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FW: urbanoutdoors: [Urban Outdoors]

  • Subject: [cg] FW: urbanoutdoors: [Urban Outdoors]
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" <Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com>
  • Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2002 15:26:56 -0500


David Lutz of  the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition & Friends of Gateway is
the great unsung hero of open space greening, parks and community gardens in
NYC. The attached newsletter is a gem.

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman

-----Original Message-----
From: urbanoutdoors@treebranch.com [mailto:urbanoutdoors@treebranch.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2002 3:12 PM
To: adam.honigman@bowne.com
Subject: urbanoutdoors: [Urban Outdoors]

From: dave.lutz@treebranch.com

U r b a n   O u t d o o r s          
No. 78 - January 20 2001 - The Citywide Voice of Urban 

Before leaving office, Mayor Guiliani called for a "soaring monument" 
for the site of the World Trade Center (WTC). He said that such a 
monument backed by significant public space would insure both the 
preservation of hallowed ground as parkland and economic development 
in the form of tourism. A few weeks before, the NY Times reported 
that Mayor-elect Bloomberg had quickly dismissed a proposal to build 
a communications tower, taller than the WTC, on Governors Island. 
Perhaps a communications tower belongs where the communications tower 
was, at the site of the WTC, It can be designed as a "soaring 
monument" to those who lost their lives and as a symbol of America's 
desire to erase intolerance. Like the Eiffel Tower or the Seattle 
Space Needle the tower does not have to house offices, minimizing its 
potential danger to people, and like the tower that defines the 
Toronto skyline, communications providers would probably be willing 
to pay the bill for its construction.

LATE BULLETIN: On his last day in public office Mayor Guiliani 
dismissed 3500 WEP workers from their low paying jobs at NYC Parks.  
Without WEP, total NYC Park staffing is about 2000, full time and 
3000 part-time or seasonal employees.  Eight years ago, without the 
WEP program, which requires unemployed New Yorkers to earn their 
welfare checks, NYC parks were in shambles. They were filthy, 
un-maintained and often abandoned by the public.  

Some New Yorkers cheered and said, "The reign of terror is over." 
Others cried and called him "The greatest Mayor ever". But when you 
break the job down into issues, successes and failures, a more 
nuanced picture emerges. Our interest is public space. 

The Mayor broke with his predecessor and allowed the Parks Department 
to acquire new lands. Mr. Guiliani allowed Commissioner Stern to put 
large numbers of welfare recipients to work in the parks. The merits 
and efficacy of that program continue to be debated, but the fact 
that parks are cleaner and better maintained now than eight years ago 
is beyond dispute. Lucky enough to govern during good times, the 
Mayor increased capital expenditures in the parks, providing the city 
with new playground equipment throughout our City. Unfortunately, 
while other areas of government were being staffed up, Parks 
continued to suffer from flat operating budgets resulting in 
short-staffed parks with little skilled maintenance or guidance for 
young people.

It would have been so easy to note that the money made from selling 
community gardens is miniscule, and that the energy and public 
spiritedness of the gardeners is the kind of thing that government is 
in the business of encouraging. But here a personality flaw kicked 
in, and the Mayor showed a kind of meanness and myopia that did not 
allow him to see things from a point of view other than his own. 
Stadium obsession is another example of narrowness of vision. He 
built two minor league baseball stadiums, and worked for two gold 
plated major league baseball stadiums and a football stadium all to 
be built with public subsidy at a time when large areas of parkland 
continue to be fenced off and unavailable for the healthful activity 
of the citizenry at large. On his last day he reinforced his interest 
in the business of baseball by loosening the leases of the major 
league franchises, allowing them to hold the threat of leaving over 
the City's heads.

In the last eight years more bike infrastructure has been created in 
NYC than in the whole 100+ year history of the bicycle. Bike lanes 
are now almost everywhere. New "greenways" and "greenstreets" plazas 
make the city more pleasant for cyclists, skaters, joggers, walkers 
etc. Mayor Guiliani was not a spokesperson for these improvements. 
Had he displayed more interest in transportation, more might have 
been done. But much happened, and the City is a kinder place for the 
improvements. They happened on his watch and many New Yorkers are 

Mike Bloomberg has taken office as Mayor of NYC, displaying a more 
soft-spoken style that masks a toughness acquired in the fight to the 
top of the business world. Based on his background in parks civics 
(he was on the Board of the Randall's Island Sports Foundation), it 
would be safe to say he is a friend of parks; but fiscal realities 
have raised a question mark where none should be. Can the Parks 
Department, already cut to shreds by years of budget cuts, withstand 
more shrinkage without conditions sinking back to the bad-old days of 
just eight years ago?

