Friday, December 30, 2011

91st St. Marine Waste Transfer Station Suit Dismissed - Group Vows To Appeal

















The abandoned Department Of Sanitation East 91st St. Marine Waste Transfer Station (center) is nestled between the Asphalt Green, a 9 acre recreational facility located on the Upper East Side. For years the community complained about the putrid smells originating from the sanitation facility and its operation. After vehement community opposition the station was finally closed in 1999 after nearly 60 years of operation. Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

The community is currently fighting the building of a new much larger waste transfer station as part of Mayor Bloomberg Solid Waste Management Plan, (SWMP). Opponents argue that no other community is being forced to house a waste transfer-station directly in the middle of a public park located in the City's highest density residential community.

As part of the legal proceedings, Parks Department lawyer Alessandro Olivieri stated that the Asphalt Green, parks managed waterfront esplanade Bobby Wagner Walk, and DeKovats Playground were not parkland.

On Thursday a state appeals court dismissed a lawsuit - the third legal challenge looking to block the building of the controversial facility. The Gracie Point Community Council (GPCC) vows to continue its fight.


Manhattan


A state appeals court Thursday dismissed a lawsuit looking to block the city's controversial proposed $125 million East 91st Marine Waste Transfer Station — the third legal challenge to the plan that has been tossed out, according to DNAinfo.


The proposed waste transfer station, which could handle 4,290 tons of garbage a day, has long drawn fire from neighbors concerned dozens of garbage trucks rattle through the area every hour and hazardous waste storage next to a residential neighborhood and park.


The suit, brought by Upper East Side group Gracie Point Community Council, alleged that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation did not adhere to its own regulations when it granted the city a permit to construct the station in 2006.


“This is the third major victory for this important project — and it again affirms the well-considered and environmentally sound approach the City took in developing plans for the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station,” said Jane Gordon, a Senior Counsel in the New York City Law Department’s Appeals Division, who handled the appellate case. “We are very pleased the Court agrees that this latest challenge lacks merit.”


The City Law Department said they previously defended two other legal challenges against the station by community leaders and advocates.


Gracie Point alleged the station's permit should have been denied by the NYSDEC because the facility is a risk to public health.


"The [suit] asserts that NYSDEC has the power and the duty to ensure that transfer stations not harm public health, safety and welfare and it has the power to deny proposed permits for a transfer station when it would be harmful," the group said on its website.


"Also, it asserts that the proposed East 91st Street transfer station is not necessary because reasonable, existing and operating alternatives exist. The petition requests that the four requested permits, besides the tidal wetlands permit, be annulled or enjoined."


The law department counters that the station was approved by the City Council, will not be hazardous and will reduce traffic in the city.


"That plan, which largely replaces the City’s existing truck-based waste export system with a system that uses barges and railways to export waste in sealed shipping containers, resulting in a vast decrease in truck traffic on City streets, was approved by the City Council by a vote of 44-5 on July 19, 2006," the law department said in an email.


Gracie Point did not return an immediate request for comment.


It is not clear whether they will appeal the ruling.


Read More:

DNAinfo - December 29, 2011 - By Ben Fractenberg

A Walk In The Park - October 12, 2010 - By Tony Ard


City Looking For "Vibrant Bar Scene" For New Tavern On The Green Consession

In September Crain's New York Business reported that the food trucks parked at Tavern on the Green's terrace would be packing up by Oct. 15, when their temporary lease expired and the city said it would not be renewing the leases for a second year. There were originally four trucks that won bids to operate at Tavern: Rickshaw Dumpling, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, Pera Turkish Taco and Ladle of Love. The latter left earlier this summer because owner, Leslie Lampert, said she was not making enough money at the site. In recent weeks, Rickshaw Dumpling has been an infrequent presence at Tavern, showing up mostly on the weekends when it's busier.

According to the city's new Request For Proposals issued yesterday the parks department is seeking proposals that "should make creative use of the space, keeping in mind that Parks envisions Tavern on the Green as a destination for everyday visitors to the park, with a vibrant bar scene and high quality, casual dining options." The City is making substantial capital improvements and expects the restaurant to open in 2013.

