Sunday, October 30, 2011

Parks Department Storm Warning

 A jogger makes their way through Central Park as  snows falls Saturday Oct. 29, 2011 in New York.   A classic nor'easter is moving along the East Coast and is expected to dump anywhere from a dusting of snow to about 10 inches throughout the region starting Saturday, a decidedly unseasonal date for a type of storm more associated with midwinter.  (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
A jogger makes their way through Central Park as snows falls Saturday Oct. 29, 2011. (Photo:
Tina Fineberg/AP)

The Parks Department issued a strong warning to the public yesterday on thier website
for the public not to enter parks during the storm.

"No one should enter any City Park until further notice. Heavy wet snow and strong wind gusts, combined with full leaves still on trees, is damaging thousands of trees in parks throughout the City, creating an elevated and ongoing danger of falling branches and trees. To report downed trees or branches, please visit our forestry service request system or call 311. In case of emergency, please call 911."

No deaths were reported in the city, but a 69-year-old woman was hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries after she was struck by a falling tree branch at W. 61st St. and Central Park West about 1 p.m, according to the NY Daily News.

The Parks Department fielded nearly 1,000 calls about downed limbs that snapped under the weight of the ice and snow. In response, all city parks were ordered closed last night due to the "ongoing danger of falling branches and trees." - Geoffrey Croft

A tree falls on a car in The Bronx below the Henry Hudson Bridge.

A tree falls on a car in The Bronx below the Henry Hudson Bridge. (Photo: J.C. RICE)

Read More:

New York Daily News - October 29, 2011 -By Kathleen Lucadamo

Friday, October 28, 2011

EDC Cancels Controversial Bruce Ratner Plan To Develop Nature Preserve Into Shopping Mall


The proposed Four Sparrow Retail Center at Mill Basin from earlier this year. NYC Park Advocates were prepared to litigate the issue.


By Geoffrey Croft

The Bloomberg administration has quietly withdrawn its controversial plans to allow Bruce Ratner to develop public parkland in Mill Basin into a shopping mall. The City's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) had proposed seizing 15 acres of Four Sparrow Marsh under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department to expand a nearby retail shopping site.

A single line announcing the city's decision appeared on the Mayor's Office Of Environmental Coordination website.

"The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011."

The rest of the website page had not been updated.

The project - along with and the Prospect Park Alliance's Lakeside Skating Rink - were caught up in State Senator Carl Kruger's Corruption Probe.

According to the Federal complaint, in December 2010 Bruce R. Bender - a vice president for government relations and public relations at

Forest City Ratner (FCR)

asked Sen. Kruger for $11 million in state funds for three FCR projects in Brooklyn – including $ 2 million for the Four Sparrow Mill Basin project, and another $4 million to renovate for the Lakeside skating rink in Prospect Park near Bender’s Park Slope home. Amy Bender, Bruce's wife, is a board member for the fundraising organization Prospect Park Alliance. In a federal complaint unsealed in March, Sen. Carl Kruger (D) who represents District 27 in the New York State Senate - is accused of trading political favors for more than $1 million in bribes the past five years.

One of the public relation angles the city took was to agree to map 46 acres (out of the park's current 67 acres) 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.

New York City claimed 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.

In March Sen. Kruger and developer Aaron Malinsky were both indicted on corruption charges that included, among several counts, the Mill Basin project. Malinsky was charged with bribing Kruger. Forest City was not charged, though it was enmeshed in an effort to wangle state funds from Kruger.

As the Real Deal reported, after the charges surfaced in March, Malinsky's firm "was removed by Acadia Realty Trust as a partner at City Point, a mixed-use high-rise tower" in Downtown Brooklyn.

However, Acadia has spent big bucks, in a process that's
questionable but apparently legal, to move City Point forward. As the New York Times reported this week, two years ago, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz went to bat for the project, supporting it among nearly 50 projects:
City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz.

Read More:

Atlantic Yards Report - October 28, 2011

A Walk In The Park - March 13, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Majority of Jamaica Bay Designated “No Discharge Zone”

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (l.) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg sign new agreements to improve Jamaica Bay.

