Monday, February 28, 2011

Tree Abuse Fines Reach $ 123, 000

LEAF IT ALONE! A vandalized Queens tree.
A vandalized Queens tree in front of 47-12-156th St. On December 7th, 2010 Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) issued an ECB summons to resident Jie Lin for permanent tree damage. (Photo:
Helayne Seidman)


City trees are being tortured.

More than 100 tree-haters were busted for arborcide in 2010, and the police have already issued 18 summonses this year, according to city and court records reviewed by The Post.

Incidents include a Christmas-night massacre of six saplings at the Playground of the Americas on Houston Street and a contractor who caused "major tree damage" to five honey locusts on Chambers Street earlier this month.

"Some of this is just outright abuse," said Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates.

Some of the worst and incidents include:

* An emotionally disturbed man with a briefcase who allegedly destroyed multiple trees in the Battery Park City area last November.

* An attack in Juniper Valley Park in Queens, where vandals removed 10 young trees and their 12 stakes last November. The trees and bike path were also sprayed with swastikas and racist graffiti in shaving cream.

* A Queens woman who stripped all the limbs off a grand Norway maple in front of her house on 156th Street last December.

* Vandals who tore up 20 new trees and bushes in the Nelson Avenue playground in The Bronx last October.

* A tree in St. Nicholas Park uptown that was set on fire last September.

A street tree costs the city $1,790 to plant, and tampering with its limbs can kill it, Croft said.

Arboreal abusers were slapped with $123,000 in summonses last year, according to city Environmental Control Board documents.

Read More:

New York Post - February 27, 2011 - By Heather Haden
100 charged with tree abuse in NYC in 2010
The Wall Street Journal Via - AP - February 27, 2011

DNAinfo - February 27, 2011 - By Adam Nichols

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cedar Grove Beach Reopening Delays

Parks told the Advance in September that much of the work was expected to take place between this summer and next, but the latest documents show completion is now expected by 2014.

"[Parks] doesn't have any of their permits, they don't have all their ducks in a row," said Roy Wood, the beach club president whose parents first bought a bungalow there in 1954. "They could have pulled all their permits and let us stay there for another few years. It would have generated income. It's going to be years before anything gets done."

Cedar Grove cottages remain abandoned behind a chain link fence erected by the Parks Department in September. The City's conversion of the bungalow community into a public park appears to be at least three years away. A public scoping meeting is being held on March 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lou Caravone Services Building of Community Board 2 at Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home. The Draft Scope of Work For Great Kills Park/Cedar Grove Beach Rehabilitation EIS, was completed earlier this month. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft'/NYC Park Advocates.) Click on Images to enlarge.

Staten Island

The seaside bungalows at Cedar Grove sit in the sand as if waiting for summer's arrival. But for the first time in nearly a century, there will be no opening dance and no raising of American flags to signal the start of a new season.

There will be a lifeguard and temporary restrooms come Memorial Day and the beach will be open for swimming like the city Parks Department promised when it reclaimed the privately-leased stretch of land at the foot of Ebbits Street in September, according to the Staten Island Advance.

But the transformation of Cedar Grove Beach into a public park -- including demolition of the cottages, construction of a new playground and bike path and upgrades to the parking lot and sports fields initially anticipated by 2012 -- may still be three years away.

That's according to the most extensive plans outlined by Parks so far, and the subject of a public scoping meeting to be held March 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lou Caravone Services Building of Community Board 2 at Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home.

An Environmental Assessment Statement completed earlier this month found there could be the "potential for significant adverse environmental impacts" in the agency's plans to incorporate Cedar Grove's 78 acres into 10.6 miles of "continuous, open public beach" stretching from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Crescent Beach in Great Kills.

Sign of the Times. "Three Fools" A sign placed along the beach in September depicts Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the Three Stooges. The sign reads "Three Fools Who Never Came To See For Themselves.... Now There Goes Our Neighborhood... Thank You, Cedar Grove... For Being Staten Island's Last Paradise All these Years. A Shame it Has To End This Way.

