Saturday, March 29, 2014

Park Disparity Funding Solution According To Daniel Squadron - Have Central Park Foot the Bill

Heckscher Ballfields - Central Park.  Do Your Fields Look Like This? Central Park is meticulously maintained by the Conservancy. Unlike in municipally maintained parks the playing fields are lush and well cared for. Dedicated personnel are assigned to maintain the park's 28 ballfields.  Central Park's annual operating budget is now up to $ 58 million dollars.  However unlike the city they protect the money they invest into the park. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


By Geoffrey Croft

Legislation introduced last year by New York State Senator Daniel Squadron and supported by Mayor Bill de blasio would have the government deciding where your private donations to parks can be spent. 

As most people are acutely aware our park system is enormously underfunded.  The policy of allowing public parks in wealthy areas to be paid for by private donations while most languish due to a lack of public funds has further compounded the problem, it has created a wildly disparate, separate and decidedly unequal park system.

And although these are city-wide problems that affect virtually every segment of the population, it is no secret that a disproportionate amount of the most severe issues exist in poor neighborhoods, among the city’s underserved communities—namely, the working class, the poor and the disenfranchised, and in areas populated by people predominantly of color. The City’s increasing reliance on public/private partnerships has resulted in a vastly inequitable distribution of services. It has become “a tale of two cities.”

Outfield Burnt Grass.  Fr. Macris Park - Staten Island. The city does not have a single dedicated ball field maintenance crew for more than 600 natural turf fields.  

The further fostering of what is already an ad hoc system premised on noblesse oblige, with all the neglect to the working class and poor that implies and has wrought, should be challenged, and not embraced as Sen. Squadron suggests.

The fact that Central Park receives large private donations while 99.9% parks do not is not the problem.  The Central Park Conservancy exists solely because of a failed city policy i.e. our elected officials refusal to take care of all of our parks so the wealthiest people per capita in the world took matters into their own hands.  This is hardy a sustainable model, nor should it be.

Each year our elected officials allocate approximately one-third of the desperately needed  funds required to properly operate our public parks. This year is no different.  The Mayor's preliminary budget allocates just $301.2 million in city-funds - just .52 % of the overall city budget in city funds for an agency responsible for 14 % of the city's land.  Up until the 1960's parks received up to 1.4 % of the city budget or greater. An astonishing decrease.  

For decades the public has been told the expense funding needed to hire the employees that are so desperately needed are not available.  Increasingly these basic services are being paid for privately in wealthy neighborhoods.

Central Park.

What this means in practical terms is that those chosen few have dedicated staff assigned to individual parks while the vast majority of the rest have to make due with the deplorable and unequal conditions found throughout the city.

Senator Squadron introduced the controversial legislation as a means he says to help address the inequity.

Squadron's  "Neighborhood Parks Alliance," would form partnerships between a "well-financed" conservancy and less fortunate parks. 

Under the plan a poor park would perform tasks like gathering signatures from local residents, establishing their own conservancy group, and receiving a city commitment, from the Parks Department and local council members, to maintain current government financing levels.

The issue of seizing money from organizations is a non starter for a number of reasons the first one being the legality of such a ridiculous proposal. 

A clue to the fundamental flaw in Sen. Squadron’s well-intentioned but deeply misguided law is the lack of the government’s role and responsibility in addressing  and preventing these issues.

In a May 24th Op-ED published in the New York Times announcing his proposal Senator Squadron asked, "Can A Tree Grow In The Bronx"  when a park like Central receives large private donations while most parks do not. 

Mr. Squadron spent just 32 words out 746 acknowledging the responsibility of the government.

"One solution," he writes,  "is to provide more financing for parks in the annual city and state budgets." 

No, that is THE solution.

And while he does admit his plan "is not a comprehensive solution" to the problem of open-space equity, his idea is fundamentally flawed non-the-less and sends the wrong priority.