(Photo courtesy Bloomberg administration)


October 27, 2011

No. 384<>


Advances PlaNYC and Waterfront Vision & Enhancement Strategy Goals

Grants From the Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid will Support the Planning Process

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck today announced new agreements to improve the Federal and City parklands around Jamaica Bay and improve overall water quality in the Bay. The Mayor and Secretary Salazar signed an agreement committing to a joint planning process that will devise a new, unified governing model and new, common objectives for the 10,000 acres of publicly-owned land in south Brooklyn and Queens. The Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid have generously agreed to support the design of a conceptual master plan for the Jamaica Bay Parks. As part of this effort, at the request of the City and the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection will designate the majority of Jamaica Bay a “No Discharge Zone,” which bans boats from discharged sewage into the bay, improving water quality.

“The agreements with our Federal, State and philanthropic partners will have with far-reaching benefits for what may be the greatest natural treasure lying within the borders of any city in the nation – Jamaica Bay,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The partnership with Secretary Ken Salazar and the Department of Interior will allow us to be bolder, more innovative, and more cooperative, by managing these extraordinary public lands around the bay as one great urban park. And with the new ‘No Discharge Zone’ enforced by the EPA, we are going to improve water quality throughout the bay. It’s all in keeping with PlaNYC and our ongoing transformation of New York City’s waterfront as a place for New Yorkers can live, work, and play.”

“One of the primary goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative is to work with local communities to reconnect people with nature and outdoor recreation,” said Secretary Salazar. “By coordinating more closely with the City of New York, we will create a seamless network of urban parks that are easily accessible to people who live in nearby communities.”

The Mayor and Secretary announced that joint projects would begin with the development of a jointly-managed vision and governance structure to establish where Federal and City lands and programs could better connect and be more efficiently managed. The Rockefeller Foundation and National Grid have agreed to fund part of the development of the Jamaica Bay Parks master plan particularly related to research projects on resilience to climate change in coastal environments and improving park access for the surrounding communities.

The Mayor and Secretary Salazar also were joined at the announcement at the Salt Marsh Nature Center by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Director David Bragdon, National Parks of New York Harbor Commissioner Maria Burks, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck. The philanthropic and advocacy community was represented by Marian Heiskell, founder and board chair, and Marie Salerno, Executive Director, from the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, the official cooperating partner of the National Parks Service under Federal law.

“It's so encouraging that the National Park Service, City of New York and Harbor Conservancy are endeavoring on this new partnership as it has been my passion for nearly 40 years for Gateway to provide a national park experience for those who can’t afford a trip to our other, more distant national parks,” said National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy Chair and Co-Founder Marian S. Heiskell. “I believe that Gateway can be the envy of America's great national urban park system, and now both the Mayor and Secretary Salazar stand ready to help us achieve its greatness.”

“As coastal cities throughout the world continue to grow and are increasingly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, the restoration of Jamaica Bay provides an incredible opportunity to build our understanding of resilience in urban coastal areas,” said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Jamaica Bay is a beautiful, but often overlooked pocket of our City’s landscape, and The Rockefeller Foundation is thrilled to help give back to the community parkland that will serve as both a recreational and educational space. I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Secretary Salazar for all their efforts to make today possible.”

“Today we’ve taken an important step towards making Jamaica Bay safe for local residents, who will no longer have to worry about harmful sewage pumped out by boats in the area,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “I applaud the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and New York City for agreeing to establish this no-discharge zone that will mean cleaner and clearer waters for Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island residents.”

“The parks in and around Jamaica Bay are natural and recreational treasures, all the more so because of their location right in the heart of the Nation’s largest metropolitan area” said Robert D. Yaro, President of Regional Plan Association. “We congratulate Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for establishing the framework that was needed to make this area a premier regional destination.”

At the same time, the US EPA announced that it was issuing a no discharge regulation for Jamaica Bay

“If you don’t have clean air, land and water, you can’t enjoy the great outdoors and banning boat sewage from Jamaica Bay stops one source of pollution that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Enck. “This action will improve water quality in this magnificent bay that is right in the backyards of millions of New Yorkers.”

