Sunday, August 13, 2006

Are NYC Parks "For Sale"?

Group wants Parks Department probe

Petition says agency needs more transparency, local inclusion
by Patrick Arden / Metro New York

AUG 9, 2006

MANHATTAN — A group of 82 civic leaders are requesting public hearings and legislative oversight to remedy what they call the city Parks Dept.’s “increasing difficulty in reaching agreement” with communities.

The petition — which appeals for greater “transparency” in the awarding of concessions and the alienation of parkland — comes on the heels of bitter controversies, including the current lawsuits over building condominiums in the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park and the taking of 22 acres of parkland for a new YankeeStadium.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and City Councilman Alan Gerson were the only elected officials to sign on, joining members of community boards, neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations.

Gerson, who had been involved in contentious discussions about the planned redesign of Washington Square Park, will introduce legislation next month to require City Council oversight in a range of park matters. The public-private partnerships known as conservancies, for instance, would be required to include representatives of elected officials and to implement an open reporting process.

“I don’t view this in any way as hostile to the Parks Dept.,” Gerson said. “I hope to be helpful to the institution by reinforcing its authority.”

One of the petition organizers, former City Councilwoman Carol Greitzer, is smarting from fights over Washington Square Park and a plan to put a restaurant in the Union Square pavilion. Last week the city decided to appeal a State Supreme Court ruling that the Parks Dept. would have to resubmit its plans to move the fountain in Washington Square to Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“I’ve dealt with Parks Commissioners from way back, and it’s really difficult to work with the department now,” said Greitzer, a Councilwoman from 1969 to 1991. “They are very hostile to public input, and even after they tell you what they’re going to do, they quietly make changes.”

Park conservancies sprouted as a way to fund maintenance in the face of budget cuts to the Parks Dept., but Greitzer worries that they also contribute to park inequities between rich and poor neighborhoods. She also complains that conservancies have no accountability and enable the perpetuation of funding parks through a system of increasing commercialization.

“The parks don’t have a big for-sale sign on them,” said Patricia Dolan, executive vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, a coalition of 110 community groups. “Every time the Parks Dept. peels off a piece of parkland for a private concession, that part of the park is gone for the free use of the public. Once gone, those park properties don’t come back.”

Parks Dept. spokesman Jama Adams said, “The Parks and Recreation Department has an open and transparent process, and follows all state and city laws and regulations for contracts, Parks concession revenues, use, and management of parkland.”

Metro New York
9 August 2006
As you know, many New York communities have had problems with recent decisions from the Parks Department, particularly in regard to concessions. To remedy this situation, we invite you to join with us in signing the following e-mail by return e-mail to this address so we can forward this to the relevant City and State agencies and representatives. Thank you.


In recent years, communities throughout New York City have experienced increasing difficulty in reaching agreement with the New York City Parks Department on a variety of issues concerning the safety and maintenance of our Parks. As persons who care deeply about the Parks in our neighborhoods, we call upon our City and State legislators to hold hearings and to enact legislation providing for:

a. Transparency in the awarding of concessions through legislation that includes a lower threshold for triggering public review and legislative oversight of any such contract.

b. Assignment of monies collected from activities in parks to the maintenance and operations of City parks as an addition to, not a substitute for, city funding for parks.

c. Enforcement of the City's duty to require public participation in and legislative oversight for any proposal for the alienation of any parkland in New York City.

d. Public review and legislative oversight for any transfer of a park's management/operation to a private entity.

(signed/in alphabetical order/organizations for identification only)

