Since the park’s reconstruction (1999), our organization has provided maintenance for the six fountains, and for the past two years, the expense was covered by a reimbursement grant awarded by Councilman Dan Garodnick for $7,000 to $10,000. However, in the fall of 2013, we were informed that City Hall would not reimburse our expenses because of a tax lien on the vendor we have contracted for at least five years. Although we were eventually reimbursed, City Hall effectively barred us from paying the vendor with future reimbursement grants awarded by City Council or the Manhattan Borough President.
Our next step was to ask the Parks Department and City Hall for a list of city-approved vendors. Winter turned to spring, and as our request went unheeded, it became apparent that the Parks Department entrusted fountain maintenance to conservancy groups and had no direct experience cleaning fountains*. In mid-April, the Parks Department sent the Central Parks Conservancy for a site visit and we anticipated a proposal, but nothing came of it. When the Katharine Hepburn Garden Party was held in early May, our fountains were dry for the first time since our inception. None of the vendors we approached wanted to deal with the City.
Finally, after taking our case to Community Board 6, Parks Commissioner William Castro informed us that Aqua Design Group was working on a proposal. Last week, our Board of Directors reviewed the proposal and approved it with some revisions. At long last, with a 50 percent increase in cost and the season half over, we look forward to the fountains being turned on the first week of August. Keep your fingers crossed!
*Note: The Parks Department has a division that turns on the water and responds to plumbing issues, but it does not handle routine fountain cleaning.