Archive for the tag 'parks department'

The Parks Department says it can avoid routine maintenance by wooden planks that warp over time, seen above, with concrete and plastic. (Photo by Ned Berke)

A site trailer and construction fence were installed at Brighton 15th Street this month – a first step in a controversial plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s iconic wooden planks between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue with cement and plastic. But several elected officials are expressing outrage about the work, and at least one is threatening to cut off funding to the project.

Construction on the Coney Island Boardwalk officially began on November 11, the Parks Department confirmed, despite fierce objection from community members, advocates, and local politicians who disagree with the plan to replace the boardwalk with artificial materials.

“I remain very disappointed that the Parks Department is moving forward with this major change to the boardwalk without completing any safety studies to determine the impact it will have on the community,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger. “The Parks Department is also ignoring the will of the local state lawmakers who allocated this funding for repairs, and not for a new concrete road down the middle of the iconic boardwalk.”

The state lawmakers in question are Assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Steven Cymbrowitz, who together allocated $10 million to the Parks Department in 2009 for general repairs and improvements to the 2.5-mile span. The funding can be cut off at the lawmakers’ discretion – but only before the contracts are signed. That time has passed, but Cymbrowitz said he’s still going to find a way to close the funding spigot.

“I am outraged that Mayor [Bill] De Blasio and Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver have fast-tracked the destruction of an iconic landmark in southern Brooklyn. As I wrote to Mayor de Blasio, concrete and composite plastics are a poor approximation for a boardwalk. It’s a boardwalk, not a sidewalk. There are also significant safety concerns with this project since no impact study has been done,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “This is an underhanded misuse of the money and the mayor knows it. I will work to make sure that the millions of dollars I allocated are cut off. I fought hard for the boardwalk to be repaired, not to fund the elimination of the boardwalk as this community and all New Yorkers know it.”

He’s backed up by both Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who say that the funders’ intentions should be considered in how their money is spent.

“The money came from Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and whoever gave the money for theboardwalk should have a voice in it,” Deutsch told this outlet.

Even though Coney Island’s boardwalk survived Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed compared to the Rockaways’ concrete walk, Mayor Michael Bloomberg deemed all wooden boardwalks insufficient to withstand the ocean’s surges, and commissioned them to be replaced with concrete. That was the plan anyway, following a 2008 directive from Bloomberg’s office that city agencies would stop using tropical hardwoods – the type used to construct the boardwalk – for environmental reasons. The de Blasio administration has continued to press forward with those policies.

“Using tropical hardwoods could contribute to the climate change that helped destroy the boardwalk in the first place and it would be more expensive,” said a spokesperson for the Parks Department. Critics point out that there are other options, including sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak, that can be used.

But the lower cost of maintaining concrete, long a part of the Parks Department’s justification for switching to cement, does not necessarily mean it will hold up better during storms, said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents the Brighton Beach portion of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. He, Treyger and Cymbrowitz want an impact study that considers the performance of concrete in storm surges. Other areas, including Manhattan Beach and the Rockaways saw huge concrete chunks barrel through the streets as they broke up during the October 2012 storm. The

“[This is] about what is safer with the community in case another storm comes in,” he said. “It has to be safe, not just more resilient in terms of repairs, but what’s safe in regards to any kind of surge.”

Even before the storm, advocacy groups filed a lawsuit hoping to stop the plan, demanding a full environmental review. But just weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a judge ruled that project did not need to undergo such a study since it would not constitute a signficant change the existing structure.

The boardwalk construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 beach season, according to the Parks Department. Elected officials are asking the city to terminate all construction until the concerns of residents are addressed.

Here is a map of the proposed plan via the Coney Island Boardwalk Alliance:

boardwalk-map

Click to enlarge

– With additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

A Russian-language radio ad promoting the Republican campaign of Ben Akselrod claims credit for a project currently funded by his opponent, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Sheepshead Bites has learned.