Now, Parks must wait on the outcome of an Environmental Impact Statement before applying for permits from city, state and federal agencies -- but the city comptroller has yet to sign off on its preparation.

Plans also are on hold in accordance with the property's designation by the State Historic Preservation Office as eligible for state and national historic listings.

The delays come as no surprise to those who have summered at Cedar Grove for decades.

"[Parks] doesn't have any of their permits, they don't have all their ducks in a row," said Roy Wood, the beach club president whose parents first bought a bungalow there in 1954. "They could have pulled all their permits and let us stay there for another few years. It would have generated income. It's going to be years before anything gets done."

In its Draft Scope of Work For Great Kills Park/Cedar Grove Beach Rehabilitation EIS, Parks outlines a two-phase plan for the project.

Phase 1 includes the demolition of a majority of the cottages, removal of the foundations and oil tanks and the capping and shutting of utilities. Some of the cottages would be salvaged for concessions, comfort stations and headquarters for lifeguards and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers.

Eleanor Dugan said Parks underestimated what it would take to create a public park at Cedar Grove, especially since the beachfront -- which has always been open to the public -- was maintained by the residents out of their own pockets and at no cost to the taxpayers. They have since sold the sand-sifters and other machinery they used to keep the beach clean.

"The Parks Department came in, they made certain assumptions and they were unrealistic assumptions," said Mrs. Dugan, a West Brighton resident whose family first rented a place at Cedar Grove in 1970 after her husband was discharged from the Navy. "They didn't anticipate the problems in turning this land around."

Cedar Grove, one of dozens of beach colonies that dotted the shoreline during the borough's heyday as a resort community, was condemned and acquired by the city in 1958 when Robert Moses, the city's master builder, envisioned a shore parkway running along the borough's coastline.

When the parkway failed to materialize, the city agreed to lease back the land with the understanding it could take it back whenever it wanted. The decision to reclaim the beach last year when the lease expired pitted elected officials against Parks and raised questions about the agency's ability to finance such a project as the city continued to tighten its belt.

No capital commitments have been made beyond $1.8 million in yearly rental payments kept in an account started by then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern in 1992. That's enough for demolition of all but 12 of the bungalows at a cost of $1.1 million, asbestos abatement at $400,000 and conversion of existing structures at $300,000.

Though the residents boarded up their cottages for the final time in September, they still keep strong ties to their summer-time paradise.

"We will still go on as a community and a group," Mrs. Dugan said, "even if we don't have Cedar Grove."

The adjacent Parks Department maintained New Dorp Beach is filled with debris including remains from an abandoned hospital. By sharp contrast, the pristine Cedar Grove Beach was maintained by the Cedar Grove Beach Club, a century-old community of summer beach front cottages. The bungalows were rented from the city under a concession license with the Parks Department. The agency evicted them in the Fall 2010.

Read More:

Cedar Grove's transformation hits a snag
Staten Island Advance - February 26, 2011 - By Stephanie Slepian

A Walk In The Park - February 19, 2011

February 28, 2011 - By Nathan Kensinger

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NYPD Arrest 16 In Owls Head Park For Gang Related Activity


The NYPD arrested 16 people on February 25 in Owls Head Park for gang related activity, a Walk In The Park has learned. A police source said they were suspected members of the Latin Kings gang. Between 18 - 20 individuals had gathered in the park for a meeting after dusk according to police. Sixteen were arrested for unlawful assembly - "causing fear and public alarm, " and given tickets for disorderly conduct, and violation of a local law relating to being in a park after dusk. The arrests were made at approximately 6:20pm. The ages of those arrested were between 16-19, and two minors. A twenty-year-old Hispanic male was arrested for Inciting to Riot.

Gang activity has been a problem in the park. In June 2010 a Middle Eastern teen was shot and critically wounded by 16-year-old Hispanic. The police believe the incident was gang and racially motivated.