Sen. Squadron says John A. Paulson's $ 100 million donation to the well-heeled Central Park Conservancy, "invites a question: where is the political will, and the money, for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on the 1,700 other parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities managed by the city?” 

The political will to do what? To get the people who live around Central Park to donate to other less fortunate parks? He is asking the wrong question.  

Instead of addressing the issues and attacking the very system that allows and encourages this enormous disparity and discrimination in the first place, he is inviting more.  The political will necessary to provide funding for safe, well-maintained parks, and public recreation programs that every neighborhood deserves, simply does not exist. It is not a priority. 

All New Yorkers deserve this, not just those who can to afford to pay "extra."  This is a basic quality-of-life issue.

“A Neighborhood Parks Alliance is one simple way for more New Yorkers to have decent open space,  so that more families,  in more communities,  can make a life in the city," he wrote. 

"Like good schools and safe streets,  decent parks must not be reserved for those who can most afford them.”  

His plan unfortunately accomplishes exactly that. 

Creating this Alliance is simply another way to further discriminate against the haves and the have nots while continuing to allow the city, state and feds off the hook.

"But the conservancies would still be the best way for donors to support their park of choice," he writes.  

Encouraging the public to discriminate against who is worthy of receive funding and who is not is certainly not the solution. 

As history has proved time and time again leaving the decision of  "who gets saved"  in the hands of the wealthy and influential is not good policy to say the least.

It is the government's legal responsibility to properly fund our public parks,  not private citizens or businesses.  Elected officials constantly say how important parks are but they refuse to fund them. It is not a priority. 

And to be sure Mr. Squadron is not alone his misguided solution.  

Over the last 40 years no other city agency has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than the Parks Department.  This happens year after because the public does NOT demand accountability.

Legislating Public Donations?

A few weeks after his May Op-Ed Mr. Squadron introduced the pass-the-buck legislation.

When asked if the 20 percent under his proposal would be voluntary or mandated by law  Squadron replied, " Our hope is that….. folks would step up and be interested in being a part of this voluntarily but my legislation would require it. "

And while Mr. Squadron admits that city and state have cut funding for parks "in ways that are unacceptable"  I could find no evidence of him truly fighting to correct this cronic budget shortfall including authoring legislation to address this pressing issue.

In the same interview he also bizarrely claimed that, "for large parts of the city they don't see the effects of those cuts if you live near Central Park or if you live near Prospect Park whatever your lifestyle is you don't experience the injustice of these parks cuts. "

That is simply not true. 

The interview got off to a bad start Squadron cited statistics that left out almost half of our parkland - State and Federal facilities - that reside in our city. (He's a NY State Senator)

Queens City Council Member Peter Vallone -  who was  then running for Queens Borough President  followed suit.  

He sent out a press release entitled, GRASS SHOULDN'T BE GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTY FENCE!” announcing he would be introducing legislation mandating that all park conservancies with more than $5 million in the bank would be legally required to donate 20 percent of their funds to maintain parks that have received a grade of unsatisfactory for two consecutive years. 

At a City Council hearing last May Mr. Vallone said he had lunch with Senator Squadron and discussed the idea.

This  well-intentioned but deeply misguided law  shows clear lack of understanding of the enormous problems facing our vast but severely under-resourced park system.  Relying on what in reality are a few conservancies to deliver the tens of billions of dollars in capital needs and another three quarter of a billion dollars annually for maintenance and operation is deeply misguided. 

On Thursday at a City Council hearing Mr. Squadron testified that he thought his proposal could generate approximately $ 15 million dollars annually -  in other words enough to build a few bathrooms.  Another unfortunate consequence of this conversation is that it is detracting from the real issue - that our elect officials refuse to fund parks as an essential city service.

The city itself has already created a number of non-profits with the expressed mission to encourage donors to contribute to less fortunate parks city-wide. They have had to put it mildly an extremely limited impact city-wide on the deplorable and unequal conditions found throughout the city.