The City has lost millions of dollars since Mayor Bloomberg rejected a bid proposal by former Tavern owner Jennifer LeRoy that promised $30 million more than Dean Poll who was awarded the new concession despite past financial improprieties with another Central Park concession.

Manhattan

The city put out a long-awaited call for a new operator for the shuttered Tavern on the Green restaurant on Thursday, which will transform what was once a fine-dining cash cow into a casual eatery with a significantly reduced footprint, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The request is for a moderately priced restaurant, outdoor cafe and bar in Central Park. Tavern on the Green was one of the nation's highest-grossing independent restaurants until the restaurant's previous owners filed for bankruptcy and closed two years ago.

The new operator will be required to use the name "Tavern on the Green," for which the city owns the federal trademark registration.

According to the request for proposals issued by the Department of Parks & Recreation, plans involve substantially reducing the restaurant's size to about 10,320-square-feet, along with nearly 12,000 square feet of terrace space.

The former fine-dining restaurant was 25,000 square feet, including the famed Crystal Room, which the city dismantled last year.

The city's powerful New York Hotel Trades Council, or Local 6, which represented the former Tavern employees, will likely hold considerable sway in the process.

"We will factor harmonious labor relations into the decision-making process," said a spokesman for the Parks Department in an email.

In 2009 the city awarded the operating license for Tavern to restaurateur Dean J. Poll, who also operates Central Park's Boathouse restaurant. The deal fell apart in the spring of 2010 after Mr. Poll and the union couldn't reach a labor agreement. Since then the building has served as a gift shop and visitors center; four food trucks had also served food in a courtyard there for one year but their contracts weren't extended last month.

The current request for proposals says that each plan should include "a detailed description of any labor issues experienced in [the applicant's] restaurants."

"Respondents that can show experience with harmonious labor relations or a lack of negative labor issues will be preferred, as will respondents that show a likelihood of labor relations in this concession," the request says.

Josh Gold, a political director of Local 6, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the process since he hadn't seen it. In an email he said he was "excited that the City is looking to reopen Tavern," as it's been closed for too long.

The delay in issuing a request for proposals was highlighted in an audit issued by the city comptroller's office earlier this month. The audit said the failure to have an operator resulted in a loss of $2.2 million in concession revenue, in addition to a loss of $3.7 million in state and city sales tax.

The city's parks department called the audit "inaccurate" and "misleading."

The city began substantial infrastructure improvements to Tavern on the Green this fall. It expects the new operator to spend a significant amount of money in capital improvements and hopes to have a restaurant running by 2013.

A site meeting and tour for interested restaurateurs will be held on Feb. 1 and proposals are due March 30.

Read More:

City Requests Casual Eatery at Tavern Site

The Wall Street Journal - December 30, 2011 - By Sumathi Reddy


Parks Dept. Lost Millions In Conssesion Revenue Due To Poor Management - Audit

A Walk In The Park - December 6, 2011


New Tavern On the Green RFP Coming In December

A Walk In The Park - November 4, 2011


Trucks to leave Tavern on the Green

City plans major capital project at the historic restaurant.

Crain's New York Business - September 22, 2011 - By Lisa Fickenscher


Trump's Tavern On The Green Dream

A Walk In The Park - January 27, 2011

A Walk In The Park - June 14, 2010


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trump Picked To Run Ferry Point Park Golf Money Pit Boondoggle

















Scheduled Completion: Fall 2011. Sign of The Times. The original project was supposed to open in 2001 and cost the tax payers only a few million dollars. That was then. It is now slated to open in spring 2014 and cost the tax payers many times what was orginally promised. (Photos: Geofrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

"This is going to be a golf course for the rich," said Wanda Rosario. "They have enough, so give us something. We're poor people, so how can we afford playing golf?"

Bronx

By Geoffrey Croft

The former Ferry Point Land fill surrounded by housing projects near the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx is now being converted into a golf course paid for by the city's tax payers. The Parks Department dumped a press release touting Trump's involvement in running the facility not only on a Friday- but the day before Christmas eve. One of the Parks Department's most scandal plagued projects was originally supposed to open in 2001 is now slated for 2014 according to the release.

