Saturday, July 31, 2010

Riverside Park Rapist A "Terror" - DA

Hugues-Denver Akassy


The man arrested for raping a Russian tourist in Riverside Park is a French-born TV reporter charged with terrorizing women on the Upper West Side for at least a year and a half, authorities said yesterday, according to the New York Post.

Hugues-Denver Akassy allegedly struck three times since March 2009, tormenting his victims on the street, via e-mail, and even climbing a fire escape to one woman’s apartment.

His reign of terror came to a terrifying end Tuesday night when he was busted for allegedly raping the tourist — by far his most serious charge — after arranging to meet her in the park for a “picnic.”

Akassy is being held on $100,000 bail.

His Web site claims he’s a Paris-raised, award-winning journalist for Orbite TV, a French cable show that did profiles of everyone from Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton, to Angelina Jolie, Bono and Andre Agassi.

Aside from the rape charge, Akassy faces a litany of aggravated-harassment and criminal-trespass counts for alleged prior misdeeds, including one that occurred the same day he met the Russian tourist.

They include:

A charge of aggravated harassment in March 2009 when he chased a 33-year-old woman on an Upper West Side street and yelled at her after she spurned his advances.

Read More:

New York Post - July 31, 2010 -  By Jamie Schram and Laura Italiano 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Woman Raped In Riverside Park


A Russian tourist was raped in Riverside Park after being lured there for a picnic by her charming attacker, police sources said yesterday, according to the New York Post.

The suspect, Hugues Akassy, 42, of Washington, DC, was arrested shortly after his 43-year-old victim fled the park following the Tuesday attack and called 911.

Akassy has been charged with rape and sexual abuse.

Read More:

New York Post -  July 30, 2010 -  By Jamie Schram

East 72nd St Greenway Collapse

East River Greenway - near 72nd Street.


Reader Seth took this photograph on the East River Greenway bike/pedestrian path near 72nd Street and says, "This path has been falling apart for years and the City has simply fenced off damaged areas instead of repairing them, according to gothamist. "This is one of many dangerous sections of the East Side Greenway that desperately needs to be repaired. Please call 311."

That's mild compared to the quarter-block stretch that completely collapsed more than fifteen years ago at 124th Street in Harlem, just south of the Tri-borough Bridge (nka RFK). A situation the City simply refuses to address.   Sources say when that collapsed it swallowed a  truck which was working on a light pole. 

But for sheer drama the situation at Queensbridge Park - surrounded by the country's largest public housing complex - takes the municipal waterfront discriminatory neglect cake.

More on these issues coming soon.  In the mean time, here are some images.

- Geoffrey Croft

gothamist - July 29, 2010 - By Jen Chung

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC Trees VS NYC Dogs: Piss And Crap War Continue

Someone on 6th Avenue near 14th Street has a very diplomatic, and lovingly crocheted message for dog owners in the area. Though a polite tact, its likely that much stronger salvos will have to be thrownin this notorious battle between civilized people and those with dogs who piss and sh*t all over public property.

Dog owners in New York City, as everyone is aware, continue to take little Bardsley out to defecate all over flowers, tree beds or someone's bicycle. Not so surprising, the only people who think this behavior is acceptable are dog owners, college students and rich people. Cat owners, bird owners, fish owners and people with children do not let them defecate outside all over the street.

It seems inevitable however, that dogs peeing and pooping all over public property will become the next frontier in publicly unacceptable behavior, like smoking or stealing ATMs.

NYC The Blog - July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rats Overrun Collect Pond Park - "Rat Zoo"

A Video capture of rats in Collect Pond Park in lower Manhattan.  


Paolo Mastrangelo posted a video on of numerous rats frolicking around the decrepit parks' planting beds and enormous sinkholes surrounded by metal barriers.   Adding to the embarrassment, the 1 acre park is located a few blocks from City Hall and is surrounded by numerous court houses. The park has long been known as one of the worst in Manhattan. Besides its deplorable condition, it is also famous because for decades the Parks Department has allowed a major portion of the park to be illegally used as a municipal parking lot without the "non-park use" getting State alienation legislation.   The park's long-delayed $ 3.5 million dollar renovation will consist mostly of hardscape including numerious water features.

