Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
A fire was deliberately set on Rocky Pass and a witness saw three teenagers running away from the scene.
Bird watcher and naturalist Rob Jett, founder of Citybirder, was in Prospect Park's "Ravine" area at approximately 2:45pm when he heard a few teens fooling around on the pathway at "Rocky Pass."
"Shortly thereafter, I heard them laughing and running down the path towards the Nethermead Meadow. Immediately after I began to see smoke coming up from where they had just been, then I saw flames in the underbrush climbing the hillside. "
Fast acting cops grabbed fire extinguishers from their patrol cars and emptied five of them putting out the fire.
FDNY arrived at the scene about 3:20pm. A law enforcement officer at the scene commented that the fire department's delay was caused because they were not familiar with location names within the park and had a difficult time finding it.
"Luckily, between landscape management workers creating a fire break and police officers with several small fire extinguishers, they were able to keep the fire from spreading through the entire woodlands at the Ravine. By the time FDNY arrived it was just smoldering with no open flames," said Mr. Jett.
According to Jett, at least 20 species of birds nest in that area including the red tail hawk, and it contains Broolyn's last remaining forrest.
According to Jett and other park watchers, one of the biggest problems with this isolated section of Prospect Park is that it is rarely patrolled, either by NYPD or PEP. He says that homeless people and miscreants regularly hop over the fences at these two hillsides creating trash, fire hazards and other problems.
Jett says in the past he sent photos and complaint letters to former Prospect Park administrator Tupper Thomas regarding this area, but nothing was done to reign in the problem and he says it has only gotten worse.
In a April 14, 2008 email to Mr. Jett, Ms. Thomas acknowledged that there are problems in the area.
He hopes the new administration will take these issues more seriously and devote proper resources.
Friday, February 24, 2012
A Victorian Gothic style building, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould and built in 1870-1871, within an English Romantic style public park designed by Olmsted and Vaux. Application is to demolish existing additions, construct a new addition, modify masonry openings, replace infill, install HVAC equipment, and modify landscapes, according to The Historic Districts Council.
The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City’s designated historic districts and neighborhoods meriting preservation. Its Public Review Committee monitors proposed changes within historic districts and changes to individual landmarks and has reviewed the application now before the Commission.
HDC applauds the restoration and uncovering, or rediscovering, of Tavern on the Green. With all of the important work that is going on, it seems antithetical to go and put a large glass box at the main entrance in the central courtyard. If more restaurant space is needed, it should be accomodated in additions on the secondary façades, a tactic typically required of other landmarked buildings throughout the city.
On a lesser note, we also ask that window configurations display more divisions as they do throughout historic photos. The divided light scheme is more in keeping with the romantically rural tradition of the sheep’s fold and Tavern on the Green.
LPC Determination: Approved
Read more from preservation advocates on this issue:
A Walk In The Park - December 6, 2011
INWOOD — Inwood tree lovers are up in arms after the Parks Department cut down dozens of trees over the past week, saying the city's efforts to tamp down an ongoing mugging problem can't be solved with a chainsaw, according to DNAnfo.
Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson confirmed that crews have cut down approximately 40 trees in Isham Park and Inwood Hill Park since Feb. 20 and plan to continue work until Saturday. He said crews were targeting dead trees or those damaged in recent storms.
"This will open up sight lines in and out of the park to better improve its appearance and public safety," Abramson said in an email, adding that the department decided to take action after "unfortunate incidents occurred in the park."
"With more visibility in an incident, you are more likely to be seen," he added. In addition, he said the work will also protect parkgoers from falling branches, which have been a problem across upper Manhattan since Hurricane Irene.
Local residents have been calling for increased safety measures at the parks after repeated incidents of violence and burglary over the past few years, including two in December 2011.
On Dec. 15, a man was on his way to a Christmas tree lighting in Isham Park when he was jumped by a group of teens who took his iPhone. Two days earlier, a family thwarted muggers on the edge of the park who tried to rob them with an L-shaped piece of plastic.
Law enforcement and elected officials have said crime in the parks is exacerbated by the limited visibility and seclusion parks offer would-be attackers.
But some residents dismissed the tree-cutting initiative as extreme and misguided.
"I know we have had a habitual problem with crime in the park. But shouldn't the answer be more beat cops, better lighting, or even cameras?" asked Jon O'Neil, who has lived in Inwood for 35 years. "Why does the city go right to chopping down trees for safety?"
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.
"It's a horror show out here," Inwood resident Elena Perez said as she watched 6- to 8-foot chunks of trees crash down on the Isham Park lawn Thursday morning.
"I want to feel safe, but the trees aren't even sick. If you look at the bark, they aren't hollow or anything. Why would they do this?"
Although Inwood resident Cristobal Vivar said safety is of concern to him and his wife as they raise their 2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter near the park, he believes the removal of the trees had more to do with concern over lawsuits than public safety.
When he heard the sounds of chainsaws in Isham Park outside his apartment window Monday, he initially thought the department was trimming a few loose or damaged branches.
But when he saw the amount of trees being taken down, he began to have second thoughts.
“I first told my daughter they were doing something for the trees so they grow better, but I didn’t believe it, because it was too much,” he said.