Park Agreement

The agreement establishes a formal a partnership between the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for the agencies to collaborate in four areas: effective management of park lands; science and restoration of Jamaica Bay; access and transportation to park lands around Jamaica Bay; and engagement of New York City youth with hands-on science programs and fun public service projects to promote recreation, stewardship and “green” careers.

The four key components to the park management agreement are:

* Effective management through collaboration: The National Park Service and New York City Parks manage contiguous lands with overlapping missions. Through effective land use and program planning that ignores boundaries, they can create a seamless and interconnected network of natural, historical, and recreation spaces urban park that all New Yorkers can visit, with or without a car.

* Science and restoration: Through better coordination of research, data gathering restoration efforts and pilot projects, government agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions can work closer together to restore and conserve the health of Jamaica Bay.

* Access and transportation: The city and the Park Service will work to improve public access to Jamaica Bay and within Jamaica Bay through existing and new transportation choices, and through better public information about those options.

* Youth and education: The city and the National Park Service can jointly develop a series of programs in which urban youth can learn the values of stewardship through service activities.

The agreement may also be expanded in the future to include federal and city park lands on Staten Island.

Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone

The new Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone agreement between the City, the EPA and State Department of Environmental Conservation bans all boats from discharging sewage into a designated 20,000 acre area of Jamaica Bay. The area has adequate facilities for boats to pump out their sewage and boaters must now dispose of their sewage at these specially-designated pump-out stations. The new Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone is part of a joint EPA, Department of Environmental Conservation and City effort to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the State’s waterways. Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a health risk and impair marine life.

The Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone encompasses 17,177 acres of open water and 2,695 acres of upland islands and salt marshes in Brooklyn and Queens.

The northeastern and southeastern parts of Jamaica Bay reach Nassau County, while the northern shore of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens forms the southern boundary of the bay. The bay is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Rockaway Inlet, and eight tributaries empty into Jamaica Bay: Sheepshead Bay, Paerdegat Basin, Fresh Creek, Hendrix Creek, Spring Creek, Shellbank Basin, Bergen Basin and Thurston Basin. The final affirmative determination from EPA of adequate pump-out facilities means that New York State may proceed to ban the discharge of boat sewage into Jamaica Bay and its tributaries.

Read More:

U.S. and N.Y.C. Unite to Aid Jamaica Bay
New York Times - October 27, 2011 - By Lisa W. Foderaro

Times Ledger - November 3, 2011 - By Ivan Pereira

MillionTreesNYC Proposed Planting Raises Concerns In Great Kills Park's Crooke's Point

Crooke's Point reaches around the eastern edge of Great Kills Harbor. (Photo: Coast Guard Auxiliary)

Staten Island

Federal and city parks officials want to plant trees — lots of them — at ecologically sensitive Crooke’s Point in Great Kills Park, as part of MillionTreesNYC, according to the Staten Island Advance.

But Staten Island environmentalists question the viability of the plan, and suggest the National Park Service lacks the smarts to pull off the project, which will see around a thousand plantings in a one-acre pilot area.

For one thing, the Islanders say there is no way the trees will make it without a small army of volunteers to keep them watered.

“I don’t think this project is going to work,” said Ellen Pratt of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. “No one will go out and water the plants.”

This as a spokesman for NPS — which has taken the lead on the project — says the agency will “deliberately overplant because some will die.”

For another, Islanders say NPS’s plan to use bulldozers and pesticides to kill off invasive species in order to plant the trees should be a non-starter.

Yet John Warren, an NPS spokesman for Gateway National Recreation Area, said “machinery and herbicides are consistent with NPS policy and regulations,” although he noted that it must be OKd under NPS’s “integrated pest management plan” and abide by New York state laws and regulations. He also said “no specific herbicide has been chosen” yet.

But the Islanders say that’s only because they objected to the type of herbicide NPS initially suggested.

