Idealist.org Unearths NYC Blogs throughout the Five Boroughs

In response to the Sunday New York Times‘ City Section article, Idealist.org nicely compiled a list of NYC blogs throughout the Five Boroughs!

It’s a good way to test out my theory about the lack of Manhattan true neighborhood blogs (Brooklyn is overflowing with them!) – although I’ve been alerted to a number in the East Village and Harlem which sort of makes sense, right? If you were going to pick two Manhattan neighborhoods with a bit of edge, you’d probably pick those two. I will have to do my own informal surveying of the rest.

It’s unclear if Idealist considers Roosevelt Island its own borough…? Isn’t it part of Manhattan? And c’mon… Staten Island … one blog? There must be more to say there!

Report-back from Washington Sq Park Task Force Meeting on Phase II of Park’s Redesign (Emphasis: The Playground, But So Much More is Revealed)

Washington Sq Pk in the Snow, Fountain/Arch, 2005

Washington Sq Pk in the Snow, Fountain/Arch, 2005

What was learned from the Washington Square Park Task Force – Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting Wednesday, January 7th held at the NYU Silver Center addressing (more of) Phase II as Phase I of Washington Square Park’s redesign nears completion:

* The large playground (Northeast side) will be done in segments so that the whole playground is never closed at one time. It will remain in its footprint (same size) and will include a spray shower, new lightweight gate, spray area, spray features, a water trench, sand box, swing area, a children’s garden (outside the playground fence), floating benches, new trees (one cherry tree is slated for destruction), and “safety surface” (a sample of which will be provided at some point in the future).

* A Parks Department representative said, of the playground, “only so much needed to be done.” A statement which I find sort of ironic … isn’t that the case for the entire park? (Needed a renovation? … Yes. Some fixin’, some sprucing up, but a massive redesign? No, I think not.)

* Then, there’s the fact that playground received its own separate meeting. I asked CB2 Parks Committee chair and WSP Task Force co-chair Tobi Bergman about this: “Will the other parts of Phase II be getting their own meetings, the seating alcoves, the chess area, the Garibaldi performance area, the dog runs?” He answered no. So why did the playground get special treatment? Mr. Bergman informed me that, for the rest of Washington Square Park, the Task Force just submits its suggestions to the Parks Department and basically accepts whatever the answer is, like it or not. (I stopped writing at this point, so mesmerized was I by this answer, but it’s on film. I can get back to you on the exact words.)

CB2 Chair and WSP Task Force co-chair Brad Hoylman added, to explain the isolated meeting, “There are no parents of young children on the Task Force.” (Its purpose was to outreach to the community. Then, he said, by way of clarification, there are parents but of older children.) Matt Davis, who directed the documentary SQUARE: Straightening Out Washington Square Park,” then asked if there were any “dog owners” on the Task Force. This was not adequately addressed although it seems the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean the dog runs are getting their own meeting.

* So, basically, what is convenient for the New York City Parks Department is discussed by the Washington Square Park Task Force, at this point in time. (I’ve written a number of posts about my concerns with the WSP Task Force, a body which was put into play by local NY City Council Member Alan Gerson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. See WSP Task Force under Categories, column to right.)

* The Parks Department has assigned a designer to work on the playground (Chris Crowley) who is willing to work with the community, contrast this with the landscape designer working on the majority of the park (George Vellonakis) who isn’t.

* And it was the first time I heard someone quote from the Landmarks Preservation Commission‘s ruling in a way that limited what was done. Apparently, the LPC “did not want McDonald’s in the playground” so there will be a limit to big, colorful, plastic fixtures, I gather.

* Wouldn’t it be nice if … high, unwelcoming fences, misplaced lamps, overdone gardens, leveled off plazas, aligned (Tisch) fountains, massive reduction of public space, sterile pathways, suburban plazas, and a close-to-maniacal-emphasis-on-symmetry were off limits in their ruling also?

Mayor Mike In the News … You win some, you lose some?

Mayor Mike, amidst the people

Mayor Mike, amidst the people

Having attended (and reported back on) the federal court hearing around term limits last week in downtown Brooklyn, I am not surprised that Judge Charles P. Sifton ruled in the City’s favor saying the term limit overhaul can stay. I would have been awfully surprised if Judge Sifton, who seemed really tired and troubled (confused even) as to how to make the decision, ruled otherwise. I’m sure it was just easier to rule for the city, and maybe (a big maybe) their legal arguments were stronger.

We all know; however, it was the 29 Members of the NY City Council who voted for overturning voted-in term limits, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and, at the end of the day, our illustrious (well, at least he thinks so) CEO Mayor Mike Bloomberg who are responsible. You can read the Times’ story “Judge Rejects Suit over Term Limits.”

But there is still another piece to the term limits puzzle.

