Friday, April 30, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Park Playground "burning orbs of death"

Roofus: Other hazards for kids

for The Brooklyn Paper

Our cartoonist read about the broiling hot metal domes in Brooklyn Bridge Park — and thought of other hazards that park planners might consider. From the Brooklyn Paper.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Young Brothers Robbed In Silver Lake Park

Staten Island

A teen thug robbed two young brothers in Silver Lake Park, cops said yesterday, according to the New York Post.

Kevin Borrome, 18, and an accomplice accosted the boys at Victory Boulevard and Theresa Place at 8 p.m. on April 18, cops said.

Borrome allegedly yelled, "Give us your bike!" punched the 12-year-old boy in the face, and stole his bicycle, cellphone and $10, cops said.

Borrome's cronies then assaulted the 13-year-old brother and swiped his cellphone, bicycle and cash, cops said.

The punks fled, but the victims identified Borrome from a police photo array, leading to his arrest Tuesday on charges of robbery and grand larceny. His cohorts are still at large.

Read More:

By Matthew Nestel, Jamie Schram and Kirsten Fleming  

Parks Department Abruptly Cancels Central Park Tennis Bubble Plan

Rendering:  Irving Polsky, P. E.  Courtesy NYC Park Advocates/LANDMARK West!

Central Park is a National Historic Landmark and New York City’s first Scenic Landmark. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Under mounting pressure, the Parks Department abruptly withdrew its plans yesterday to build four thirty-five foot high tennis bubbles in Central Park. The diesel powered tennis bubbles would have covered 26 tennis courts located between 93rd and 95th streets on the West side of the park for five months of the year. Additional time would have also be required for set up and break down, thereby cutting into existing outdoor use.

Critics cited high playing fees, the destruction of a scenic landmark, environmental concerns including noise and pollution, and the privatization of public parkland among other reasons for opposing this plan.  The bubble structure would have transformed and negatively altered the visual enjoyment that the public has enjoyed for more than 70 years.  Admission would have cost up to $100 per hour according to the Parks Department. Currently the cost to play tennis for the entire season is $100. The proposed contract would have been for 15 years. 

The 35 foot high bubbles would have also cast shadows on the year-round hard courts for much of the day, making these courts dreary and cold.  More than thirteen hundred people signed an online petition in a few weeks.

Another point of contention was the lack community-based planning and consultation, a recurrent theme in this administration.  The RFP had been released and the concessionaire had already been chosen before Community Board 7 had held a meeting on the issue. This while the Parks department was still maintaining that no decisions had been made.  The City could have saved hundreds of employee hours - including lawyers and revenue personnel - who have worked to put this concession together if they had come to the community first in order to gauge interest.  

Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito,  chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee, held a hearing on park concessions 
on Tuesday where the issue of transparency and community consultation was raised repeatedly.  

Late Wednesday afternoon, four New York State Senators – Liz Krueger, Tom Duane, Eric Schneiderman and Jose Serrano – sent a letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe voicing their strong opposition to the plan. 

"We do not believe that construction of tennis bubbles is appropriate for Central Park," the letter stated.  "We urge you to reconsider this proposal, which has the potential to impact the natural beauty of the park and its environment, and to further privatize public parks space in a way which excludes large portions of our community,"

“Central Park is one of our city’s truly special places—an open, democratic, green oasis in the dense heart of the metropolis," Kate Wood, Executive Director LANDMARK WEST! said in a statement. "Thanks to all of the New Yorkers who spoke up in support of keeping it bubble-free!”

"We are delighted the City made the right decision and called this off," said Geoffrey Croft, president NYC Park Advocates.   "We wish to thank all those who came together so quickly to help defeat this plan. The City must begin to include communities in land use decisions – before decisions are made."

"Community input, community dialogue, community planning –that's what this whole debate was about," said Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito. "If the Department of Parks had just given the larger community the respect it merited then this very public showdown could have been avoided. In the end, I thank Parks for conceding to what we all knew to be true--that these intrusive and enviromentally unfriendly bubbles within the heart of this cherished oasis would have defaced this historic landmark."‬

On April 15, Community Board 8  on the East side voted to take "No Position"  on the Central Park issue.  The Community Board heard passionate testimony against allowing this plan to go forward.  

On the Brain Lerher show the day before, Parks Commissioner said that Community Board 8  "has initially supported" the plan. According to the Community Board resolution adopted in February 2009 they had voted on "a concept."  Even though the board never heard a formal presentation from the Parks Department and knew very few details, that didn't stop the City from attempting to represent that the City had support. 

