Saturday, May 18, 2013

GoogaMooga Rears Its Ugly Head Again. Park To Get Less Money - Cops $ More

"This is a hijacking of the public park, plain and simple, and it only has a minimal payoff for the park itself, with just a few dollars per head actually go to the Prospect Park Alliance, which seems to believe it can rent the park for whatever purposes it deems fit."


Just what Olmsted & Vaux had in mind.   Customers line up at the disastrous Googa Mooga event last year. It was such a calamity that the event's organizers were forced to offer refunds for those who paid $ 267 dollars for VIP tickets which even further privatized the park. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Adovcates)

A couple stroll past enormous Coors Light tractors at last year's GoogaMooga event in Prospect Park.  Besides damaging the park, denying access to dozens of acres of parkland other than to ticket holders,  and dealing with the noise,  critics also point out the event impacts the park's wildlife including birds nesting nearby.   


By Geoffrey Croft

For a good example of grass commercialization at its finest in a public park head over to Prospect Park this weekend for the NOT SO Great GoogaMooga event.  

For the second year in a row the city is allowing the Prospect Park Alliance - the Park's self-imposed steward - to pimp out the historic public space to a large commercial event that monopolizes the park during a particularly special time of the year, spring.   The food and booze fest serves no purpose other than to enrich the promoters and destroy the peace and sanctity of a wonderful Park.

Various campers and vehicles along a path this morning in the park. (Photo:  Anne-Katrin Titze)

The GoogaMooga event is clearly a non-park purpose that severely impacts Prospect Park, impacts that the park has still not fully recovered from last year.  Privatizing park land in order to enrich promoters is certainly not why the park was created. And to add insult to injury the park receives a pittance for this inappropriate use. 

In fact according to the license agreement FINALY obtained by NYC Park Advocates the Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) is actually set to get $ 25,000 less than last year! 

Yes, less money after last year's debacle. 

The Alliance will receive $ 75,000 dollars this year compared to $ 100,000 last year.  The City is also requiring that the Police Department be reimbursed to the tune of $ 347, 147,00 dollars, compared to $ 300,000.00 to cover expenses at last year's event. 

Or put another way the City is receiving more than three times the amount to police it than the park is getting to host the event!

On that issue - besides trying to minimize the impacts,  since last year the Alliance's spokesman Paul Nelson has also been desperately trying  to spin it that somehow the park's creators Frederick Law Olmsted &  Calvert Vaux envisioned the park be used for these types of purposes -ie. private events.  (It's safe to say if the City agreed they wouldn't be requiring it to be reimbursed for police services.) 

SuperFly New York Festivals, the event's creators, are entitled to keep all revenues including money from concessions and sponsorship sales. 

The agreement also requires SuperFly to prevent damage to the park and to reimburse and Parks Department and or the PPA to repair the area to the condition existing prior to the commencement of the set-up.  An issue that Brooklyn residents have complained about since last year. 

The agreement also allows the Parks Commissioner and or the Prospect Park Alliance president the opportunity to "briefly address the audience."

Golf carts galore. The seizing of public parkland.  (Photos: By Matthew Wils)

The stage is located next to a Green Heron nest according to Matthew Wills.  "I hope the brooding mother isn’t thrown out because she lacks a VIP Backstage Pass," he writes.

The April 19, 2013 agreement was signed by Bloomberg family friend and DPR revenue and marketing head  - Betsy Smith, as well as PPA president Emily Lloyd. 

This Prospect Park Alliance privatization issue comes on the heels of another privatization scheme - the closing of the park's beloved nature center in the historic boat house on weekends so the PPA can rent it out for private functions.  

The Alliance is also using the event to sign up addtional members with bribes to score "free tickets." 

Join the Prospect Park Alliance now for as little as $35 and you can get 2 free tickets to the Great GoogaMooga.

"After last year's fiasco, the Prospect Park Alliance is allowing the disorganizers to add an extra day of events, commented Anne- Katrin Titze who has been raising the alarm since last year's disastrous pay-to-play blow-out.  

"The free tickets to allow you to wait on long lines to buy beverages and food are gone, unless you agree to become a member of the Prospect Park Alliance. They have closed off access to try to get naive park visitors to feel as if they are being treated special, when all they are doing is selling, selling, selling." 

Map of event.  (Click on image to enlarge)

Michael Powell weighed in on the controversial event today in a terrific piece for the NY Times.

"In 2004, I spoke with Adrian Benepe, who was then the parks commissioner, about the desire of hundreds of thousands of Americans to protest the Iraq War and the Bush administration by marching through the streets of our city for a rally at Central Park’s Great Lawn,"   Mr. Powell writes.

Mr. Benepe and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg were adamantly, passionately opposed to letting protesters set foot in the park. We have, Mr. Benepe said, resodded and relandscaped. Our grass is lush and green and precious. 

“Central Park is a respite from the city, a place for people to lay out and picnic,” he told me. “They have a right to protest, but they don’t have a right to destroy the Great Lawn.”  Allowing tens and tens of thousands of foodies to descend on Prospect Park’s sylvan Nethermead for the insistently, cacophonously commercial Great GoogaMooga festival is another matter altogether. A march to the Great Lawn was about free speech and dissent; GoogaMooga is about good old commerce," Mr. Powell wrote. 

However when it came time during the legal proceedings to remember why Bloomberg had denied the group's access to Central Park the Mayor's memory conveniently collapsed.  Thank goodness his Parks Commissioner Adrain Benepe put it in writing.  

Public/Private Partnerships

And why is an event like Googa Mooga which cleary has no park purpose being allowed in the park in the first place and who is making these decisions for our public parks? That's easy, not the public.  