The commercial was heard airing on Davidzon Radio last week. It appears to be a paid announcement in which a supporter listed the candidate’s accomplishments, including among them that “Paths in the sand to the sea are also his work.”

Hear the ad below:

The ad, translated by three independent sources for Sheepshead Bites, appears to be highlighting Mobi-Mats, special mats on Brighton Beach and Coney Island beach that extend from the boardwalk to the water’s edge. They allow those in wheelchairs, or who suffer from other disabilities that make walking on sand difficult, to access the waterfront and are popular with the area’s senior community.

Example of a Mobi-Mat (Source: assistivetech.net)

Example of a Mobi-Mat (Source: assistivetech.net)

However, there appears to be no record of Akselrod working to obtain Mobi-Mats. The first set of them appeared in 2007, five years before he ever ran for office. Three new mats – two in Coney Island and one at Brighton 6th Street – were added this summer. At the time of the announcement of the expansion, Council members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch claimed credit for their placement.

While Treyger and Deutsch prodded the city for additional placements this summer, the only local elected officials to steer actual funding for the mats are Assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Steven Cymbrowitz – the latter of which Akselrod hopes to unseat in tomorrow’s election.

The mats that served the disabled this summer were paid for with mayoral funding, the Parks Department confirmed. A further expansion is planned with funding from Cymbrowitz and Brook-Krasny in response to the community’s need for more accessibility, said a Parks spokesperson. Those funds were part of a $10 million allocation in 2009 for repairs and general improvements of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, and the local Assembly members requested Mobi-Mats be part of the scope.

The radio announcement was made by Bella Akhmechet, a supporter of Akselrod’s who contributed to his campaign. It goes on to say that she has known the candidate for more than a decade as a “respectable and worthy person … who is not indifferent to our needs.” It touts his “distribution of humanitarian aid” after Superstorm Sandy, and notes that he is a “humble person,” urging potential voters to cast their vote for Akselrod during the campaign.

Like many campaign ads placed on Davidzon Radio, it is not explicitly labeled as an ad. However, Akselrod’s campaign paid $3,000 to Davidzon Radio on September 12 for radio advertising.

Askelrod did not return multiple requests for comment.

The candidate, a Democrat, has been actively campaigning on the Republican line following his defeat in the Democratic primary. The GOP nomination came following a write-in initiative on the Republican line that he organized as a safeguard, and he won the Republican primary with 46 votes, as first reported by Sheepshead Bites. He was recently endorsed by former Republican Congressman Bob Turner.

Although he promised to resign as president of the Bay Democrats, the local Democratic club he leads alongside 45th Assembly District Leader Ari Kagan, he has not yet done so, according to reports.

With thanks to our readers who volunteered to translate to the advertisement.

A Con Edison employee was repairing the wiring yesterday (Source: Aliza

A Con Edison employee was repairing the wiring yesterday (Photo by Aliza Chasan)

By Aliza Chasan

Two years after Superstorm Sandy, one park in Gravesend is just now getting power back.

Though the streets in the area didn’t see much above-ground flooding, the storm’s salt waters managed to corrode the underground wiring serving the park at the corner of McDonald Avenue and Avenue S. As a result, the McDonald Playground bathrooms have been locked to keep people from injuring themselves in an unlit bathroom.

“Babies, if they want bathroom, they can’t go and it’s a problem for parents,” Olga Sianashka, 38, said. “I’m all the time playing with my children here and it’s not working,” she said about the bathroom.

It took some time for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to become aware of the problem as the power lines serving the park don’t supply electricity to any area houses.

Once Phil Mazzeo, a Parks Department electrician, found out, he checked the park’s property box and found the Con Ed wires were destroyed. After that, it was a matter of waiting for Con Ed to come out.

“I called 311 maybe five or six times,” Aliza Krassallosik, 40, said. “Why can’t the public go to the bathroom as well?”

Bobbie Colon, 37, said the bathroom situation is “outrageous” and that the park’s problems go beyond a locked bathroom.

