Where in the world is Alan Gerson?

Alan Gerson — the NY City Council representative for District 1 in Manhattan, which covers Washington Square Park — was missing in action Wednesday March 19th at the City Council hearing on the Parks Department and its Preliminary Budget. Alan Gerson is on the Parks & Recreation Committee of the City Council and all of his colleagues on the committee showed except for Gerson and Letitia James (Brooklyn).

Since Washington Square Park is a ‘hot topic’ for his constituents, we find it a bit odd that he would miss this presentation by the Parks Department and a chance to ask them some questions. (Although Parks & Recreation Committee chair Helen Foster – Bronx – noted that “if Alan had shown up,” his topic of focus was to ask Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe about “the bathhouses.”) Since the budget for the City’s redesign of Washington Square Park’s Phase I alone has more than doubled from $6 million to $13 million (the project was initially budgeted at $16 million TOTAL), it seemed like a perfect opportunity for Council Member Gerson to quiz Commissioner Benepe on this topic.

Council Member Gerson also failed to show up for an important Community Board 2 meeting in late December at which the Washington Square Park “renovation” was discussed and in which he was supposed to report back on whether he was releasing key City Council funds – under his discretion – for the Washington Square Park project to the Parks Department. (He sent his aide who read a statement which did not answer this question. His office now says that they told the community at that time that the funds were being released).

Contact NYC elected officials re: Washington Sq Park

Now is a good time to contact the New York City Council as they prepare for hearings next week on the Parks Department Preliminary Budget!

The Parks Department needs further oversight by the New York City Council. The Washington Square Park “renovation” alone has skyrocketed from $16 million to $25-30 million, an outrageous figure. We’re alarmed that the city is using this radical and unnecessary overhaul (and the rising cost) as a backdoor method to privatization of the Park. Everyone agrees that the Parks Department let Washington Square Park fall into disrepair and that the Park needs some repair. It does NOT need a redesign which reduces the public gathering space, relocates and gives naming rights of the historic fountain (to the Tisch Family after they contributed $2.5 million to the Mayor’s Fund), and moves virtually every piece of this successful Park into a new location. 11 trees have been cut down thus far for this folly. As a great public space (see Project for Public Spaces study of Washington Square Park), what is the reason for this outrageous redesign?

A responsible budget by the Parks Department would allow for Washington Square Park to be modestly repaired while allocating funds to Parks throughout the five boroughs in communities that desperately need the attention.

For other problems with the Parks Department, refer to this previous entry.

Contact: Helen Foster (Chair of the Parks Committee of the City Council) #718/588-7500; fax# 718/588-7790; email: foster@council.nyc.ny.us; Alan Gerson (City Council representative for Greenwich Village, member Parks Committee) #212/788-7722; fax #212/788-7727; email: gerson@council.nyc.ny.us; Christine Quinn(City Council Speaker): #212/564-7757; fax #212/564-7347; email: cquinn@council.nyc.ny.us

** Pictures coming from 3/13 Balloon Protest! **

note: CLICK on the photo above for more detail. It shows the Arch minus the Fountain (the two had been standing together OVER one hundred years). The fountain area is all torn up.

Speak Up for the Park(s)-NY City Council Hearings March 19


Mark your calendars …

We want money allocated for Parks in our city.

There has been a 70 percent reduction in personnel at Parks across the City. (What is the real reason the Parks Department loves artificial turf? It doesn’t need weeding by hand – by people.) We want wonderful parks streaming across the five boroughs but we also want OVERSIGHT of what happens at and to those parks.

The Parks Department is an agency of the Mayor’s office. The people only have their say when it’s budget time and are given a chance to come before the NY City Council. Otherwise, we have virtually no leverage. The place where the City Council DOES have oversight (although I would argue they could exhibit a bit more of a hands-on approach vis legislation and hearings) is over the Parks Department budget. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has proven that he won’t listen to the people. He’s expert at extending the Mayor’s privatization schemes, removing the grass and replacing it with the controversial artificial turf, selling off park land to corporate interests, and enabling the wealthy to buy the right to put their names on pools, tennis courts, fountains and benches. It’s like “Official Graffiti” — not carved in with a chisel or pen, but screwed into place with a screwdriver and hammer.

The Parks Department has allocated between $25 and $30 million for the smashup of Washington Square Park — almost double what had originally been proposed.

The NY City Council can call for Oversight Hearings and budget reviews. Read previous entry on the problems with the lack of oversight of the Parks Department.

The City Council is set to review the preliminary Parks Department budget on Wednesday, March 19th. It’s a chance for people to have their say about what we think is wrong and what can be improved. Plan to be at City Hall on March 19th at 1 p.m. (11:30 to hear from the Parks Department!) In the meantime, write to your City Council person about this issue.

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PARKS DEPARTMENT PRELIMINARY BUDGET HEARINGS
hosted by Parks & Recreation Committee of New York City Council

Wednesday, March 19th

11:30 a.m. Parks & Recreation Department presents Preliminary Budget to City Council followed by City Council member comments

1:30 p.m. PUBLIC COMMENT

@ New York City Hall – Committee Room
(trains: 4,5,6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, J/M/Z to Chambers Street.)

Note: This is the PRELIMINARY budget – Final Budget hearings are in May.