“There was no expertise in the room,” said St. George botanist Richard Lynch of a meeting of NPS, city Parks personnel and local environmentalists, held after the Islanders caught wind of the plan. “The last thing you go to are chemicals, and they are unyielding on spraying.”

Indeed, Ed Johnson, science director at the Staten Island Museum, said some herbicide sprays suggested by NPS cannot be used in wetland areas.

Not only that, Lynch, Johnson and Ms. Pratt said mammals native to Crooke’s Point, such as cottontail rabbits, raccoons, white-footed mice and the occasional white-tailed deer, will be driven off. Ospreys and hummingbirds that nest at the spot may also be impacted, they contend.

But Warren said it is “NPS policy to replace non-native and invasive species with native species whenever possible and practical ... The entire New York area is important to the migration of birds along the Atlantic Flyway ... By introducing native species, we [will] create greater diversity in Crooke’s Point wildlife, from bugs to birds ... The work that will take place will be done in stages so as not to displace an entire habitat or population. It will be temporary and minimally disruptive.”

He also said NPS has protocol in place to protect osprey habitats.

Still, said Johnson: “National Parks wants to restore things to 100 years ago. But is it necessary? Is it practical? Can it even be done? It’s a labor-intensive plan, with volunteers [doing the watering]. Can Parks follow through?”

Even the kinds of trees that will be planted seem to be in dispute, with Ms. Pratt saying NPS hasn’t been forthcoming.

“I felt like I was watching a tennis tournament,” said Lynch, of all the back-and-forth at a recent meeting.

Lynch said what should be planted in the area are post oak, blackjack oak, sour gum and persimmon trees.

Yet Warren said that “typical plants for a barrier ecology in the northeast might include red cedar, oak, holly, bayberry and beach plum,” but said “specific plants will depend upon soil analysis and drainage of a particular area.”

Countered Ms. Pratt: “Plants don’t belong there. The site, as it now exists, is wonderful, full of invasive vines that are full of very rich food for birds while providing shelter. It is going to destroy the ecosystem.”

While local environmentalists told the Advance that NPS indicated the project could begin as early as spring, Warren said there is no timeline, adding, “We would like to have consensus on a plan within a year.”

Said city Parks spokeswoman Tara Kiernan: “The plan for Crooke’s Point is simply a proposal that the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the National Park Service is reviewing and there are no definite plans to move forward with the project. Both agencies have taken the community’s concerns into consideration.”

Warren said the cost of the project is being picked up by MillionTreesNYC.

The projected amount could not be immediately learned.

Meanwhile, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is sponsoring two on-site walks — on Sunday at 10 a.m. and on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. — for Islanders who want to learn more about the natural preserve.

A forum on the issue will be held at the Staten Island Zoo on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

For further information, consult

Read More:

Staten Island Advance - October 27, 2011 - By Judy L. Randall

Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park Conservancy Struggles to Raise Funds


A small group of Fort Greene’s hip young parental set saunters onto the dance floor, dancing and drinking craft beers. Top 40 music blares from the speakers inside Roulette, a dark music hall on Atlantic Avenue. The party is being thrown by the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which hosts fundraisers like this to supplement the money it needs to support maintenance and projects in Fort Greene Park, according to The Local.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has seen a drop in city-allocated funds from 1.4 percent of the total budget in 1968 to less than a quarter of that today. With most local parks in the city in need of serious repair, alliances and conservancies have formed to raise money to maintain New York’s green spaces.

Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which has been raising funds for the park for the past five years, hosted their second annual Dance Craze fundraiser at Roulette on Thursday, Oct. 20. Its goal was to raise more than $20,000 to help purchase materials and maintain park gardens, said Charles Jarden, executive director of the conservancy.

They have raised over $100,000 through their fundraising efforts so far–but it doesn’t come close to the tens of millions that Geoff Croft, the president of NYC Park Advocates, estimates Fort Greene Park needs to repair the runoff problems and the cracks in the tennis courts, and to maintain the Revolutionary War Memorial and concrete steps leading up to it.

