Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Design Team Chosen for the Public Square

After a community engagement workshop in February, Friends of the Public Square (FOPS) issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a landscape architect firm to develop design options for Seventh Street Park, a.k.a. the Public Square. 

Four firms responded to the RFQ, and on Sunday, FOPS announced that Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PLLC has been chosen to take on the project. Starr Whitehouse, which has an office in the 500 block of Warren Street, is the architectural firm for the redesign of the entrance plaza to Promenade Hill, a project that is now nearing completion. 

Gail Wittwer-Laird, director of Starr Whitehouse, wrote in her firm's successful application:
The challenges of updating a historic park for contemporary uses, while maintaining its original design intent and character, are embedded in the culture of Starr Whitehouse. Our leadership brings over 30 years' [experience] in the restoration and reinvigoration of historic and iconic parks and landscapes in New York, such as Central Park, Riverside Park, The Battery, St. Mary's Park and Jones Beach State Park. As civic landscape architects and planners, we are excited to bring this experience to bear on the sensitive reclamation of the features that ground and define Public Square Park in the public imagination, while accommodating programming and activities which speak to the patrons of today and tomorrow. Starr Whitehouse will work alongside FOPS, the Mayor, local elected officials, business owners, preservationists, activists and other stakeholders alike to re-imagine how the space can continue [to] offer new amenities to support Hudson's contemporary life while maintaining its underlying identity in the urban fabric.
A press release from FOPS states: "Starr Whitehouse will collaborate with FOPS on community engagement efforts and has already begun working with us on grant applications." 

The RFQ response submitted by Starr Whitehouse can be found here.


  1. The words "update" and "reimagine" make me very, very nervous. That's doublespeak for alter and delete original character. I don't feel good about this.

    1. First and before I say anything else- Public Square Park is the dumbest attempted rebranding of a Hudson locale since Henry Hudson Hall. Bored rich ladies are not entitled to rename things to suit their banal taste; don't let them tell you otherwise. This is the 7th Street Park.

      I attended the 'engagement workshop' in February, and you are absolutely right to be concerned about this process and organization.

      The whole affair was a few tables of people writing down ideas from a rather rambling and pointless questionnaire and then presenting some jotted down notes from their discussion. It was sparsely attended, and at least half of the participants were board members. If there had been five or six of these 'workshops,' I could be gracious enough to say there was a public engagement process, but whatever this event was, it's hard to see how the paltry fruits of its labors could have produced an RFP. Alas, since City Hall seems to have offloaded this to a private organization with no oversight, we are not privy to their mental fumblings, or the RFP responses.

      The initial presentation to the Common Council and the subsequent MOU that granted sponsorship to pursue park improvements indicated there would be no cost to taxpayer, but basic questions about grant applications and park maintenance revealed there hasn't been much progress (and perhaps not much effort) to do the actual work to secure financing or do the math.

      Indeed, one of the worst and most self-serving actors from the Tourism Board sits on the Board of FOPS, and there is a real question about whether grant funds or donations might again be diverted to her household. The City still doesn't have its piano back.

      There has been some highly visible, low-cost work that has been done, and of course widely shared on social media as an effort to garner trust within the community. I appreciate that a sign and some fencing came down, and of course a fresh coat of paint on benches is always appreciated, but in this case, it seems a thin veneer to hide the mildew underneath.

    2. Improving the park. I think that is good for Hudson. The negative nelly complaining hoping to make himself seem important. I think that is bad for Hudson