"Collect Pond Park seems to be returning to its original state of 200 years agowhen it was a garbage and disease infested sinkhole," Paolo Mastrangelo wrote. "The sidewalks are cracked, broken, and sinking into the ground. Numerous benches are missing seating. Large swaths of paving stone inside the park have gone missing, and the landscaping consists mostly of dirt. Rats have created a network of tunnels underneath. The park is used by mainly by homeless and intoxicated peoples in the evening, and working class residents who work in the government buildings nearby during the day. Neither group apparently worthy of a cared for and landscaped park." 

MYFOXNY.COM - A New York City blogger recorded footage of rats overrunning a Manhattan park to the point where he jokingly renamed it Rat Zoo.

Paolo Mastrangelo recorded dozens of rats on the sidewalks, bushes and cracks in the ground.

He wrote on that an NYPD officer expressed resigned anger at the rats overrunning the park. "Look at that thing," he exclaimed, pointing and shaking his head in disgust, "it's as big as a cat!"

The park is located on Leonard Street between Lafayette and Centre Streets near the courts complex.

The Park has long been known as one of the worst parks in Manhattan.  



Read/View More:

My Fox NY - July 28, 2010 - BY Luke Funk

New York Times - City Room Blog -  July 28, 2010 - By J. David Goodman

Community Gardens Threatened Under Proposed NYC Rules - Push To Preserve All Gardens

More Gardens, Less Asthma - August 16, 2000. A young girl walks down E. 137th Street in the South Bronx, the asthma capital of America.  Photo: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates (Click image to enlarge)

New rules written by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development omits language that guarantees the protection of gardens preserved by the existing 2002 Spitzer agreement.  Since that agreement, over 130 gardens have been bulldozed (over 250 gardens have been destroyed since 1998) and 20 gardens are in imminent danger of development, according to garden activists. With the agreement set to expire on September 17, community garden, open space, public health activists are pushing to preserve all gardens. Currently, only 282 gardens are protected under the Parks Department. A public hearing on the proposed rules is being held on August 10, at the Chelsea Recreation Center in Manhattan and a number of events are being planned.  

Hearing: August 10, 2010, 11 a.m. Proposed Garden Rules Public Hearing
Chelsea Recreation Center, 430 West 25th Street, Manhattan,10001 (between 9 and 10 ave) To testify at the hearing, notify Associate Counsel, Ms. Laura LaVelle via telephone at 212-360-1335 or email at by August 9.


By Geoffrey Croft

According to garden activists the City has not complied with a number of stipulations contained in the original settlement agreement, these include: 

1. 198 gardens be preserved by offering them to parks or land trusts 2. A SEQRA review be performed. 3. All gardens subject to development go through Garden Review and ULURP. As the terms of this agreement stands, even after Sept. 17, 2010 the proposed rules would violate the terms of the agreement.

Critics also point out the new rules offer the option of alternate sites when the City is aware that there are few, if any, alternate sites available. They contend this language is inaccurate and misleading. 
They point out that Attorney General Spitzer's suit made it clear that not only was the City violating SEQRA by changing their policy of creating gardens and supporting Greenthumb, but that many of the gardens qualified as Dedicated Parkland under the law of Implied Dedication. The proposed rule would ignore the gardens parkland status, the contend.

Critics also contend that the lawsuit made it clear that community gardens were not standing in the way of affordable housing, as few, if any units of affordable housing have been created as a result, and there are numerous other avenues for the City to do so including renovating abandoned buildings city wide.

"This is worse than what (Rudy) Giuliani tried to do ten years ago," said Harry Bubbins, a veteran of the community garden movement and founder of Friends of Brook Park in the South Bronx.

 "The garden movement was undercut then by private organizations that bought over a hundred gardens. Although the auction was stopped the rest of the gardens remained vulnerable as many of us pointed out at the time.  Only a law that fully protects them will ensure that the gardens which our communities desperately need will be preserved."

Community Board 3.

Last night Manhattan CB 3's  Parks, Recreation, Cultural Affairs, Landmarks, & Waterfront Committee voted unanimously to update and amend their District Needs Statement.  The statement Included strong support to protect its community gardens, and pointed out the lack of open space in the community. 

