Hazardous Pesticide Spraying in Prospect Park Tonight

Prospect Park Lady Bug - Dead Soon?

After first saying that pesticide spraying would not occur in Prospect Park because of the Celebrate Brooklyn concerts – something that raised a few eyebrows (either something is urgent, or it is not) – the New York City Department of Health backtracked and said pesticide spraying will occur tonight after midnight in the Park.

Prospect Park is a 585 acre park with a 60 acre lake. There are dragonflies and bats — both natural predators of the mosquito, as well as butterflies, ladybugs, bees — all are killed by the pesticide spraying. In addition, people walking through the park tomorrow morning will be breathing in fresh pesticide spray which has known and detrimental health effects. People will be walking their dogs which are close to the ground and they will breathe in and walk through the harmful pyrethroid pesticide, Anvil 10+10.

A few years ago, I flyered Prospect park-goers with literature about the health effects of the pesticides and a woman stopped to tell me, that, after walking through the park the morning after it had been sprayed, she encountered numerous lady bugs on the ground dying.

This is our eco-system — we are charged with protecting it; not killing it.

You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning than getting the West Nile virus. If someone did get West Nile, typically, they would not know it or might experience a slight cold.

The city is also spraying other sections of Brooklyn and Queens. Originally the spraying was to take place Wednesday, August 3rd but was delayed due to rain.

See further information from the No Spray Coalition, an organization I work with —

NEW YORK CITY MUST STOP SPRAYING TOXIC PESTICIDES IMMEDIATELY

The City has announced it will spray dangerous pesticides in crowded residential areas in Brooklyn and Queens on Thursday, August 4th, 2011.

The No Spray Coalition is appalled by Mayor Bloomberg’s and the City’s Department of Health decision to renew the mass-spraying — no legitimate reasons given.

We also condemn the New York City government’s advice to residents and visitors that they personally use insect repellants containing DEET on themselves and their children. DEET is especially dangerous for children and should NEVER be used; it is associated with numerous infant deaths. The City knows this; we negotiated an agreement with the City last year that they wouldn’t recommend DEET.

Furthermore, this year’s spray of choice — Anvil 10+10 — is listed in Local Law 37 (2005 update, see page 1, paragraph 4, discussion of table 2) that states that for piperonyl butoxide and MGK-264 contained as synergists in Anvil 10 + 10, that:

both of these chemicals are classified as possible human carcinogens by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Only 94 products contain pyrethrins without other carcinogen ingredients. Therefore, most products containing pyrethrins continue to be prohibited under LL37 even if the reference to the EPA list was updated.

Local Law 37 prohibits the use of pesticides by NYC in public places if it contains PBO and/or MGK-264. Why are they violating their own law?

The No Spray Coalition is also deeply troubled not only by NYC’s reckless spraying of Anvil 10 + 10 to kill mosquitoes, but for the City’s very short notice — around 24 hours, that’s it!

“After years of litigation to stop this reckless spraying of pesticides which has contributed to skyrocketing increases in cancer and asthma, and now the collapse of bee colonies in the New York area, I am outraged that the Bloomberg Administration is renewing its mindless criminal poisoning of the people and environment of our City,” said Howard Brandstein, coordinator of SOS-FOOD, NY State Against Genetic Engineering, and a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit brought seven years ago by the No Spray Coalition and other organizations against Rudolph Giuliani and the New York City government.

That lawsuit ended in April 2007, when NYC signed a settlement agreement acknowledging, among other stipulations, that pesticides:
– may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose
– cause adverse health effects
– kill mosquitoes’ natural predators (such as dragonflies)
– increase mosquitoes’ resistance to the sprays, and
– are not presently approved for direct application to waterways.

The Department of Health contravenes that settlement by now stating that there are no significant risks of adverse impact to human health associated with the proper use of this product. “That is simply a lie,” said No Spray Coalition coordinator Mitchel Cohen. In fact, the spraying puts many New York City residents and visitors at grave risk.

“These kind of ignorant and lying politicians and bureaucrats apparently have no problem destroying our health in order to ‘save’ us from the so-called West Nile virus,” Howard Brandstein added. “Clearly, the spraying jeopardizes a thousand times more people than the disease.”