The solution to the inequality issue is not a secret:  The administration needs to take responsibility by dramatically increasing the parks budget and ensure they are distributed based on need and not on politics or private interests, while also demanding accountability from an agency that is in desperate need of reform. 

But first a detailed and honest assessment of our park system's is required,  something multiple administrations have refused to do. 

Unfortunately the political will necessary to provide funding for safe, well-maintained parks, and public recreation programs that every neighborhood deserves, simply does not exist. It is not a priority. 

Experience with public/private partnerships over the last 30 years has proven that the private subsidization of individual parks, however well intentioned, has created an enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots, while ignoring the real problem—that our parks are not funded as an essential government service. 

All New Yorkers deserve this, not just those who can to afford to pay "extra."  This is a basic quality-of-life issue.

Early last summer then mayoral candidate Bill de blasio announced his support for Squadron's initiative as well as the irresponsible Flushing Meadow Park Alliance being created by Council Member Julissa Ferreras and a Parks Department partner group New Yorkers For Parks.   

We do not need another Alliance,  a funding model dependent on businesses exploiting and  destroying our parklands - we need the government to do its job and adequately fund our public parks.

We sincerely hoped Mr. de blasio's support for these irresponsible ideas were simply early mis-steps.  

Compounding the problem are the remarks of consecutive Parks Commissioners. 

"We have a great operating budget,"  Veronica White embarrassingly testified at a City Council hearing,  a view consistently shared by Adrain Benepe who was fond of the calling the funding  "robust."

These are irresponsible and dangerous statements that harm communities and the city as a whole.

While working under Michael Bloomberg over the last decade Mr. Benepe had a tough time publicly admitting the poor conditions that plague the park system - and no amount of "surveys" from his current employer will be able to change that reality.  

Mr. Benepe called the disparity a "phony premise"  in one of many embarrassing moments caught during an interview on NY 1 in 2013.   

"I think they are nothing but positive,"  he said of the conservancy model in a typical Benepe see-no-evil defensive moment. 

"The beauty of that is that it allows the city to take its public dollars and allocate them to the vast majority of parks that don't get  any private support,"  he said in a claim that is clearly not supported by the city's continued lack of underfunding.

The City - including Mr. Benepe - claim that $ 165 million dollars is now being brought in annually from private funds to parks however less than half of that amount is accounted for in a reporting mechanism created to monitor such funds. A 2008 law specifically meant to expose city parks'  inequalities by tracking private allocations is not being adequately enforced.   A staple of the Bloomberg administration - the lack of accountability. 

We are happy this administration, and others have finally begun to embrace our decade-old park Tale of Two Cities inequity campaign, a disparity it is important to note that the Bloomberg administration including the Parks Department partner group New Yorkers For Parks absurdly pretended did not exist. 

We expect the city's new leadership who were elected on a  "progressive" agenda to tackle the policies that have resulted in our Tale Of Two Cities park system have clearly existed for far too long.

We need to attack the very system that allows and encourages this enormous disparity and discrimination in the first place, not invite more.   

Until these things happen nothing will change. 

Geoffrey Croft - is the founder and president of NYC Park Advocates, a city-wide watchdog group.

An excerpt of this post will appear in Sunday's Daily News.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Central Park: Police Arrest 3 Tourists For Falsely Reporting Robberies


By Geoffrey Croft

Police have arrested three tourists - two from Finland and one from Australia - in less than two weeks in two separate incidents -  for reporting crimes that did not occur NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

On Tuesday March 25, Pinja Pesonen, 27,  and Antti Vuorisalo, 34, of Suomi, Finland, were arrested on charges of filing a false police report.

According to police, the couple walked into the Central Park precinct a little before 1p.m. and claimed that two white men had grabbed the women's handbag with undisclosed valuables while they walked along East Drive near East 74th Street inside Central Park.

The couple filed a written report with police and officers drive them around canvassing the park and surrounding area.

Police found no witnesses and no camera footage of anyone leaving the park with the bag. 