The public was originally on the hook for only a few million dollars of the original $22 million dollar project. In 2007 however Mayor Bloomberg decided the city's tax-payers should pay for the project after the Giuliani-selected original developer Pierre Gagne's Ferry Point Partners walked away in 2006 because of rising costs. (but not before the city paid them nearly $15 million of the $43 million already spent by 2009)

"It's a mess ... There was a contract entered into long before our administration ... It turns out it was a terrible contract. But that doesn't mean you go criticize the guys that did it because, for all I know, I would have done the same thing. Maybe at that time it appeared to be a great contract," the Mayor said on November 23, 2007 in a now famous quote.

The original developer picked by Giuliani, Henry Stern and co., Pierre Gagne only previous experience in running a company that served the public was seemingly a car dealership. They were supposed to build a 222-acre, 18-hole, 72-par golf course - designed by Jack Nicklaus, as well as a clubhouse and a driving range, and public improvements elsewhere in the 414-acre city park. The improvements included a seven-acre community park in the northern corner which they partially seized to build the golf course, and a 19.5-acre waterfront park and esplanade along the East River at the southeastern end.

The public is now paying for these projects as well.

According to the original contract Ferry Point Partners was required to give the city at least $63 million in concession fees during the 35 year contract. The financial arrangements of the 20 year Trump deal were conspicuosly absent in the announcement.

In May 2004, New York Dirt, said by the FBI to be controlled by Gambino capo Gregory DePalma and his soldier Robert Vaccaro, were caught dumping 8,400 cubic yards of fill at Ferry Point. By DePalma's own crooked calculations, caught on a FBI wire tap according to the Daily News, this added up to as much as $42,000 per month. New York Dirt had been getting money at Ferry Point every month since 2001.

Since then the project only further spiraled out of control. By 2009 the project's costs had ballooned to $100 million dollars.

Many low-income residents living in housing projects northeast of the site say they'd prefer a larger community park with a public pool.

"This is going to be a golf course for the rich," said Wanda Rosario in 2009. "They have enough, so give us something. We're poor people, so how can we afford playing golf?"


















Ferry Point Park - November 2011. Park Bench Bronx Style. While the City is paying well above a hundred million dollars so Donald Trump can run a golf course, the rest of Ferry Point park is disaster.


The plan to breathe life into the landfill site with a golf course dates back to 1949. But the original plan by master builder Robert Moses only called for about one-quarter of the site devoted to golf with much of the rest designated as ball fields and picnic areas.

The project was painstakingly covered in a series of investigative articles by Alex Ulam
published in City Limits (see below)


Press Release below


A Walk In The Park - August 17, 2009

New York Post - August 18, 2009 - By Rich Calder

Bronx Golf Course Idea Now A Nightmare For NYC
CBS - August 17, 2009 - By Marcia Kramer (below)

Bronx Golf Course Idea Now A Nightmare For NYC

Giuliani's Dream Is $100 Million Over Budget And Expected To Be 12 Years Late, But Bloomberg Says It Will Be Built


Aug 17, 2009 7:02 pm US/Eastern

Reporting
NEW YORK (CBS) ―

A dream park has become a money pit.

The plan to transform a former Bronx landfill into a spectacular golf course has some residents crying foul.

The project is overdue, over budget and could soon be putting a strain on taxpayers.

Rudy Giuliani's dream of building a highfalutin Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course on the site of a toxic waste dump in the Bronx has become Michael Bloomberg's nightmare, but the city is still going through with it even though it's $100 million over budget and is expected to be at least 12 years late.

"It is a complete waste of money. It's a boondoggle and it's something that never should have gone forward," said Geoffrey Croft of the NYC Park Advocates.

There are a lot of questions. Like what happens if the golfers hit their balls into the cemetery next door? Who wants to play on a toxic waste dump? And how much will it cost? The original plans called for charging $120 for a single round of golf. The Black Course at Bethpage, where the U.S. Open was held this summer, charges $60 on weekends. Weekdays are cheaper.