“Fort Greene Park clearly will never be able to raise funds that will match the type of giving and operation that the Central Park Conservancy has,” said Mr. Croft.

As a newer organization, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy looks to the successes of the 30-year-old Central Park Conservancy and the 25-year-old Prospect Park Alliance as models for what it hopes to accomplish for its own park.

“Absolutely our desire and our long-term goal is to do what the Central Park Conservancy and Prospect Park Alliance have done,” said Mr. Jarden.

But with a different demographic in Fort Greene, the group has had to take a different route–which includes holding the Roulette fundraiser–to help maintain the park, Mr. Jarden added.

Fort Greene Park, unlike Central Park and some parts of Prospect Park, is not surrounded by a vast number of wealthy people. The median income in Fort Greene is about $58,000 a year.

The Central Park Conservancy began in 1980 during a time when the city’s economy was fragile, with employment steadily dropping and the country suffering from a recession. The city had no money to care for Central Park, and wealthier residents, with the park as their front yard, took it upon themselves to gather the money and influence needed to fix and maintain the park.

“The wealthiest people in the world are taking care of Central Park but 99.9 percent New York City doesn’t live around Central Park,” said Mr. Croft.

Conservancies and alliances would be better served if they pressured the city to do more in their local parks, he added.

Community District 2 Manager Robert Perris said he is also concerned about the Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s ability to make substantive improvements to the park.

“They don’t operate at a high level,” he said. “It’s all volunteers and no one has given $100,000 check. But they do what they can.”

Dena Libner, public relations manager for the Central Park Conservancy, said it’s more difficult for groups like the Fort Greene Park Conservancy to raise money.

“Those associations or organizations should define their ambitions and goals based on the access they have to funding,” she said.

But this has not deterred the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. Instead, the group is trying to tap into a more artistic community of actors, authors and writers to come up with more creative ideas to raise funds for the park.

“This is exactly the people that we want to know about Fort Greene Park,” said Mr. Jarden. “We have this great event as a fabulous way to introduce them to the way that a park survives.”

“These are some fine New Yorkers trying to make a positive impact and that should be encouraged,” said Mr. Croft. “We should be harnessing this enthusiasm.”

But Mr. Croft has his doubts about the effectiveness that smaller and newer conservancies have in raising money to make a difference in a park’s life.

“The truth is you just don’t have the wealth or political power like you do in Central Park,” he said. “If that was what people were planning on doing in Fort Greene Park, unfortunately it is not going to work.”

Read More:

Fort Greene Park Conservancy Struggles to Raise Funds

The Local - October 27, 2011 - By Rebecca Sesny

Record $20 Million Gift For The High Line Esplanade

A view of the final leg of the High Line, which will run north to 34th Street on the West Side. The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation made a $ 20 million gift bringing their total giving to $ 35 million for the elevated esplanade. The gift will help build up the park’s endowment and pay for the design of the last section. (Photo: Benjamin Norman for The New York Times)

Despite assuring the city from the start that Friends of the High Line would assume full responsibility for the costs to operate the parkland they recently signed an agreement with the city that allows them to keep concession revenue. The deal allows them to divert money from concessions - both on and underneath the High Line - that would normally to go the city's general fund. Dispite the fact that the first two sections of the High Line have generated more than $2 billion in planned or new development according to the article- the city is still allowing these funds to be diverted. - Geoffrey Croft


Many visitors to the High Line, the popular park that wends above street level on the West Side of Manhattan, stop at its northern terminus and peer wistfully through a chain-link fence at the as-yet unreclaimed half-mile segment to the north. Until this week, the nonprofit conservancy that operates the High Line still needed to raise $85 million to finish the park and maintain it, according to the New York Times.

On Wednesday night, the conservancy took a major step toward that goal when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a $20 million gift to the High Line from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation.

The gift, which will help build up the park’s endowment and pay for the design of the last section, is the single largest donation ever made to a New York City park, according to city officials.

It follows two previous donations totaling $15 million to the High Line from Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and Expedia, and his wife, the designer Diane von Furstenberg.