"Now they can't wave that they have our approval, " a community board member said after the meeting. "We've learned a lot since February 2009."

The Parks Department had even gone before Board 8 located on the East-side, a year before coming before CB 7 located on the West-side, which is much closer to the proposed tennis bubble site. 

This is the second tennis bubble plan that the Parks Department has been forced to abruptly cancel under strong community opposition in recent weeks.  On April 15, the Parks Department announced it was canceling a plan to extend an existing tennis concession to twelve months a year located at the Queensbridge Oval in Manhattan. This would have taken away the usage of a popular ballfield under the 59th St Bridge in a community that has the least amount of park and open space in the entire city. The agreement would have displaced hundreds of children and community residents in order to accommodate a pay-to-play concessionaire who charges the highest rates (up to $180 an hour!) of any tennis facility on city parkland.  The local community board had its first meeting about this issue three months AFTER the contract had been signed with the concessionaire. 

The amount of commercial activity and events has exploded on city parkland. The  City is increasingly relying on these revenue deals to help make up cuts in the city's general budget by turning our public parks into cash cows.  The revenue division at the parks department is now in charge of over $110 million in revenue from concessions and lease agreements for parks. 

A special thanks to all the folks at LANDMARK WEST! including Arlene Simon, Kate Wood and Cristiana Peña; The Sierra Club; elected officials including, Liz Krueger, Tom Duane, Eric Schneiderman and Jose Serrano, Council-member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Community Board 7 Chair, Mel Wymore; Moisha Blechman, Margaret Doyle, the tennis players, and many more!!  

Landmark West - April 30, 2010

Winter tennis in Central Park nixed
New York Post - April 29, 2010 - By Rich Calder

City Lets the Air Out of Tennis Bubble Plan

Wall Street Journal -  April 29, 2010 - By  Craig Karmin

Our Town -  By Dan Rivoli  -  April 29, 2010 

Landmark West - April 28, 2010 - Cristiana P.

Stop the Central Park Tennis Bubbles!!

Help Protect Central Park - A National Historic Landmark and New York City’s first Scenic Landmark - From Commercial Encroachment!

In an effort to generate additional revenue for the City, The City of New York/Parks and Recreation is proposing building four - 35-foot high, diesel powered tennis bubbles covering 26 tennis courts in Central Park for 5 months of the year. Additional time would also be required each Fall to erect the bubbles, and to remove  them in the Spring which would would cut into existing outdoor use.  The proposed contract would be for 15 years. This is a for profit venture by the City and a private company. The bubble structure will transform and negatively alter the visual enjoyment that the public has enjoyed for more than 70 years.

• Admission will cost up to $100 per hour according to the Parks Department. Currently the cost to play tennis for the entire season is $100. The hefty price tag to play undermines the "democratic character" of the park. Help prevent the City from turning Central Park into a Cash Cow. 

•  At dusk, and through the night, each bubble would glow from the interior lighting. It would be a new visible intrusion for people living in the surrounding buildings.  Generators would run on diesel fuel stored in four tanks; each tank holds 2,300 gallons. Noise from the generator is classified at 65 decibels at a distance of 50 feet from the generator. It would be heard by anyone walking or sitting nearby at all times during the 5 months of operation. This is a unnecessary source of emissions and would impinge on the Park's value as a soothing refuge and a contrast to the built city environment. The bubble would one of the largest "non-historic" structures in the park. This is inappropriate to the landmark design and setting of the park.

•  The 35 foot high bubble will cast shadows on the year-round hard courts for much of the day, making these courts dreary and cold.  Noise from the generator will also be detrimental for the players and visitors alike.  

•  Tennis bubbles have a capacity of 1,000 people per week which means an additional 4,000 people coming into this area. The parks department anticipates the use of golf carts, or shuttle vehicles to accommodate the increased crowd.

All these changes together will have a significant impact on existing park uses.  

It is clear that the erection and operation of the bubbles could cause significant light pollution, noise pollution, CO2 pollution, park wildlife habitat destruction and the dissolution of scenic/aesthetic values over a much greater area than the footprint of the bubble itself. 

Even though Community Board 7's first public meeting to review the proposal was held on March 7, 2010,  the Parks Department said they had already chosen a concessionaire and was currently in negotiations. 

Neither the Department of Parks and Recreation, nor the Central Park Conservancy, appear to be interested in understanding the true impact of the bubble proposal since there are no plans for either an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Please sign the petition:  Please spread the word!

For more information - Please contact - Geoffrey Croft - NYC Park Advocates
(212) 987-0565  Email:

Our parks should not be used as cash cows. 

