NY Post Reports New Washington Square “Coalition” comprised of anonymous wealthy donors and NYU. Privatization of Park begins?

In today’s New York Post, we’re informed of a new “coalition:”  “The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park.”  

The name and article bring up a lot of questions:  Who doesn’t want a better Washington Square Park but who decides what’s “better?”  … The people who wanted the fountain aligned and plaza leveled and trees cut down?  The people who are concerned about their real estate values?  People who have money to throw around and yet won’t reveal who they are?  

The article reveals that the new “coalition’s” goal is “beefed up security” at the Park made up of “off duty NYPD cops” to rid the park of “druggies and lowlifes.”  Yet, the individual people in the group – the ones funding it – won’t reveal who they are except for front man, neighborhood resident and sometime agitator, Gil Horowitz.  

I’ve noted a lot of police at the park since it reopened and they basically have nothing to do.  The Parks Department has explained at length to those who are concerned why it is difficult to curtail any questionable pot dealings in the park so why would NYPD “off duty” cops make the park anything but more… policed?

What we do know is that NYU is involved so an alarm bell goes off right there as to this new group’s intentions.

A step towards further privatization, perhaps?

From the article in New York Post:

Washington Square Park tokers, beware!

A group of “wealthy, high-level” Greenwich Village residents plans to hire a security force of off-duty NYPD cops to keep the refurbished bohemian playpen from returning to its bad old days as an open-air drug market, The Post has learned.

“The Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park” — which is made up of area co-op boards and NYU — says it wants to protect the great strides made there, including a multimillion-dollar face lift paid for, in part, by the Tisch family.

“There are wealthy New Yorkers that are public-minded,” said coalition founder Dr. Gil Horowitz, a longtime parkgoer and resident of lower Fifth Avenue. “We have brought together some very high-level people in order to get this done.”

Washington Sq Pk Turned Upside Down

Washington Sq Pk Turned Upside Down

And then this:

The powerbroker donors have thus far opted for anonymity.

“We just want people to respect the investments made in the park,” said Adelaide Polsinelli of the Presidents Roundtable, a coalition of Village locals.

Whose investments?  The Tisch Family? NYU?  The local Business Improvement District?

At least the story gets another viewpoint in there from lawyer Ron Kuby:

But longtime Village resident, lawyer Ron Kuby, expressed concern.

“I think the rich folk who are sponsoring this want to change the character of the park from the free-wheeling street-theater scene to something that resembles their backyard terraces,” he said.

Let’s stop this before it begins. Ideas, anyone?

Room 8: The role of bloggers as citizen journalists

Brooklyn BlogFest Sign * May 2008

Brooklyn BlogFest Sign * May 2008

On the day I testified at the City Council term limits public hearing, one of the other panelists was a journalist from a site called Room 8. Room 8 describes itself as: “the imaginary neighbor to New York City Hall’s legendary press room, Room 9. It’s a place for insiders and informed outsiders to have a running conversation about New York politics.”

Yesterday, Room 8 featured a post about the role of bloggers in covering Mayor Bloomberg and the whole term limits fiasco. In an article titled, “Was the Lie of ‘Consistent Leadership’ Old Media’s Last Stand?,” Oneshirt writes:

Only the city’s bloggers like Your Free Press, Pardon Me For Asking, The Brooklyn Optimist, The Daily Gotham, Queens Crap, and Washington Square Park [note: yes, yours truly] reported to their readers during the term limits debate that the Council’s argument for continuity of leadership to save the city’s economy was nothing more than public relations spin to cover the Council’s blatant power grab for an additional term in office. At the same time these citizen journalists across the City were reporting the real facts, the Mayor was meeting with the publishers of the three major dailies to coordinate a cover story for his support of extending term limits.

The writer then notes a lawsuit that lawyer Normal Siegel (who is running for Public Advocate and is one of the lawyers on the term limits lawsuit) has filed on behalf of bloggers – “citizen journalists” – who have been denied official press passes by the NYPD (which issues these media credentials):

Siegel’s lawsuit argues that … in favoring corporate-employed reporters over citizen journalists and independent bloggers, the City’s press credentialing system effectively chooses to license primarily staid, cautious reporting – with a strong bent toward corporate coddling – over the dynamic, unadulterated articles of journalists like [plaintiff Rafael] Martinez-Alequin.

The article ends by stating:

The city’s fast-emerging community of bloggers is quickly growing its readership simply by providing the type of truthful analysis that is hard to find in the City’s dailies. In so doing, New York’s blogosphere has established itself as the City’s premiere forum to debate controversial opinions, encourage participation in local politics, and further the belief that people should control their own lives.

I’ve thought often about the role of New York City’s bloggers in reporting the dramatic changes in our city under Mayor Bloomberg which go largely unreported by the mainstream media. Without this information, one day we’d all wake up, would not recognize anything about where we are and we’d wonder how it happened.

This Week In the News: Toyota gets naming rights to an East Village park… NYPD wants precinct in Flushing Meadows Park… Randalls Island ruling allows athletic field construction… Privatization and Parks

Toyota Park*Toyota gets its own park in the East Village! Curbed and the New York Times report on the Toyota Children’s Learning Center (photo) on East 11th Street. The landscape architect told the Times, “The notion of the Toyota Garden is of learning and discovering.” But as Curbed noted, “Discovering the joys … of driving a Toyota!” In addition: “The park was spearheaded by Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, and the opening was accompanied by a VIP gala in Tompkins Square Park.” The New York City Parks Department hands oversight of certain parks and community gardens over to New York Restoration Project. I read the The New York Times article first and there was no reference to Toyota’s monetary involvement so I naively sat there pondering … could this park really be named for Toyota, the car company? Then it was confirmed that, yes, it is.

*The New York City Police Department wants to place the 110th Precinct IN Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. As the New York Sun reports, this is NOT to oversee the park but the whole district – to take the place of the precinct currently on 43rd Avenue. It’s hard to imagine there is no other location in Flushing, Queens that the NYPD could utilize versus putting a police precinct within a park, which should be open, public space.

*At Randalls Island: The New York Times reports that despite a court ruling last year stating that NYC – against the wishes of Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe – could not “grant [20 private] schools priority in using the [athletic] fields in exchange for $45 million,” construction of the fields continued. Now, a new ruling states that the city can continue building (even though they had been – ?) but they still can’t utilize money from the private schools. Where the money for the construction is coming from, no one knows. Commissioner Benepe stated, “We are pleased that today’s decision lifts a cloud over this important endeavor.” The NYC Parks Department seems to have a lot of clouds over their endeavors since most every project they put forth encounters a lawsuit by communities attempting to stop them.

*Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church and author, writes about privatization and parks in “When is a Gate Not a Gate” in this month’s Brooklyn Rail. She relates an experience she had ‘sneaking’ into Gramercy Park (which is a private private park — the park is only ‘accessible’ to the nearby neighbors whose buildings line the park). In discussing how Gramercy Park is open three days a year to the public, she comments that sometimes it doesn’t even open on those days, much to the confusion and disappointment of those awaiting these brief opportunities.

Reverend Shaper writes: “I wondered about the privatization of parks. Gramercy is the gold standard. But Bryant Park is also a new “public/private cooperation.” Soon Washington Square Park will have the Tisch Fountain at its center, although the movement grows to name it the “People’s Fountain.” Let the Tisch’s pay for it if they must. But giving them the name and the privatization feels like more than the fountain, which is nearly priceless, is worth.”