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urbanoutdoors: urban outdoors

From: dave.lutz@treebranch.com

U r b a n   O u t d o o r s          
No. 79 - Feb 4, 2002 

URBAN OUTDOORS is the monthly newsletter of Neighborhood Open Space 
Coalition and Friends of Gateway. It reports on citywide public space 
issues and the work of hundreds of local civic groups that take an 
interest in the spaces. To add someone to URBAN OUTDOORS list: visit 
the subscription area of www.treebranch.com. To be removed from the 
list reply with: “unsubscribe” in the subject header

"Urban Outdoors is the best city parks newsletter in the U.S.  I'm 
constantly amazed how your small staff can stay on top of the complex 
web of politics, geography, ecology and financial intrigue in the 
most complicated city in the country * and make the reading 
compelling and entertaining to boot! "
Peter Harnik
Author, Inside City Parks

"Adrian (Benepe) is completely devoted to parks and has worked his 
way up the ranks, excelling at each opportunity by finding creative 
solutions and being a team player.” Mayor Bloomberg said last week. 
“Now he takes the reins of this vital agency in a difficult moment in 
our City's history. Our parks and recreation facilities have improved 
remarkably over the last years, and Adrian will have the task of 
building upon what's been accomplished." Mr. Benepe has been the 
Manhattan Borough Commissioner for the Parks Department since 1996. 
He is the former Vice President for Issues and Public Affairs at the 
Municipal Art Society, and the Director of the Annual Fund and Major 
Gifts for the New York Botanical Garden. Benepe's first government 
job was in the inaugural class of the Urban Park Rangers, thirty 
years ago. NOSC is very much looking forward to working with him.

The following remarks are excerpted from Mayor Bloomberg's first 
State of the City Speech: 
“We must bring new life to the waterfront, from the North Shore of 
Staten Island to the underused waterfront of Brooklyn's Gowanus 
Canal. Now is the time for Albany to pass realistic brownfield 
legislation that will allow old waterfront sites to be converted into 
housing, parks and other developments. We must also develop a 
strategy to make sure that Governor's Island is returned to our City 
with new educational activities that are economically feasible and 
environmentally sound. And today, I want to announce that we will 
complete a multi-use recreational path around the entire edge of 
Manhattan. The success of the Hudson River Park demonstrates the need 
to make our entire waterfront accessible to walkers and cyclists.

I am especially pleased to support the planned renovation of 
Randall's Island, which will include an entertainment center along 
with new and improved athletic facilities. The planned improvements 
at Randall's Island will create 350 summer jobs for youth and help 
attract additional commercial life to the three surrounding boroughs. 
New York City will also compete aggressively for the 2012 Olympics. 
The Olympics provide a unique opportunity to reinforce New York's 
role as the premier world city, to build new athletic facilities in 
all five boroughs, and to link our dynamic immigrant neighborhoods to 
the world community of nations.”
At his last “State of the Parks” address Henry Stern noted that Coney 
Island's three avenues, Neptune, Mermaid and Surf all referred to the 
sea, but the streets also referred to their geographic position. 
“Neptune is north. Mermaid is middle. And Surf is south.” Memory 
experts point to the value of linking abstract information with 
visual images, and Henry Stern has used this device by naming parks, 
triangles, parts of parks and even renaming people.  “Cough Triangle” 
is easier to remember than “the triangle in the shadow of the Gowanus 
Expressway on Hamilton Avenue.”  The personal  “park names” that have 
become his trademark may have also started as a memory tool, but 
quickly became a way of tying people together in a special “club” of 
parks employees, volunteers, and civic leaders. The ceremonies that 
accompanied the “park name” conferred a special kind of citizenship 
upon the people that have given something of themselves to Parks.   

Mr. Stern's long tenure and his driving ambition to leave a better 
parks system behind will insure his place in the City's history. We 
thank Henry Stern for a far larger, cleaner, greener, newer, and more 
aggressively managed park system. He was a champion of bringing in 
ambitious young people and working them hard. He believed in the 
importance of good agency communications; thus he printed a daily 
newsletter. He quickly adapted new technologies when he thought he 
could wrest productivity improvements from them. His employees were 
tied to management with cell phones instead of walkie-talkies. 

