Monday, April 15, 2013

Prospect Park Alliance Shuts Audubon Center At The Boathouse To Rent It Out For Private Events

On the Outside Looking In. The Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) is being allowed to close the Audubon Center at the Boathouse in Prospect Park on weekends so they can exclusively rent the space for private events.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click on images to enlarge. 
Prospect Park-goers say the historic Boathouse should be used less for private parties and more by the public, according to the New York Post. 
The Prospect Park Alliance has closed the landmark building, renovated with millions of taxpayer dollars, on weekends and is moving children’s programs to tents outdoors.
“They’ve taken over a public building and privatized it,” said Elaine Marvin, a former volunteer at the Boathouse, which is also known as the Audubon Center. “They are keeping it open on Thursday and Friday when only nannies can go. They’re not willing to share the facility.”
The 108-year-old Beaux Arts structure opened as a nature center in 2002 after a $5 million renovation that was partially paid for with public funds. It houses live animals and educational events on the second floor.
The nonprofit Alliance, which operates the city-owned park and raises two-thirds of its $12.3 million budget, calls the move an innovative way to generate revenue. The Boathouse can be rented for up to $4,500 for five-hour periods, Tuesday through Sunday.
“Getting kids outdoors is never a bad thing,” said Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson. “This is an opportunity to take advantage of the best resource we have in the park.”
But Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates said the weekend should be prime time for park facilities. “The last time I checked, that building belonged to the public,” he said. “This just shows that our parks should be properly funded instead of privatized.”

Access Denied.  A family attempts to gain access to the nature center but are turned away.  The closing of this valuable community resource on weekends deprives the public, especially under-serviced children of invaluable educational opportunities. What is particularly abhorrent is that the building is also being closed now on weekends even when there are no scheduled events and the building is staffed!  

The Boathouse is not a private catering facility - it is a beautiful historic public building built in 1905 using government funds in order to accommodate the public. It was lovingly renovated in 2002 so the public can utilize it.  The decision to close this valuable community resource was made without any public input, or consultation or notification. 

The nation's first urban Audubon Center has been allowed to be permanently closed on weekends when the public's utilization is the greatest.  Although the Audubon Center will remain open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays many of the beloved educational materials and exhibits have been permanently removed in order to accommodate the private events.  Critics say the pop-up Audubon is a poor substitute for the fully functioning Urban Audubon Center.

A family tries to find a way in.  The Prospect Park Alliance is being allowed to unilaterally make policy decisions on what is supposed to be public parkland.  The building provides much needed clean public bathrooms. Staffed open buildings also provide a sense of public safety.  In addition, the cafe, which overlooked the lake, has been removed as have the popular nature tours and on electric boat. This historic building, with its unique architecture, should be open for the enjoyment of the public. 

Read More:

Boos over kids’ Boathouse boot
New York Post  - April 14, 2013 - By Kate Briquelet 

Nature vs. nurture at Prospect Park
The Brooklyn Paper - April 26, 2013 - By 

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