The pesticide the City is spraying — “Anvil 10 + 10” — belongs to a class of adulticides known as pyrethroids, which are endocrine disruptors. They mimic hormones such as estrogen, and may cause breast cancer in women and drastically lower sperm counts in men. Pyrethroids have also been associated with prostate cancer, miscarriages and preterm delivery, asthma, toxicity to many vital organs including the nervous system, liver, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract, skin rashes, itching and blisters, and nausea and vomiting.

Anvil contains the cancer-causing chemical piperonyl butoxide, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a suspected carcinogen. It also contains Sumithrin — a synthetic toxin, made in the laboratory — as well as benzene-related chemicals (which the label calls “inert ingredients.”) (more…)

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Are They Coming for the Canada Geese in your New York City Park?

-Updated-

Prospect Park's Beautiful Canada Geese This Morning (Only 23 Remain)

Washington Square Park doesn’t have any Canada Geese but many city parks throughout the five boroughs do. But, if it’s up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, not for long.

Mayor Bloomberg has signed off on gassing and slaughtering Canada Geese in NYC Parks for the third year in a row.

Things you need to know:

1. Resident Canada Geese are NOT a threat to Airline safety. That is a ruse put forth by the Mayor and a lie spread by the media.

2. The NY City Council and other City officials should rebuke Mayor Bloomberg for directing the needless slaughter, and NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe for signing off on it.

3. Let your NY City government representatives hear from you. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio: (212) 669-7250, ; your City Council representative.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, upon invite of the Mayor, came to our town in the dead of night and rounded up the resident Canada geese living in our City’s parks. The USDA hired minimum wage workers to bind their legs and bring them to a gas chamber set up at Kennedy airport.

1,676 geese throughout the five boroughs were killed in 2010, 1,235 Canada Geese in 2009. The round-up and slaughter of the geese for 2011 will begin ANY DAY NOW — unless we stop it.

They are planning to kill around 80% of our area’s geese. They will be rounded up along with their flightless goslings, cornered, trapped and then either gassed or have their heads chopped off (the “humane” solution).

The City is posturing as a good-will agency by killing our geese and saying they’ll feed them to the needy living in Pennsylvania — but mercury and other toxins found in geese likely prohibit any consumption.

Mayor Bloomberg felt he had to do something, no matter how irrelevant, when Flight 1549 went down in the Hudson. He didn’t want to be seen as impotent against the forces of nature.

Nature? Really? Two days A week BEFORE the “Miracle on the Hudson,” a pilot had reported mechanical problems with that very same aircraft. In interviews, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger expressed his biggest fears for air safety: budget cuts, sub-par maintenance and shockingly low salaries for professional pilots. (New York magazine, February 2009.)

Ever since Ronald Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union in 1981 enabling the airline companies to cut salaries and increase workloads for over-worked and exhausted personnel, they’ve looked to divert blame for accidents away from the companies’ own failures to maintain high standards. The truth is that resident geese DID NOT bring down flight 1549; the plane collided with migratory geese according to the Smithsonian Institution which analyzed the feathers. Rather than bring aircraft up to standard, the Mayor has decided to exterminate a population of birds, which – overwhelmingly – our communities treasure.

Now Mayor Bloomberg sees fit to exterminate an entire population of geese — even though resident geese do not interfere with airplanes and some areas, like Prospect Park, are outside the 7-mile radius that the Feds have imposed (at Bloomberg’s request) for the killings. (The City and Port Authority contract with the USDA to do the dirty work.)

And what About Alternatives? There are many, such as using Merlin Radar, altering light patterns of planes to prevent bird-plane collisions, studying migratory patterns and avoiding those bird corridors and times of day, and more. But they are not being used — it’s easier to kill.

links to be added.

See more at Humane Revolution.

Thanks to Mitchel Cohen of the Brooklyn Greens for his help in preparing this information!

Photo: David Karopin

Events!

* Don’t forget — today, Friday, March 25th! Remember the Triangle Fire events. 11 a.m. music & procession; 12 noon speakers & ceremony. 1 block from Park! (See previous post: Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration.)