As the Daily News reported on October 13th, 2008:

The brouhaha may be about whether the fate of term limits is decided by special election or the 51-member City Council, but in the end it’s up to the feds.

New York is among the localities covered by the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval for changes in voting rules to protect minority-group rights.

Yet, there was a short subsequent article on January 6th, 2009 in the Daily News reporting some suspicion over the fact that Mayor Bloomberg had not filed the paperwork to initiate the federal approval process. It stated:

More than two months after signing the controversial law allowing him to seek a third term, Mayor Bloomberg still hasn’t sought the required federal approval for it.

It’s odd and suspicious. It smacks of having some other agenda,” said election law expert Richard Emery, a foe of the term extension, who backs Bloomberg’s third run anyway.

What could that agenda BE…?

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But the Mayor didn’t get off scot free today… see this Times’ story “Yankee Stadium Burdens Mayor’s Campaign.” The article begins: “With a vote set on Friday on whether to extend $372 million in additional tax-free financing for the new Yankee Stadium, challengers to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg are trying to halt the subsidies. State lawmakers have subpoenaed team and city officials to an emergency hearing on Wednesday, and what once looked like a gleaming example of the mayor’s financial skill is suddenly looking like one of his biggest vulnerabilities.”

Update from Washington Sq Pk Task Force/Community Bd 2 Parks Mtg Tomorrow!

A brief report back from last week’s (January 7th) meeting of the Washington Square Park Task Force and Community Board 2 Parks Committee in which the NYC Parks Department gave a presentation on the forthcoming playground design — part of Phase II of the park’s redesign plan, coming this spring!  Some other interesting tidbits were revealed… More tomorrow.

Neighborhood Blogs – What Happened to Manhattan?

The New York Times’ City section this weekend featured a cover story on what they termed neighborhood blogs (“You Talkin’ to Me?”). But, as Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York points out today: “The Times takes a look at neighborhood blogs–but I don’t see any Manhattan blogs named. Is that because Manhattan no longer has neighborhoods, but rather shopping centers and party areas?

Manhattan’s neighborhoods are increasingly so gentrified and so homogenized that it’s possible that people don’t identify themselves as part of the neighborhood in the same way people do in the outer boroughs, or else the lines are so blurred between nabes, that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next begins. Otherwise, I believe we’d see a Chelsea blog, a West Village blog, an Upper West Side blog, etc. (In fact, that would have been an interesting story.)

(There is an East Village blog and that might be one of the few neighborhoods that defies this rule, hanging on by a thread to its character and uniqueness and letting a few wayward souls hang around. Harlem has a blog but also is a neighborhood fighting against being subsumed into the gentrification tsunami. And, of course, if I’m wrong about this lack of Manhattan “neighborhood blogs,” do let me know!)

Otherwise, it seems the Manhattan blogs, like mine, are devoted to specific places and issues — Chelsea Hotel, Stuyvesant Town, Vanishing New York, etc. — that have some challenge going on around them.

In Brooklyn, almost every neighborhood from Park Slope to Gerritsen Beach to Kensington to to Bed-Stuy has a blog! There is much to write about! I believe that gentrification destroys a certain collective creative spirit and that Brooklyn – made up of many people who left or had to leave Manhattan, people who’ve seen first hand what gentrification does and therefore have the will to fight to preserve – to meet that challenge, needs to work to retain the vibrancy that it, in particular, has.

Perhaps Manhattan fell first and so people who lived there weren’t able to catch it in time … perhaps Manhattan was considered so desirable that Wall Street and corporate America and the Bloombergs and Trumps of the world got a stronghold on it with their money and their “power.” Not to say that the outer boroughs aren’t challenged in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York but they have a bit more of a chance.

One day Manhattan will come back (let’s hope before it’s all demolished and replaced with shiny glass buildings and comprised entirely of NYU and Columbia University). Perhaps it’ll be long after Mayor Bloomberg is out of office (’09 preferably) but it’ll happen.

Photo: Annie Mole / London Underground Tube Diary

The article above is from British Metro.

Central Park’s Wild Turkey Hanging Out at Corner of 59th and 6th

Wild Turkey off Central Park running path

Wild Turkey off Central Park running path

Apparently Central Park, which spans from 59th to 110th Streets and covers 840 acres, is getting a bit boring for a wild turkey that took up residence there. The turkey was spotted yesterday outside the confines of the park at the corner of 59th Street and 6th Avenue. NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe — who unfortunately has not always been on the up & up to date around redesign details of Washington Square Park and other public space issues, typically leaning toward reducing, corporatizing and privatizing public space — does seem to appreciate wildlife. Commissioner Benepe told the New York Times he spotted the turkey in the rain. He said, “I saw the wild turkey on the corner of 59th and Sixth Avenue, right in front of the statue of Simon Bolivar, just completely out in the open by itself, as if its a pigeon, except it’s five times bigger.”