“The glory of Central Park is having developed a culture of recreation that in no way impinges on the Park's value as a soothing refuge and a contrast to the built city environment. In all seasons people can walk, run, bike, skate board, relax. All of these recreational activities are free to all citizens and all of them take place sympathetically with wildlife and the planted beauty of the Park."  - Sierra Club Resolution 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Markowitz's Land Grab - $64-Million Amphitheater Plan Mocks Democracy


Courier-Life Editorial


Community Board 13, half of whose members are appointed by Markowitz, has refused to take a position, even as hundreds of neighbors of Asser Levy Park have protested repeatedly.

The main issues are clear: Markowitz’s glitzy amphitheater would absorb nearly all of the grass recreation area inside the park, replacing it with a concrete seating area and a raised lawn that is off limits to soccer or football players.

In addition, neighbors worry that amplified music will create a disturbance — especially on weekends when two area synagogues are filled.

Make no mistake, if city planners were forced to listen to every little complaint, nothing would ever get built in this polyglot town.

But we believe that the opponents have good reason for objecting to Markowitz’s legacy project.

Face it: There is no question that Markowitz is dumping this amphitheater in Asser Levy Park without a full vetting. The project is not undergoing the city’s normal public review process, and the Parks Department will select an operator without public discussion.

Read More:  

Borough President Markowitz's $64-million amphitheater plan mocks democracy.
Courier-Life - April 28, 2010 

'I Don't Like Parks' - Brooklyn Parks Commissioner

“Now I spend most of my time lobbying politicians for money,” he says. “I go and beg for money. That’s my job.”   -  Julius Spiegel

No wonder borough commissioner Julius Spiegel (center) didn't like working in parks! (The Brooklyn Paper / Sarah Portlock


He’s been Brooklyn’s park czar for almost 30 years, but outgoing Commissioner Julius Spiegel says he can’t identify trees, doesn’t know plants and has never really been all that interested in parks, according to The Brooklyn Paper.

“I’m not a nature guy,” said Spiegel, who announced his retirement from the Parks Department this week and will be stepping down in September. “I think of myself as a manager. I have a good eye for talent.”

Spiegel was appointed Brooklyn Borough Commissioner — the first and only person to occupy the post — 29 years ago when he was 34-years-old.

But he won’t be spending his golden years relaxing in the parks he oversaw.

“I don’t know how much I’m going to use them,” Spiegel said. “I never did — I’d see too many things that pissed me off.”

During his reign, Spiegel, who earns $146,322 a year, oversaw the slashing of park staff in Brooklyn by more than 70 percent, going from 1,000 full-time employees to fewer than 300. But Spiegel doesn’t feel too bad about it — he says staff during the Ed Koch era spent most of their time goofing off.

“Back then guys didn’t work full days,” he says. “I have fired people in my day. You don’t relish it. I don’t expect 10-hour days — just don’t give me two-hour days.”

Spiegel might have come to the Parks Department as a numbers cruncher, but today he says he absolutely “can’t stand doing that kind of stuff.”

“Now I spend most of my time lobbying politicians for money,” he says. “I go and beg for money. That’s my job.”

Read More: 

The Brooklyn Paper  - April 27,  2010  - By Joe Maniscalco

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Additional Car Free Space Coming To Union Square Park North

Union Square the Next Place to Go Car-Free in Pedestrian Plaza Proposal

Looking west along 17th Street near Union Square's north end, which the city has proposed converting to a pedestrian mall with restricted car traffic. (Getty Images)


Union Square may be Manhattan’s next pedestrian-friendly crossroads to see beach chairs replace BMWs under a new plan to create a car-free plaza off the square, according to DNAinfo.

The city planned to unveil a plan Monday that would eliminate most vehicular traffic near the northern end of the bustling downtown park and pavilion, replacing cars with walkable pedestrian malls similar to those in Times Square and Herald Square.

The proposal would limit through traffic on two blocks north of Union Square — E. 17th Street from Broadway to Park Avenue, and Broadway from E. 18th to E. 17th streets — and install street furniture on the retail-rich stretches, reports stated.

Vehicles heading south down Broadway would be forced to make a left turn at 18th Street, though a single lane would remain open for cars seeking to loop around from 18th Street, the New York Times reported.

A lone lane on 17th Street would also stay open for westbound traffic, and the plan includes dedicated space for bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.

The Times said the project could be completed as early as Labor Day.

"We are extremely pleased that the Department of Transportation has taken a hard look at the pedestrian and traffic congestion issues in the area, and proposed improvements that incorporate all of our areas of concern," said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, the area business improvement district.