* Saturday, March 26th – Hands Across Prospect Park – Save New York City’s Geese

Alert from Park Slope Neighbors:

This Saturday, March 26th, at 12:30 p.m., local activists will join advocacy group Friends of Animals, State Senator Eric Adams, City Council Member Letitia James, and concerned Brooklyn residents New Yorkers to link hands around the lake in Prospect Park to demonstrate for the protection of the park’s resident Canada geese.

Last year, the USDA rounded up and euthanized (WSP Blog correction) killed 368 geese that had been living in Prospect Park, setting off a raft of protests.  The culling was ostensibly done to prevent geese from colliding with airplanes, but the park’s geese were outside the protective zone that the FAA had established.

Friends of Animals is urging people to contact Mayor Bloomberg to state opposition to the culling of geese ** WSP Blog: throughout the city; over 1600 resident geese were killed last year mostly in parks throughout the five boroughs.

– Call the Mayor’s office at 311.
– Fax a message: 212-788-8123.
– Send an email to the Mayor.

For more information, please visit the Friends of Animals web site.  If you’re on Facebook, check out the Hands Around the Lake event page.

Location: Vanderbilt Street and Prospect Park Southwest, Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Map of location here.

* See previous WSP Blog post, The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese

In the News: NYC’s Plans for Private Restaurant in Union Square and Public-Private Partnership Conflict Continues at Prospect Park

* From Washington Square News: City looks to build restaurant in Union Square

— Previously on WSP Blog: The Union Square Pavilion & Privatization of Public Space

* Should someone be a City Parks Dept official and head of a private conservancy?

That’s how it goes at Prospect Park (via The Brooklyn Paper).

— Previously on WSP Blog: Prospect Park and the “sad legacy” of public-private partnerships

The Fate of Prospect Park’s Geese: Wildlife Advisory Public Meeting Wed. Nov. 17th – Speak Out

The Prospect Park Geese, as they once were

Former Prospect Park Geese Swimming - Prior to being Killed

The killing of somewhere between 250 and 400 geese at Prospect Park under the false pretense that they were impacting air “safety” led to vocalized outrage from park-goers and the nearby community. The geese were reportedly killed by gassing on park premises. The furor over this was directed towards the Prospect Park Alliance which recently announced it had formed a “Wildlife Management Advisory Committee.” This committee will be holding a public meeting Wednesday, November 17th to outline their plan and it is open for public comment.

It is important to note that it has never been stated previously that the geese in any way needed to be managed. It appears “managing the geese” was in the back of park management’s minds at the time of their gassing because it is now well known that Prospect Park is actually outside of the stated 7 mile designated range around NYC airports where geese were removed and killed (up to 1600 this year – 1200 last year – again, allegedly for “airline safety”).

The Prospect Park Alliance, the private entity in charge of the park, is now saying outright that the geese need to be “managed.” What that usually means is habitat modification (okay, I don’t have a problem to some degree with that), egg oiling (to prevent the eggs from hatching) and sometimes dogs to scare the geese away … yes, it’s better than killing, but is it (a) necessary and (b) the right thing to do?

This brings up other questions:

Is there some reason we can’t live with/share this 585 acre park with other species, even if there are some who consider them large in number?

Can we as a species learn to live with other species?

Who decides what is “too many”?

With Canada Geese being shoved out of the suburbs and outlying areas, where should they live, if not in a large public park where they are enjoyed by many?

Let’s protect our wildlife!

Note: There are now over 100 new geese at Prospect Park. Killing does not do anything – new geese fill the void. Geese are not, it must be noted, the main ‘culprit’ colliding with planes. Should we extinguish every bird in the sky? Clearly – although some would advocate for that – that is not possible. The onus is on the airline industry which is, at present, being protected by the USDA – the agency in charge of the mass killings – although NYC government gave them the go ahead.

