Friday, January 30, 2015

Kids in Dramatic Ice Rescue Cut School

Mom Founds Out Her Son Was Not In Class By Watching Rescue Live On TV.

Two boys, 11 and 13, climbed over the fence at Concrete Plant Park along the Bronx River and went onto the ice where they got into trouble.   (Photo: NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

The two kids involved in the dramatic  FDNY ice rescue yesterday on the Bronx River were supposed to be in school NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The friends quietly slipped out of after school at IS. 131 and went down to Concrete Plant Park between Westchester Avenue and Bruckner Blvd.

The boys, who live in the same building, found themselves in trouble after they climbed over the railing and went out onto the ice.

A 13 year-old boy fell through the ice but managed to make it back to shore but the 11 year-old got stuck.

The mother of Rahquan Brooks 11, said yesterday that she found out her child was not in school when she saw her him on TV standing in the middle of the ice.

"That's my son," she said according to a city source.

The tragic disappearance of Avonte Oquendo in 2014, the autistic 14-year-old who was able to walk out of a Queens School unsupervised was not far from her mind.   His remains were sadly found along the East River. 

"The mother was upset how her child was able to leave the school without being detected," the source said.

'"How does this happen,"' she said.

This afternoon Rahquan's grandmother said he knows better than to go out on the ice.  She also said her daughter was going to take him out of that school.

"She's going to change the school because that's not safe," said Annette Ingram.  "Just for him to walk out like that, that not safe at all."

The Department of Youth and Development which runs the after school program says it investigating the incident. 

Ms. Ingram said Rahquan's mother made him go apologize to the firefighters.  

The mother of the 13 year-old was concerned as her son fell inro the icy water.  He was treated for hypothermia. 

NYPD were the first to arrive at the scene and helped calm down the freighted boy. 

FDNY Ladder 54 arrived at the scene five minutes after receiving the call and arriving at 16:39.

By 16:45 the victim and firefighters were out of the water. 

Read More:

WCBS - January 30,  2015 - By Sonia Rincon  

WABC - January 30, 2015 

FDNY Rescues Boy Trapped On Ice In Bronx River At Concrete Plant Park
A Walk In The Park - January 30, 2015

FDNY Rescues Boy Trapped On Ice In Bronx River At Concrete Plant Park

Firefighters from Ladder 54 help 10-year-old boy as be begins to climb across the ladder on the Bronx River to safety at Concrete Park late yesterday afternoon about 4:30 p.m.  The boy was trapped on a frozen portion of the river about 20 feet from the bank of the park.  The rescuer and two children, including a 13-year-boy who had also ventured on the ice and had fallen in, were treated for exposure at Jocobi Hospital. The kids had climbed a fence to gain acess to the water.  The boys live in the same building and go to the same school.  (Photos: FDNY) Dramatic video. 

This was FDNY's second ice rescue recently. On January 11th, midtown Manhattan's Rescue 1 came to the aid of a man who fellen through the ice in Central Park on The Lake by the boathouse restaurant.  Firefighters happened to be running drills on the ice when a man began walking towards them and fell through, according to an FDNY spokesperson. 


 FDNY firefighters from Ladder 54 saved a young boy trapped on ice in the Bronx River.

 “The firefighters did a fantastic job,” Capt. Thomas Yuneman, Ladder 54, said. “Within two minutes we had him coming to shore,” according to the FDNY.   

 The members – including Capt. Yuneman and Firefighters Kevin Hillmann, Chris Harkinish, John Tonner, Thomas Bloomfield and Carlos Brito – were called just after 4:30 p.m. 

Two children – a boy and girl – were on the ice. The girl had fallen into the river, but was able to climb onto rocks and back to shore before firefighters arrived.

The boy, who was around 10-years-old, was still standing on very thin ice.  Upon arrival, Capt. Yuneman immediately climbed over the railing and to the shoreline to talk to the boy. 

He looked terrified as the ice cracked below his feet, but Capt. Yuneman said he told him to stand still and remain calm. 

Firefighters bring the terrified boy to shore.   By the time Ladder 54 had arrived a 13-year-old boy, who had fallen into the river,  had climbed onto rocks and made it back to shore.

