Sunday, October 30, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
The proposed Four Sparrow Retail Center at Mill Basin from earlier this year. NYC Park Advocates were prepared to litigate the issue.
By Geoffrey Croft
The Bloomberg administration has quietly withdrawn its controversial plans to allow Bruce Ratner to develop public parkland in Mill Basin into a shopping mall. The City's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) had proposed seizing 15 acres of Four Sparrow Marsh under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department to expand a nearby retail shopping site.
A single line announcing the city's decision appeared on the Mayor's Office Of Environmental Coordination website.
"The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011."
The rest of the website page had not been updated.
The project - along with and the Prospect Park Alliance's Lakeside Skating Rink - were caught up in State Senator Carl Kruger's Corruption Probe.
According to the Federal complaint, in December 2010 Bruce R. Bender - a vice president for government relations and public relations at
Forest City Ratner (FCR)
asked Sen. Kruger for $11 million in state funds for three FCR projects in Brooklyn – including $ 2 million for the Four Sparrow Mill Basin project, and another $4 million to renovate for the Lakeside skating rink in Prospect Park near Bender’s Park Slope home. Amy Bender, Bruce's wife, is a board member for the fundraising organization Prospect Park Alliance. In a federal complaint unsealed in March, Sen. Carl Kruger (D) who represents District 27 in the New York State Senate - is accused of trading political favors for more than $1 million in bribes the past five years.
One of the public relation angles the city took was to agree to map 46 acres (out of the park's current 67 acres) of Four Sparrows Marsh as public parkland which would, in their words, "protect, in perpetuity, these tidal wetlands and coastal habitats as natural areas," under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. The land however is already under the jurisdiction of Parks. This property was transferred to Parks Department by the City of New York on March 3, 1994 and dedicated on October 29, 1997 as a Forever Wild property.
However, Acadia has spent big bucks, in a process that's questionable but apparently legal, to move City Point forward. As the New York Times reported this week, two years ago, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz went to bat for the project, supporting it among nearly 50 projects:
City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (l.) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg sign new agreements to improve Jamaica Bay.
(Photo courtesy Bloomberg administration)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, U.S. INTERIOR SECRETARY SALAZAR, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY AND STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION ANNOUNCE NEW AGREEMENTS TO IMPROVE PARKS AND WATER QUALITY AT JAMAICA BAY
Advances PlaNYC and Waterfront Vision & Enhancement Strategy Goals
Grants From the Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid will Support the Planning Process
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck today announced new agreements to improve the Federal and City parklands around Jamaica Bay and improve overall water quality in the Bay. The Mayor and Secretary Salazar signed an agreement committing to a joint planning process that will devise a new, unified governing model and new, common objectives for the 10,000 acres of publicly-owned land in south Brooklyn and Queens. The Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid have generously agreed to support the design of a conceptual master plan for the Jamaica Bay Parks. As part of this effort, at the request of the City and the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection will designate the majority of Jamaica Bay a “No Discharge Zone,” which bans boats from discharged sewage into the bay, improving water quality.
“The agreements with our Federal, State and philanthropic partners will have with far-reaching benefits for what may be the greatest natural treasure lying within the borders of any city in the nation – Jamaica Bay,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The partnership with Secretary Ken Salazar and the Department of Interior will allow us to be bolder, more innovative, and more cooperative, by managing these extraordinary public lands around the bay as one great urban park. And with the new ‘No Discharge Zone’ enforced by the EPA, we are going to improve water quality throughout the bay. It’s all in keeping with PlaNYC and our ongoing transformation of New York City’s waterfront as a place for New Yorkers can live, work, and play.”
“One of the primary goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative is to work with local communities to reconnect people with nature and outdoor recreation,” said Secretary Salazar. “By coordinating more closely with the City of New York, we will create a seamless network of urban parks that are easily accessible to people who live in nearby communities.”
The Mayor and Secretary announced that joint projects would begin with the development of a jointly-managed vision and governance structure to establish where Federal and City lands and programs could better connect and be more efficiently managed. The Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid have agreed to fund part of the development of the Jamaica Bay Parks master plan particularly related to research projects on resilience to climate change in coastal environments and improving park access for the surrounding communities.
The Mayor and Secretary Salazar also were joined at the announcement at the Salt Marsh Nature Center by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Director David Bragdon, National Parks of New York Harbor Commissioner Maria Burks, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck. The philanthropic and advocacy community was represented by Marian Heiskell, founder and board chair, and Marie Salerno, Executive Director, from the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, the official cooperating partner of the National Parks Service under Federal law.