Speak out at a public meeting to discuss next steps:

Wednesday, November 17th
6 p.m. at the Prospect Park Picnic House, enter at 3rd Street and Prospect Park West (inside the park) Brooklyn
phone # 718-965-8953

closest train: F/G to 9th Street 7th Avenue (exit at 8th avenue) or 2, 3 to Grand
Army Plaza

* Previously on WSP Blog:

The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese

Photos: Cathryn

Protests Against NYC’s Mass Killing of Canada Geese in Public Parks; Support Grows Across the U.S. to Let Geese Live

Protesters Flock to Bloomberg's East Side Townhouse

A Walk in the Park Blog reports on Monday evening’s (August 9th) protest in front of Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse condemning the Mayor’s support for killing up to 2000 resident Canada Geese in NYC public parks and spaces over the last two years.

The recent incident that raised people’s ire – and awareness – was the gassing of close to 400 Canada Geese which called Brooklyn’s Prospect Park home on Thursday, July 8th in the middle of the night. This was carried out with no public notice, no discussion, no transparency.

At Monday’s action, protesters were only allowed across the street from the Mayor’s East 79th Street townhouse. He was inside at the time with guests but left at one point directly encountering activists.

While our Mayor cites “air safety,” this is a ruse. Killing these resident geese will not make air travel safer. The birds that collided with the famous Flight 1549 which safely landed in the Hudson were migratory geese. Even so, are we supposed to kill every bird in the sky? We can keep birds away from the pathways directly near the airports through habitat modification; we can also track migratory patterns and track birds via radar.

We need to remember that we need to adapt to the birds; they do not have to adapt to us. Canada Geese deserve to live on this earth. We can’t keep making them move from place to place. They lived quite well and in harmony with people and other species at Prospect and other parks. It is readily forgotten that these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As their numbers have increased; unfortunately, so has our appreciation for them.

On Thursday, August 12th at 12 noon, there will be a protest/rally at New York City Hall in support of the geese and against killing.

Recent CNN piece on support for Canada Geese.

Photo: Geoffrey Croft / NYC Park Advocates

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Previously on WSP Blog:

* Why did New York City approve a massacre of 400 geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?

* The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese: Part I

Why did New York City approve a massacre of 400 geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?

Geese Swimming in Prospect Park Lake Once Upon A Time

It’s now one week since the rounding up, killing and gassing of the beloved Prospect Park geese, a fact that seems more astounding as time goes by. Why did Prospect Park administrators and NYC Parks Department officials sign off on the murder of the entire flock of 400 of the park’s resident geese? It’s still unknown how much discussion was involved or who exactly gave the final approval – was it the Prospect Park Alliance – the conservancy that oversees the park? The city parks department? Mayor Michael Bloomberg himself? Why wasn’t the public notified? A federal agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conducted the raid on the geese under cover of darkness in the middle of the night no doubt to avoid any “YouTube moments” — with no public notification. The geese were then gassed in an unnamed nearby building. Curious to know what building has been set up to serve as a gas chamber in Prospect Park or the immediate area? And what agency runs it? Did they produce an environmental impact statement?

The New York Times reported that the City’s Parks Department “signed permission for the removal of the birds” and U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Carol Bannerman told the Associated Press in late June, “We can only go onto properties where we have permission.” So who gave permission and how did they arrive at that decision?

Clearly, bureaucracy comes into play between city, state and federal agencies but the New York City Parks Department could have said NO. They had a strong argument for doing so. And, in fact, others have. Dana Rubenstein from the New York Observer reported on July 13th:

In early June, Dave Avrin, the director of Gateway National Park in Queens, earned himself an angry editorial in the Daily News when he, unlike the city, resisted the federal government’s efforts to cull the geese who live in his park.

“Our mission is to protect and preserve wildlife—that’s a law—and it isn’t a given that the removal of the geese is necessary to protect the flying public,” Mr. Avrin told the AP. This, even though the park is much closer to JFK Airport than Prospect Park.

At a Protest in front of Port Authority Headquarters last year

Last year, I attended protests outside the Port Authority (which controls the air space) and City Hall advocating on behalf of the geese and against the killing. I handed out flyers with many others and spoke to people passing by. We knew then, as NYC Audubon has now stated, that this mass killing is “not supported by sound science,” that there are always alternatives.

This is being done more for p.r. than air safety.