The assailant and two other suspects, also 16, were arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault. The wounded teen was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center, where he was listed in critical yet stable condition after surgery. - Geoffrey Croft

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mayor Signs Extended Smoking Ban For Parks/Beaches

Barbara Fischer, from Staten Island, N.Y., smokes in City Hall Park on Oct. 14, 2010, in New York. The city has banned smoking in public parks, on beaches and in pedestrian plazas.
Barbara Fischer, from Staten Island, N.Y., smokes in City Hall Park on Oct. 14, 2010. The Mayor signed legislation today which prohibits smoking in public parks, on beaches, and in pedestrian plazas including those under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. The law goes into effect on May 23, 2011. (Photo: Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday signed legislation that prohibits smoking in parks, beaches, marinas and on boardwalks and pedestrian plazas, beginning in 90 days. It takes effect May 23, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Referring to the man who helped create Central Park, Bloomberg said at Tuesday’s bill signing, “Frederic Law Olmstead hailed public parks as the ‘lungs of the city’—a haven where one could escape the overcrowded, noisy, and polluted streets.”

“We need to ensure that our public spaces provide just that—a healthy place in which to relax and enjoy the surroundings,” Bloomberg said. “Smoke-free parks and beaches will make these recreational spaces more enjoyable for everyone by providing open space, clean air, and healthy activities.”

Parks Department officials will be authorized to enforce the law, and may issue fines of $50 per violation.

Not a single opponent of the legislation spoke against the bill at the signing ceremony.

Read More:

Wall Street Journal - February 23, 2011 - By Michael Howard Saul

A Walk In The Park - February 2, 2011

Brooklyn Bridge "PID" Funding Scheme Dead In The Water

Home and local business owners would pay a new tax to maintain Brooklyn Bridge Park in a proposed tax zone (shaded in brown). This was one of a few revenue schemes released by a California consulting group hired to explore potential revenue in order to avoid building residences within the park's footprint. A similar Park Improvement District (PID) proposal supported by Mayor Bloomberg to pay for maintenance and operation (M&O) of the High Line esplanade in Manhattan was quickly scrapped after strong public criticism emerged.

The park's wildly inflated proposed $ 16 million dollar annual budget for M&O has long been seen as a transparent attempt to justify housing in the park. The park's 2009 Financial plan for instance includes a number of Capital expenditures such as maritime bulkhead and pile protection, vehicle replacements, and a capital reserve. Together these add up to more than $ 6 million annually, or roughly 40% of the proposed budget.

So far the City has refused to take responsibly to fund the park's annual upkeep. "The City does not have the money to have new parks and fund them," Mayor Bloomberg famously said at the opening of Brooklyn Bridge Park on March 22, 2010. - Geoffrey Croft


Brooklyn Bridge Park could raise one-quarter of its massive maintenance budget through a new tax on local businesses and residents — but that idea is dead in the water, say critics, who think there are better ways to raise the money, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

A consultant hired last year to search for revenue to maintain the park without building residences within its waterfront footprint released a draft report on Tuesday that predicted that $1 million to $4 million towards the park’s $16-million maintenance budget could come from a new tax on residents and business owners within a quarter-mile of the park.

But the scheme — called a “Park Improvement District” — is so unpopular that before the ink dried on the study, the proposal was already being blasted as “insulting” and “a scare tactic.”

“The Park Improvement District they proposed is not going to happen,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights). “There are viable alternatives to the current plan” to include housing in the park.

The construction of housing and other revenue-generating uses stem from a 2002 agreement between the city and state that the $350-million park raise its own maintenance budget so it would not be a drain on city coffers.

But the proposed 20- to 30-floor luxury high-rises have long been the 1.3-mile waterfront development’s most controversial feature, so last year, park planners created a Committee on Alternatives to Housing.