At the same time, Firefighters Harkinish and Hillmann (who teaches cold water rescue training for the Department) quickly dressed in gear and got tethered for the rescue. 

They pushed a portable ladder out to the boy and began to walk onto the ice. The ice was thin and the firefighters fell through – Firefighter Hillman was submerged to his neck and Firefighter Harkinish, who was just behind him, to his waist -- but continued to assure the boy he would be safe.  

They told him to climb on his knees across the ladder, like he was on monkey bars, until he reached the firefighters, who carried him to shore.  The boy, who never fell into the water, was transported to Jacobi Hospital with minor injuries. 

 “I have never had to put my [cold water rescue] training to use but my training did not let me down,” Firefighter Harkinish said. “The ice was very thin and the situation could have been much worse.”

Read More:
FDNY rescues boy stuck atop ice on Bronx River
New York Daily News - January 29, 2015 -  By Joseph Stepansky

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Parks Reopen As Blizzard Skips City - Next Order of Business, Have Fun

Hundreds of people converge on Cedar Hill in Central Park for a day of winter fun.  The cascade of color provides a stark contrast to the recently fallen snow.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

The historic blizzard of 2015 predicted for NYC was not to be.

The storm spared NYC depositing just a fraction the anticipated snowfall.   Blizzard warnings originally called for up to 3 feet but less than eight inches fell in Central Park by Tuesday.

Parts of Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts faired much worse. 

New Yorkers arriving at their neighborhood parks this morning were greeted by an unfamiliar scene - their parks were closed!

Locked.  Ruppert Park - E. 90th Street & 2nd Avenue - Manhattan. 

Many playgrounds were padlocked and laminated park signs posted by the Parks Department said that they were closed due to storm conditions.   

Yesterday the city took the unusual step of officially closing all the parks and playgrounds in to order to minimize the risk of being struck by a falling tree or tree limb or slipping on ice. 

Today many park goers ignored the signs and took advantage of the winter wonderland.

By early afternoon the sun was out and hundreds of thousands of people had flocked to their local parks.  Many went sledding, while others strapped on cross country skis.   

The Parks Department officially reopened parks at 11:00am this morning although the signs were still hanging throughout the park system.

The agency posted an updated message on their Storm Site.

 "We continue to urge caution in parks under wintry conditions: parks paths can be slippery, snow cover can cover frozen lakes and bodies of water, and branches may have fallen.  We urge people to stay out of parks and proceed with caution on tree-lined sidewalks in the event of falling trees or branches. To report downed trees or branches, please call 311. In case of emergency, please call 911."

Many parks workers said they were forced to stay overnight at work, sleeping in vehicles and lockers rooms. 


  • Zoos will be closed for clean up, and will open tomorrow at normal hours.
  • Ice skating rinks will be closed today for clean up. They will open tomorrow with normal hours.
  • Other NYC Parks concessions will open at their discretion.


There will not be an official NYC Parks Snow Day today. Please visit our Sledding in Parks page to find the best sledding locations in NYC. Please continue to use caution while sledding in our parks. Avoid areas with trees, light poles, benches and water bodies.


Some recreation centers will be open today from 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. with limited staff:
  • Manhattan: Chelsea, Gertrude Ederle, Highbridge, Hansborough, Tony Dapolito
  • Bronx: Hunts Point, St. Mary’s
  • Staten Island: Lyons
  • Brooklyn: McCarren, St. John’s, Sunset Park
  • Queens: Al Oerter, Sorrentino
All recreation centers will resume scheduled hours on Wednesday, January 28.
The following nature centers are now open: Blue Heron Nature Center, Forest Park Visitor Center, Fort Totten Visitor Center, Salt Marsh Nature Center, Van Cortlandt Nature Center

Most people found park closed signs when they arrived at their local parks today. 

 Children build a fort near the Engineers Gate  E. 90th street & Fifth Avenue

  Cross country skiing.

 A father makes it snow.

A couple carrying cross country skis ascend into the woods in the northern of Central Park near the Blockhouse on the westside.

 A father has his hands full with two daughters at the Harlem Meer.