After gloating about this issue last year (claiming that the geese are just “going to sleep” and “having sweet dreams”), this year, Mayor Bloomberg was curiously quiet, no doubt to avoid the scores of protesters who last year showed up outside his home to protest.

These geese lived mainly between Prospect Park and nearby Green-Wood Cemetery – they were rounded up while they were moulting, feet bound, and taken from their their mates and goslings, and gassed in a nearby Park building. All under the direction of the USDA in a continuation of last year’s misguided policy of rounding up and killing geese within a 5 mile radius of the two main New York City airports. This year the radius of roundup was increased to 7 miles; officials concluded that this 2 mile increase was to now include Prospect Park. But many of the geese that were killed throughout the city were resident that did not fly into airline pathways. As Mitchel Cohen wrote, the killing of these geese, our friends, was “just a ruse and accomplishes nothing.”

Does this policy even makes sense? Is it effective? Are there no alternatives? And why was it kept from the public, as former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern asks on his blog.

I wrote a bit about my own personal experience with the Prospect Park geese on my LUMA blog here.

Dana Rubenstein continues:

The geese culling frenzy stems, of course, from the January 15 crash landing of a U.S. Airways flight in the Hudson River after geese were sucked into the plane’s engines. Remember? This was the Miracle on the Hudson, in which no one died. According to the same AP article, which cited FAA stats, between 1990 and 2008, there were just 11 civilian deaths resulting from about 1,200 bird-plane collisions in the U.S., but the guilty birds were “not necessarily geese.”

Far more airline-related deaths are caused by the intense working conditions of the Air Traffic Controllers and pilots, and the breaking of their unions, which have allowed the government to increase their workload and dangerously shorten response times. The whole “kill the birds if they get in our way” policy by NYC Parks Department officials is especially ironic as we are inundated with pictures of thousands of people trying desperately to save birds in the Gulf of Mexico. And so it goes.

– Cathryn Swan

[Residents, Park-goers, Wildlife Advocates are holding a Vigil for the Prospect Park Geese, Saturday, July 17th, 6:30 p.m. near the Prospect Park Lake, Southwest side of the park, enter at Vanderbilt Street or the Park Circle.  F train to Fort Hamilton Parkway stop – exit towards Prospect Avenue/Reeve Place. Everyone is invited.]

top photo: Cathryn

bottom photo: Jennifer Dudley

Part I: The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese, Part I

The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese, Pt I

Prospect Park Geese in Prospect Park Lake -- No Longer

Last Thursday, July 8th, 400 Resident Geese of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park were rounded up and killed in the middle of the night under the dubious notion that this will make air travel in the New York City metropolitan area safe. Mitchel Cohen of the No Spray Coalition, a group which works to fight against and educate about toxic pesticide spraying by the City of New York, wrote the following letter to Susan Elbin of the New York City Audobon. Ms. Elbin is quoted in the New York Times story which appeared July 12th and answered the question of the disappearance of the geese, as park-goers noted them suddenly gone over the weekend with no notice. Ms. Elbin later responded that the NYC Aubobon position was “incorrectly characterized” in the story – nonetheless, the points in Mr. Cohen’s letter, posted below, are worth noting.

———————————————————————————————–

July 13th, 2010

Dear Ms. Elbin,

Today’s NY Times quotes you as supporting the federal government’s (USDA’s) invasion of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park last Thursday to round up, bind, and murder (gassing) of 400 wonderful Canadian geese who were resident geese in our park.

Susan Elbin, conservation director at New York City Audubon, was cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing. “There are ways to manage birds nonlethally,” Ms. Elbin said. “But if you’re trying to manage a population level, sometimes those hard decisions need to be made.”