We are in this position because of a lack of accountability.  Our parks are not funded as an essential city service.    The City is increasing relying on so called public/private partnerships to plug in enormous funding gaps due to the elected official’s refusal to adequately our parks.  

Many officials have attempted to pass the responsibility off on private groups or concessions. The city continues to try and abdicate its responsibilities by entering into these agreements which the elected officials are not only allowing but actively encouraging.  Besides the enormous disparity these public/private partnerships deals create, they also hand over enormous power,  decision making ability and policy to these groups with little transparency and accountability on what is supposed to be public land.  

Accountability & Transparency

Despite repeated requests last year the Prospect Park Alliance including Emily Lloyd and spokesman Paul Nelson refused to answer basic financial questions relating to the event including how much they are receiving.

Officials have continued to obfuscate. The Parks Department has withheld documents relating to this event.  In early January NYC Park Advocates FOIL'd the Alliance and the City for all correspondences including emails relating to the googa mooga event.  Four days ago - after reminding them that not a  single document was received the agency sent the license agreement but not the vast majority of what was requested. The Parks Department then said they needed "till the end of June" to fully comply. 


"The Nethermead, the geographical heart of Prospect Park, has been a construction zone for a week now in preparation for the idiotically named Googa Mooga," said Matthew Wills a Brooklyn resident for 20 years who has been chronicling the seizing of the park. 

"A big fence has encircled the middle of the park, essentially privatizing the public meadow and weighing it down with stages, porta-potties, food vendor tents, plus all the generators, cell phone towers (!) and related services necessary for such a massive undertaking.  This is a hijacking of the public park, plain and simple, and it only has a minimal payoff for the park itself, with just a few dollars per head actually go to the Prospect Park Alliance, which seems to believe it can rent the park for whatever purposes it deems fit,"
Wills says.

"This is definitely the wrong purpose. The company profiting off our park says it will pay for the inevitable damages such an invasion causes, but who holds them accountable?" 

Besides damaging the park and denying access to dozens of acres of park land to only those that have tickets,  critics have also repeatedly pointed out the impacts to the various wild life caused by among many things the ear shattering noise in close proximity to nesting birds.

"This thing does not belong in Prospect Park," Mr. Wills continues.   

"And the timing of this blight could not be worse, in the middle of spring migration and the beginning of nesting season, a vital time for the dozens of bird species who depend upon the park as an oasis of food, shelter and water; it’s unconscionable that no environmental impact statement was before scheduling this event. "

The complaints have been coming in all week as frequent park users have watched the construction take over more and more land. 

"My biggest issues with this event are that they cut off access to the most secluded part of the park to the general public for over a week to set up for this event, then charge people inflated prices to attend the event and eat food and drink alcohol,"  said Jennifer Schwartz, a Brooklyn resident for the past six years originally from Iowa city, Iowa.  

"When they finally opened up this public space back to the public last year, the turf was completely destroyed and last year it took them weeks to address the issue of the turf.  This year while they are setting up, the turf STILL hasn't completely healed from the damage of the year before.  

The blatant disregard for the intended function of the park (ie enjoying quiet time in nature for FREE) is totally immature.  It's like a bunch of loud teenagers barging into a library, completely unaware on unconcerned that there are people there already, trying to enjoy the environment of a quiet reading space,"  she said.

Ms. Schwartz said other events in the park are not as intrusive and are free and open to the general public without a ticket.   

"Even a blind squirrel can see how wrong-headed this misadventure is," said Anne- Katrin Titze. 

"What already has been done and is allowed by the Prospect Park Alliance/Parks is beyond the pale and clearly shows a disregard for the park that they are paid to protect from harm. The barricades are set up to close off the woodlands and other areas to the public.

The NOT SO Great GoogaMooga - Dozens upon dozens of poles stuck into the Nethermead Meadow and surrounding areas. Dozens upon dozens of boards and heavy plates crushing down the grass. This going on in a public park when it should be held at a concrete parking lot, not harming a Prospect Park meadow. This is another glaring example of how ineffectual the Prospect Park Alliance/Parks is when it comes to protecting the natural beauty we all enjoy.

The NOT SO Great GoogaMooga is back and has already fenced off the Nethermead Meadow loading in huge refrigeration boxes, structures being built since last week.
In addition, there is a lack of committment of resources to maintain the lakeside and landscape. Allowing any entity to come in during the spring migration of countless species of birds through Brooklyn, is one more illustration of the disconnect from the beauty of Prospect Park shown by those who are paid to protect its value for all," Ms.Titze writes. 

And where are the local elected officials on this? They have been silent for the most part.   

The Bloomberg administration and the Prospect Park Alliance should be ashamed of themselves for even considering this event and especially at that location in the park. 

The public needs to come together to make sure this does not happen again.

Lawn Damage - May 29, 2012 (Photo:  Anne-Katrin Titze) 

Read More:

New York Times - May  17, 2013 - By Michael Powell

gothamist - May 18, 2013  - By Jen Chung

Some Prospect Park-goers fear second coming of Great GoogaMooga
The Brooklyn Paper - May 9, 2013 - By Natalie Musumeci

A Walk In The Park - April 15, 2013

1 comment:

  1. I am concerned about the damage the googa mooga festival is doing to Prospect Park. Is it really legal to exclude access to the park for taxpaying members of the public for a private, for-profit event? And what can we do to keep this from happening in the future?

    I've written to complain to:
    Letitia James
    Emily Lloyed (President, Prospect Park Alliance)
    Steven Levin

    Everyone else should too. Let's take back our park!