On Tuesday, the committee’s consultant issued a draft report that found $2.5 million to $7 million in new revenues, including the controversial new park improvement district, which would extend from Furman Street to as far east as Henry Street and as far north as Bridge Street in DUMBO.

The consultant, however, did not consider a proposal being pushed by Squadron that would capture tax revenue created when several currently tax-exempt Jehovah’s Witness-owned buildings are sold and return to the rolls.

Squadron is pushing the consultant to consider such revenue before the end of the report’s 60-day “public comment period.”

“The most-important alternative revenue source has not yet been studied: tapping into the 2.8-million-square feet of nearby Watchtower properties,” he said.

Like Squadron, other opponents of housing inside the park dismissed the park improvement district tax.

“We already pay our taxes,” said Judi Francis, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, which has sued to keep housing out of Brooklyn Bridge Park and to maintain the open space in the same way that normal city parks are maintained: through the Parks Department budget. “Dedicate more of those dollars to parks and then we’ll talk.”

Despite the derision, the idea of creating a Business Improvement District for a park is not without precedent. The High Line and Hudson River Park, both in Manhattan, have considered BIDs to generate revenue, though neither did. Bryant Park is supported by a massive BID that manages more than $5 million a year to supplement city services.

In addition to the $4 million maximum revenue raised by the park improvement district, the consultant identified $3 million in revenues that could be raised by:

• Parking fees — $230,000 to $440,000.

• Creating more concessions beyond the soon-to-open wine bar at Pier 6 and cart food on Pier 1 — $40,000 to $365,000. It’ll likely be the lower number, the consultant admitted.

• Changing the proposed residential buildings to retail space — $250,000. Even that figure is unlikely because limited public transportation would make the park a poor location for retail.

• Charging sports enthusiasts more to use proposed recreation facilities inside the park — $600,000.

“The most-important alternative revenue source has not yet been studied: tapping into the 2.8-million-square feet of nearby Watchtower properties,” (Top Right) said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights).

A public hearing on the report will be held at St. Francis College [180 Remsen St. between Clinton and Court streets in DUMBO, (718) 222-9216] on March 31 at 6 pm. For info,

Read More:

Park’ Foes decry Park ‘tax’ scheme, push for revenue from Witness buildings

The Brooklyn Paper - February 23, 2011 - By Laura Gottesdiener

Bloomberg Rejects Proposal For The City To Pay To Maintain Brooklyn Bridge Park - Taxes Eyed

A Walk In The Park - December 21, 2010

Opponents Of EDC's Four Sparrow Plan Up In Arms

“There are all of these reports that people are suffering from nature deprivation,” said Mary Anne Muller. “No one is suffering from a store deprivation.”

February 17, 2011. The City's Economic Development Corporation held a Public Scoping Meeting for its controversial Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Mall project on Thursday night. EDC is proposing to seize 15 acres of public parkland to expand a nearby retail shopping site. One of the public relation angles the City is taking is agreeing to map 46 acres (out of 67) of Four Sparrows Marsh as public parkland which would, in their words, "protect, in perpetuity, these tidal wetlands and coastal habitats as natural areas," under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. The land however is already under the jurisdiction of Parks. This property was transferred to Parks Department by the City of New York on March 3, 1994 and dedicated on October 29, 1997 as a Forever Wild property. Public Comments are due on February 28th. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC PArk Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.

New York City is claiming that because Four Sparrow Marsh was never officially "mapped" as parkland it can be disposed of and therefore, DPR is not required to protect it. However there are many playgrounds, parklands and natural areas throughout New York City that have never been mapped, yet these sites are recognized and protected as parkland. Mapping is only one factor that is used to determine whether land can be legally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine, use is another factor. Since the entire site has always been used as parkland, it therefore should be protected under Public Trust Doctrine. The new, proposed retail use is clearly a non-park use.

EDC continues to misrepresent details of the project: in other ways as well. Under Project Highlights EDC says will involve the "creation of a new park," but fails to mention that it already is a park and they would be seizing 15 acres for a commercial use.