It is beyond comprehension that you, speaking on behalf of the NYC Audubon society, would rationalize this horror. I am flabbergasted that you did not point out to the NY Times that:

the Prospect Park geese — and in fact most of the geese that they have been rounding up and killing — were “resident geese” who lived in the Park and nearby Greenwood Cemetery year round;

after Flight 1549 came down in January 2009, the Smithsonian Institute issued a report stating that the plane collided with a flock of MIGRATORY geese, distinct from resident geese;

Killing resident geese does nothing to heighten air safety; it is a ruse enabling the Bloomberg administration, the NYC Parks Department, and the USDA to make it look like they’re doing something when what they’re doing is ineffective and cruel;

In other countries, they track birds’ migratory patterns — which are fairly consistent and can be noted by radar — and change airline flight routes accordingly so that they don’t hit birds. But the exigencies in the making of corporate profits here make it too inconvenient and costly for the giant airlines companies and US officials to change the flight patterns of their airplanes. It’s much easier and financially profitable to get the government to go in and pretend they’re doing something — even if what they’re doing is in actuality totally irrelevant to protecting public safety.

– The geese in Prospect Park were a joy to behold. Children loved feeding them; they befriended them, and helped those who were injured. These geese — our friends! — became the gateway through which children (and adults) learned to care about nature. And now the government has killed them, unnecessarily. Tell that to the kids, that the government has murdered their friends. And tell them that the NYC Audubon supports such cruelty.

– While the Bloomberg administration tries to wash its hands of any responsibility, the NYC Parks Department “signed permission for the removal of the birds” instead of opposing it and alerting the public, thus setting this whole chain of events into motion;

– The wildlife biologists and technicians who “descended on the park Thursday morning and herded the birds into a fenced area,” and who were “working with the federal Agriculture Department, then packed the geese two or three to a crate and took them to a nearby building where they were gassed with lethal doses of carbon dioxide,” are criminals who should have their licenses removed every bit as much as medical professionals who “assist” in torture in Guantanamo are acting in violation of their oaths and purpose.

Shame on the NYC Audubon for not protecting such species as resident geese. The Audubon Society has a certain amount of credibility on these issues and should be far more critical of government decisions that are harming natural life.

Mitchel Cohen, on behalf of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party, and
Coordinator, No Spray Coalition (against toxic pesticides)

———————————————————————————————–

NYC Audobon’s Susan Elbin then responded, excerpted below, stating that the Times “incorrectly characterized” the organization’s position:

NYC Audubon believes that lethal control should be the last resort after all other methods have been pursued. We have repeatedly maintained that New York City has not taken appropriate measures to reduce goose habitat, and that without such measures populations will quickly rebound to current levels.

NYC Audubon also takes issue with the target populations called for by the Department of Agriculture, a reduction of 80% of the population in the city, as we believe that it is not supported by sound science, and that the risk to aviation safety will not be significantly reduced by this approach. The recent cull at Prospect Park represented nearly 100% of the birds; that is managing a population into extinction. NYC Audubon strongly disagrees with that decision.

The full statement can be found on their web site here.

NYC Audobon does have some suggestions to prevent this in the future – of course it is too late for the 400 wonderful Prospect Park geese!

What You Can Do to Help

If you share NYC Audubon’s opinion that the City should develop a more scientifically sound plan for managing Canada geese, please make your voice heard! You can help us reach our goal of having 1,000 people register formal complaints with the City. All you have to do is call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK from outside of NYC) and register a complaint. There are several important things to remember when phoning 311 with your complaint:

* When registering a complaint, its important to say that you would like to “register an opinion with the Mayor.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will attempt to categorize your complaint. The appropriate category for this type of issue is “Environment.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will ask you about the date and time of the incident (WSP Blog note: July 8th).

* Please e-mail us your tracking number so we can follow up on it later. Emails can be sent to: info@nycaudubon.org

*****************************

Part II: Why did New York City approve a massacre of 400 geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?

Prospect Park and the “sad legacy” of public-private “partnerships:” The Brooklyn Paper; Plus Washington Square

Tupper Thomas is the Park administrator at Brooklyn’s beautiful 585 acre Prospect Park but she’s really – at this point- considered the grand dame of the park and credited as being the person who “turned the park around.” She also ushered in, as The Brooklyn Paper points out in an editorial this week, the age of “public-private partnerships,” which current NYC Park Commissioner Adrian Benepe will never turn away from. Thankfully, there are independent media outlets like The Brooklyn Paper, a weekly which covers news in Brooklyn, that see through the rose colored haze of what these entities accomplish and can also take note of the inevitable downside.

