Friday, April 30, 2010

Central Park advocates in the press

Yesterday was tremendous for all of us--residents of New York and the millions of tourists from around the world--who believe in a bubble-free Central Park.  To relive the excitement of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation's announcement that it was withdrawing a proposal for four 35-foot-high tennis bubbles in Central Park, check out our e-blast.  Inside, you can also access several pieces of press covering this important issue.
And here's a sneak peak!  In the images posted here: LANDMARK WEST! Dir. of Community Outreach, Cristiana PeñaNew York City Park Advocates' Geoffrey Croft, a stalwart organization committed to protecting our public parkland; and chair of Community Board 7, Mel Wymore, a strong supporter of keeping Central Park free of bubbles.  (sadly, LW's comments didn't make the final cut);

Our comments, and those of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, were covered on New York 1 by reporter Vivian Lee.

LW! Email Updates

Thursday, April 29, 2010: It's Official! NO BUBBLES in Central Park!
Central Park is one of our city's truly special places--an open, democratic, green oasis in the dense heart of the metropolis. THANK YOU to all--residents of New York and visitors alike--who spoke up in spoort of keeping Central Park bubble-free!

Friday, April 30, 2010: Upcoming Workshops on Sustainable Yards and Tax Credits
WHAT: Overlooked Assets: Sustainable Urban Yards
WHEN: Friday, May 14th, 10:00AM-3:45PM
WHO: Sponsored by The American Society of Landscape Architects, Sustainable Yards, and the Horticultural Society of New York 

WHAT: NYS Rehabilitation Tax Credit Workshop
WHEN: Thursday, May 6th, 9:00-11:00AM
WHO: Sponsored by the Preservation League of New York State, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Municipal Art Society, and the Historic Districts Council

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Concessions in Public Parks: City Council committee talks process reform

As reported by Cristiana P.

Yesterday (Tues., April 27), Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito convened the Parks & Recreation Committee of City Council for an oversight hearing on concessions in parks

Following a lengthy question-and-answer session between representatives of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the Parks & Rec Committee on current protocol for parks concessions, the floor was opened to public testimony.

LANDMARK WEST! used this golden opportunity to speak to the desperate need for reform in the process of soliciting concessions in our parks.  We stated for the record that "without change, our public parks risk being sold off to the highest bidder, their designs degraded, their democratic existence undermined by sky-high fees, and we, the community, will have no say about it."
  The recent proposal by the DPR to install four 35-foot-high bubbles over tennis courts in Central Park is a perfect case in point!  To read our statement in full, click here.

Council member Mark-Viverito cited the Central Park tennis bubble proposal as indicative of the problematic process currently in place by which the DPR presents its proposals for concessions to the public, and how the public is (or isn't?) a significant source of input on these proposals before a contract for concessions is signed.  Mark-Viverito also cited the East Side tennis bubble issue, and her personal involvement in concessions projects on Randall's Island.

In addition to LW! and organizations dedicated to protecting parks, such as NYC Park Advocates (for NYCPA testimony,
click here), the Council Chambers were filled with Community Board representatives from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, all speaking to their experiences with concessions proposals.  Representing the Upper West Side, Community Board 7's chair, Mel Wymore, addressed the Committee.  Wymore declared that few groups know better what services best meet the needs of a community like our city's community boards.  To that end, Wymore advocated for community boards to have the opportunity for "front end input," that is, to be part of concept development early on, rather than after a proposal is effectively a done deal, contract signed, concession installation imminent.

Concessionaires who operate facilities such as golf courses, vending carts, boat rentals, etc., also attended, addressing the concessions review process from their point of view.

Stay tuned for more on this important issue as it develops! 
For more information on the Parks & Recreation Committee of City Council, contact Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, committee chair.  For more information on parks in general, contact NYC Park Advocates or LANDMARK WEST!.

Friday, April 23, 2010

LW! Email Updates

Thursday, April 22, 2010: Full House at West-Park Public Hearing
On Tuesday, April 20th, West-Park Presbyterian Church was heard by the NY City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. Dozens of landmark supporters testified to preserve West-Park, along with those who threaten to destroy this architectural masterpiece...

Monday, April 19, 2010: Location Change for West-Park Hearing

The City Council public hearing on West-Park Presbyterian Church will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, April 20th.  Your attendance at this public hearing is crucial, as we expect the Subcommittee will vote following public testimony...

Celebrate our city's irreplaceable historic architecture--and the laudable homeowners who preserve them for the benefit of all--on house tours sponsored by fellow historic preservation advocates...

Your signature will make the difference! Sign on the Save West-Park Presbyterian Church...

West-Park reminder and creative uses of historic Upper West Side sacred spaces...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

West-Park heard by City Council Subcomm. on Landmarks; vote forthcoming

The hallowed halls of NYC's City Hall came alive yesterday as people--community members, architects, preservationists, religious leaders, and more--filled Council Chambers, waiting for their turn to make their voice heard.  The matter at hand: the Individual Landmark designation of West-Park Presbyterian Church.  A prime example of public engagement at the grassroots level, indeed, as over 60 of those individuals and groups present put their vote on the record and provided public testimony.

Following unanimous votes of approval by, first, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (on Jan. 12, 2010) and, second, the City Planning Commission (on Mar. 10, 2010), West-Park was reviewed yesterday at public hearing of the City Council Subcomittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses.  Council member Brad Lander, chair of the subcommittee, directed the proceedings.