“This was a really nice park five years ago, but now it’s someplace you really don’t want to come to.”

Source: NYC Parks Department

In their battle against weeds and vermin, the New York City Parks Department is using a common pesticide that a new study suggests is associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer.

The new concerns arise out of a study published in April by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that found that the commercially available pesticide Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is associated with lymphoma. A report this morning in DNAinfo found that the city has sprayed Roundup in public greenspaces more than 1,300 times last year alone.

The outlet reports:

The Parks Department sprays the pesticide, called Roundup, to kill weeds that harbor rats on “little-used” areas near playgrounds, officials said. The city posts warning signs for 24 hours before and after spraying.

“In order to keep rats out of the playgrounds and meadow areas, we must use Roundup,” Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson said. “It is not used inside playgrounds but is often used on little-used slopes outside playgrounds precisely because overgrown weeds near playgrounds harbor rats.”

The city defended its use of Roundup, which was sprayed in public parks 1,365 times in 2013. That was a 22 percent increase from the previous year as officials phased out other weed-killing chemicals that were deemed more toxic, according to a Health Department report.

The agency would not tell the outlet which parks had been sprayed, or how often.

The outlet also noted a study published last year suggesting that glyphosate effects hormones linked to breast cancer.

While extreme critics say the city should stop using pesticides in parks altogether, some say it’s sufficient to leave signs up for 72 hours after spraying, not 24. However, the city cites statistics from the manufacturer, Monsanto, that claim the product becomes harmless after 24 hours. The agency also insists that pesticides are not sprayed in commonly used areas, but only along overgrown, out-of-the-way sections.

As for Monsanto, they’re dismissing the study’s conclusion.

“Comprehensive toxicological studies repeated over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated that glyphosate…does not cause cancer, mutagenic effects, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption, birth defects or reproductive problems,” company spokeswoman Charla Lord told DNAinfo.

Although it appears the city will continue to use pesticides in playgrounds, the state has banned pesticides from use in other child-friendly areas.

In 2010, Governor Paterson signed the Child Safe Playing Field Act, which prohibits schools and day care centers from applying pesticides to any playground, turf or athletic playing field out of concern for children’s health.

According to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, HealthGuidance:

Potential harm from pesticides is especially important to consider in schools and day care centers because children are at greater risk from chemical exposure. Children are not little adults – from infants to teens, they are growing and developing. Their bodies have not yet reached developmental maturity. This means that they are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of many pesticides and other chemicals. Behaviors of young children, such as putting things in their mouths and crawling on the floor, put them at additional risk from pesticide exposure.

Borough President Eric Adams and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito / File photo

Following New York City’s sixth drowning death on public property this season, Borough President Eric Adams is calling for a trio of reforms to prevent future drownings.

Adams made the proposals during a press conference yesterday on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, just yards away from where 10-year-old Takara McDuffy was pulled from the water on Tuesday and pronounced dead.

Alongside Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Adams pushed for water safety reforms to be made at both the city and state levels.

The centerpiece of his proposal is an initiative to require water safety and swimming education in all schools. Adams’ office said they’re working with Coney Island’s State Senator Diane Savino to push the measure in Albany. The proposal would require teaching about the dangers posed by water and provide swimming lessons beginning in the second grade.

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook)

“Although it’s a beautiful place to be, it could be a very dangerous place if we’re not taught how to be safe in the environment,” said Adams. “Because there’s no clear format of teaching water safety, our children and families are recklessly going to the water’s edge believing that this beautiful ocean is a toy.”

McDuffy’s life might have been saved with such knowledge, Adams suggested. The 10-year-old had been playing on the jetty at Stillwell Avenue after lifeguards went off-duty; she and her sister fell into the water. Neither knew how to swim, and good Samaritans spotted them struggling and dove in, but only McDuffy’s 9-year-old sister could be saved.