Here’s an excerpt from this week’s editorial outlining the “sad legacy” of “public-private partnerships”:

The Brooklyn Paper
Editorial: Tupper Thomas’s sad legacy

April 14, 2010

Yes, when Thomas took over day to day oversight of the park in the 1980s, the place was a shambles, a victim, like so many things in those days, of municipal neglect. There was a Parks Department with a mandate to run the city’s open space, of course, but that agency failed.

Out of that failure came the Faustian bargain offered by the Tupper Thomases of the world: put our struggling public spaces under quasi-public control, set aside some of the normal rules, raise private money from rich people, and we’ll make sure wealthy neighborhoods have a suitable backyard.

Yes, Thomas was indefatigable and seemingly incorruptible. And she was well liked by the very people who should have been doing the job better in the first place. Those personal relationships gave Thomas a level of control that should have simply remained in the hands of officials and politicians who are, at least on paper, accountable to the voters, not their donors.

That’s why we have traditionally been leery of such public-private partnerships. If the city would just do its job, our parks would not need people like Tupper Thomas. Indeed, there would also be no need for business improvement districts or agencies like the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which are motivated by economic expansion for condo developers, not open-space construction for the public.

At Washington Square, private interests also played a role in the current redesign of this historic park, whether publicly or behind-the-scenes:

— the Bloomberg Administration, NYU, the local Business Improvement District (the warmly named “Village Alliance“), some Community Board 2 Members who manipulated the process, The Tisch Family (donated $2.5 million towards moving, aligning, and renovating the Fountain), and who knows who else all worked to overhaul the old Washington Square Park into the type of park they wanted, catering to a certain type of person they wanted in it.

These people and entities proclaimed publicly to appreciate its free spirited past while in essence obliterating it. This park they strived for (and many would argue attained) is one that would inflate already high real estate values surrounding the park, hopefully improve the “character” of 8th Street for the BID, and give NYU further leeway to take over the Village, and, of course, to continue to consider Washington Square the University “campus.”

It remains to be seen if a private Conservancy (the model now that is used to privately oversee some city parks) — with NYU and the BID having significant influence — will take over Washington Square Park.

Michael Jackson “Birthday Party” Prospect Park Saturday, August 29th

P8290049P8290043

It was exciting and fun to see Prospect Park used for something very different on Saturday as filmmaker and director Spike Lee presented an event for people to come together to celebrate what would have been Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday. Spike Lee originally intended to utilize Fort Greene Park but there was concern that, due to the anticipated size of the crowd, that venue would not be appropriate.  It was then moved to the much larger Nethermead section of Prospect Park.

I have worked many music events, so, when I attend them, I do notice where I think things could be improved.  And perhaps for many in the crowd, it was more than fine to just have a place to celebrate the music and come together.  That being said, I will mention the areas I felt could have been handled differently for a more cohesive, energetic event.

The event was mostly music programmed by a DJ accompanied by images on a video screen, primarily words such as song titles (“I’ll be There,” “Thriller,” “Forever Michael,” “Hey Brooklyn!  Make some Noize!” etc.) and audience shots. The screen needed to be larger and the music should have been piped in from at least one other location other than the front of the staged area — that would have certainly raised the energy level in the crowd.  I mean… they wanted people to dance, right? (Or maybe not.  Maybe it was purposefully kept low key.)  And, when they said there would be “music and videos,” most people thought that meant Michael Jackson videos but apparently not.

The momentum of the event would have benefitted from actual video – or even a picture? – of Michael Jackson. And I understand the need for crowd control measures but the splitting up of the crowd via metal barricades definitely diminished the spontaneity of being at an event in a large public park. I spoke to a few people there but I don’t know what the overall consensus was (if there was one). The event was held from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, August 29th in the Nethermead section of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  Still, it was a unique idea. People were very aware of it and turned out in large numbers (I don’t have a good sense of how many at this moment – the New York Times “blog” article I read didn’t get into numbers).  And perhaps it will lead to other unique events being presented in our public parks.  Except, maybe those events, while paying attention to “crowd control,” will also leave room for a bit more spontaneity.

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Photos: Cat