“It's so encouraging that the National Park Service, City of New York and Harbor Conservancy are endeavoring on this new partnership as it has been my passion for nearly 40 years for Gateway to provide a national park experience for those who can’t afford a trip to our other, more distant national parks,” said National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy Chair and Co-Founder Marian S. Heiskell. “I believe that Gateway can be the envy of America's great national urban park system, and now both the Mayor and Secretary Salazar stand ready to help us achieve its greatness.”
“As coastal cities throughout the world continue to grow and are increasingly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, the restoration of Jamaica Bay provides an incredible opportunity to build our understanding of resilience in urban coastal areas,” said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Jamaica Bay is a beautiful, but often overlooked pocket of our City’s landscape, and The Rockefeller Foundation is thrilled to help give back to the community parkland that will serve as both a recreational and educational space. I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Secretary Salazar for all their efforts to make today possible.”
“Today we’ve taken an important step towards making Jamaica Bay safe for local residents, who will no longer have to worry about harmful sewage pumped out by boats in the area,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “I applaud the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and New York City for agreeing to establish this no-discharge zone that will mean cleaner and clearer waters for Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island residents.”
“The parks in and around Jamaica Bay are natural and recreational treasures, all the more so because of their location right in the heart of the Nation’s largest metropolitan area” said Robert D. Yaro, President of Regional Plan Association. “We congratulate Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for establishing the framework that was needed to make this area a premier regional destination.”
At the same time, the US EPA announced that it was issuing a no discharge regulation for Jamaica Bay
“If you don’t have clean air, land and water, you can’t enjoy the great outdoors and banning boat sewage from Jamaica Bay stops one source of pollution that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Enck. “This action will improve water quality in this magnificent bay that is right in the backyards of millions of New Yorkers.”
The agreement establishes a formal a partnership between the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for the agencies to collaborate in four areas: effective management of park lands; science and restoration of Jamaica Bay; access and transportation to park lands around Jamaica Bay; and engagement of New York City youth with hands-on science programs and fun public service projects to promote recreation, stewardship and “green” careers.
The four key components to the park management agreement are:
* Effective management through collaboration: The National Park Service and New York City Parks manage contiguous lands with overlapping missions. Through effective land use and program planning that ignores boundaries, they can create a seamless and interconnected network of natural, historical, and recreation spaces urban park that all New Yorkers can visit, with or without a car.
* Science and restoration: Through better coordination of research, data gathering restoration efforts and pilot projects, government agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions can work closer together to restore and conserve the health of Jamaica Bay.
* Access and transportation: The city and the Park Service will work to improve public access to Jamaica Bay and within Jamaica Bay through existing and new transportation choices, and through better public information about those options.
* Youth and education: The city and the National Park Service can jointly develop a series of programs in which urban youth can learn the values of stewardship through service activities.
The agreement may also be expanded in the future to include federal and city park lands on Staten Island.
Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone
The new Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone agreement between the City, the EPA and State Department of Environmental Conservation bans all boats from discharging sewage into a designated 20,000 acre area of Jamaica Bay. The area has adequate facilities for boats to pump out their sewage and boaters must now dispose of their sewage at these specially-designated pump-out stations. The new Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone is part of a joint EPA, Department of Environmental Conservation and City effort to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the State’s waterways. Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a health risk and impair marine life.
The Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone encompasses 17,177 acres of open water and 2,695 acres of upland islands and salt marshes in Brooklyn and Queens.
The northeastern and southeastern parts of Jamaica Bay reach Nassau County, while the northern shore of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens forms the southern boundary of the bay. The bay is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Rockaway Inlet, and eight tributaries empty into Jamaica Bay: Sheepshead Bay, Paerdegat Basin, Fresh Creek, Hendrix Creek, Spring Creek, Shellbank Basin, Bergen Basin and Thurston Basin. The final affirmative determination from EPA of adequate pump-out facilities means that New York State may proceed to ban the discharge of boat sewage into Jamaica Bay and its tributaries.
But Staten Island environmentalists question the viability of the plan, and suggest the National Park Service lacks the smarts to pull off the project, which will see around a thousand plantings in a one-acre pilot area.
For one thing, the Islanders say there is no way the trees will make it without a small army of volunteers to keep them watered.
“I don’t think this project is going to work,” said Ellen Pratt of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. “No one will go out and water the plants.”
