NY Daily News: “Kiss my grass, Mayor Bloomberg” by Michael O’Keefe

There has been much to report on Parks in the news lately … I’m still catching up! Michael O’Keefe, the New York Daily News Sports writer, wrote this past Sunday about the upcoming Jon Bon Jovi concert on Central Park‘s Great Lawn:

Fans of Sayreville’s own Bon Jovi have apparently learned how to defy the laws of gravity! Either that, or Mayor Bloomberg and his administration are once again rolling over for sports teams and leagues.

Back in August 2004, as it was becoming crystal clear that the Bush administration had cynically exploited the Sept. 11 attack to drag America into a pointless war in Iraq, thousands of people from around the world came to New York to voice their outrage during the Republican National Convention.

Anti-war groups hoped to channel that anger with a massive demonstration in Central Park, but the city refused to issue the necessary protest permits. Peace, love and understanding, the city argued in federal court, is not healthy for Great Lawn grass and other living things.

But when Major League Baseball and its corporate sponsors decided to host a Bon Jovi concert this coming Saturday, in conjunction with the July 15 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, nobody in the Bloomberg administration apparently raised a Sambora about the grass. Is Bloomberg livin’ on a prayer, hoping Bon Jovi fans will hover over the Great Lawn?

The Bloomberg administration will argue that this is all about numbers – the 60,000 rock fans expected for the Bon Jovi concert won’t have the same impact on the grass as the 250,000 protesters United for Peace and Justice hoped to rally in Central Park in 2004.

But given how Bloomberg has consistently put the greed of the sports teams – especially the Yankees, Mets and Nets – over the needs of ordinary citizens, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

As Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez pointed out last week, City Hall is backing a Yankee request for $366 million in additional tax-exempt financing to complete the new Yankee Stadium – a very expensive handout for a private business that employs a tiny number of New York residents.

Lawyers for Willets Point businesses, meanwhile, say the city has refused to provide even basic services to the neighborhood for years. So is it coincidence or conspiracy that the city has decided to use eminent domain to throw out the junkyards and body shops just as the Mets are putting the finishing touches on their nearby new stadium?

Bloomberg, meanwhile, has been a shameless cheerleader for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, which has become an international synonym for a shameless corporate land grab.

A free Bon Jovi concert might be a nice midsummer gift. But stop rolling over every time a sports official asks for a favor, Mr. Mayor. Some New Yorkers would rather protest a bloody and immoral war than chill out with bland suburban rock.

I’m impressed by sports writers. They inject passion and reflect on history in a way that, for the most part, political writers and media covering City Hall don’t. If politics was covered the way sports is, perhaps more people would know what was going on and the world … our City … would be a different place.