Mr. Stern was well known as a master of public relations. When an 
angry restaurant owner called in the media to complain of fines 
received for locking bicycles to trees, he publicly defended the 
trees and then quietly killed the fines on the theory that the 
publicity value of the “civics lesson” was more valuable than the few 
dollars so collected. It was a trick that he turned to over and over 
in order to convince New Yorkers to respect their public spaces. He 
was not above taking on the role of the clown, (think Shakespeare) if 
he thought it would get attention and help the parks.  

Mr. Stern was an advocate for Parks privatization, but he often 
walked such a line of good taste in these endeavors that we rarely 
were able to pick a good fight with him. He used private contractors 
in the parks when he felt that they could provide a productivity 
measure for his own employees or when he felt that special skills 
were better purchased than employed. Although some of the new 
pay-for-use arrangements can close parks to the public for weeks at a 
time, most are temporary, seasonal, or represent a negligible 
fraction of the parks space and can often be said to serve the park 
in some way.  Some arrangements with sports promoters for parks space 
are closing parks to casual use. The privatization of parks will most 
likely continue to be an issue in a new cash-starved administration.

When we started Urban Outdoors at the beginning of Mr. Stern's 
current stint as Parks Commissioner, we were depressed about 
conditions in the parks. They had deteriorated to the point of 
abandonment. Eight years later, the parks are in far better shape. We 
thank Henry Stern for his years of caring, building, promoting, and 
managing New York City's great parks system. We wish him luck in his 
new role, as he has stated his intent to stay in public service.

Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez has announced the acquisition of over 
$1 million dollars in Federal transportation funds to study ways to 
provide access to the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP). Greenway 
planning, on both sides and through the park are included in the 
scope of the work to be stewarded by the BBP Local Development Corp.  
This potential greenway segment would hug the edge of the working 
waterfront, north and south of the park and connect to Red Hook, 
bringing visitors to the landmark Civil War era warehouses, Red Hook 
Park and the Gowanus Canal. 

But if some local City engineers have their way the trail will 
quickly be degraded to an on-street painted-stripe before it reaches 
the historic shipping basins of Red Hook. The engineers are 
attempting to widen local roads through the Columbia Street district 
as part of a water pipe project at the same time that the City is 
proposing “traffic calming” by narrowing street entrances in adjacent 
neighborhoods. They claim that widening streets will make them 
“safer” although they are presently statistically among the safest in 
the city.  What is needed is a broader appreciation of the quality of 
life issues involved in making streetscape changes to accommodate 
community greening. 

The Port Authority, by charter, a bi-state transportation agency, is 
showing signs of more creative thinking. They have already 
contributed much of the land that will become Brooklyn Bridge Park, 
and they have shown flexibility on greenway issues in the Columbia 
Street area. Their idea for a “green port”, being widely discussed 
among “city civics” could include a trail alongside a newly 
revitalized Sunset Park container port. If so, it would be possible 
to have an almost continuous trail from the Manhattan Bridge to 
Gowanus Canal to the existing bike path on Shore Parkway.  

At first, the NYC Department of City Planning's greenways system 
(www.planning.nyc.gov) seemed a daring idea. The goal was to squeeze 
a series of landscaped bicycle/ pedestrian trails into the existing 
fabric of the most densely populated city in the United States, using 
the urban fringes like the green space along highways, partially 
abandoned rail routes, and the edges of the city's waterfront. The 
agencies and non-profit groups that proposed and planned the effort, 
including the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, had no idea if the 
trails would be successful, and had little idea of where the funding 
would come from. Now, with federal funding in place, and with every 
piece of new greenway bringing out a host of new users, the need for 
such facilities is no longer questioned. 