When pressed by investigators they recanted within an hour of reporting the incident and admitted they lied.

Both were arrested and charged with filing a false police report. 

They were ordered back in court today. (Doc # 2014NY023046)

Nine days earlier on Sunday March 16th, a female tourist visiting from Victoria Australia claimed she was robbed by a black man in Central Park.

Larisa Ryan, 41, walked into the Transit District 1 police headquarters in Columbus Circle at around 6 p.m. and claimed she had been robbed of her Ipad and iphone at 72nd Street and West Drive, inside the park.

The white tourist told police her attacker was a black, about 6-ft-4 tall.  

Police searched for the attacker with her and reviewed camera footage for several hours. After finding no evidence of the robbery, Ryan finally confessed she had lied about the robbery with the plan to collect an insurance payment according to a police source.

She was arrested and charged with filling a false written statement to police.

She appeared in Manhattan criminal court where she pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $250 and released.

"These people do this all the time," said a Central Park officer speaking on the condition of anonymity.  

"They must see us on tv and say,  'this will be easy' but more often than not they get caught. They just don't think it through." 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Electric Zoo Lobbying Mayor de Blasio Aides For Randall's Island Return After Fiascle

Two officers stand watch at the Ward's Island footbridge  the day the city finally cancelled the event in the wake of two deaths, a rape, and after nineteen people were treated for drugs,  and  31 people were arrested.   (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

The NYPD blanketed Randall's Island after the Electric Zoo event was abruptly cancelled. 

Organizers of the concert have hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon and Patrick Jenkins to lobby Mayor de Blasio's aides in an attempt to make a 2014 return.

Randall's Island

By Geoffrey Croft

The organizers of the controversial Electric Zoo rave event have been quietly lobbying Mayor de blasio's top aids in an effort to be allowed back on Randall's Island.

Organizers hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon, whose firm, Mercury Public Affairs, raised $32,520 for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and inauguration to secure a permit after last years debacle according to the New York Daily News.

Two concertgoers died from overdoses, nineteen other attendees were treated,  a 16-year-old girl was raped,   and thirty-one people were arrested including two felonies over two days of the planned three-day dance music rave festival.

Arrest charges ranged from drug sales, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of controlled substances.   A lack of security and screening for under age concert goers also came under fire from several sources working at the event.

Electric Zoo area after the cancellation. Randall's Island's largest unprogrammed area of the park has been allowed to be converted into commercial uses for up to five months a year by the Randall's Island Park Alliance in cooperation with the city.

The 16-year-old teen woke up on the first day of the three day event under a van in a parking lot with her pants undone and bruises and scratches on her legs.  Medical personnel at Cornell Medical Hospital later determined she was sexually assaulted.

Electric Zoo’s Long Island City-based organizer, Made Event, hired its own doctor and ambulances so “they wouldn’t have to call 911, which would bring the cops,’’ according to published reports. 

The city finally cancelled the event on the last day in the wake of the incidents. 

“Due to serious health risks, the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island on Sunday, September 1st has been cancelled," the city said in a statement. 

"The City recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed.”

Electric Zoo co-founder Mike Bindra, 44, the former manager the drug-plagued Twilo club in Chelsea,  also employed a private ambulance outside the club.   The club was shut down by the city in 2001 after unconscious patrons were found hidden by employees and several fatal ODs.  City officials charged that Twilo used its own private ambulances for overdoses to remain off the NYPD radar. A lawsuit alleged that management hid dozens of sick patrons rather than calling for help.  

After the debacle, Mayor Bloomberg praised Mr. Bindra.

In November SFX Entertainment announced it had acquired Made Event the creators of Electric Zoo Festival.