Kate Wood
, Executive Director of LW!, reminded all present that “landmarking promises more solutions than obstacles.”  Ms. Wood was one of many speakers who stated before the Subcomittee that "the community is eager to support adaptive reuse of the building." In addition, she presented the Subommittee with a petition of over 1,200 names, representing those who support the designation of West-Park.

Testimony ranged from discussion about the striking beauty of the Romanesque Revivial building and potential funding sources for renovating the historic structure to the irreparable damage that losing a historic religious building can have on a community, and, lest one not forget, the fact that West-Park has not been used by the congregation in two years.  Rather, sits vacant at its prominent corner of West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

UWS Council member Gale Brewer reported to members of the press that the meeting went well, and continued to pledge her support for the designation of the church. "I know my community," she exclaimed multiple times, adding also that she felt certain all parties could work together to find a feasible solution.

The City Council's Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses is expected to vote on the designation of West-Park at their next meeting on Tuesday, May 4th (time and location TBD). Join us there and show your support for West-Park!

Learn more on the church's journey to become an official NYC landmark here.

To stay updated on West-Park, follow LW! on Twitter or check out our Facebook page.

Monday, April 19, 2010

24 hour countdown to City Council public hearing on West-Park begins!

The time has come!  Three months after the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate West-Park Presbyterian Church an Individual Landmark, it is now the City Council's turn to weigh in. 

Tomorrow, April 20th, at 11AM
, the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will review the LPC's report on West-Park.

Here's our checklist prior to tomorrow's public hearing:

(1)  SIGN THE PETITION echoing the words of support from Council member Gale Brewer.

(2)  EMAIL YOUR COUNCIL MEMBER.  It takes just seconds, and will make a world of difference for West-Park.  Your elected officials need to know that West-Park matters to you before they cast their vote!

(3)  ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING!  Call LANDMARK WEST! at (212) 496-8110 for meeting time and location.

(4)  SPREAD THE WORD so that others will follow your lead!

Our call to action email lays it all out for you! 

See you all tomorrow, for West-Park!

Friday, April 16, 2010

East Side bubble cancelled; a harbinger for Central Park?

As reported on A Walk in the Park blog and in Our Town ...

Last night, the Dept. of Parks and Recreation officially announced that plans for a year-round tennis bubble on the East Side were off the table.  At the meeting of Community Board 8's Parks Committee, Manhattan Parks Commissioner William Castro cited the strong voice of the community at their public reviews as responsible for this tremendous
reverse of plans. 

Great  news!  We need the same end result in Central Park!  The attendance of Mel Wymore, chair of Community Board 7, at this East Side meeting underscores the boundary-less nature of this issue.  CB7 Chair Wymore's remarks at the CB8 meeting were perfectly on point: “It is about the taking of public property and making it private, and that is a consideration that really demands a public process that is much more involved than what has taken place here ... At face value, tennis in the park sounds great.  But when you really think about it, it is more like putting a Post-it note on a Picasso. You really have to think about what the impacts of this are long term, what precedents it sets and what are the underlying rationales for making this happen.” (Our Town)

Whichever side of the park, borough of the city, or state in the country, it is the responsibility of all 25 million of us (oh yes!) who enjoy and benefit from Central Park each year to protect it from such degradation.  The 1,300+ signatures to the online petition come from as far as Cape Cod, MA, and Riverside, IL (Olmsted's turf).

Read more
on the Park's proposal for Central Park (as gathered at the March 11, 2010, meeting of Community Board 7) and prepare your comments for the May 13th meeting of CB7 (time and location to be announced)!  Plan to attend! 


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tennis bubbles pop up in the press, on the radio

Hyper-local news site is spreading the word that our online petition to protect Central Park from a proposal to install four 35-feet-high bubbles over tennis courts has rapidly gathered over 1,200 signatures ... and shows no signs of slowing!

The online article, which touches upon the broad support this "movement" has garnered, comes on the heels of a broadcast just yesterday (Wed., Apr. 14) of NPR's The Brian Lehrer Show.  On air, Lehrer interviewed NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, along with the Asst. Commissioner for Revenue and Marketing Betsy Smith.  The discussion was titled "Money for Parks" and framed as a look at how the city funds our public open space.  But "Money from Parks" seems a more apt titling.  Hourly rates of up to $100, and revenue goes to the General Fund, not even back to the park?

Central Park is not for sale!  Listen to the show, read more and call us to find out how you can help (212) 496-8110.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NYC Parks Commissioner talks $$$

Today on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, along with Assistant Commissioner for Revenue Betsy Smith, talked shop.  Specifically, our parks and how we fund them.

This broadcast comes just a month after the Upper West Side learned of a proposal by Parks to install four 35-feet-high bubbles over existing tennis courts in Central Park.  Bubbles (accompanied by generators and diesel fuel and ... golf carts?) which would degrade the integrity of this Scenic Landmark's design; bubbles which would effectively privatize public space; bubbles that would pose an environmental threat to an urban oasisFind out more here.

Do New Yorkers--and all 25 million people from around the globe who visit Central Park every year--see our public parks as cash cows?  Leave your comments here, and sign the online petition

Check out the comments at WNYC
, and stay tuned for audio and/or transcript copy!