Sunday, November 10, 2013

Prospect Park Alliance In Lakeside Skate Rink $ Windfall

A rendering of the two rinks at Lakeside,  part of a 26 acre $74 million redevelopment project in Prospect Park. The project,  along the southeast shore of the park’s lake,  has been troubled by delays and money issues.   Approximatly two-thirds of the budget came from city and state funds. The new facility replaces the Kate Wollman Memorial Rink which opened in 1961.

The financial windfall predicted for the Prospect Park Alliance is coming to fruition. Under a new deal the Prospect Park Alliance will run the complex under  a licence agreement with the city.   The Alliance will be required to pay the City of New York nothing for the first year and just $ 100, 000 annually beginning the second year according to the terms of the sole source concession agreement the city "negotiated"  with the influential group.  The Parks Department is now trying to claim the Alliance will receive the same amount of revenue from the Lakeside facility as they did with Wollman Rink in the early years - whatever that means. 

Parks sources have identified a December 21st opening date.  The rink will be open for limited hours during the week  Monday - Thursday - in order to maximixe revenue and reduce costs.   The deal goes before the mayoral controlled Franchise and Concession Review Committee on Tuesday,  November 12th.  


By Geoffrey Croft

Call it a parting gift from the Mayor.  The Bloomberg Administration is getting ready to award a sweet-heart sole source deal to the Prospect Park Alliance to run the $74 million Lakeside Center project.

The Alliance will be required to pay the City of New York nothing for the first year and just $ 100,  000 beginning the second year of  a  seventeen year deal  according to the license agreement obtained by NYC Park Advocates.   

The annual fee to the city increases by  just a thousand dollars a year over the life of  the deal  culminating with $ 116,  097 in the year 2030.

The lucrative license agreement -  potentially worth tens of millions of dollars over the life of the agreement - seeks to reward the public/private partnership handsomely for raising $ 19 million of the Lakeside Center's $ 74 million dollar budget, while also 

requiring  the group to continue to raise private money for the general operation of the public park which they have done for years.

Approval for years 3 through 17 are continent upon the Alliance renewing it's maintenance & operation agreement for the park which expires in July 2015. 

The indoor rink's newly installed dasher boards under the dark blue painted ceiling, "incised with a constellation of big silvery curlicues, like giant skate marks," -  frame the dance floor and cocktail area for The Prospect Park Alliance's Lakeside Ball gala held on Saturday night.  Tickets for the event began at $ 425 and went up to $ 50,000 for a table of ten. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click in images to enlarge

The city "negotiated" the sole source concession agreement with Prospect Park Alliance to operate and maintain the Prospect Park Lakeside Center including two skate rinks (one covered and one open) during the winter, a roller rink during the summer, a café with three adjacent private event rooms, boat rentals and  bicycle rentals. 

The agreement also allows the group to operate mobile push carts in the park near the facility. 

The City has also forgone the standard  "vs. a percentage of gross receipts, whichever is higher" language  found in Parks Department revenue licensing contracts. 

The flat rate locks in a low return to the city regardless of revenue generated from the facility. 

The City is also paying all utility costs - electricity,  water,  gas,  heat and sewer costs and coolant associated with the operation of the 26, 000 sq. ft. ice center.  (Operators of the Cafe however will be responsible for electrical and gas costs.)  

In other unusual provision in the agreement, if gross receipts exceed seven million dollars annually the City and the Alliance,
"to confer in good faith,"  agree to discuss whether or not the Alliance should pay for utility costs. 

The Alliance is expected to make out handsomely in the new deal  as revenue at Lakeside are expected to dwarf the former Wollman Rink's deteriorated single rink ice facility earnings. 

The city received more than 45 percent of the rink revenue during Wollman's last year of operation.   In 2010,  Wollman generated $512, 000 in revenues with $232, 000 from entrance fees heading back to the city’s general fund and the remaining $280, 000 from other concessions going to the Alliance for park maintenance. Under the new plan,  the Alliance would collect all the revenues and give the city back a small flat and keep the rest ostensibly  towards maintaining the park.

The Prospect Park Alliance refused to respond to several requests seeking comment including providing Lakeside revenue projections.