Read the Times’ story here.

Oral Arguments heard on Term Limits and the “naked ambition” of Mayor Bloomberg and 29 City Council Members yesterday in downtown Brooklyn

Oral arguments around the Term Limits lawsuit were conducted at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn yesterday afternoon. Plaintiffs, including NY City Council Members Bill de Blasio, Letitia James, Charles Barron, as well as voters and third party candidates, argue that the City Council’s overturning of two voter referendums violates the First Amendment and due process protocol. Randy Mastro argued the case for the plaintiffs and did a compelling job, at one point referring to Mayor Bloomberg and the 29 City Council members who enacted our CEO Mayor’s bidding as “scoundrels.” Stephen Kitzinger, lead attorney for the city, was a little less compelling but seemed very confident in his arguments. Judge Charles P. Siftin (U.S. District Court) seemed confused as to how he would make the decision of whether the City Council had the right to overturn voted-in term limits, the effect ultimately being that they gave themselves and the Mayor an almost guaranteed third term. The judge stated: “It is difficult to convert [the arguments] into a common denominator.”

For NY1’s clip and story, go here.

Curbed Highlights of ’08, featuring the Mounds, Waterfalls, NYU destruction of Provincetown Playhouse and more!

Some days Curbed just makes all the difference.

Check out the “Curbed Awards’ 08: The Neighborhoods in Glorious Detail!”  I, for one, miss being entertained reading about the “public art” of the Waterfalls and their (or despite their) arborcidal ways. Curbed is a bit concerned about the Mounds’ longevity at Washington Square Park in the next phase (II) of the Parks Department’s redesign plan … and tells us what’s going on with Provincetown Playhouse now that NYU has its way.

Washington Sq Park Task Force to focus on Children’s Playground at Meeting Wed. Jan. 7th

A planned follow-up to the December 3rd Washington Square Park Task Force/Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting focusing on the renovation of the large children’s playground will be held this Wednesday, January 7th. This part of the project is actually a renovation and not a dramatic redesign like the rest of the New York City Parks Department’s three phase plan for Washington Square Park. In a refreshing change of pace that hopefully will continue, the Parks Department is attempting to work with the community, in contrast to the situation – to date – with the other element’s of the park’s redesign.

Details: Wednesday, January 7th, 6:30 p.m. Location: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Pl. Room 520 (I.D. Required).

The designer working on the playground is Chris Crowley, as opposed to Parks Department landscape designer George Vellonakis who has much different, um, style. Crowley was responsible for a renovation plan of the park drafted in the late ’80’s (never completed) – that allegedly received Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 2 approval – which worked with the existing design that is favored by so many.

Court Hearing Challenging NY City Council Term Limits Vote; Opening Arguments Begin Monday, Jan. 5th in Brooklyn

So, do you remember that lawsuit that NY City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, and Charles Barron, as well as Comptroller William Thompson, filed back in November challenging the City Council overturning of voted-in term limits on October 23rd? Well, interestingly enough, opening arguments begin tomorrow, Monday, January 5th at the United States District Federal Courthouse in downtown Brooklyn between lawyers for the plaintiffs and the city.

Mayor Bloomberg, City of New York, the City Council, and Speaker Christine Quinn, among others, are listed as defendants in the suit. You can download a PDF of the suit and read the Times’ original story from November at the paper’s web site.

The suit is being litigated by Randy Mastro, formerly a deputy mayor in the Giuliani Administration, and Norman Siegel, well known as an advocate for free speech who is also running for public advocate.

From the complaint:

Allowing a self-interested mayor and City Council to dismiss the results of two recent referenda undermines the integrity of the voting process, effectively nullifies the constitutionally-protected right to vote, and perniciously chills political speech by sending the unavoidable message that the democratic exercises of initiatives and referenda can be disregarded by public officials.”

From my post about the suit when first filed:

One of Mayor Bloomberg main arguments is, that if people don’t want him as Mayor for a third term, they can just vote him out. However, the lawsuit highlights how unlikely that is. For City Council Members, the complaint states: “in the past decade, only 2 of 107 incumbent council members lost a re-election bid.” Couple that statistic with our billionaire mayor’s intention to spend $80-$100 MILLION of his personal fortune (which, by the way, quadrupled while he has been Mayor) on his campaign and it’s not really a fair fight.

Details if you’d like to attend (it should be interesting):

Monday, January 5th, 4:30 p.m.

Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Downtown Brooklyn

Trains: 2, 3 to Borough Hall and Clark Street; 4, 5, M, R to Court Street/Borough Hall; A,C,F to Jay Street/Borough Hall; in addition, many Brooklyn buses go to Borough Hall (check MTA website).