Not All Fun and Games. Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers check the Harlem Meer in Central Park to make no one has ventured onto the ice or in need of assistance.   PEP officers throughout the five boroughs regularly check the park system's many water bodies to make sure they are secure.

 PEP officers at the Meer.

A Central Park Conservancy pick-up truck with plow.  

A Conservancy worker clears stairs.  

   Park Closed Due To Storm Conditions. Carl Schurz Park - E. 86th Street & East End Avenue.

Sledding in Carl Schurz Park between 90/91st Street and East End Avenue with Gracie Mansion (1799) in the background.  Park patrons generally ignored the posted closing signs. 

 A boy hauls a large chunk of snow on his way to sledding.

Workers began clearing the paths around Gracie Mansion at 5:30am. 

A Parks Department gardener spreads salt in Carl Schurz Park on the paths around Gracie Mansion.    Some parks workers spent the night on Randalls' Island. 

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - January 26, 2015 - By Geoffrey Croft

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Calm Before The Storm As The City Braces For The Blizzard of 2015

Two friends brave blustery winds and snow as they walk south on a deserted East Drive in Central Park on Monday afternoon.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge

Beginning Monday evening at 6pm, all parks and playgrounds were closed until futher notice in order to minimize the risk of being struck by a falling tree, branches or slipping on ice.  The  Parks Department agency is urging people to stay out of parks and proceed with caution on tree-lined sidewalks. To report downed trees or branches, please call 311. In case of emergency, please call 911.

The forecast calls for snow to intensify after midnight falling between 2 to 4 inches per hour overnight, accumulating up to 24 inches before tapering off tomorrow afternoon.

Central Park is deploying more than 100 workers to combat the snow.  Staff are utilizing 18 snow plows, five front-end loaders and 22 snow blowers and will be working around the clock during the storm.

The record snowfall in New York City was in 2006 when 26.9 inches was measured in Central Park. The blizzard of 1947 dumped more than 26 inches.


By Geoffrey Croft

As the city braced for the Blizzard of 2015 New Yorkers got their first taste as 4 inches of snow fell on Monday blanketing the five boroughs.  
Some park goers ventured into the snowy abyss and took advantage of the winter wonderland while others tried to go about their daily routines -  exercising or simply trying to make their way home.  Kids trickled out after school, excited by the first real accumulation of snow this winter.  

A majestic scene near W. 77th street looking south east. 

Out of an abundance of caution the city authorized the closing of all city parks beginning this evening at 6:00 until further notice.

"Closures include all parks and recreation centers, and signage will be posted at all parks sites," the Parks Department posted on its website.

"Heavy ice and snow can cause hazardous conditions in parks, including falling branches and treacherous frozen park paths. On Tuesday morning NYC Parks will provide an update on parks conditions."

Although the snow totals have been lowered the current forecast calls up to 24 inches with snowfall rates between 2 to 4 inches per hour overnight    beginning early Tuesday morning.  Winds of 20 to 30 MPH are forecast, with gusts of up to 55 MPH with temperatures in the lower 20s. 

Mayor de Blasio called this evening's lull, "the calm before the storm," in a briefing just after 7:00pm.

This afternoon the Mayor announced a travel ban on NYC streets for non-emergency vehicles starting at 11 p.m. emphasizing "safety first."

"The priority right now is anything related to the safely of our people," the Mayor said in announcing a Winter Weather State of Emergency.  

 A lone runner along the park's East Drive.

Earlier, Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York City and announced misdemeanor fines of up to $300 for those caught driving nonessential vehicles on the road after 11:00pm.

For the first time in the city's history the entire MTA system will be shut down. All public transportation will stop running this evening at 11:00 this evening until further notice. 

A Coastal Flood Warning has been issued overnight for parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.  A Coastal Flood Advisory is also in effect overnight for parts of Manhattan and Staten Island. 

Park News

Some parks with conservancies updated their websites throughout the day and provided updates on social media.

"Because of potentially hazardous conditions, Hudson River Park will be closed today, Monday, Jan 26 starting at 6pm, until further notice. Trust staff will asses conditions tomorrow morning and will issue an update at that time. Stay safe!," the Hudson River Park Trust wrote. 