Workers are slated to continue removing trees until Saturday throughout the parks, which were littered with dismembered tree limbs and chipped wood piles on a recent visit, park officials said.
The Parks Department said it was also tending to several diseased and damaged trees that local volunteer gardeners had voiced concern over for the past several years.
A Parks Department employee prunes a tree in Isham Park. (Photos: Carla Zanoni/DNAinfo)
Abramson noted that an inspection of the trees "confirmed that they were hollowed out, split or suffered severe damages from recent storms."
Although the tree-cutting in both parks stirred many emotions in the neighborhood, several volunteer gardeners said the work was unavoidable.
"This is massive and I knew it was going to create a lot of unhappiness, but the truth is that there is a lot of damage and disease and not all of it is easy to detect when you just look at it," said Pat Courtney, an organizer for Volunteers for Isham Park, which cares for the park.
"It's like a member of the family dying when you see a tree go down, no matter the condition it was in you are going to be upset," she added. "But we have to realize that the landscape is always in the process of renewal and destruction. It is inevitable."
A fleet of of orange Parks Department bucket trucks wait to converge on Inwood Hill and Isham Parks.
Inwood Park Trees Thinned Out to Thwart Muggers
Saturday, February 18, 2012
RANDALL'S IS. AQUATIC LEISURE, LLC v. CITY OF NEW YORK 2012 NY Slip Op 00843 RANDALL'S ISLAND AQUATIC LEISURE, LLC, ET AL., Plaintiffs-Appellants,v.THE CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., Defendants-Respondents. 111146/09, 6747, 6748. Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department. Decided February 7, 2012.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Since 2010, when the New York Fashion Week shows moved to Damrosch Park from Bryant Park, residents say, Damrosch Park has been all but taken over by one special event after another, making it off-limits nearly 10 months of the year. Setup for the spring fashion shows, which take place in September, begins in August; those shows are followed by the Big Apple Circus’s annual show, which runs from mid-October to January; the fall fashion shows are held in February (this year’s end on Thursday); and then there are private parties, also under tents, throughout the spring.
“It’s an assault on the neighborhood,” said Michael Graff, a lawyer who lives in the nearby Alfred condominium tower. He had to shout over the din of generators along West 62nd Street that provided power to a series of white tents for the fashion shows.
On Tuesday, a group of residents and NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit group, announced that they had sent a “cease and desist” letter to the city and to Lincoln Center demanding that Damrosch Park be returned to its proper use as a city park.
City officials brushed aside the criticism, saying that Damrosch Park was a hard-surface plaza with few visitors in winter. They argued that residents had ample access to nearby parkland, including Central Park, and said that many thousands of New Yorkers were able to enjoy the circus and the fashion shows.
“Fashion Week generates $865 million in economic activity each year and helps create jobs in one of our city’s most important industries,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
A representative of Lincoln Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At a news conference on Tuesday outside Lincoln Center, Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, criticized the city over the terms of its agreement with Lincoln Center, which allows the center to keep all the revenue generated by subleasing the park to outside groups. Fashion Week alone will pay $17.2 million over five years to use the park, Mr. Croft said.
Lincoln Center is also allowed to keep the money from a city-owned parking garage beneath the park, said Reed W. Super, a lawyer representing NYC Park Advocates and several residents. From 2006 to 2010, the garage yielded $26.7 million, he said.
“It’s illegal,” Mr. Croft said. “According to the City Charter, all of that money has to go back to the city’s general fund.”
The group argues that the deal with Lincoln Center amounts to the removal of parkland, a process that only the State Legislature can undertake. The letter said that “whether, how and when any portion of a New York City park may be used for nonpark purposes are decisions to be made by the State Legislature, not the mayor, not the parks department and certainly not Lincoln Center.”
City officials defended the agreement with Lincoln Center, pointing out that the cultural institution was solely responsible for the upkeep of the park and paid to maintain other public areas on its campus, including the signature fountain in its plaza. Lincoln Center, Ms. Wood said, “has spent millions to improve these areas, create new green spaces and program them for public enjoyment.”
Residents and some members of Community Board 7 said that in the past they had not looked forward to the four-month takeover of the park by the Big Apple Circus, but that they had grown used to it. Their frustration mounted, however, when Fashion Week arrived.
“It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Susan Levy, a resident of the Alfred.
March 8, 2010. (before) David H. Koch Theater in the background.
March 20, 2011. (After) Clear Cut. Trees and bushes removed to make room for commercail uses including projecting imaged of TV personalites on the wall of the Theater.
To make way for the Fashion Week tents, the city removed 67 trees from the park.
City officials say that many of the trees that were cut down were in poor health and that their roots were creating cracks in the ceiling of the parking garage. The city has planted 220 trees within a mile radius of the park, while Lincoln Center has installed an additional 88 trees on its campus.
But residents say that a tree half a mile away does not make up for the loss of shade and green in Damrosch Park. “Sadly,” said the letter to city officials and Lincoln Center, “Damrosch Park has been decimated. Even the parks department sign with the iconic leaf logo identifying ‘Damrosch Park’ was removed.”
Mr. Super, the lawyer for NYC Park Advocates, said that litigation was a possibility. “We prefer not to run right into court,” he said.