The greenways, whether in NYC or in Ohio, increase the physical 
activity levels of nearby residents, and with obesity reaching crisis 
levels in the United States, the small investment in prevention will 
save billions in money spent to treat heart conditions, asthma, 
diabetes and cancers that are caused in part by lack of physical 
activity. The greenways also reduce road congestion and improve air 
quality. Those people that choose to bike or walk to work or even 
drive less in their leisure hours are opening space on our crowded 
roadways. The green along the greenways are changing greenhouse 
gasses back to oxygen at a surprising rate. (www.coloradotrees.org 
<http://www.coloradotrees.org> -- original research posted is from 
Brooklyn, NY) The greenways also stimulate local tourism and economic 
activity. Greenways provide access to the waterfront, and link 
parkland, communities, and natural areas.

The City's greenways system, if fully constructed, could put a trail 
within 15 minutes of every NYC resident. It could also include an 
urban link in a Maine to Florida East Coast Greenway. All New Yorkers 
should take a look at the crowded Hudson River trail to immediately 
understand the health and quality of life implications of building 
the system. 

New Yorkers need to let elected officials know that this is 
important, and can be funded largely with federal funds… and our 
elected officials need to get involved. Mayor Bloomberg's office 
should coordinate DOT compliance with the City's Greenways Plan and 
see that the results include landscaped trails both inside and 
outside the City's parks. Mayor Giuliani, to his credit has supported 
the trails, but has not been involved in the nitty-gritty of insuring 
that the work is done. Council Members and State Legislators must 
find match money for Federal greenways projects and fund some trails 
entirely with local funds. Our Congressional delegation must get 
together to fund a pool of greenway projects all over the city. 

"Shall I go to heaven or a-fishing?" pondered naturalist author Henry 
David Thoreau (1817-1862) in his great book, “Walden” (1854).  
Anglers casting lines into the Hudson River needn't choose for 
Battery Park City is a fishing paradise. Anglers - experienced and 
non who are at least 18 years old and like working with people, 
especially children - are invited to attend a free six-session Master 
Angler Training Course.   Each session offers basic fishing skills 
and instruction on marine biology, ecology of the Hudson River 
estuary, and environmental concerns.  Training starts in April. 
Applications must be in by March. In return for the training, master 
anglers must commit to volunteering at BPCPC's popular Go Fish catch 
and release fishing events, held on Saturdays in May, June, 
September, October and November.  Info: 212.267.9700, Ext. 361

As the last (January) issue of Urban Outdoors was being sent our “HAL 
9000” computer decided to have a temper tantrum. If you tried to 
write to us after the issue went out, we probably did not get your 
message. HAL was angry at the volume of work, and decided not to talk 
to us. He says it is operator error. Please send your notes again and 
hopefully we will be able to respond. 

110 walkers came out “for the health of it” in January as Paul 
Graziano led us along the Astoria waterfront with him. When we began 
our Take a Walk, New York! partnership with the NYC Department of 
Health, winter walks were not considered a good bet; walks of over 5 
miles were out of the question. But we wanted to keep our group 
healthy and together through the winter. Easy access to 
transportation makes it possible for people who can't go the distance 
to enjoy part of each walk. We will continue to do two walks each 
month until the spring.

The walks have become roving parties. The shared experience of 
walking together provides a social lubricant that helps people get to 
know one another. We invite all our readers to Take a Walk, New York! 
with us. Find the schedule at www.walkny.org. or below:  

Join NOSC and help keep it coming. Your $35 membership to 
Neighborhood Open Space Coalition helps protect NYC's quality of life.

IT'S NEW, ITS FUN, and NOSC and FoG really needs you to do it.  Our 
web site now has a membership button that lets you join without 
snail-mail. Go to www.treebranch.net <http://www.treebranch.net>, 
learn about all the great things that we do and click on that NEW 
contribution/ membership button for an easier way to join. 

Neighborhood Open Space Coalition/ Friends of Gateway
356 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001

www.treebranch.net <http://www.treebranch.net>   *   www.walkny.org 

--- urbanoutdoors
URBAN OUTDOORS is the monthly newsletter of Neighborhood Open Space 
Coalition and Friends of Gateway. It reports on citywide public space 
issues and the work of hundreds of local civic groups that take an 
interest in the spaces. To add someone to URBAN OUTDOORS list: visit 
the subscription area of www.treebranch.com. To be removed from the 
list reply to nosc@treebranch.com with:  unsubscribe urban outdoors"

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