So who can afford to pay $120 for a round of golf?

"The mayor and the real estate developers -- certainly not the people who live around here," Croft said.

"It's ridiculous. People in this neighborhood don't have that kind of money," said Jacqueline Young of Throggs Neck.

The neighborhood people also don't like the idea that 85 percent of the 220 acres are earmarked for the golf course.

"It's ridiculous. People in this neighborhood don't have that kind of money," said Jacqueline Young of Throggs Neck.

"We don't play golf. We'll be lucky if we get the caddy jobs. We're not going to go out and play," said Phil Hazel of Throggs Neck.

An avid golfer, the mayor said the city still plans to build the course, though it is, as he said, "embarrassingly" delayed and has a new problem.

"What we don't have is a developer who's willing to build the clubhouse and that's the problem at the moment," Bloomberg said.

And here's the rub: if contractors don't meet their targeted completion date, which is four years from now, it will be another mayor's problem.

The original development plans were drawn up by Robert Moses in 1949. He promised a sandy beach, lots and lots of public parkland and a tiny golf course.

Oh, how things have changed.



City Selects Concessionaire For Bronx's Ferry Point Public Golf Course - Tournament-quality Public Course Will Generate Economic Activity In The Bronx

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced that the City has negotiated a 20-year license agreement for the operation of the Ferry Point Golf Course to the Trump Organization. The course is a Jack Nicklaus Signature, tournament-quality golf course that will be open to the public and will generate economic activity in the Bronx. The Trump Organization was selected through a public Request for Offers issued by the Parks Department. In addition to the primary responsibilities of maintaining and operating a tournament-quality golf course, the Trump Organization has committed to a minimum $10 million capital investment to design and construct a new, state-of-the-art golf clubhouse – expected to create 100 new construction jobs. The clubhouse will include a cart storage facility, locker rooms and a grill room.

“This new public golf course will be a great amenity for the Bronx, for the City, and for visitors,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “More than $600 million has been invested in parks around the Bronx during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, and now this long-awaited golf course will soon be among them – bringing more people from across the country and around the world to the Bronx. The Trump Organization is known for operating world-class golf courses, and I’m excited to be able to partner with them to build and run the first tournament-quality golf course in New York City.”

“This is an opportunity to have one of our country’s greatest golf courses right smack in the middle of New York City – an unheard of opportunity,” said Trump Organization CEO and Chairman Donald J. Trump. “The residents of NYC will be very proud of the end result which will include championship tour play, with all of its benefits, right down the road.”
At 222 acres, Ferry Point Park East represents one of the largest pieces of previously undeveloped parkland in New York City, and one of the greatest opportunities for augmenting the City’s recreational resources. When complete, the new park will contain the golf course, a community park with playgrounds and ballfields, and a waterfront park with rambling trails and scenic overlooks.

Ferry Point Golf Course is an 18-hole, links-style, Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course that will be open to the public. Sitting at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx, it is designed specifically to take advantage of spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, East River, and Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges. In addition to the 18-hole course, the facility also will include a clubhouse, snack bar, comfort station, and driving range. It will be the only tournament-quality course in New York City, giving avid golfers a unique and more challenging alternative to the City’s other well-maintained public courses. The golf course is expected to open to the public for play in the spring of 2014.

The Trump Organization has vast experience developing, maintaining and operating first-class golf venues around the world including a recently completed links-style course in Aberdeen, Scotland. Trump courses have played host to major professional golf tournaments, including the LPGA playoffs in West Palm Beach and the PGA Puerto Rican Open. The Trump Organization is also an experienced Parks concessionaire with background operating the Wollman and Lasker ice skating rinks, and the Central Park carousel.




Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crowd Denounces Parks Dept. Washington Square Park Performer Crack Down

















Attorney Norman Siegel addressing Manhattan Community Board's 2 sponsored Washington Square Park Speak Out on Monday night at NYU. Except for Manhattan Borough Commissioner Bill Castro, not a single person spoke in favor of the Parks Department's recent crack down involving the ticketing of performers in Washington Square Park. Mr. Castro claimed the news rules were not meant to ban performers from soliticting donations. He also claimed that performers are permited to solitict donations in the area between the plaza and the Arch, the area where sand artist Joe Mangrum has received numerous summonses. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

On December 6, New York State Assemblymenber Deborah J. Glick sent a letter to Parks Commissioner Adrain Benepe urging him to reconsider the recent practice of ticketing performers individuals within 50 feet of a city monument. (see below)


















Sand artist Joe Mangrum holding up the numerous summonses he has recieved between the park's historic Arch and plaza. On Monday Manhattan Borough Commissioner Bill Castro claimed performers could solitict donations at that location. - Geoffrey Croft

Manhattan

There was only one speaker on Monday in favor of the Parks
Department’s citing musicians and other performers in Washington
Square Park for violating park rules.

The lone supporter was Bill Castro, Manhattan borough Parks Department
commissioner, who told a packed audience that the recently enforced
rules still allow buskers plenty of room to perform in Washington
Square — as long as they’re 50 feet from any monument and 5 feet from
a bench, according to an article in the Villager.

“The rules are not intended to ban performers from this or any other
park, regardless of whether they solicit or accept contributions,”
Castro said.

“The department seeks to regulate and accommodate a variety of
activities and uses,” Castro added, but he promised that the
department would review and reconsider the enforcement policy that
began in the park around May. The rules only apply to buskers, meaning
performers who accept cash contributions.

















Manhattan CB2's Washington Square Park Speak Out on Monday night was very well attended.


Given that Washington Square, the spawning ground in decades past of
music luminaries including Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Joan Baez, has
benches along its paths and large monuments, including the iconic
arch, the central fountain, the Garibaldi statue and the monument to
Alexander Lyman Holley, the claim of “plenty of room” rang hollow.

All others at the Dec. 19 speak-out, sponsored by Community Board 2
and its Parks Committee, called for an end to what they called an
anti-life and hypocritical enforcement effort.

Indeed, one speaker, Mitchel Cohen, mocked the rules, saying he was in
favor of barring musicians because they interrupted the sound of
jackhammers and sirens and they prevented people from getting close to
the monuments.

“Everybody knows that people come to Washington Square Park from all
over the world to see the Holley Monument,” Cohen quipped.

Gregory Nissen, a theater composer and pianist, introduced himself as
Robert Zimmerman who just blew in from Minneapolis with his banjo, but
decided to leave because the cops wouldn’t let him play in Washington
Square.

Katie Kat, a soprano and voice instructor at New York University who
performs under the arch (“great acoustics”) with her partner, Roxanne
Walitzki, sang part of an aria from Puccini’s “La Bohème” at the end
of her remarks and won admiring applause.

C.B. 2 members Keen Berger and Doris Diether, both speaking as
individuals, urged an end to the enforcement.

Berger, a resident near Washington Square for 47 years, said she has
visited the park at least 2,000 times. She said she cherished the
music and didn’t recall negative reactions against performers.

Diether reminded the forum that performance in Washington Square dates
back more than 50 years.

“This is ridiculous,” Diether said about the enforcement, which she
recalled started two or three months ago. “First, they said that
musicians were blocking the pathways. Then, they said there was no
solicitation in the park. The rules are idiotic and the Parks
commissioner [Adrian Benepe] should be told they’re idiotic and they
should be thrown out,” Diether said.

“The people who perform are the people who keep the park safe,” said
Susan Goren, a regular parkgoer known as “The Squirrel Whisperer.” The
rules, she said, are eliminating what people find joyful in the park.

A longtime jazz performer known as Black Bobby said, “First they came
for the black folks. Now, from the look of the audience here tonight
[largely white], it seems that there is equality.”

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer, recalled that he came from
Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1965 to study at New York University Law
School on Washington Square South. He said he was concerned that the
Bloomberg administration was targeting free expression in the parks —
in Zuccotti Park [previously, the site of the Occupy Wall Street
encampment] and Washington Square Park. Noting that the U.S. Supreme
Court has held that music is protected under the First Amendment,
Siegel threatened that another lawsuit was likely unless the city
narrowed the scope of its parks rules.

Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To
Illegal State Tactics), reminded the meeting that he has a pending
federal lawsuit challenging the city’s rules limiting where artists
can vend art and other expressive matter in Union Square, on the High
Line and in Central Park and Battery Park. The rules were only imposed
on musicians, according to Lederman, after he raised the issue to
Parks that musicians were excluded from the Union Square limits, while
vendors were forced to abide by them.

Lederman, who cited an editorial, “Don’t ban the buskers” in last
week’s issue of The Villager, said the rules practically ban artists
and musicians from any New York City park.

The activist said the hypocrisy of the rules is apparent from the
city-sponsored holiday markets that pre-empt space in Union Square and
other parks.

Lorie Moody, a resident of 2 Fifth Ave., agreed, citing the
Greenmarket in Union Square and “the less-than-glorious, white-tented
event in Washington Square,” referring to the annual Taste of The
Village event under the Washington Square arch.

Colin Huggins, “The Crazy Piano Guy,” who wheels his piano to play in
Washington Square and other parks, said he has received summonses that
would cost more than $2,000 in fines if they are not eventually
dismissed. He said his playing brings people together.

Joe Mangrum, who does sand painting in Union Sq. and Washington
Square, has also received numerous summonses.

“New York City is unique because there is this creative freedom,”
Mangrum said. The city, he said, appears to be “militarizing’” the
park.

“Freedom is the most important thing we have. If you don’t have that
you don’t have a country,” Mangrum said.

Ryo Sasaki, a jazz trumpeter, said he came to New York four years ago
from Japan because of the music culture. He has been playing in
Washington Square Park for three years, “and suddenly this season we
cannot do it anymore,” he said. “I learned to play music in school but
I never learned how to entertain and communicate with people. Those
skills I learned in Washington Square Park,” Sasaki said.

“The city crated a problem that never existed,” said Natalie Albert, a
neighborhood resident for 40 years.

Tobi Bergman, chairperson of the board’s Parks Committee, called for
speakers supporting the parks rules at the end of the two-hour forum,
but there were no takers. Pros and cons may weigh in online at
www.washingtonsquarespeakout.com .

“I take it as a good sign that the enforcement could change,” said
Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 chairperson, citing Castro’s assurance that the
department would reconsider the policy. Earlier this year, Board 2
opposed the Parks Department’s limits on vendors of expressive matter
in the four Manhattan parks.

“That was even before we knew that musicians would be summonsed,” Hoylman said.

Read More:

A symphony of no’s on Parks’ musician rules at speak-out
The Villager - December 22, 2011 -
By Albert Amateau

DNAinfo - December 19, 2011 - By Andrea Swalec


A Walk In The Park - December 4, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft


December 6, 2011

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal
Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065

Dear Commissioner Benepe,

I write to express my extreme consternation over the recent flurry of
summonses issued by the New York City Parks Department to performers in
Washington Square Park. Theses actions appear to be an infringement on
their First Amendment rights. Additionally, theses restrictions impede
upon the cultural tradition of street performances that has helped define
New York City, and in particular Greenwich Village for many years. It is
during the holiday season when New York City residents and tourists alike
flock to our City's beautiful and historic parks to see decorations as
well as local performances. Therefore, it seems that the City is hurting
performers and tourists by ticketing these popular attractions and
diminishing the ambiance that has long characterized Washington Square
Park.

I urge you to reconsider the recent practice of ticketing performing
individuals who are within 50 feet of a city monument, especially when in
such places as Washington Square Park's 10 acres of land there are very
few if no locations which could be consistent with that requirement.
Furthermore the regulation, which specifies that vendors may not be within
50 feet of unauthorized locations, is ambiguous as it covers not only food
vendors and merchandise purveyors but artists and musicians as well. I
propose that the term "vendors' be elaborated upon in this definition to
exempt street performers. To not do so would be to eliminate so much of
the vibrant culture and performing arts that has become part of life in
Greenwich West Village. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick
New York State Assembly