Goodbye, Graffiti

July 5 2023

Tending to the various features of Washington Square Park is a never-ending task. With four monuments, a fountain, and the various hardscapes, benches, and ironwork, the question is always “what’s getting tackled next?” 

This month, the answer is the Arch (and other monuments)! NYC Parks’ takes the opportunity provided by lower weekday foot-traffic (no NYU students commuting from class to class) and additional seasonal staffing at the Arts & Antiquities division to give Washington Square Park some much-needed attention. As everyone knows, the Arch stands tall at the northern side of the Park and is an iconic symbol familiar to people across the country and globe. It serves as one of the main anchors for the Park and receives a lot of attention from the thousands of people who come through this space each day. Keeping it “Insta-ready” is an intensive process. 

Each year the Arch gets an inspection and touch up from the hardworking Monuments team at NYC Parks Arts & Antiquities, which is responsible for the maintenance of Parks monuments across the city. The bird netting around the entablature (top part) of the Arch, which protects the carvings there from damage due to animal life, is inspected (last year by a special Bird Master). The plasterwork and marble is all thoroughly checked and carefully cleaned with utmost care to preserve the stonework. The rosettes on the underside of the Arch go through a process called “sounding” where each petal is individually tapped with a specialized tool, and the resulting noise indicates the stability of the seal attaching the flower to the Arch. In order for all this work to be done, staff need access to the entire structure, including all the details at the top of the Arch, which are reached with the help of a rented boom lift. 

Last year, the annual inspection included the implementation of a new tool: anti-graffiti coating. Funded by the Conservancy, a specialty product was successfully tested and deployed on all the monuments in the Park, including the Arch. The coating acts as a protective barrier between the monument and graffiti, almost like there’s plastic wrap covering each exposed area. When the inevitable graffiti is sprayed, the coating, and whatever is on top of it, can be easily rinsed off by Donald and his pressure washer. There’s no trace left behind, and the coating is easily reapplied. This coating has made the removal process significantly less intensive, so it’s been easier than ever for Donald to keep the Park cleaned of graffiti. In fact, the Conservancy has purchased enough supplies to clean over 22,000 sq ft of the stuff!

Keep your eyes peeled at the Arch for the boom lift, and you can catch some of this incredible work in action. Be sure to thank the talented Monuments team while you’re at it.