On page 6 of the New York City Quality Review Environmental Assessment Full Form (CEQR EAS), for question 4a, they are asked, "Would the Project change or eliminate existing open space," the response checked is "No.” According to EDC 15 acres of parkland would simply disappear without any elimination of existing open space.

There is no acknowledgment in the Environmental Assessment Statement that Four Sparrow Marsh is even under the aegis of DPR. The scoping documents coyly refer to the parkland as "City owned."

Because EDC refuses to recognize the 15 acres as parkland is refers to them as "underutilized" and therefor ripe for development purposes. - Geoffrey Croft


Mill Basin residents say the city’s plan to expand a shopping center built atop protected marshlands near the foot of Flatbush Avenue is not going to happen without a fight — and some argued it shouldn’t happen at all, according to YourNabe.

At a Feb. 18 meeting intended to get the neighborhood’s take on its plans for the Four Sparrows Retail Center between Kings Plaza and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, environmentalists and Walmart opponents joined forces to shoot down the project — making it clear that if the city and developer Forest City Ratner Companies want to replace the cherished wetlands with big box stores, there will be a war on two fronts.

• Front one: Environmentalists and bird watchers want to prevent any development at the site, claiming that construction will destroy a borough treasure — a priceless city-owned wetland.

“The city says it wants to build something fabulous [on the wetlands],” nature lover Vivian Carter told residents attending the hearing at Kings Plaza. “But we have something there already, thank you very much.”

• Front two: The battle over which store — we’re talking about Walmart, of course — will be housed in the new shopping center.

“We’re completely opposed to bringing in a big box store,” Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) told city officials. “Local businesses in Marine Park and Mill Basin will go out of business with a big box store just down the street.”

Members of the Economic Development Corporation obviously hoped for positive feedback on the proposal to expand the small shopping strip to accommodate three more stores, more parking and more than 40 acres of parkland, but they got very little.

And it got ugly when the agency could not promise that a Walmart — either a controversial mega-store or one of the company’s newersmaller versions — would pop up at the new center.

“One thing we will never consider is a Walmart,” said Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano to applause. “If a Walmart opens, the neighborhood near it suffers. We want to keep stores like that out of this shopping center, but we don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing here is carved in granite.”

Neither is the plan, actually: Even though the city has been working on this project for more than a decade, it’s still considering two designs.

One proposal calls for creating two additional buildings on the property — a one-story structure off of Flatbush Avenue the size of a football field and a two-story building abutting the Mill Basin creek roughly the size of two football fields that would allow for multiple tenants.

The second proposal calls for one building the size of three football fields — the same size as the property Walmart currently has its eye on at the proposed Gateway II shopping center in East New York.

Environmentalists applauded the city’s plan to convert the marshlands into parkland — protecting the lands in perpetuity — but saw no reason why it should construct a shopping center right next to it.

“This land doesn’t belong to Mayor Bloomberg, it belongs to all of us,” added Geoffrey Croft, the president of the New York City Park Advocates, who threatened to take the city to court if it goes ahead with its plans. “We’re simply not going to let you give it away.”

Mill Basin resident Mary Anne Muller agreed.

“There are all of these reports that people are suffering from nature deprivation,” she said. “No one is suffering from a store deprivation.”

Forest City Ratner Companies is also currently building the controversial Barclays Center, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, as well as a proposed 16-tower mini-city containing more than 6,600 units of housing — another project that some believe swiped public land for private benefit.

To read more about the project and send in comments:

Proposed Four Sparrow Retail Center at Mill Basin.

Read More:

YourNabe - February 22, 2011 - By Thomas Tracy

NY1 - March 19, 2011- By Jeanine Ramirez

Mayor's Office Of Environmental Coordination

The Wall Street Journal - January 11, 2011- By Joseph De Avila

Sheepshead Bites - Jan 7, 2011 -By Marina Fridman-Rybner