Adams and Treyger are also calling for increased enforcement on the becahes after it closes. Treyger said he wants to see the Parks Department boost the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers, and task them with ordering beachgoers out of the water once lifeguards go off-duty.

“We need more PEP officers, not just simply volunteers,” said Treyger. “Particularly when the beach is closed and swimming is over, patrol the beaches to make sure there are no children of families left in the water.”

The Parks Department already has 15 PEP officers stationed on Brighton Beach and Coney Island beach, according to PIX11.

The borough president’s office said they’re also pushing to require CPR training for every city worker, which could provide a veritable army of trained lifesavers across the five borough. A drowning or choking victim can be spared death or brain damage by cutting CPR response time by as little as two minutes, and increasing the number of people trained to provide assistance could drastically reduce response time.

Adams’ staff is looking at legislative options to make the training mandatory.

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

A good Samaritan yanked a 10-year-old girl and her 9-year-old sister from the water at Coney Island beach after seeing them fall off a nearby rock jetty, but the older girl did not survive.

Takara McDuffy was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital shortly after the 7 p.m. beach rescue near Stillwell Avenue. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death, but it is presumed to be a drowning.

The girls, from Staten Island, were playing at the beach with a group of family friends. Witnesses told reporters that they were playing on the jetty unsupervised and fell into the water. Bystanders jumped to action, and pulled both girls to shore.

The New York Post reports:

“People came rushing from all over to help out. It was horrible, it was chaotic,” said witness Ena ­McCaskill.

After a frantic, 10-minute search, a man found the girl floating about 100 yards from the jetty.

“He had a sound of desperation in his voice,” McCaskill recalled. “He was yelling for somebody to help him save the girl.”

Another good Samaritan administered CPR on the beach.

“A regular guy grabbed her and started doing CPR,” said witness Joseph ­Josephs, 24. “He was pounding her chest for a good minute. A lot of water was coming from her mouth.”

McDuffy’s parents lashed out at those who were supposed to be watching over their daughters, the Daily News reports.

The gathered friends and family demanded to know why little Takara – who could not swim – was apparently unsupervised by the group of adults she had gone to the beach with.

“It took a man to jump into the water and pull her out. Some man saw Takara’s body floating and he jumped in,” the family member said.

“Why wasn’t nobody paying attention? You was there all day and let her go in the water. Why wouldn’t you ask if she could swim?”

The incident happened less than an hour after lifeguards packed up for the evening. Swimming is prohibited at city beaches after 6:00 p.m., and there were no lifeguards on duty.

According to Borough President Eric Adams, it’s the sixth drowning death of the summer. Along with Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Adams will hold a press conference near the beach today to reiterate his call for citywide reforms to make public beaches safer, and will also be distributing the following fliers sharing water safety tips.

Water Safety Tips

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by Diana Bruk

White Island, Marine Park inlet (Source: Google Maps)

White Island (Source: Google Maps)

A group of New Yorkers hailing from all five boroughs gathered early Saturday morning at the Marine Park salt marsh for a rare canoeing adventure to White Island. The three-hour, complimentary guided tour was the second and last trip of the season, and the island (which is wrapping up construction), is only accessible by water and currently closed to those unaccompanied by an Urban Park Ranger.

Our visit was one of the first opportunities to see the island in the final phases of a $15 million restoration that began in 2011. After years of erosion and naturally shifting wetland topography, White Island – also known as Mau Mau Island – was re-shored, cleaned up, purged of invasive phragmites, and replanted with native grasses to serve as a habitat for migratory birds.

Read about our trip to the wilds of White Island, and see the pretty photos.

The head of the New York City Office of Recovery and Resiliency is getting behind the Bloomberg-era plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s wooden slats with concrete, saying that concrete fared better in Superstorm Sandy.

Recovery chief Daniel Zarrilli testified before the City Council last Thursday, telling them that the choice of concrete was a “sound” decision since it performs better in storms.