Battery Park City however welcomes the public to have fun!   

"Since the kids will be out school tomorrow, the Battery Park City Ball Fields will open from 10am to 5pm and are a great place for the whole family to make snow angels, build snow men or have a friendly snow ball fight," BPC Conservancy wrote.

"We’ll be putting updates on our Twitter & Facebook pages throughout the coming days so be sure to check back in with us.

Scotty - an 11-year-old Scottish Terrier, making the scene along the park's Westdrive.  

Other conservancies solicited donations.

"Central Park Conservancy staff will be removing snow from roadways and paths and clearing downed trees and branches in the Park around the clock. It's a huge and costly effort!  Make a tax-deductible gift today to help us cover these expenses,"  the group wrote in a Central Park Blizzard Update  on its website.

"Help Central Park Recover from 2015 Blizzard When a winter storm hits Central Park, the Conservancy must quickly assess the extent of the storm's destruction, clear damaged trees and branches, and plow and salt 58 miles of paths and roads. It's a huge job requiring more than 100 staff — one made even more immense by the size and scope of the current blizzard. Our teams will be working around the clock to ensure the Park is accessible as soon as possible to all New Yorkers.  Your tax-deductible donation will help the Conservancy clean up and repair storm damage to Central Park. Please make a gift today.

All of Central Park's playgrounds are closed. 

 A mother pulls her 5 year daughter and promises more fun tomorrow.

The Associated Press reported that Central Park would be utilizing 18 snow plows, five front-end loaders and 22 snow blowers to work around the clock during the storm.

The Parks Department created a Storm update page on its website

Due to the winter storm, NYC Parks are closed as of Monday, January 26, 2015 at 6:00 p.m., effective until further notice. These facilities are closed until further notice. For more information on the winter weather and ways to be prepared, please visit .
The following facilities are closed as of 6:00 p.m. Monday, January 26, and will remain closed until further notice. This information will be updated as it is available:
  • All City Parks
  • All City Playgrounds, including Alley Pond Park Adventure Course and Imagination Playground.
  • All City Beaches 
  • All Recreation Centers and Field Houses
  • All Nature Centers managed by NYC Parks
  • Greenmarkets, citywide
  • Zoos and aquariums 

A lone park goer makes her way along the lake on the west side of Central Park near 72nd street. 

Imagine. The iconic black and white circular Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields,  near the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon, Yoko Ono and thier son Sean lived,  was designed by artists from Naples, Italy.

The snow's glare reflects off the magnificent Minton Tile ceiling in the Bethesda Terrace Arcade.  The tiles were installed in 1869 and designed by British-born architect and designer, Jacob Wrey Mould. The Arcade was created in the 1860s as a part of the Park's main architectural feature.

The Egyptian temple The Temple of Dendur is all but obscured by a snow bank on the windows of at the Metropolitan Museum.

 (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge

Read More:

A Walk in The Park - January 26, 2015 - By Geoffrey Croft

Update: Parks Close Today at 6:00pm. Parks Dept. Snow Storm Warning: Avoid Using Parks Till Wednesday

The Parks Department has urged the public to avoid using parks until Wednesday morning due to hazardous conditions like falling branches and icy paths.   Yesterday park goers played games in Central Park (above).   The Central Park Conservancy said they will be plowing around the clock.  (Photo: Geofrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

With the impending historic winter storm expected to dump up to 3 feet of snow in the city parks will be closed starting at 6pm today.

The agency also advises against using parks during and after the storm due to the possibility of hazadious conditions caused by downed trees and tree limbs and icy paths and have issued issued a Severe Weather Forecast warning:

"NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver urges caution during the snow storm predicted for Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening. Heavy ice and snow can cause hazardous conditions in parks, including falling branches and treacherous frozen park paths. NYC Parks advises New Yorkers to avoid using parks until Wednesday morning, when we will provide an update on park conditions," the statement said. 

"We are facing most likely one of the largest snow storms in the history of this city,"   Mayor de Blasio said yesterday at a press conference. 

The National Weather Service is predicting blizzard-like conditions with winds as high as 65 mph.  The city Office of Emergency Management has called in the National Guard for support for emergency vehicles as a precaution, agency commissioner Joseph Esposito said. 