Mike Bindra (l.) was the general manager of Twilo.
(from l) Mike Bindra,  Aimee Boden - President & Park Administrator of the Randall's Island Park Alliance RIPA -  Bindra's wife - Laura Tigz De Palma, and Anne Wilson,  Director of Planning & Public Funding for RIPA.  Bindra and his wife Laura are the founders of the Electric Zoo.  RIPA reportedly received a $600,000 fee from event organizers.  (Image: NY Daily News)

Elecric Zoo came on the heels of another controversial event held a few months earlier in the same location, Governors Ball which jeopardized public safety and wreaked havoc on the field.  

City officials decided to allow the concert to go on under tropical-storm conditions and  despite a severe weather advisory. 

Twenty-eight acres of public parkland were destroyed,  turned into a mud bowl when more than 100,000 feet combined with torrential rains from Tropical Storm Andrea demolished the giant lawn after the city refused to cancel the concert.

In a rare public airing of differences between the City and the Randall's Island Park Alliance,  Manhattan Parks commissioner  Bill Castro said they regretted not canceling the Governors Ball amid such inclement weather.

"We'll consider it a learned lesson," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Organizers of the Ball however,  along with Aimee Boden,  Executive Director of the Alliance and a Parks Department employee,  disagreed with Mr. Castro.

Apparently the incessant coverage of the impending Tropical Storm Andrea the week leading up to the event was not cause enough for concern, or even a tip off to the possible storm conditions or potential public safety hazzards for the organizers or the city,  to insist the event be cancelled earlier. 

Tom Russell,  a partner in Founders Entertainment,  said heavy rain or extreme mud weren't reasons to halt the festival. 

"There's not much planning you can do for six inches of rain in 36 hours," he said.

The  Randall's Island Park Alliance received  $ 600,000 dollar fee for the event.

The field was closed to the public for months and some subsequent events were canceled. 

Bloomberg LP's annual rental of the public park land for his lavish corporate company party had to be rescheduled later later in the summer. 

The Electric Zoo music festival is lobbying to return Randalls Island after being shut down last year when two college students died of a drug overdose and a host of other incidents. 

Promoters of a Randalls Island electronic music festival — unplugged by the city last year after two drug deaths — are pressing top mayoral aides for a permit to stage the event again, according to the NY Daily News.   

Organizers of the Electric Zoo hired high-powered lobbyist Mike McKeon, whose firm, Mercury Public Affairs, raised $32,520 for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and inauguration. 

McKeon and another Electric Zoo lobbyist, Patrick Jenkins, recently reached out to key de Blasio aides, contacting Emma Wolfe, director of intergovernmental affairs; Dominic Williams, chief of staff to First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, and Avi Fink, Wolfe’s deputy, city lobbyist disclosure records show.  

The lobbyists are seeking a Parks Department permit so their client, EZ Festivals LLC, can operate the huge techno-music event at Randalls Island over Labor Day weekend.  Last year, the city shut down the final day of the show after college students Jeffrey Ross, 23, and Olivia Rotondo, 20, died from overdoses of a dangerous drug known as Molly.  

There were four other nonlethal overdoses during last year’s festival, and critics blasted event organizers for lax security that allowed drugs to flow freely.  

“I’m disappointed that the city is even considering the application considering what happened last year,” said Marina Ortiz, of E. Harlem Preservation Inc., whose neighborhood abuts the festival.   

Geoffrey Croft, of the NYC Park Advocates, said that last year the city ignored pleas to shut down the party during a wild electrical storm on the first day of the three-day event.  

“They’re back, and they’ve  not be allowed anywhere near our public parks,” Croft said.  

De Blasio’s press secretary Phil Walzak declined to comment, and Parks Department spokesman Arthur Pincus said the application “is under review.” 

Electric Zoo is already claiming online it has two “expected” dates on Randalls Island in late August. 

Mercury’s Stefan Friedman emphasized Tuesday that organizers have already taken steps “to bolster what was already an extremely robust safety apparatus.” 