“It’s not surprising that Barry and Diane — visionaries that they are — got in early on the High Line project,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement. “But even better, they are seeing it through. Their generosity is leading the way for the High Line to become a New York icon that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The High Line is an unusual public-private partnership. The city paid most of the construction costs of the first two sections (the second opened earlier this year), which together run from Gansevoort to 30th Streets.

But Friends of the High Line, the conservancy that rallied to save the railway from demolition and raised money for its transformation into a park, assumed full responsibility for the cost of the operations from the start.

With three million annual visitors, 10 times what the founders of the conservancy initially envisioned, wear and tear, as well as educational programming, is a constant challenge for the 60-member staff.

“If you ask Josh or me what keeps us up at night, it’s not next year or whether we complete it — we know it will get done,” said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line along with Joshua David. “It’s the maintenance, and this gives us security. Having an endowment gives us another revenue stream to fall back on in hard times.”

Annual operating costs for the park come to $3 million.

But perhaps just as important is the gift’s ability to propel Friends of the High Line toward the finish line: the railway’s endpoint at 34th Street. Now the curvaceous teak benches and ornamental grasses that make up the park’s northern landscaping stop abruptly at that chain-link fence.

On the other side is a jumble of weeds, rocks and old ladders. The future section, which hugs the West Side Railyards, runs west to 12th Avenue and then continues north to 34th Street.

That segment is owned by CSX Transportation, which is now in negotiations with city officials, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other interested parties, on an agreement that would allow for public access. In 2005, CSX donated the portion of the High Line south of 30th Street to the city.

Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the talks dealt with a “very complicated site.” But he added that “everyone wants for the city to eventually” obtain the site for the High Line park.

Mr. David and Mr. Hammond estimate that the final half-mile stretch will cost up to $75 million to build, about the same as each of the first two half-mile sections. Given the constraints on the city’s budget, private sources will have to cover the initial capital expense, they said. Before the new gift, Friends of the High Line had raised about $65 million toward its $150 million fund-raising goal.

In a statement, Mr. Diller took the long view. “In a hundred years, people will be amazed that this park was ever built, and during all that time it will have given pleasure to such great numbers of people,” he said. “I’m glad that our family is able to pay a small role in making the High Line a reality.”

In a city of deep-pocketed philanthropists, the donation from Mr. Diller and Ms. von Furstenberg turned heads, not least because it went to a park rather than a cultural or educational institution. Previously, the largest private gift to a park was $17 million from the philanthropist Richard Gilder in 1993 to Central Park.

Friends of the High Line hopes that the $20 million donation will inspire additional giving.

That happened once before. After the Museum of Modern Art mounted a small exhibition of designs for the park in 2005, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation made its first gift of $5 million, generating interest in the project. Then came a gift of $10 million from the foundation in 2009. Earlier this year, Tiffany and Company Foundation gave a $5 million challenge grant.

The return on those investments has been substantial; the first two sections of the High Line have generated more than $2 billion in planned or new development, city officials said. The park has also become a major tourist attraction, drawing a quarter of its visitors from outside the United States.

Gazing at the unfinished segment, Martin Oeggerli, 37, a photographer visiting from Switzerland, said he would like the park to keep going. “It would go straight to the Hudson and give you a great view,” he said.

Last week, when Mr. Diller told Friends of the High Line of the gift over the phone, the conference room erupted. “A large number of people on our staff burst into tears,” Mr. Hammond said.

New York Times - October 26, 2011- By Lisa W. Foderaro

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Park Employees Evacuated From Parade Grounds Building After Another Sewage Leak

"They're building a $ 70 million dollar ice rink in the park but they don't have the funds to make sure employees are safe? You see the priority."

Lunch Room Fecal Matter - The Smell Was Unbearable. Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) and NYPD officers have long complained about conditions in the Parks Department building located in the Parade Grounds across from Prospect Park. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


Last evening city park workers were evacuated from a building after raw sewage overflowed into the work environment - again. The Parks Department building - located at 397 Coney Island Avenue across from the tennis courts in the Parade Grounds near Prospect Park - is also home to the NYPD's Brooklyn South Task Force.