"Community Board 3, like most districts in the City, does not meet the City Planning Commission's guidelines for per capita open space. The open space/population ratio is approximately 0.7 acres per 1000 people. By comparison, the Governor's Open Space Report recommended 2.5 acres per 1000, and New York City averages 1.5 acres. The open space that we do have is not evenly distributed throughout the district. The area west of Avenue A and the Chinatown area lack adequate open space. 


A few community gardens have been transferred to the Parks Department, but at the same time, the fate of many others is still uncertain. For sites not being transferred to the Parks Department, the City should consider transferring them to local community organizations that can maintain the locations as permanent open community space. Once open space is lost to development, it is very unlikely that it will ever be replaced." 


The community board also issued a strong statement regarding the lack of park maintenance and the need for increased spending:

"It is one thing to have land set aside as a park, but our parks also need constant maintenance by trained DPR professionals. The number of park workers is at a 30-year low and funding for park maintenance is equally scarce. Many of the parks in our district have suffered from years of neglect and deferred maintenance, and now are experiencing increasing levels of usage. Increasing the number of full time, permanent park workers and staffed playgrounds will allow for fuller use of our parks and play areas." 

Press Release: For Immediate Release 


“Green Means Gardens: Preserve., Preserve, Preserve.”
Time’s Up! Statement on New Garden Rules
Benjamin Shepard – 917 586-7952
Bill DiPaolo – 917-577-5621


With the new Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Housing Preservation and Development rules the city has taken a huge step backward. Community gardens in New York have thrived since the 2002 Spitzer Agreement which preserved these precious green spaces (“2002 Preservation Agreement”).  Yet, with the Preservation Agreement expiring on September 17, 2010, the city appears to have abandoned its efforts to preserve green spaces.  With the new rules, all the gardens may now be legally transferred for development, rather than preserved.


The benefits of gardens are many.  “Community gardening is a way to fight the systemic injustice of poverty and other forms of structural oppression.  Most of the gardens are in poor areas of the city, with much higher rates of asthma and lower rates of open space equity.  From an indigenous/community perspective, gardens offer a way for our community to heal itself and to recover a humanizing sense of itself - its dignity - in an otherwise very hard city," explained Friends of Brook Park gardener Ray Figueroa.   For New Yorkers of all walks of life, the gardens provide much needed green space (particularly in low-income communities of color). 


“Don’t destroy our gardens.  Don’t destroy our communities,” declared long time Lower East Side activist Paul Bartlett.   “Gardens helps us connect with both the earth and our communities, in ways which parking lots, coffee shops, and other urban spaces fail to.” 


“In the midst of a fiscal crisis, the city could only dream of having such unique spaces which help the city so much, yet cost so little,” explained Benjamin Shepard. “Gardens help stabilize communities and reduce crime.  They are also places where people of all walks of life come together.  They are places of education about the environment and the city, as well as the world ecology.  These are precious public spaces, which should not be privatized.”


“This is the hottest summer on record,” explained Lower East Side gardener JK Canepa.  “Community gardens help cool Manhattan.  If you allow the gardens to be turned into concrete spaces, the city only gets hotter.”  After all, gardens promote health and the reduction of heat throughout the five boroughs. 


Sharon S., a community gardener in East New York, said he wants to ask the mayor, "What kind of green are you preserving? In Plan 2030, you say you want this to be a green city. Being a green city does not mean catering to developers. To be truly green, Mr. Mayor, we need you to expand green space in every neighborhood, not just the wealthy ones. Community gardens are the only open green spaces that many low income neighborhoods have. Yet you're replacing the good 2002 Preservation Agreement with rules that will bulldoze gardens one by one."


“In a time of fiscal crisis when New Yorkers have seen reduction in services and increases in costs across the board, why cut something people love and that costs the city almost nothing?” asked Lower East Side environmental activist Bill DiPaulo. 


“Most other cities consider the gardens something to cherish.  This is an opportunity for Bloomberg to demonstrate he appreciates green space is a resource for global cooling and community development,” explained Times Up! Director Bill DiPaulo.  “Why should the mayor sell this space off to developers when there is such an opportunity to create a different kind of green, more forward leaning New York?  Making gardens permanent could be Bloomberg’s legacy.”