Read More:

New York Daily News -  March 25, 2014 - By Greg B. Smith 

New York Daily News - September 9, 2013 - By Barbara Ross  

Wall Street Journal - June 28, 2013 - By Josh Dawsey 

A Walk In The Park - September 4, 2013

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nine Arrested Protesting FreshDirect Relocation To South Bronx - Waterfront Access Denied

Embedded image permalink

Access Denied. A woman places a sun flower on the locked gate leading to the Harlem River Railyard along the water front in the South Bronx while protestors sit in front of the gate. The DOT  NY State-owned has been leased to the Galesi group for 99 years.
(Photos: By Leah Kozak via Twitter)

Nine people were arrested protesting the Bloomberg-era city and state subsidies being offered to relocate Fresh Direct  and the community's continued lack of waterfront access.   

The community is asking the de Blasio adminisration to drop its opposition the environmental lawsuit.


By Geoffrey Croft

The public has long been denied acess to the waterfront in the South Bronx.  Cut off by industry and pollution causing businesses. 

For years this community has organized to prevent what they feel is yet another inappropriate use of public land and tax dollars. 

The familiar BOYCOTT fresh Direct stickers can be found in many neighborhoods.  

On Saturday more than 100 people marched to the Harlem River Rail yards in the South Bronx to protest the Bloomberg-era city and state subsidies being offered to relocate FreshDirect and lack of waterfront access.

Nine South Bronx residents were arrested in the peaceful civil disobedience action when a blocked gate prevented them from entering the public brownfield land on the waterfront, the proposed location of controversial FreshDirect relocation. Their intention they say was to plant detoxifying sunflowers. 

Those arrested include faith leaders, directors of local organizations and other South Bronx community leaders.  

The movement is asking Mayor de Blasio to drop opposition to environmental lawsuit. 

Embedded image permalink    
Neighborhood residents walk along E. 138th Street in the South Bronx.  The day began with a rally at  a local park which was preceded by a march down to the Harlem River rail yards at St. Anns Avenue near E. 132nd street.  "Fresh Direct no es nuestro amo, No seremos tus esclavos!" 

Last year residents filed a lawsuit to opposition to FreshDirect’s proposed relocation. The lawsuit also seeks a full environmental impact study of the proposed project.  

Residents are calling on Mayor de Blasio to drop the City’s opposition to the lawsuit and support the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan which would provide more than 100,000 people access to a public waterfront that, for decades, has been inaccessible.

Chanting "South Bronx Demands Respect - Boycott FreshDirect, "  and "Este es nuestro espacio,  Escucha Bill de Blasio" the group arrived at the Harlem River Yard and placed sunflowers on the locked gate. The peaceful and exuberant event included traditional Puerto Rican plena drummers, a mariachi band, giant puppets, local children playing cello, and an interfaith reflection.    

FreshDirect, if allowed to proceed, would bring 1,500 additional daily truck trips through the South Bronx.  Critics argue that the plan is a Bloomberg-era relic attempting to give the diesel-intensive on-line grocer nearly $130 million in public subsidies to move to this public waterfront land from Queens. 

Critics also point out that the community is already burdened by asthma hospitalization rates at 21 times that of other New York City neighborhoods and the land should instead be used for open space. 

Embedded image permalink

Those arrested included faith leaders, directors of local organizations and other South Bronx community leaders.   The group also chanted, "Rubencito, pobecito Amiguito del Blumbito."

Boycott FreshDirect

Read More:

South Bronx Residents March, Rally Against FreshDirect's Proposed Move
 NY 1 - March 23, 2014 -  By Erin Clarke

New York Times - March 4, 2013 -  By Winnie Hu

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mitchell Silver To Be Named City's New Parks Commissioner

Mitchell Silver is the City's new Parks Commissioner.  


By Geoffrey Croft

An ex-planner, with a reputation for  working with communities will be appointed By Mayor Bill De Blasio to head the City's Parks Department later today.

Mitchell Silver, a Brooklyn native was formerly the chief planning and development officer for Raleigh, N.C. and former head of the American Planning Association. Prior to that he was deputy planning director in Washington, D.C.

