1 Year Ago: Community Board 2 Rescinds its Approval of Parks Department’s Washington Sq Park Plans

On April 19, 2007, Manhattan’s Community Board 2 rescinded its approval of Bloomberg’s plan to bulldoze and rebuild Washington Square Park. Happy Anniversary!

All, right, technically the Board gave the City until May 9, 2007, to adequately respond to questions that had been raised; otherwise, the approval would be rescinded. Which is what happened when the Parks Department ignored the Community Board’s directive.

While Community Board votes are largely considered “advisory,” officials like to cite Community Board decisions to validate their projects when those decisions go in their favor. In the case of Washington Square Park, Parks Commissioner Benepe falsely cites in his letters that he had the approval of the local Community Board, and ignores the inconvenient fact that the Board had rescinded their previous approval.

Here are the Minutes from the April 19th, 2007 Community Board meeting at which the Board took back its approval.

COMMUNITY BOARD 2 Manhattan MINUTES
DATE: April 19, 2007

13 3. Washington Square Park

WHEREAS, the Appellate Divisions opinion affirmed Community Board 2’s legal right to be fully informed and provided with accurate plans for review, irrespective of the Parks Department adherence to the Board’s recommendation

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Community Board 2 will rescind its prior approval of the plans for renovation of Washington Square Park effective May 9, 2007 unless before such date the Parks Department presents for review and examination its current plans for renovation to the full Community Board 2, the Community Board 2 Park and Waterfront Committee or to the Washington Square Park Task Force; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community Board 2 calls on our elected officials, most especially City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman Alan Gerson, State Senator Tom Duane, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Borough President Scott Stringer, to use their respective offices to urge the Parks Department to appear before the Community Board and/or the Washington Square Park Task Force and present its detailed plans for Washington Square Park before any contracts are put out to bid and work of any nature is performed in connection with the renovation of Washington Square Park.

Vote: Passed, with 42 Board members in favor and 5 in opposition.

Support Union Square Park * Upcoming Events Tues. Apr. 22 and Fri. Apr 25

NYC Parks Advocates and local Union Square community groups are filing a lawsuit to stop the city’s redesign of Union Square Park – to end the privatization and stop the destruction of public space and mature trees. The announcement will take place Tuesday, April 22nd at 11 a.m. at Union Square Park on 16th Street between Union Sq East and West in front of the Lincoln Statue.

It seems like a continuous dance … community groups having to file lawsuits to attempt to get New York City to proceed in the manner in which they should be proceeding anyway taking the community into account, not reducing the public gathering space, leaving mature trees where they are, not selling out the community to corporate interests.

Support is needed and please show up if you can.

In other news, working with NYC Street artists and others in planning an event at Union Square on Friday, April 25th (Arbor Day) from 6-8 p.m. — Save the Date! — more details to be posted later today or tomorrow. Bring your creative spirit.

In the News… Parks in Bronx…NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe: artificial turf is “safe”

Metro NY reporter Patrick Arden’s consistent reporting on the NYC Parks Department is a welcome presence.

In today’s edition of Metro, Arden reports that there’s some news about the Yankee Stadium “replacement parkland” in the Bronx.

On Friday, the Bloomberg administration opened a new artificial-turf ballfield on an old schoolyard here and billed it as “the first Yankee redevelopment park.”

The city had promised to create replacement parks in the South Bronx to make up for the 25 acres of parkland lost to the new Yankee Stadium project.

Unfortunately, as Arden reports, the new Park is one mile away from the previous parks (Macombs and Mullaly Parks) and in a another neighborhood.

(Didn’t Mayor Bloomberg announce as part of “PlaNYC 2030” that everyone in New York City should be within ten minutes of a park? … Unless, I gather, they want to build a corporate ballpark there.)

It seems artificial turf is questionable to everyone except for Parks Commissioner Benepe. The Metro article also states:

Last week, two artificial turf fields were closed by New Jersey health officials after detecting high levels of lead. Lead can cause brain damage and other illnesses.

While the concerns arose from surface coloring and airborne dust, many turf fields use crumbled tire rubber, which has also been found to contain lead.

The city’s Health Department is currently compiling its own report.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s safe,” said Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

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To read more, previous entries covered the Yankee Stadium situation in the Bronx (“Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks”) and also the City Council initiative to end use of artificial turf in our city Parks.