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!.

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