Silver has taught at Hunter College, where he got his master’s degree in urban planning.   

Silver also co-authored Local Planning: Contemporary Principles, the primary textbook for the profession’s main licensing exam.

He met his wife, Mary Singleterry at Pratt  Institute.  

Mr. Silver was hired by WE ACT  to help faciliate the design process for the redevelopment of the Harlem Piers at 125th Street.   Community access to the waterfront in Harlem was created from a former Fairway parking lot and is now a heavily ulized open space.  

"Mr. Community engagement"  

A parks commissioner known for community-based planning and consultation will be sharp departure from the Bloomberg Administration which was known for having an often contentious relationship with critics and promoted a number of controversial policies and projects.

The current administration is facing a number of controversial Bloomberg-era park policies; The building a high-end restaurant in Union Square Park,  the  seizing of more than 47 acres on Flushing Meadow's Corona Park to build a mall; Allowing the commercial take-over of Damroach Park in Lincoln Center, Using the Bronx waterfront for Fresh Direct instead of for open space, and installing housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park to name just a few.  

The agency is also facing chronic underfunding and a number of privatization policies left over from the previous administration. 

Deputy commissioner Liam Kavanagh who has been running the day-to-day operations of the agency since former  Parks commissioner Adrain  Benepe was let go in 2012 was in Brooklyn last night attending a meeting in Brighton Beach on the controversial comfort stations. 

12:45 PM – Hosts Press Conference to Make an Announcement
Seward Park
Corner of Essex Street and Canal Street
New York, NY 10002
Footage will be provided by NYC TV and will be available shortly following the event on Encompass Port CTY- 4205. Official photos will be available at shortly following the event.

Read More:

NY Daily News - March 20, 2014 -  By Jennifer Fermino

Crain's New York Business - March 20,  2014 - Andrew J. Hawkins   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Glee Films In Washington Sq. Park

Glee cast members Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet, and Kevin McHale (wheelchair)  in Washington Sq. Park on Friday afternoon in between takes.  (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge 


By Geoffrey Croft

The hit tv show Glee returned to filming New York City last week. 

The cast - including Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet, and Kevin McHale (wheelchair) -  returned to Washington Square Park for a couple of days of exterior shooting.  The show has filmed in the famed Village park in at least two prior seaons.

The show is currently filming on-location scenes in NYC for Season 5, Episode 16: "Tested." 


"What's up New York City! So excited to be back in NYC but this time to shoot # Gee!" Lea Michele tweeted.

"Having one of my favorite days of all time on the set of today in New York City! So much fun!

Over the years the show has utilized many NYC park locations including Central, Battery, Bryant Park and Times Square.

Glee cast member Chris Colfer getting mic'd up in Washington Sq. Park in between takes. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Park Crime Increases 18% - Up Nearly 60% Over 5 years

Police investigate the rape and strangulation of a 28-year-old Russian woman on November 17th in Central Park near 100th street between Fifth Avenue and the East Drive. Police arrested Omar Hoist, 32, a few days later. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

There were 26 incidents in Central Park during the final quarter of 2013 including eight robberies, and two felony assaults. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Crime in the city's 31 largest parks rose 18% in 2013 over the previous year according to the latest figures compiled by the NYPD.

There were 417 major felonies reported in these parks the highest yearly total since 2009 when the City Council began to receive crime in parks information from the small data set.

In 2012 there were 354 felony crimes reported. 

Crime increased by nearly 60 % over last 5 years of the Bloomberg administration the data shows.

Three parks accounted nearly 60% of all crime that occurred in quarter: Central Park (26 incidents); Flushing Meadows (17 incidents); and Riverside Park (13 incidents).  

The dramatic increase in park crime comes of heals of comments made last week by Police Commissioner Bratton who spoke about his work in re-organizing the department including some of the issues he will focus upon.

The commissioner mentioned that he along with his consultant, criminologist George Keeling, author of the "Broken Windows Theory" -  will be resurveying "parks and open spaces."