Joie A. Anderson, 300 East 77th Street Block Association
Fred Arcaro, president, Manhattan East Community Association
Martin Barrett, Stuyvesant Cove Park Association
Sugar Barry, East 10th Street Block Association (4th/5th Avenues)
Corey Bearak, Esq.
Allen J. Bennett, MD, Area 1 Chair, QueensCB8
Bunnie Blei, Manhattan
Miriam Bockman, former Vice Chair, Board of Standards & Appeals
Meryl Brodsky, District Leader, 73rd A.D., Part A
Arline Bronzaft, Manhattan
Stanley Bulbach, West 15th Street 200 Block Association
Neil Cohen, Concerned Residents of Bay Ridge
Geoffrey Croft, NYC Park Advocates
William E. Curtis, Turtle Bay Association
Louise Dankberg, District Leader, 74th AD, Part C, Tilden Dem.Club
Bess DeBetham, president, Local Development Corporation of Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens; board member, Federated Blocks of Laurelton
Maria De Innocentiis, chairwoman, Civic Association of Utopia Estates
Patricia Dolan, Queens Civic Congress
Marilyn Dorato, Waverly Bank 11 Neighbors
Al Doyle, Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association
Myrna Egeth, Friends of St. Vartan Park
Edward M. Fischer, Queens
Judi Francis, Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund
Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
Joy Garland, Stuyvesant Cove Park Association
Alan Gerson, NYC Council Member
Ed Gold, member, ManhattanCB2
Aida Gonzalez-Jarrin, chairperson, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy
Dick Gottfried, NYS Assembly, 75th AD
Paul Graziano, Queens Civic Congress
Jonathan Greenberg, The Open Washington Square Park Coalition
Scott Greenspan, member, ManhattanCB6
Carol Greitzer, former City Council Member
E. Ronald Guy, president, St. Marks Methodist Church; member, ManhattanCB10
Lesley Nan Haberman, headmistress, The Family Schools (Dag Hammarskjold Plaza)
Jo Hamilton, member, ManhattanCB2
Richard C. Hellenbrecht, chair, QueensCB13
Tami Hirsch, President of Civic Association of Utopia Estates
Robert F. Holden, president, Juniper Park Civic Association, Inc.
Ross Horowitz, Citizens For Union Square
Ellen Imbimbo, Murray Hill Neighborhood Association
Garry Anthony Johnson, member, Manhattan CB10
David Kulick, Flushing on the Hill Civic Association
Alan Lawrence, 279 East 44 Street Tenants Association
Danyal Lawson, piano faculty, Greenwich House Music School
Aubrey Lees, former chair, ManhattanCB2
Jules Vigh Lebowitz, Manhattan
Perry Luntz, former president, Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club
Jessie McNab, vice president, West Village Committee
Rafael Merino, chair, economic development committee, ManhattanCB11
Stanley Norwalk, Queens
Gary Papush, Parks and Landmarks Committee, Manhattan CB6
Tom Payne, citizen
Irene Peveri, co-chair, East Side Rezoning Alliance
Ernest Raab. vice chairperson, Union Square Community Coalition.
David B. Reck, Friends of Hudson Square
Margery Reifler, Grove Street Block Association
Carol Rinzler, former co-chair, Manhattan Neighborhood Council
Lou Rispoli, president, 41-36 51st Street Owners Corp. (Woodside)
Carl Rosenstein, Trees Not Trucks
Margie Rubin, Disabled in Action
Jacob Ruppert, of counsel, Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association
Jeannie Sakol, Friends of Detmold Park
Jean C. Silva, Commissioner, NYC
Carol Schachter, president, Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Assoc.
Jon Schachter, member, Bellevue Hospital CAB; public member, Manhattan CB 5&6
Arthur Schwartz, chair, parks and waterfront committee, ManhattanCB2
Betty Schwartz, public member, Manhattan CB6
Seymour Schwartz, Briarwood Community Association
Shirley Secunda, Member, ManhattanCB2
Edy Selman, Emergency Comm.Org. to Save Washington Square Park
Edith Shanker, Campaign to Save Union Square Park.
Simone Sindin, president/board of directors, Coliseum Park Apartments
Harbachan Singh,president,Sikh American Friendship Foundation; member,QueensCB8
Teri Slater, chair, East 78th Street Block Association(Park/Lex)
Norma Stegmaier, Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association
Sean Sweeney, SoHo Alliance
Jack Taylor, board member, Union Square Community Coalition
Joyce Tosti, Community Associate, QueensCB13
James A. Trent, Queens Civic Congress
Annie Vanrenterghem-Raven, member, ManhattanCB2
Sean M. Walsh, president, Queens Civic Congress
George Watson, co-chair, Chelsea-Village Partnership
Edwin Westley, Jackson Heights Beautification Group; member, QueensCB3
Linda Wood-Guy, board member, Friends of Jackie Robinson Park; member, Friends of St. Nicholas Park
Phyllis Yampolsky, president, McCarren Park Conservancy