This as a spokesman for NPS — which has taken the lead on the project — says the agency will “deliberately overplant because some will die.”
For another, Islanders say NPS’s plan to use bulldozers and pesticides to kill off invasive species in order to plant the trees should be a non-starter.
Yet John Warren, an NPS spokesman for Gateway National Recreation Area, said “machinery and herbicides are consistent with NPS policy and regulations,” although he noted that it must be OKd under NPS’s “integrated pest management plan” and abide by New York state laws and regulations. He also said “no specific herbicide has been chosen” yet.
But the Islanders say that’s only because they objected to the type of herbicide NPS initially suggested.
“There was no expertise in the room,” said St. George botanist Richard Lynch of a meeting of NPS, city Parks personnel and local environmentalists, held after the Islanders caught wind of the plan. “The last thing you go to are chemicals, and they are unyielding on spraying.”
Indeed, Ed Johnson, science director at the Staten Island Museum, said some herbicide sprays suggested by NPS cannot be used in wetland areas.
Not only that, Lynch, Johnson and Ms. Pratt said mammals native to Crooke’s Point, such as cottontail rabbits, raccoons, white-footed mice and the occasional white-tailed deer, will be driven off. Ospreys and hummingbirds that nest at the spot may also be impacted, they contend.
But Warren said it is “NPS policy to replace non-native and invasive species with native species whenever possible and practical ... The entire New York area is important to the migration of birds along the Atlantic Flyway ... By introducing native species, we [will] create greater diversity in Crooke’s Point wildlife, from bugs to birds ... The work that will take place will be done in stages so as not to displace an entire habitat or population. It will be temporary and minimally disruptive.”
He also said NPS has protocol in place to protect osprey habitats.
Still, said Johnson: “National Parks wants to restore things to 100 years ago. But is it necessary? Is it practical? Can it even be done? It’s a labor-intensive plan, with volunteers [doing the watering]. Can Parks follow through?”
Even the kinds of trees that will be planted seem to be in dispute, with Ms. Pratt saying NPS hasn’t been forthcoming.
“I felt like I was watching a tennis tournament,” said Lynch, of all the back-and-forth at a recent meeting.
Lynch said what should be planted in the area are post oak, blackjack oak, sour gum and persimmon trees.
Yet Warren said that “typical plants for a barrier ecology in the northeast might include red cedar, oak, holly, bayberry and beach plum,” but said “specific plants will depend upon soil analysis and drainage of a particular area.”
Countered Ms. Pratt: “Plants don’t belong there. The site, as it now exists, is wonderful, full of invasive vines that are full of very rich food for birds while providing shelter. It is going to destroy the ecosystem.”
While local environmentalists told the Advance that NPS indicated the project could begin as early as spring, Warren said there is no timeline, adding, “We would like to have consensus on a plan within a year.”
Said city Parks spokeswoman Tara Kiernan: “The plan for Crooke’s Point is simply a proposal that the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the National Park Service is reviewing and there are no definite plans to move forward with the project. Both agencies have taken the community’s concerns into consideration.”
Warren said the cost of the project is being picked up by MillionTreesNYC.
The projected amount could not be immediately learned.
Meanwhile, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is sponsoring two on-site walks — on Sunday at 10 a.m. and on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. — for Islanders who want to learn more about the natural preserve.
A forum on the issue will be held at the Staten Island Zoo on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
For further information, consult www.siprotectors.org.
A small group of Fort Greene’s hip young parental set saunters onto the dance floor, dancing and drinking craft beers. Top 40 music blares from the speakers inside Roulette, a dark music hall on Atlantic Avenue. The party is being thrown by the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which hosts fundraisers like this to supplement the money it needs to support maintenance and projects in Fort Greene Park, according to The Local.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has seen a drop in city-allocated funds from 1.4 percent of the total budget in 1968 to less than a quarter of that today. With most local parks in the city in need of serious repair, alliances and conservancies have formed to raise money to maintain New York’s green spaces.
Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which has been raising funds for the park for the past five years, hosted their second annual Dance Craze fundraiser at Roulette on Thursday, Oct. 20. Its goal was to raise more than $20,000 to help purchase materials and maintain park gardens, said Charles Jarden, executive director of the conservancy.
They have raised over $100,000 through their fundraising efforts so far–but it doesn’t come close to the tens of millions that Geoff Croft, the president of NYC Park Advocates, estimates Fort Greene Park needs to repair the runoff problems and the cracks in the tennis courts, and to maintain the Revolutionary War Memorial and concrete steps leading up to it.