Under Bloomberg the city had been remarkably slow to implement a GPS system to track crime in parks. GPS mapping which is what is ultimately needed has finally begun in some parks as part of the Citywide Street Centerline (CSCL) database - but this should have been completed many years ago. 

Year  Total number of major felony crime complaints

2013   417  
2012   354  
2011   327 
2010  328 
2009   265

There were 93 major felonies in city parks in the fourth quarter of 2013. This is the highest number of felony crimes in parks in a fourth quarter in the past four years.


Central Park  - Manhattan       1 Rape, 8 Robberies, and 2 Felony Assaults 
Crotona Park - Bronx                     8 Robberies
Flushing Meadows - Queens 4 Robberies, two Burglaries, and 9 Grand Larceny
Prospect Park -  Brooklyn 1 Rape, 6 Robberies, 
Riverside Park - Manhattan 8 Robberies, and 5 Felony Assaults

Last month the City Council passed Int 859-A, Peter Vallone's revamped park crime bill after Mayor Bloomberg vetoed it in one of his final acts as mayor.   

The new bill includes important improvements to a previous weak law passed in 2005 that omitted more than half the park properties.

The bill also removes the language that made compliance of the original 2005 park crime reporting bill, “subject to the availability of resources and the introduction of the necessary technology, ” a stipulation that the NYPD relied on, at least legally,  in order to avoid comply with the law.   

Beginning January 1, 2014, the new bill requires the NYPD to report the data for the thirty largest parks, as determined by acreage;  beginning June 1, 2014, the NYPD would have been required to report data for the one hundred largest parks, beginning January 1, 2015, report data for two hundred largest parks, beginning January 1, 2016, report data for the three hundred largest parks and beginning January 1, 2017, the NYPD  report data for all parks one acre or greater in size.

Unfortunately the new law gives the city another four years to comply with the tracking crime for more than half of the park properties.  Beginning in January 1, 2018, the NYPD will be required to report data for all public pools, basketball courts, recreation centers, and playgrounds that are not located within parks one acre or greater in size. 

The bill also requires the NYPD to conspicuously post all quarterly reports of major felony crime complaints for parks online via the department’s website within 5 business days of the department’s submission of such reports to the Council.  The data was not released this way on Tuesday. 

The original bill dubbed,  "What Happens In Parks Stays In Parks,"   by critics contained a number of glaring omissions that continued to jeopardize public safety. The bill was introduced by Peter Vallone and supported by the Parks Department partner organization New Yorkers For Parks.

In 2005 the City passed Local Law 114, requiring the Police Department to track and release felony crime data in all parks only one acre or greater after three years which the city did not comply with.   More than eight years after being passed the NYPD was still only reporting crimes in 30 city parks, plus Central Park which has it own police precinct.

In response to an uptick of violent crimes and to repeated calls on the Bloomberg administration to increase the severely depleted ranks of Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP),  last year the administration doubled the number officers. 

The City hired 80 officers bringing the total number to 161 a dramatic decrease of 450 officers in the 90's. 

More than a dozen officers however have already left the agency since being hired bringing the number  down below 150.   Officers cite poor pay, lack of moral caused by poor management, and opportunity for advancement within the job as reasons for leaving. 

Evergreen Playground, Brooklyn - July 13, 2012.   A Parks Department worker washes down the basketball court hours after 24-year-old Kevin Daugherty was shot in the eye while playing ball died a year later. Most playgrounds are less than 1 acre in size. Unfortunately the new law gives the city another four years to comply with the tracking crime for more than half of the park properties.  Beginning in January 1, 2018, the NYPD will be required to report data for all public pools, basketball courts, recreation centers, and playgrounds that are not located within parks one acre or greater in size.  

Read More:

Wall Street Journal - March  12, 2014 - By Michael Saul

A Walk In The Park - February 4, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

WABC News -  March 12, 2014