Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bloomberg PlaNYC Parks - Fantasy & P.r.

A Mess. Dreir Offerman Park (Calvert Vaux) - Brooklyn. March 10, 2010.
(Photo: © Geoffrey Croft /NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge

PlaNYC Broken Promises - One Example. On August 1, 2007 Mayor Bloomberg announced with great fanfare the long - suffering Dreier-Offerman Park in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, near Coney Island would be the recipient of $ 40 million dollars and a host of improvements as part of mayor's PlaNYC 2030.

The promises included kayak launches, an amphitheater, a pedestrian and bikeway network, picnic areas, a central lawn, nature trails, an amphitheater, wetlands, a playground, comfort stations, field house, nature center, two, landscaping, significant infrastructure including utility improvements, parking facilities, remediation of significant contamination, pedestrian bridges as well as the refurbishing of three baseball fields and the building of six soccer fields in the shorefront park.

"PlaNYC has finally given us the resolve and momentum to put long-considered and desperately needed projects in motion. And this project is a great example of that," Bloomberg said.

"This is truly a golden age for parks," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

The Dreier-Offerman project was expected to be completed by 2011. Construction was supposed to begin in the spring of 2008 with the first of the artificial turf soccer fields - the must expensive in the city's history - expected to completed by the Summer 2008.

That did not happen.

Plagued by massive cost over-runs and delays the first two of the park's six planned artificial turf soccer fields finally opened in 2012. Funding for the other four were cut along with most of the other promised improvements.

Calvert Vaux is the only "regional" park as part of the Mayor's PlaNYC to be designed in-house and not by a consultant. According to City sources, the Bloomberg Administration was so desperate to rush the project through they instructed the project's lead designer, landscape architect Emmanuel Thingue to transmit the project management services on October 29, 2007- before an EAS had even begun. As a result the project went out to bid before an environmental review had even begun and the Comptroller registered the contract without one being completed.

In June 2008 the DPR was asked to perform a full EIS to address numerous issues, considering the history of the site and the limitations of the EAS. This request was denied. The DPR declined saying that as lead agency it was their prerogative to determine if the environmental issues rose to the level requiring an EIS. In their response they also stated that they were "compelled" to stay on their current schedule. Not surprisingly the EAS comments were not responded to.

Mr. Thingue won the 2011 Sloan Service Award, "the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for New York City’s public employees,” according to Commissioner Benepe and has received multiple raises since his involvement with Calvert Vaux Park.

Unfortunately Calvert Vaux represents just one of the broken promises and abuses of the public trust in relation to these projects.

- Geoffrey Croft


Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy parks are coming — but they’re mired in hefty price tags and design problems, according to the New York Post.

The city has over-promised and under-delivered on $291 million in park projects that are being rushed to seal the mayor’s place in history, critics say.

The eight regional parks were announced with great fanfare in April 2007 as part of Hizzoner’s ambitious PlaNYC program.

Five years later, the push to get them completed — or at least under way — before the end of the mayor’s term in 2013 has led to downsized plans, engineering issues and delays.

“There was no planning, no realistic cost estimates. It was fantasy mixed with p.r.,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates.

Troubles emerged soon after the mayor’s goals were passed to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and his strapped Parks Department. Benepe announced his resignation last week.

Among the problems:

* Ocean Breeze Park in Staten Island saw work on a $69.7 million indoor track stopped over concerns the site’s concrete pilings wouldn’t hold up in the marshy soil. Outdoor soccer and baseball fields were cut. The track lacks air conditioning, making it unusable for big meets.

* At Highland Park, Queens, the administration abandoned its plan to build a 60-acre sports center when environmentalists proved the site was an irreplaceable habitat. The revised project, a $19.3 million installation of paths, lights and fences, has been delayed by construction woes.

* Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn was to get sports fields, kayak launches and playgrounds, but amenities were cut after the discovery of contaminated soil. Much of the $20.1 million budget had to be spent on a cleanup.

* At Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Pool, set to reopen June 28 after a $50 million renovation and a year’s delay, a promised rooftop cafe has not been built.

* $29.3 million was budgeted to update Rockaway Park in Queens, but the plan’s second phase, renovation of the Beach Ninth Street portion, has still not been designed.

* Manhattan’s Fort Washington Park was promised a soccer and volleyball facility, renovations to baseball and soccer fields and upgrades to its beach area, but the major sports and recreation elements of the $25.1 million plan were deferred.

* Contamination at Soundview Park in The Bronx caused delays in its $15.3 million renovation. The amphitheater and performance lawn remain unscheduled.

* The city will spend $61.9 million to turn the High Bridge linking The Bronx and Manhattan into a passage for pedestrians and bikes. The design phase, delayed from 2008, was just finished and work hasn’t begun.

In its rush to build, the city skipped crucial steps like site reviews, park activists say.

At Highland Park, for example, the environmental assessment began months too late. And the city seemed unaware the soil under Calvert Vaux Park is a stew of Fort Lafayette munitions and dredge mud from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge’s construction.

“Mercury, munitions, petroleum, maybe even unexploded bombs from World War I — we don’t know what’s in that soil,” said Ida Sanoff of the Natural Resources Protective Association.

Once the eight projects are finished, finding funds to maintain them will be an annual headache.

“Future maintenance is our biggest concern,” said Francisco Gonzalez of The Bronx’s Community Board 9. “When there are budget cutbacks, the parks face the worst cuts.”

Read More:

Parks & wrecks for Mike Hizzoner’s fields of dreams coming up short
New York Post - By Mary Kay Linge - June 24, 2012

New York Post - October 24, 2011 - By Rich Calder

A Walk In The Park - September 30, 2011

New York Post - May 26th, 2009 - By Rich Calder

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