU expansion plan? I’m curious to know if you’ve managed to mobilze tenant support.

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