He added that the de Blasio administration will continue to replace the wooden boards with concrete going forward.

Bloomberg made the decision to replace the boardwalk with concrete after instituting a citywide ban on tropical hardwood in public projects, the material the boardwalk, as well as other fixtures like benches, have historically been made of. It has been fought for several years by locals who want to see the iconic wood stay, and they even filed suit against the city in 2012. Several compromises were sought, including using alternate wood materials, plastic and a combination of all three – although the city made clear its preference for concrete.

But the announcement that the new administration will stick with the plan because it performed well in Sandy is sure to be challenged by critics. In the wake of the storm, locals said that the concrete allowed sand to pile up on the boardwalk, and also served as a less effective buffer protecting the community from the flooding. They also say the concrete accelerates erosion and is less effective at drainage during storms.

The two councilmembers whose districts overlap the boardwalk, Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger, both support using wood.

Example of a greenstreet on a median. Source: NYC Parks

The Department of Interior is sending $990,000 to the New York City Parks Department to create approximately 14 greenstreets throughout Brighton Beach, intended to help dry out the streets in a future flood, as part of the Sandy Coastal Resiliency grants awarded earlier this week.

Greenstreets is a citywide program to convert paved, vacant traffic islands and medians, as well as portions of wide sidewalks, into landscaped spaces. According to the Parks Department:

The installation of approximately 14 greenstreets in Brighton Beach will mitigate localized flooding and capture and filter stormwater runoff, thereby helping to reduce pollutants from entering local waterways. The project will also help to beautify the neighborhood, lower temperatures, increase biodiversity in the area, and improve air quality.

The funds are part of $15 million in grants being doled out in New York City through the Department of Interior as part of a competition to make coastal communities more resilient to flooding.

Other winning projects from the Department of Interior competition include salt marsh restoration at Spring Creek, and oyster bed restoration throughout Jamaica Bay.

“This announcement is great news for the communities surrounding many New York City waterways, like Brighton Beach, Broad Channel, Spring Creek Park, Tibbetts Brook and Jamaica Bay, because they will now be better protected in the event of a future storm,” said Senator Charles Schumer in a press release. “This resiliency grant funding is just what we had in mind when crafting the Sandy Relief Bill and I’m pleased that the Department of Interior has recognized these critical projects in New York City.”

If successful in helping drain storm runoff, the Brighton Beach greenstreets plan may later be expanded throughout the Coney Island peninsula and Jamaica Bay communities.

But at least one environmental activist and Brighton Beach resident wonders whether the greenstreets project will be as effective as Schumer and the Parks Department say, and thinks it might be poised for failure.

Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said the water table is much too high on the peninsula to allow proper drainage. She wrote:

There is one teeny, tiny little problem in Coney Island that makes me wonder if these highly paid consultants ever went down there: The water table. EVERYONE in Coney and Brighton, including my cat, knows that the water table varies from 3 to 5 feet below the surface. In some locations, it is mere inches from the surface. In Seaside Park, where the majority of the surface is unpaved, the Parks Dept. put in retention basins, which promptly filled with salt water from the ground. There are some areas in this park that are virtual lakes for weeks after every rain event, because a few inches below the surface, there is water.

Sanoff adds that after a heavy rain, water collects and “ponds” on the surface of soil, creating prime habitat for mosquitos.

“Without proper maintenance, the tree pits become little more than doggie toilets,” she said.

Asked if the department had taken the water table into consideration when creating their proposal, a Parks spokesperson told Sheepshead Bites that no specific locations had yet been identified, and that the department will do more detailed surveys before doing any construction.

The spokesperson added that the number of streets to be landscaped is still up in the air, but based on previous projects the funding should cover approximately 14.

The greenstreet plan was first outlined in the New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) plan, a blueprint for strengthening the city from the threat of rising sea levels and climate change in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The latest version of the plan can be read here.