Coastal flooding is also expected in New York.

The City has established a Severe Weather Page:  

Update: 1:00pm

The National Weather Service has issued a citywide Blizzard Warning, which is in effect from Monday, Jan. 26, at 1 PM, until Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 12 AM. The current forecast calls for 18 to 24 inches of snow, with locally higher amounts possible and snowfall rates of up to 2 to 4 inches per hour late Monday night into Tuesday morning. Northern winds of 20 to 30 MPH are forecast, with gusts of up to 55 MPH possible. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

John Doswell, 71, Park and Waterfront Activist Passes

John Doswell.
John Doswell, 71, passed away on January 2nd. 

"John Doswell was a mensch.  He was the founding Chair of Friends of Hudson River Park at a time when the organization was still focused on advocacy, and during his tenure, more than $50 million in public funding was allocated to the Park. He continued on the Board of Friends for 15 years and he was the heart and soul of its maritime interests.  He was key in organizing the the Flotilla for Governors Island, which helped persuade the Federal government to return the Island to the City and State.  Almost single-handedly, he made the Working Waterfront Committee and the Hidden Harbor Tours it sponsored into a going concern that enriched the experiences of thousands of New Yorkers.  And he was great fun."  - Al Butzel 


John W. Doswell, a founding chairperson of Friends of Hudson River Park, executive director of the Working Harbor Committee and member of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, died Jan. 2. He was 71, according to The Villager.
Diagnosed with cancer a year ago, he was responding well to treatment until he was admitted to the hospital shortly before his death, according to his wife, Jean Preece.
Captain John Doswell (he held a U.S. Coast Guard master’s license for vessels, under power or sail, of up to 100 tons) was a prime mover of waterfront events for three decades. He was a member of the North River Historic Ship Society and Save Our Ships New York, among other maritime organizations. As director of the Working Harbor Committee, he organized annual tugboat races and coordinated international visits of historic ships. For the 2012 OpSail event, he found berthing for dozens of vessels from around the world.
A Hell’s Kitchen community activist, John Doswell was an early member of Friends of Pier 84, a neighborhood group that successfully advocated for free public use of the pier off W. 44th St. For several years he was a member of Community Board 4, whose West Side district includes the Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen waterfronts.
Madelyn Wils, president and C.E.O. of the Hudson River Park Trust, the city/state agency building the riverfront park, paid tribute to his contributions to waterfront redevelopment.
“Captain John Doswell leaves an inimitable legacy of devotion to the New York City waterfront community he so loved and served during his rich and accomplished lifetime,” Wils said in a prepared eulogy. “A U.S. Navy veteran in the Vietnam War, John’s life was fully committed to the preservation and innovation of our working waterfront and environment. All of us at Hudson River Park Trust and Friends of Hudson River Park knew him as a tireless advocate. His vast maritime knowledge and skill in all things nautical made him a stalwart champion for numerous programs and educational activities. He brought unmatched calm, reason and a sense of fairness to every mission he undertook. His legacy will live on for generations.”
The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance also paid tribute to John Doswell’s accomplishments, noting that he had crossed the Atlantic in a sailboat. He also occasionally piloted the restored 600-ton lighthouse tender Frying Pan, as well as the historic schooner Lettie G. Howard.
“As a member of the Maritime Infrastructure and Permitting Panel, Captain Doswell contributed to Vision 2020, New York City’s 10-year waterfront plan,” the Alliance said. He also helped organize the Alliance’s City of Water Day, Hudson River Park Day, the Liberty Cup Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Race, the Floating the Apple America Star Race and the Flotilla to Reclaim Governors Island event.
John Doswell was one of the original group of friends who bought the decommissioned New York City fireboat John J. Harvey in 1999 and restored her to working condition. He was among the crew that brought the old fireboat to the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2001, ferried residents away from the disaster and returned to pump water into the fire.
And it was on the John J. Harvey that Doswell and Preece were married last July after living together for 40 years. They had met in 1961 in junior college in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was a dancer (as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall and with roles in several Broadway musicals) and he became a producer of corporate events. Married to different partners, they were each divorced and began life together, for a while on a boat in the W. 79th St. boat basin. They got married on the advice of their accountant, and their waterfront friends took over the arrangements.
John Doswell was born in St. Petersburg to Betsy Weeks and Claude Douglas Doswell. He was the oldest of five brothers, Warren, Willard, Douglas and Joe, who all survive, in addition to his wife and their daughter, Jhoneen.