"We look forward to hearing feedback as the agency continues with its outreach to the various stakeholders in the area."

Advocates for the use of Union Square as a public space said they would support the project as long it remains free of commercial interests.

“The more open space, the better,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, which staunchly opposed the Partnership’s plan to develop a restaurant on Union Square’s north end. “But we just have to make sure that the motives are pure.”

Croft explained that a similar attempt to restrict traffic on the same blocks more than two decades ago failed when local business owners came out against the plan because of the possible impact it would have had on retail operations.

Read More: 

DNAinfo - April 26, 2010 - By Patrick Hedlund

New York Times - April 23, 2010 - By Michael M. Grynbaum 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Drinking Water Coming To Governors Island


Kai SimonsenH 2 WOE: The city is launching a $4.5 million project to route drinking water to Governors Island.

There's water, water everywhere you look out from scenic Governors Island -- just not a drop to drink when you get there.

And that's a drought the Bloomberg administration hopes to end soon, since it wants to turn the former military base into a world-class tourist destination.

Officials overseeing the 172-acre, long-dormant jewel in New York Harbor say they're planning to launch a $4.5 million project they hope will provide the island with its own drinkable-water system, according to the New York Post.

The goal, they said, is to reline and restore a water main, running under the Buttermilk Channel from Brooklyn, that hasn't been used since the 1950s. A yet-to-be-chosen infrastructure contractor would use divers for the job.

Robert Pirani, executive director of the civic group Governors Island Alliance, said the project was crucial to the island's realizing its full potential and praised the mayor for stepping up.

"Like any other part of the city, you should be able to get free drinking water on Governors Island," he said.

Read More:

New York Post -   April 26,  2010 - By Rich Calder

Friday, April 23, 2010

Plaza Next at Union Square Park


First the city repurposed Times Square, converting some of its streets to a pedestrian promenade. Similar plans are in store for 34th Street by the Empire State Building.

Now Union Square could become the latest Manhattan landmark to gain a pedestrian plaza, the open-air concrete park that is quickly becoming the Bloomberg administration’s signature contribution to the streets of New York, according to the New York Times.

Almost all traffic would be banned from the block of Broadway north of Union Square, between 17th and 18th Streets, under a proposal under consideration by the city’s Transportation Department.

Tables and chairs could be installed on the block, which would be open to pedestrians and bicycles in a design similar to the plazas now seen in Times and Herald Squares. A pedestrian plaza would also be installed on East 17th Street, which runs along the north side of Union Square, replacing a lane of traffic.

Read More:

Plan Gives Pedestrians a Plaza at Union Square
New York Times - April 23, 2010 - By Michael M. Grynbaum 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

City Hall Banner Drop Protesting Bloomberg's Tropical Hardwood Policy

Tim Doody (l), 36 and Tim Keating, 50, of the group Rainforests of New York, climb flagpoles in City Hall Park to criticizing Mayor Bloombergor using endangered Amazon wood to build park benches.
A day before Earth Day's 40th anniversary,Tim Doody (l), 36 and Tim Keating, 50, of the group Rainforests of New York, climb flagpoles in City Hall Park to criticizing Mayor Bloomberg's use of endangered tropical hardwood for city projects including park benches.

Two protestors scaled flagpoles in City Hall Park yesterday to hang a banner demanding that the city stop using tropical hardwood for park benches and other projects, according to the New York Daily News. 

Tim Doody, 36, and Tim Keating, 50, drew a crowd as they hung their 150-square-foot banner from two poles at the south end of the park at 12:30 p.m.

"If Bloomberg Is So Green, Why Is NYC America's #1 Consumer of Rainforest Wood?" the sign read.

The protest, organized by Rainforest Relief and the New York Climate Action Group, aimed at pressuring the city to speed up its 20-year plan to end use of tropical wood.

"This is basic engineering. It's not rocket science," Doody said from his flagpole perch. "We don't need two decades. We can do better."

The group says the city could stop using rainforest wood for subway ties, boardwalks and benches in just two years. Organizer Steven Prestianni said City Hall has failed to do anything.

"The response is always: 'We're working on it,'" said Prestianni. "By the time their plan is finished, there won't be any tropical trees left."

Union Square is a sea of humanity on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, shutting down car traffic at noon.
Union Square is a sea of humanity on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, shutting down car traffic at noon.

Read More:

New York Daily News - April 22, 2010 - By Wil Cruz

Brooklyn Residents Protest Concert Promoters' Tour Of Park