New Collect Pond Park, Popular But Still Beset with Problems

Collect Pond Park was closed for a week last month for repairs to a pipe connection. A portion of the park remains closed for unfinished work and the pond is still drained. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Aug. 04, 2014

Less than three months after its long-delayed opening, problems still plague Collect Pond Park.

An oasis of green surrounded by the courthouses of the Civic Center, the park is a brand new $4.6 million makeover of a nondescript concrete plaza between Centre and Lafayette streets. Already it is undergoing repairs that have required digging up part of the park and draining its handsome centerpiece, a 100-foot-long reflecting  pond.

The park opened unceremoniously on May 22, nearly two years behind schedule and following a lengthy setback caused by defective waterproof sheeting installed in the pond. On July 17, the city closed the park for a week for what a Parks Department spokesman said was "a leak in a pipe connection next to a pump vault." Repairs continue in a small, closed-off portion and as of Monday, Aug. 4, the pond was still empty.

"Once the contractor has installed the new pavers and completes the installation of the water flow control devices, this area will also be opened to the public," the spokesman, Philip Abramson, told the Trib in a July 29 email.  "However we are aiming to fill the pond and turn on the spray feature soon."

The park became an instant hit with a wide mix of users, Chinatown and eastern Tribeca residents, court workers, jurors and tourists—as well as some derelicts in the evening who had frequented the space before it closed for construction. Three years in the planning, the park sports a pond-spanning bridge, children’s sprinkler, seating and tables, trees and grass plantings, and historical markers that trace the area's rich, 300-year history.

For some who come to enjoy Collect Pond Park, the latest problems have been a source of consternation, especially during the week that the park was gated. Jonathan Hollander, director of the Battery Dance Company who lives and works in a nearby loft on Broadway, said that it has been a favorite, contemplative space for getting away at the end of the day.

"It's a beautifully designed, amazing space," Hollander said, lauding the landscaping plan that harkens back to the area's 18th century origins as spring-fed Collect Pond. "So clearly a lot of good thinking went into this. But clearly the engineering fell short."

So, too, some say, has been the maintenance. Hollander said he has seen debris blown or dropped in the pond and called 311 to request scoopers for the public to fish out garbage.

Elise Ward, another nearby Broadway resident who frequents the park, said that she had feared that maintenance would be a problem.

"It was so lovely when it first opened and then it seemed as if it wasn't being watched," she said, noting that she has often seen "junk" floating in the water.

According to Abramson, the site is cleaned "at least once a day."

When the park opened, Skip Blumberg, president of Friends of City Hall Park, wrote to the organization’s members that "the fabulous quintessential urban pond, with elegant kissing bridge and total access, demands high maintenance to keep clean."  The shedding trees, high volume of users, and presence of homeless people in the area will require additional maintenance staff and gardeners, he predicted.

"Let's not quibble about a well-deserved celebration for this highly anticipated and greatly appreciated green recreational space downtown," Blumberg wrote. "But we shouldn't be ignorant of the maintenance needs that will assure a Collect Pond Park that we use and love into the future."