My Conversation with NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe. Part II: When city officials spread “wrong information”

New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said to me, “It’s all those crazy bloggers spreading wrong information.”

I suppose officials always need a scapegoat. But what about when the City official in charge of an agency, say, the Parks Department, knowingly spreads wrong information? What then?

Washington Square Park

On the cutting back of public space in Washington Square Park Commissioner Benepe argued, “There’s no reduction of public space.”

The facts: In reality, there’s a 23% reduction of the central plaza in Washington Square Park, according to the blueprints. That’s 23% less room — not even including the reduction in public space due to the reconfiguration of the old fountain, which served as a one-ring circus for performers and protests.

“The Community Board approved it,” hammered Benepe — a theme we’ve heard over and over again from City officials like Council member Alan Gerson and Council Speaker Christine Quinn too. In reality, the Community Board rescinded its approval over a year ago, at a meeting April 19, 2007. Said the commish: “That’s not true.” Well, yes, it is.

Union Square Park

In discussing how the community would like to see something different at Union Square Park than what the Parks Department is offering, Commissioner Benepe retorted, “Why did the Community Board support it? Why did the Arts Commission?”

The next day to NY1, Commissioner Benepe relayed the following: “It’s really a terrific plan, we’ve been working on it for five years,” said Benepe. “It was fully approved overwhelmingly by the community board…”

The facts: According to Community Board 5 Chair David Siesko, “Despite all of the public observations, Community Board Board Five has not yet taken a position on the future use of the pavilion”, which the Mayor wants to turn into a private restaurant most likely owned by, or affiliated with, Union Square Partnership co-chair, Danny Meyer.

Commissioner Benepe then said to me, “The projects are moving forward.” … Truth be damned? So much for us “crazy bloggers.”

Time Magazine Believes Mayor Bloomberg’s Tree Hype

Does all the media believe Mayor Bloomberg’s “I’m a tree hugger” spin?

According to Thursday’s (5-1) New York Post, Time Magazine will include Mayor Bloomberg in their 100 Most Influential People In the World issue coming out May 2nd. Time asked Mayor Bloomberg to pose on a tree branch outside of City Hall (which he was more than happy to do clearly, via a cherry picker which lifted him up to that branch) to “illustrate his commitment to environmental issues.” What’s more… Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote the accompanying piece! It’s a bit troubling when the “experts” don’t look beyond the p.r. to get the real story.

For a refresher on the destruction of our City’s trees under Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, click here.

Coming up — Part II of my conversation with Parks Commissioner Benepe: what he thinks about community input, and some confusion on his part about the fact that neither district Community Board has “approved” his plans for the redesigns of Washington Square Park and Union Square Park, more.