The Prospect Park Boathouse has generated nearly $200,000 in revenue from weddings and other posh events over the last few months. In April the City irresponsibly allowed the Prospect Park Alliance to close the public Audubon Center At The Boathouse building exclusively on weekends so the group can rent it out for private events. (Photo: Reven Blau/New York Daily News)
The Prospect Park Alliance has hauled in nearly $200,000 by renting out its historic boathouse for posh parties after the building was shuttered on weekends, according to the New York Daily News.
The Boathouse has been rented out 46 times at roughly $4,000 a pop, raising $197,750 since April, when the Prospect Park Alliance enraged park advocates by closing the landmark building on Saturdays and Sundays.
Those activists are still angry.
"This beautiful building belongs to the people, not to the Prospect Park Alliance," said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, a watchdog group.
In 2002, the 108-year-old Beaux Arts building was renovated with $5 million in public and private funds. The building was converted from a storage area into the borough’s first Audubon Center, filled with educational exhibits, live animals and a library.
The fixed boathouse also housed a café and dock for boat rides as well as one of the few public bathrooms in the 585-acre park. But the Alliance, which oversees $9 million budget to operate the park, has been desperate for money to tackle routine maintenance and repairs.
The Alliance’s president, Emily Lloyd, has not had her $180,077 salary cut. The Boathouse remains open on Thursdays, Fridays and during school holidays, said spokesman Eric Landau.
And the park still hosts free environmental education courses inside new tents on weekends.
The Audubon Center during its recent heyday. The popular boating has disapeared as well. (Photo: Prospect Park Alliance)
Those roving classes have attracted an average of 300 to 350 people each weekend, up from the 30 to 35 people who attended similar classes held inside the boathouse, Landau said, refuting the need for the boathouse to be reopened.
"The pop-up is a more effective program," he said.
But critics remain unconvinced, saying the closure stems from the Bloomberg administration's constant belt-tightening.
"(The Alliance) just don't have money for the maintenance. This upkeep should be coming out of the general funds of the city of New York," fumed avid birdwatcher Neal Frumkin.
Most park goers remain surprised to find the boathouse barred.
"It kind of stinks," said bicyclist Sidal Musluoglu, 39.
"I'm fine with them closing it every now and then but if it's always closed off, and only open to the privileged few, that's kind of unfair."
On Sunday, a couple living in Tribeca used the building for their wedding reception, complete with two guards outside to make sure no park visitors stumbled into the elegant party.
But even the groom's brother couldn't understand why the building was permanently closed to park goers.
"That doesn't sound right. Weddings aren't going on constantly," said Brian O’Malley, as he puffed a cigarette on the water’s edge.
Closed on weekends, the Boathouse has raised nearly $200K. That's enough to pay the Alliance president
New York Daily News - October 7, 2013 - By Reven Blau
A Walk In The Park - April 15, 2013