 

Oceana complex (Source: Google Maps)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz responded to anonymous allegations published today in a local newspaper, which claim he is in cahoots with Oceana condominium developers to privatize a portion of Brighton Beach, by saying it “pisses me off” and is “totally inaccurate.”

The response is to a Will Bredderman political column in Brooklyn Daily, which cites an anonymous source as saying the pol is “trying to broker a deal that would permit the swank, beachfront Oceana Condominiums to take over a section of the public shore.”

“I think it just goes to show what Will Bredderman and [Brooklyn Daily's publisher] Courier-Life print. There are inaccuracies in every part of it, and anything I sent to him, he didn’t write,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites.

In the column, Bredderman points to the pol’s opposition to the elevated comfort stations in front of Oceana as evidence that the pol is attempting to clear the way for a privatized beach. They also note the 2013 bill introduced by Cymbrowitz, and first reported on by Sheepshead Bites, that would transfer jurisdiction of the beach from the more restrictive state Department of Environmental Conservation to the city’s Parks Department. The paper called the bill, which was cosponsored by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny,  “a first step toward privatization.”

“I think that’s inaccurate. My response to him was simply that, by giving the jurisdiction to the Parks department, it would allow us to use the money that was received from [Brook-Krasny's predecessor] Adele Cohen years ago to build a bike path,” said Cymbrowitz. “DEC wouldn’t allow it. But if the Parks Department had jurisdiction, they would have done it. [Bredderman] didn’t write any of that.”

That bill was squashed following a Sheepshead Bites’ report, although it briefly reemerged earlier this year before being pulled again. Last year, Cymbrowitz said he killed the bill because he was disappointed with Parks’ handling of the comfort stations, although this outlet noted at the time that the bill was introduced after Cymbrowitz came out against the Oceana restrooms. Cymbrowitz said the bill’s reappearance this year was because his staff automatically reintroduced it as a matter of routine, and that he killed it after it came to his attention.

Moreover, Cymbrowitz said he doesn’t see how transferring jurisdiction from a state to a city agency helps privatize a beach, and unequivocally stated that he never had conversations with Oceana’s developers, Muss Development, or any other party about privatizing the beach.

“Absolutely not. Never. And how could… I don’t even think it’s possible to privatize a public beach. So whoever Bredderman is getting his information from is totally inaccurate. And that’s I think what pisses me off more than anything else, all the inaccuracies. Why doesn’t he name who said it, or who the conversation was with if I had a conversation? That’s not going to happen,” he said.

Muss Development has for years boasted of a “private beach” as one of the amenities at Oceana on its website. On being contacted by Brooklyn Daily, the company called it a “typo” and said they had no discussions with the assemblyman regarding the privatization of a stretch of Brighton Beach for their benefit.

That, locals say, is bunk.

“If you’re asking me what the facts are, the facts are that Oceana wanted a private beach from the beginning and marketed it that way,” said local activist and longtime Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff. “It is common knowledge that they claimed to be building a private beach there when they first opened. They told a number of my neighbors who looked at apartments there about a private beach. And, early on, they had security guards [on the sand in front of the development] and whoever wandered by was told it was a private beach.”

Sanoff, who is also the executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, and who was the first to sound the alarm about the 2013 legislation turning over jurisdiction, said she continues to have concerns about that bill.

“Of course I’m concerned,” she said. “The Parks Department does have the ability to issue franchises,” meaning allowing private concessions to operate on the beach. “So if someone, somewhere, decided this is what they wanted to do [on these beaches], once Parks has control of the beach it could be done routinely. And once it’s done here, you’ve set the precedent to do it on any beach in New York City.”

Sanoff, though, said she had no idea if that’s what Cymbrowitz’s intent is, and said she did not know of any meetings between the pol and Oceana’s developers about privatizing the beach.

“Cymbrowitz, I haven’t spoken to the man in years,” she said. “I know as much about what’s going on in his head as I do President Obama’s.”

Bredderman declined to comment on this article without approval from his editors. We will update this post if we receive a statement.

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