Park Purpose? Exterior of the 250, 000-square-foot Frieze New York Art Fair tent on Randall's Island. Amanda Sharp, the London-based co-director of the festival said Randall's Island is "perhaps, completely unfamiliar," to New Yorkers. (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.
Access Denied. The park's largest picnic area will be unavailable to the non-paying general public for approximately seven weeks to accommodate the four day event. The lush passive area is the park's largest open field now that the majority of the island's open spaces have been converted into ballfields. Each year this public parkland - located between East Harlem and the South Bronx - is being rented out for up to four months in order to accommodate commercial and private corporate events. Revenue to use the parkland is being diverted from the City's general fund to The Randall's Island Park Alliance which recieved more than $ 150,000 for the event. Michael Bloomberg was a long-time board member of the group.
Last Summer a security guard working for the annual Bloomberg LP corporate picnic event held there attempted to prevent the area from being photographed days after the event. He called it, "a private fair ground."
A year earlier, two park employees, Randall's Island Park Supervisor Scott McAuliffe and Thomas Paliswiat, repeatedly threatened to call the police and have a newspaper reporter and photographer arrested while standing on berm by a soccer field overlooking the private Bloomberg event on public parkland.
By Geoffrey Croft
Aerial view of the Frieze Art Fair. The 250, 000-square foot snakes around the South/West tip of Randall's Island. The tented venue is the largest temporary structure in North America organizers say.
Access to Randall's Island's largest open space has once again been closed off to the non-paying general public in order to accommodate a commercial event. Frieze Art Fair, located in a massive 250,000 foot tent along Randall's Island's South/West shore, event opened yesterday to VIPs and the media and runs for the public through May 7th.
Th event sponsored by Deutsche Bank features 182 galleries from 30 countries. Prices for the art range from a reported $ 4 million for a 1993 fish cabinet by Damien Hirst - $1 million for a Dan Flavin light sculpture, $750, 000 for a 1987 cement sculpture by Antony Gormley. Purchaes can also be made for as little as "few hundred dollars" according to organizers.
Access to the three day art sale costs $40 a day.
The public is being denied access to the park's largest picnic and passive recreational area. The lush lawn is the largest open field now that the majority of the island's open spaces have recently been converted into ballfields. The lawn has been unavailable to the general public since April 1 when workers began setting up for the event. The fair is expected to be finished using the parkland on May 20th according to a contractor working at the site. Unlike most events held there this time the path along the waterfront was mostly open to the public during constriction if you were willing to dodge forklifts making hundreds of trips working 24 hours a day.
Amanda Sharp, the London-based co-director of the festival said Randall's Island is "perhaps, completely unfamiliar," to New Yorkers.
Tent City. The fair houses approximately art from 182 galleries. Visitors can "patronize food carts that will be stationed along the shore or break up an afternoon of staring at art with views of upper Manhattan."
The massive tend as viewed from across the East River at E.116th street in Manhattan
In recent years the general public has been denied access to that area of the park for up to four continuous months a year. Recent events include major concerts, the Electric Zoo DJ music festival, and Bloomberg LP's annual corporate picnic.
"with Randall’s Island Park as the location and New York City’s waterfront as the backdrop, this new event should be extraordinary," long time Randall's Island Sports Foundation board member Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Frieze event.
The "VIP "opening yesterday. Frieze New York art fair runs on Randall’s Island May 4 – 7, Tickets start at $40. Reduced tickets are available for $25 for senior citizens, students with valid ID, and for entry after 1p.m. (Photo Courtacy: Graham Carlow/Freiz)
A piece from the outdoor sculpture park near the waterfront with Manhatten views.
Each year Bloomberg LP makes a "donation" to the Randall's Island Sports Foundation (RISF) to rent out the island's largest picnic and passive recreational area. The practice was started by long time RISF board member and major benefactor Michael Bloomberg. For years Bloomberg LP paid $ 200, 000 according to documents obtained by NYC Park Advocates, however that fee was raised to $ 750, 000 in 2009 after news of the land grab began to surface. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the majority shareholder of the company.
The Randall's Island Park Alliance recieved more than $ 150,000 for the event according to the Parks Department.
Diverting Money From the City's General Fund. According to a 2001 license agreement between the city and the Randall's Island Sport Foundation (nka: Randall's Island Park Alliance - RIPA) the group is allowed to keep all concession and special events from the Island.
License revenue alone account for approximately 50% of RIPA's funding.
The group's Strategic Plan released in January 2012, lists concerts, large events and the expansion of the Sportime tennis center as "prioroity projects" for additional revenues.
Longer-term revenue goal priority project initiatives include a wedding/reception venue, full-service restaurant, private camps, and corporate retreats.
The group seeks to "maximize the Island's enormous potential" and recognizes developing a "substantial increase in operating funds" is a key element of caring for the park.
"Community support will be critical in moving forward with next steps," the Strategic Plan states. "The mission and role of RIPA, and the actions it takes in operating one of New York City's largest public parks, must demonstrably intersect with community-identified needs and issues."
Like prohibiting the public from accessing one of the park's most important areas for months?
An inflatable rat, a familiar symbol of union protests was up for a short period neat the tent.
The New York City District Council of Carpenters are in a labor dispute with Frieze claiming they are using contractors who “do not pay the area standard wages to all their employees including providing or fully paying for health benefits and pension.”
Brian Brady, a representative for District Council of Carpenters said none of thier workers are on the Frieze installation on Randall’s Island.
“They have the mentality that instead of using the contractors that work in the city and employ members of the organization that I represent, they would not go through the signatory contractors that have been used for the past 50 or 60 years in New York City,” said Mr. Brady.
According to Brady they went out to Randall’s Island to talk to managemnt where they were met by two security guards who called the police. "
"These people don’t want any sort of discussion,” he said.
Frieze denied they are in a labor dispute according to a spokeswoman for the fair.
"We literally worked 24-hours a day to get this up," a worker told a Walk In The Park.
"The quality of the work may be better (using union laborers) but we wouldn't have been able to do this in time."
WABC - May 3, 2012
New York Daily News - May 2, 2012 - By Carrie Courogen
Bloomberg - By Katya Kazakina - May 1, 2012
A Walk In The Park - June 24, 2011