Entrance to the PEP lunch room. Once again raw sewage has come up from the drain in multiple locations. Poor ventilation and broken windows in the building make matters worse.

The putrid smell stank up building offices, a lunchroom, a locker room and other areas that house the Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Brooklyn command as well as on the police side.

The long time problem, according to city employees, is the aging and inaduquate infrastructure located in the basement including a pump and plumbing issues throughout the building which causes sewage to back up. Workers say the city refuses to properly fix the issues.

The pump has to be cleaned out once at least month and backs up more frequently after it rains.

"We don't know what we're being exposed to," said a disgusted Parks Enforcement officer. " We shouldn't have to work like this."

"We'd leave in a second," a NYPD Brooklyn South Task Force supervisor said yesterday.

NYPD officers described the putrid smell from earlier in the day from the backed-up sewage which had reached the building's second floor, which at times leaks from the ceiling.

Officers from both sides of the building also raised concerns about rodent issues.

"You can hear them in the walls," said a PEP officer.

Last year a hole in the wall and an uncovered radiator provided easy access for the rats.

"The city needs to invest the money and fix the problems," said another NYPD officer. "Its not a heathy working environment. If the public only knew the shit we have to put up with, literally."

Joe Puleo, vice president of Local 983 which represents parks workers including, PEP, said employees health and safety concerns in the building have not been addressed.

"I feel these employees that protect our parks, beaches and recreation centers from crime are treated as sub standard workers," Mr. Puleo said. "The parks department has been aware of these conditions for a long time and has done nothing. Only now with media attention are the employees being moved to a safe location."

"They (management) care more about the issue getting out (in the media) than the issue itself," said a PEP officer. "Its all about spin and PR."

The irony of the massive Lakeside Center ice skating project being built nearby in Prospect Park was not lost on employees charged with protecting Brooklyn parks.

"They're building a $ 70 million dollar ice rink in the park but they don't have the funds to make sure its employees are safe," said a Parks employee PEP officer who like everyone at the scene spoke on the condition that their name not be used.

"You see the priority." — Geoffrey Croft

The Parks Department building is located at 397 Coney Island Avenue across from the tennis courts in the Parade Grounds near Prospect Park and is home to the Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Brooklyn command as well the NYPD's Brooklyn South Task Force. The building is closed until further notice.

A rickety, city-owned building that houses peace officers who patrol Brooklyn parks had to be evacuated today — after officers claimed they were being overrun by raw sewage and rats.

“It was unbearable — sewage started bubbling up through the holes in the floor,” one disgusted officer said, according to the New York Post.

A reporter also spotted urinals in the men’s room covered in sewage, while a cat was let loose throughout the puddled offices to ward off rats and mice.

City Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers told the Post that the office building off Coney Island Avenue in Prospect Park has been plagued with sewage and rat problems for at least three years — and that their various complaints to Parks Department officials have fallen on deaf ears.

Today, the stench became so putrid that they had to bail after sewage began backing up throughout the building, stinking up offices, a lunchroom and other areas.

“We keep on asking for repairs, but the Parks Department keeps saying there is no money in the budget,” the peace officer said.

The dozen PEP officers responsible for covering Brooklyn’s 3,000 acres of parks were subsequently relocated to temporary office space in Queens shortly after the Post called the Parks Department for comment. Plumbers were later sent to the building to deal with the sewage problem.

A Department spokesperson said exterminators regularly bait the site for mice and would look into the complaints about rats.

Many of the Brooklyn officers said they spend half their time on the city clock having to clean up or deal with the office problems rather than patrol parks. Some claim to suffer from bouts of nausea and sinus problems from regularly inhaling noxious odors.

“This is outrageous that the city isn’t protecting its workers,” said Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates.

The Parks Department offices at Prospect Park are adjacent to offices used by the NYPD. Some cops yesterday said their building space stunk of sewage, too.

Read/View More

New York Post - October 25, 2011 - By Rich Calder

Eyewitness News - October 25, 2011 - By Michelle Charlesworth