“Fort Greene Park clearly will never be able to raise funds that will match the type of giving and operation that the Central Park Conservancy has,” said Mr. Croft.
As a newer organization, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy looks to the successes of the 30-year-old Central Park Conservancy and the 25-year-old Prospect Park Alliance as models for what it hopes to accomplish for its own park.
But with a different demographic in Fort Greene, the group has had to take a different route–which includes holding the Roulette fundraiser–to help maintain the park, Mr. Jarden added.
Fort Greene Park, unlike Central Park and some parts of Prospect Park, is not surrounded by a vast number of wealthy people. The median income in Fort Greene is about $58,000 a year.
The Central Park Conservancy began in 1980 during a time when the city’s economy was fragile, with employment steadily dropping and the country suffering from a recession. The city had no money to care for Central Park, and wealthier residents, with the park as their front yard, took it upon themselves to gather the money and influence needed to fix and maintain the park.
“The wealthiest people in the world are taking care of Central Park but 99.9 percent New York City doesn’t live around Central Park,” said Mr. Croft.
Conservancies and alliances would be better served if they pressured the city to do more in their local parks, he added.
Community District 2 Manager Robert Perris said he is also concerned about the Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s ability to make substantive improvements to the park.
“They don’t operate at a high level,” he said. “It’s all volunteers and no one has given $100,000 check. But they do what they can.”
Dena Libner, public relations manager for the Central Park Conservancy, said it’s more difficult for groups like the Fort Greene Park Conservancy to raise money.
“Those associations or organizations should define their ambitions and goals based on the access they have to funding,” she said.
But this has not deterred the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. Instead, the group is trying to tap into a more artistic community of actors, authors and writers to come up with more creative ideas to raise funds for the park.
“This is exactly the people that we want to know about Fort Greene Park,” said Mr. Jarden. “We have this great event as a fabulous way to introduce them to the way that a park survives.”
“These are some fine New Yorkers trying to make a positive impact and that should be encouraged,” said Mr. Croft. “We should be harnessing this enthusiasm.”
But Mr. Croft has his doubts about the effectiveness that smaller and newer conservancies have in raising money to make a difference in a park’s life.
“The truth is you just don’t have the wealth or political power like you do in Central Park,” he said. “If that was what people were planning on doing in Fort Greene Park, unfortunately it is not going to work.”
The Local - October 27, 2011 - By Rebecca Sesny
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
"They're building a $ 70 million dollar ice rink in the park but they don't have the funds to make sure employees are safe? You see the priority."
The Parks Department building is located at 397 Coney Island Avenue across from the tennis courts in the Parade Grounds near Prospect Park and is home to the Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Brooklyn command as well the NYPD's Brooklyn South Task Force. The building is closed until further notice.
A rickety, city-owned building that houses peace officers who patrol Brooklyn parks had to be evacuated today — after officers claimed they were being overrun by raw sewage and rats.
“It was unbearable — sewage started bubbling up through the holes in the floor,” one disgusted officer said, according to the New York Post.
A reporter also spotted urinals in the men’s room covered in sewage, while a cat was let loose throughout the puddled offices to ward off rats and mice.
City Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers told the Post that the office building off Coney Island Avenue in Prospect Park has been plagued with sewage and rat problems for at least three years — and that their various complaints to Parks Department officials have fallen on deaf ears.
Today, the stench became so putrid that they had to bail after sewage began backing up throughout the building, stinking up offices, a lunchroom and other areas.
“We keep on asking for repairs, but the Parks Department keeps saying there is no money in the budget,” the peace officer said.
The dozen PEP officers responsible for covering Brooklyn’s 3,000 acres of parks were subsequently relocated to temporary office space in Queens shortly after the Post called the Parks Department for comment. Plumbers were later sent to the building to deal with the sewage problem.
A Department spokesperson said exterminators regularly bait the site for mice and would look into the complaints about rats.
Many of the Brooklyn officers said they spend half their time on the city clock having to clean up or deal with the office problems rather than patrol parks. Some claim to suffer from bouts of nausea and sinus problems from regularly inhaling noxious odors.
“This is outrageous that the city isn’t protecting its workers,” said Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates.
The Parks Department offices at Prospect Park are adjacent to offices used by the NYPD. Some cops yesterday said their building space stunk of sewage, too.