Gifford Miller has won the votes of his peers for leadership of the 
City Council, NYC's second most powerful elected position. While all 
three candidates for the post could be said to be urban 
environmentalists, Mr. Miller has repeatedly demonstrated his 
understanding of the importance of public space. In addition he has 
been openly supportive of community garden preservation. He ran for 
leadership on a platform calling for a less controlled Council. In an 
era of openness, Council members will be more willing to be vocal 
advocates for their communities, because the stick of funding cuts 
will presumably not be used.  

Mayor Bloomberg has delayed plans to build new big stadiums on public 
parkland, but he does seem to be hungry for the 2012 Olympics, if his 
appointment of Daniel L. Doctoroff as Deputy Mayor for Economic 
Development is indicative of priorities. Doctoroff is founder and 
president of NYC2012 (www.nyc2012.com <http://www.nyc2012.com/>), 
created to bring the Olympics to NYC. The Olympic promoters feel that 
the event can leave a legacy that will boost both the quality and 
quantity of facilities for active recreation in NYC. They look to the 
Olympics not only to jump start recreational development on the 
city's aging waterfronts but to provide capital for expansion of 
waterborne transportation as well.

The NY Times reported on the continuing argument between NYC2012 and 
local environmental leaders of what Urban Outdoors has called the 
one-big-lake proposal. To accommodate Olympic boat races, Meadow and 
Willow Lakes in busy Flushing Meadows Park would be combined into a 
bowl-like lake with a bridge across it to accommodate Jewel Avenue 
traffic. Mr. Doctoroff noted that the present lake is artificial and 
polluted and would be "improved" by the change. Take-a-Walk, New 
York! leader Paul Graziano, was also quoted in the article: "What 
they call an improvement, I call a disaster".
But what if the resulting lake looked like multiple likes with 
habitat islands and a complex meandering shoreline, accessible to 
people. Cutting edge bio-filtration landscapes could be used to clean 
the water from surrounding highways before it enters the lake, 
cleaning up the present poisoned environment. A naturalistic swimming 
pool could be incorporated into the design so that swimmers would 
have the visual impression that they were swimming in the larger 
lake. (The visually obtrusive aquacade, containing a swimming 
facility, was removed a few years ago.) Perhaps a middle way can 
accommodate naturalists, greenway trail users and the Olympics.    

With $1.2 million in State Environmental Bond Act and Mayoral money, 
NYC Parks is beginning a comprehensive planning effort for 
Dreier-Offerman Park that will include building new habitat areas and 
planning active recreation areas based on needs identified by the 
community. The 73-acre waterfront park, alongside Coney Island Creek 
(aka Perfume Bay) and Gravesend Bay is thus added to the list of 
pioneering opportunities to provide for needs of bird and sea life 
and people along our magnificent waterfront. 

Since the Park includes sweeping views of Gravesend Bay, minimal 
investments in greenways, hand boat storage containers, a fresh water 
pond and bird blinds could result in major new visitation. Already 
fishers and small boaters use waters off the park. New ball fields 
could be tucked into the habitat areas to serve existing leagues and 
be more open to neighborhood residents than the present locked and 
fenced-off ball fields.

A plan to develop the park into a golf driving range and associated 
businesses, reported in Urban Outdoors, came apart with the business 
failure of the proposed concessionaire, leaving the park in limbo. 
The latest news is a victory for the community and a new start for 
something better. 
The new ceremonial staircase on the Tweed Courthouse behind City Hall 
is an example of what can be done to decorate our city if New Yorkers 
put their effort into it. The staircase had been truncated some years 
ago in order to widen streets on the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. 
A coalition of landmark and traffic calming advocates worked to put 
the stairs back as part of the current reconstruction. To do so, 
Chambers Street had to be narrowed. 

