Archive for the tag 'new yorkers for parks'

Source: Retrofresh via flickr

Source: Retrofresh via flickr

The efforts of local politicians to beautify their neighborhoods is easily reflected in the quality of parks. The New York Times is reporting that quality of local parks depends not on how much private donations buffer parks budgets, or even on how much the city doles out, but on how hard local councilmembers work to steer funds to the Parks Department.

The Times details the contrast between Kelly Park in Sheepshead Bay and Canarsie Park, located just five miles down the road. It’s not just a tale of two parks in neighboring council districts, but a tale of two councilmembers:

On a sun-splashed afternoon in late spring, Abigail Mastroserio, 2, scampered in the playground at Kelly Park, in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. It was not long before she tripped on uneven cobblestones near the faded play equipment. Her mother, Melia, could not even comfort her daughter with a sip of water from the water fountain. It was broken. “This park used to look better when I was a kid,” said Ms. Mastroserio, 38, who grew up nearby.

Barely five miles away, a different scene unfolded in Canarsie Park, where young families explored a newly renovated nature trail, complete with fitness equipment, and athletes practiced on a recently installed cricket field. In an elaborate new skate park, teenagers and others careered over stair sets and ledges, and swooped on a half-pipe. “We love this place,” said James Belly, a 26-year-old skateboarder. “We’d be pleased with anything since we had nothing before. But this is something of real quality.”

According to the Times, the reason why Canarsie Park is beautiful and Kelly Park is falling apart is the difference between the priorities and political clouts of the councilmembers representing the areas. Councilman Lew Fidler, who represents the Canarsie section of Brooklyn made sure to direct $18 million for parks over his 12 years in office, with $13 million coming in the last three fiscal years alone. Michael Nelson, who represents the parts of Sheepshead Bay that cover Kelly Park, has steered a paltry $1 million over the past years in comparison.

Fidler expressed pride in his efforts to keep the Brooklyn parks in his communities beautiful.

“Because I represent the hinterlands of Brooklyn, I know that our parks are not going to be the priority that some of the chichi parks are in Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Fidler told the Times. “I made a commitment that just as the people of my district were not second-class citizens, they weren’t going to have second-class parks.”

Nelson was criticized by Julius Spiegel, the former Brooklyn borough commissioner for the Parks Department.

“It’s a pittance compared to what Lew Fidler gave, and the parks in Michael Nelson’s district show it,” Spiegel said.

Looking to address the inequality of small city parks, often brought on by inaction of local politicians, the nonprofit advocacy group “New Yorkers for Parks” has drawn up a program that calls for more financing for park maintenance, among other issues:

“Scores of neighborhood parks have not benefited from the huge influx of capital dollars that has flowed into the handful of large parks targeted by the administration for upgrades,” the platform asserts. The dependence on elected officials to finance modest capital projects — a playground renovation, a new roof on a comfort station, new paving — “creates an inefficient, inequitable and potentially politicized process,” the platform said.

New Yorkers for Parks are looking to present their platform before mayoral candidates and local community boards across the five boroughs.

Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was highly defensive on the way the city spends on parks.

“Our parks system was just rated second-best in the nation thanks to the unprecedented investments we’ve made to park improvements and development projects across the city. Of course we have to prioritize projects based on needs and goals,” Passalacqua told the Times.

Spiegel believes that more money for parks is needed in a city that has 1,700 parks.

“Compared to other boroughs, we did O.K. But there are dozens and dozens of projects that aren’t getting done. We’re O.K. at picking up the garbage. But when you scratch below the surface, there are serious infrastructure problems,” Spiegel said.

Brigham Street Park in Sheepshead Bay

Nearly a year after initial designs were unveiled for the Brigham Street Park and news of the project teetered off, the little park we’re all hoping for is back. Councilman Lew Fidler has given it new life with an injection of $400,000 of capital funds, and Borough President Marty Markowitz is kicking in an additional $100,000.

The funds will be used by the Parks Department to conduct soil testing and begin reworking the designs. “This money will begin to get us answers to turn a concept into a reality,” Fidler told Sheepshead Bites.

But the money is also creating a bit of the political surreal and stirring up serious questions about the park’s future. You see, the park initiative is spearheaded by Fidler’s electoral challenger, Gene Berardelli of the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association. And as the money funnels in they’re both using the park to pump up their campaigns, leaving us wondering what really will happen to the park after the election. Continue Reading »


(Brigham Street Park Project screenshot)

It seems that after years of fiddling around with the Brigham Street Park Project, NYC Councilman Lew Fidler has finally found his way to Sheepshead Bay’s field of dreams.

The Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association (SBPB) has alerted us to the councilman’s latest literature which indicates that the park project is finally on his “To Do” list.

The Brigham Street Park Project, which has the New Yorkers for Parks endorsement, has taken on a life of its own. The SBPB Association maintains a dedicated (and professional) URL where you can read updated park news.

Fact: The Brigham Street Park Project is without question the Bay’s most innovative and captivating community initiative in recent years. The project’s benefits to the community are many, including developing a blighted lot into a sprawling greenspace for public use, adding a fantastic viewing point of the Bay’s mouth (take that, Breakers), and giving the neighborhood a venue for concerts and shows. But the real clincher for me, and where it deserves the highest praise, is in its focus on protecting the environment by preventing thousands of gallons of polluted storm runoff from mixing with Sheepshead’s water.


(Click image for full view)

I don’t think I can emphasize this enough – this system is really cool. Like, super cool. Gene Berardelli, the attorney for Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association and one of the lead organizers of the effort, calls the park and its runoff system an “example of how proper planning can benefit the environment.” Using a network of bioswales – a natural landscaping feature designed to collect, filter and redirect water through channels – storm water from Emmons Ave. and Brigham Street’s de facto parking lot will be prevented from entering the Bay. Instead, the oily, crack- and condom-filled fluid will run down a slope and through the park in an irrigation ditch of sorts. Nature takes over from there as a collection of plants such as Cinnamon Ferns, Giant Sunflowers and Turtlehead flowers filter the pollutants out of the water. The system is estimated to keep more than 35,500 gallons of icky-sticky water out of the Bay over 10 years.
Continue Reading »