In the end, those involved with Times Up! and the garden movement urge the city to reject these rules and makes a final commitment to a green city by making all the gardens permanent once and for all. The group plans to organize to defend these precious spaces using a wide range of means, from legal advocacy to direct action.  The group plans to stage a “Paul Revere” Group Bike Ride to the gardens next week to sound the alarm that the gardens are in danger.  

Baltic Street Community Garden
July 2008 - The Baltic Street Community Garden in Park Slope. The 30-year-old community garden, located in Councilman David Yassky's district, was destroyed in 2009 by the NYC Department of Education.  
Read More:

Cyclists' advocacy group Times Up! plans to protest outside Mayor Bloomberg's townhouse    New York Daily News - July 29, 2010 - By  Simone Weichselbaum

Paul Revere,  Rat Zoos and the GTL Index

New York Times - City Room Blog  -  July 28, 2010 - By J. David Goodman

Flatbush  Gardener - July 27, 2010

A Walk In The Park - July 6, 2010

A Walk In the Park - April 19, 2010 - By Jennifer Riveraton

Warren /St. Marks Community Garden

New York Daily News -  May 23 1999 - By David Lefer

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Markowitz's Concerts Are Too Loud

Asser Levy /Seaside Park - July 15, 2010.  Borough President Markowitz’s summer concert series in Asser Levy Park appears to be in violation of a new city law hastily passed last month.
(photo: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates. Click on image to enlarge.) 


Borough President Markowitz’s summer concert series in Asser Levy Park appears to be in violation of a new city law hastily passed last month to allow the performances as long as noise spillover from the band shell does not exceed 10 decibels above typical ambient sound, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

At Thursday night’s Beach Boys-Monkees-Turtles concert, readings taken by this newspaper on a sound meter showed sound levels as high as 30 decibels above the norm, especially during the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

And this week’s concert, plus last week’s quieter Neil Sedaka show, are nothing compared to the act that was scheduled to perform on July 29:George Thorogood and the Destroyers — a band notorious for blowing out eardrums with speakers that go up to 11.

The noise levels emanating from the Asser Levy Park band shell are crucial given the law signed by Mayor Bloomberg that amended city law to allow amplified music within 500 feet of a school or house of worship as long as the noise did not exceed 10 decibels above normal street levels.

Read More:

News Survey: Marty’s concerts are too noisy!
The Brooklyn Paper - July 23, 2010 -  By Stephen Brown

Community Fights to Reopen Forest Park Carousel

A beloved century-old carousel in Woodhaven's Forest Park is shuttered and the community is working hard to open its gates before summer's end.(Image: NY1 VIDEO)


The historic Forest Park Carousel, shuttered for over a year, may spin again this summer, according to the New York Daily News.

The city Parks Department said it is in negotiations with a new concessionaire to operate the carousel, a hand-carved treasure that dates back to the early 1900s.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who has been pushing Parks officials to find a new vendor, said it is slated to reopen by mid-July.

The carousel fell silent after the previous vendor, New York One LLC, let its contract expire last year. Civic leaders complained that the company allowed the carousel and the surrounding grounds to deteriorate.

Earlier this year, the Parks Department dismissed New York One as the vendor of the Central Park Carousel for failing to maintain and clean that famous attraction.

Local residents are hoping a new vendor will return the Forest Park Carousel to its former glory.

"I hope they are really vetting them well because we don't want another vendor coming in and abusing the area," said Maria Thomson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. "It should be a destination and a place where people can go and enjoy the park."

The carousel was crafted by Daniel Carl Muller, considered by experts to be a master woodcarver of the genre. It's one of two Muller carousels still in operation. The other is in Ohio.

"It's priceless," said Patrick Wentzel, who keeps a census of carousels for the National Carousel Association. "The carvings are exquisite. They are so lifelike."

The carousel was brought to Forest Park from Massachusetts in the early 1970s to replace one that burned down nearly 10 years earlier.

The beloved carousel in forrest Park Queens has been closed for three years. The metal security gate is closed in the background. (Photo By Manny)

A Facebook page has been created to help save the carousel.

Read/View More:

Devotees Seek To Reopen Queens Carousel
NY1 - July 17, 2010 - By Shushannah Walshe
New York Daily News - June 7, 2010 - By Lisa L. Colangelo