By comparison in Central Park Donald Trump operates two popular ice rinks that raised $6.6 million in revenues in 2011. The city got back $2.2 million for its general fund,  which pays the expenses for city services.

The rink will be open limited hours during the week  Monday - Thursday - just twenty hours - in order to maximize revenue and reduce costs.    The rinks will be open for 26 hours on the weekends. 

The project has been plagued by cost overruns, delays and a loss of funding. 

The facility is expected to open a few days before Christmas. Parks sources have identified a December 21st opening  date. 

The deal goes before the mayoral controlled Franchise and Concession Review Committee on Tuesday,  November 12th.

Bloomberg family friend Elizabeth "Betsy" Smith - head of revenue and marketing for the Parks Department will sign the deal for the City,  along with Prospect Park Alliance head, Emily Lloyd.  

The Parks Department also refused to reveal projected revenue for the Alliance and instead dumped a statement meant to deceive and without providing any information.   

"After paying the fee to the City per the concession agreement, we expect the Prospect Park Alliance will receive the same amount of revenue from the Lakeside facility as they did with Wollman Rink in the early years. All revenue generated from Lakeside and the operator will be used to support park programming and maintenance," the agency said.

Each year  the City's elected officials allocate a fraction of the funds desperately needed to properly maintain, operate, secure, and program our  public parks.

The city continues to try and abdicate its responsibilities by entering in these so called public/private agreements that officials are not only allowing but actively encouraging.  They are increasingly resorting to these pay-to-play funding schemes.   

These deals hand over enormous power and decision making authority to these groups with little transparency and accountability on what is supposed to be public land.

Influential park groups are increasing relying on revenues generated from parkland being diverted from the City's general fund into their coffers. 

Abraham Lincoln admiring the new view. The $ 74 Million dollars includes the restoration of the long-neglected shoreline, esplanade and Concert Grove. New walking and jogging paths, picnic areas, lawns and a boat dock. It also recreates Music Island, now as a nature preserve, with bald cypress, duck potato and other native trees and plants.

Abraham Lincoln holds the Emancipation Proclamation in Henry Kirke Brown's beloved statue.  Mr. Lincoln points to the words “shall be forever free.”    In 1895 the sculpture was moved from its original location - in the elliptical plaza adjoining Prospect Park, today known as Grand Army Plaza - to its current location.  For the last 50 years, the statue had faced a chain-link fence near the old Wollman Rink.

Recent financial decisions by the Prospect Park Alliance involving the privatizing of public land park for commercial uses have come under intense public scrutiny. The Alliance made peanuts from the controversial GoogaMooga booze event which destroyed parkland for two consecutive years and prevented the public being able to access dozens of acres of parkland for months. The City recently caved in and decided not to allow the event to return to the park after two years of public outcry.

The City's decision to allow the Alliance to privatize the beloved Boathouse  - the Audubon Center education center on weekends has also outraged local residents.  The group pocketed $ 200,000 in just a few months this year from renting out the historic building which prohibits public access. 

Tickets  for the Prospect Park Alliance Ball,  the non-profit's high-priced gala held on Saturday night,  began at $ 425 and went up to  
$ 50,000 for a table of ten.

Other Details include:

Ice Rink Admissions prices for are set for  $ 6.00 on weekdays, $ 8.00 on weekends and holidays, and ice skate rental is $ 5.00 at all times. 

Beginning next year the rink will be required to be open no later than November 30th.

Minimum Public Hours of Operation - Ice Skaking

Friday - 3pm to - 9pm
Saturday - 10am- 10pm
Sunday - 10am - 6pm

Addtionally another 20 hours per week shall be provided Monday - Thursday on one and or/other of the two rinks. 

The  $ 54 million dollar project also includes  the restoration of 26 acres of the Prospect Park Lake area area including its shoreline, adding five acres to the Lake and three acres of green space in the area. 

The Waterplay feature will be open from Memorial Day though Labor Day daily from 10am, to sunset.

The 54 page License agreement also contains three pages of Vending Machines Standards

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - May 18, 2012

New York Post - November 10, 2013 - By Rich Calder

New York Daily News - November 10,  2013 -    By Reuven Blau

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