While the magnificently restored building has not yet re-opened to 
the public, the visual impact of the external change is startling. 
What had been an un-welcoming wall at street level with two dark 
doorways to the building is gone. The grand staircase now beckons 
walkers to come in. The building is proposed to be a new home for the 
Museum of the City of New York. Even before the exhibits arrive, that 
staircase will become an important public shady sitting place on hot 
summer days. As a museum entrance it will insure a steady stream of 

We are informed that a second such stairway is now being planned for 
the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. That building was completed 
without its designed staircase. The project has waited 100 years for 
funding. Here the broad plaza in front of the museums stoop will 
create a natural amphitheater for performance art. No doubt that the 
buskers are lining up now.

The highline is the remnant of an elevated freight railroad that 
connected over a mile of warehouses on Manhattan's West Side. While 
some of the building owners want it torn down, Friends of the 
Highline has been advocating for its retention as an elevated 
greenway. In a cliffhanger of a court case, an injunction against 
destruction was lifted just before Mayor Bloomberg entered office. 
Now the ball is in the court of Mayor Mike, who has expressed support 
for the visionary plan and has at least three months to work out a 
satisfactory plan for the structure's future.

With the destruction of the World Trade Center, some developers are 
looking to the parking lots adjacent to the highline in the 30's as a 
fast track place to build replacement offices. However, those parking 
lots also serve important economic functions by warehousing buses at 
a location close to the bus terminal and municipal vehicles near 
where they would be used. Here, the highline can be used to create a 
raised West Side plaza that would serve as an entrance level for new 
development while leaving the present service functions in place on 
the ground.

It doesn't take a lot of street smarts to know that 2002 will be a 
difficult year for small non-profit organizations. Traditional 
funding sources are tighter because of what we hope will be a short 
recession, and the 9-11 disaster has focused a lot of attention away 
from the day-to-day work of making ALL NYC a better place to live and 
work. The NOSC board of trustees, recognizing the challenges ahead, 
is organizing a "fun raising" party in a gorgeous Chelsea loft to 
honor some urban environmental heroes and raise some rent money so 
that we can continue our work. 

Honorees will include Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, NOSC founder 
Tom Fox, urban environmentalist and NOSC Treasurer Eugenia Flatow, 
retiring Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment President John 
Muir, and historian and greenway advocate John Gallagher. We will 
feature a short slide show about our successful new Take a Walk, New 
York! program. The event will include live soft music, drinks, lots 
of great finger food and opportunities to meet, greet and schmooze. 
Invitations are to be sent by mail, so call 212-352-9330 to register 
your address. The March Forth event is on March 4th, and tickets are 
$100 each.      

Saturday, January 26, 2002. 10 AM. Victorian Astoria and Waterfront 
Communities, Queens. Paul Graziano, local historian and urban 
planning consultant, will lead this winter walk to Astoria Park, old 
Astoria, the Socrates Sculpture Park, Hallets Cove Waterfront and 
thru the lively Broadway/Steinway shopping district. We will end the 
walk at the American Museum of the Moving Image (walkers can decide 
whether to visit the Museum or not). Take the W (formerly N) train to 
Astoria/Ditmars Boulevard station. 
 Saturday, February 9, 2002. 10:30 AM. Breezy Point/Fort Tilden, 
Queens. A winter beach walk around the western tip of the Rockaways 
and through Fort Tilden, part of Gateway National Recreation Area. 
National Park Ranger, Nancy Corona, will lead. Meet at the Fort 
Tilden Visitor Center. Take the #2 or #5 train to the Flatbush 
Ave./Brooklyn College station and the Q35 bus (in front of Lord's 
Bakery). Tell the bus driver you are going to Ft. Tilden. This bus 
runs every 30 minutes on Saturday AM; you should be at the bus stop 
before 10:00 AM. Bring lunch. 
Sunday, February 24, 2002. 10:00 AM. Victorian Flatbush/Prospect 
Park, Brooklyn.  See turn of the century homes, former homes of some 
"famous" people and Prospect Park in winter. Leader is Ron Schweiger, 
well-known Brooklyn historian. Meet at the Beverly Rd. station of the 
Q train. Bring lunch. 
Your $35 membership to Neighborhood Open Space Coalition helps 
protect NYC's quality of life and keeps Urban Outdoors coming.

ITS 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. 

--- 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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