Read More:

The Villegar - January 15, 2015 -  By Albert Amateau

NBA All-Star Promo Concert Featuring Mystery "A List" Performer Not Welcome At Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (North) 23rd and Fifth Avenue. Residents and businesses are upset over a large promotional concert scheduled for February. The Plazas were created by the Department of Transportation and designed for passive use. It is CB 5's understanding that these types of events would not be returning to the Plaza after a smaller NBA event was allowed which upset residents and business owners.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge)


By Geoffrey Croft

Flatiron residents and businesses are incensed over a proposed concert in the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza scheduled for Feb 12th.

An NBA All-Star weekend tie-in promotional event featuring an “A-list” entertainer which the city refuses to disclose will feature entertainers and athletes and is expected to draw 10,000 attendees.

Fifth Avenue and Broadway traffic will be shut down and vehicles diverted for hours in order to accommodate the proposed 45 minute concert. Critics counter that the event would be much better situated in Times Square.   CB 5 called on the city to "put an end to out-of-scale commercial events in spaces that are far too small or otherwise inappropriate."

Organizers will announce the performer's name a week before the event and begin distributing tickets.  Several Community Board members speculated at a recent meeting that the entertainer might be hip-hop mogul Jay Z whose club 40/40 is a half a block away on W. 25th street and whose company Roc Nation is involved with producing the TNT cable channel festivities.   

According to the city VIP's are expected to be a part of the event.   During the meeting a board member it was also pointed out that Jennifer Lopez and Chelsea Clinton are area residents (along with NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon) who all live a half a block away in the same building. 

The special event would take over the Pedestrian Plaza for at least 4 days between February 10th-14th and wreak havoc on Fifth Avenue and Broadway traffic, including shutting down traffic for hours all for a 45 minute concert.  

The event will require many street closures and vehicle diversions: 5th Avenue and Broadway from 23rd Street at least to 26th Street and possibly beyond, 24th and 25th Streets between Broadway and 6th Avenue, and the length of 26th Street from Madison Avenue all the way to 6th Avenue.    

The massive production will require moving over 100 granite blocks and standing planters, a CitiBike docking station, A BID information booth, trash receptacles and two solar-powered charging stations. Many of the items are expected to be relocated to the southern pedestrian plaza btw. 23 & 22nd Street rendering the southern plaza equally unusable for the four days required for the event.

The production would require moving a CitiBike docking station.

The sidewalks on the western side of Madison Square Park will also be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel.

Community Board  5 blasted the proposed commercial festivities calling it, "grossly inappropriate for the space," at its last Parks Committee meeting.   

The board was baffled why this was not being proposed for Fr. Duffy Square in Times Square as it was originally proposed instead of being merely a backup location, which the board called, "a far more appropriate location for an extremely large,  entertainment-focused commercial event. "

The Board fired off a letter last week to Mayor De blasio stating that is was "perplexed about why an event of the size and nature of this example is being shoehorned into a space where it so clearly does not belong." 

The event will install six lighting towers, audio and video equipment resulting in excessive amplified sound.   The staging for the event will require that all of the open space and all of the amenities presently enjoyed by the public in the north Pedestrian Plaza - including DOT’s recently installed public art program to be off limits.  

The set-up will be twenty-four hours a day beginning at 12:01 AM on February 10, with three active overnights involving the use of forklifts and heavy equipment operating in close proximity to residential buildings and scores of local businesses. A steel stage structure 60-feet wide is to be constructed over an existing fire hydrant on top of the Pedestrian Plaza, rendering it unusable the board noted.

The CB 5's understanding that these types of events would not be returning to the Plaza after a smaller NBA event upset residents and businesses. 

In October 2013,  TNT was allowed to take over the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza for its NBA pregame studio show for the opening night of the basketball season,  part of a three-day celebration. They installed a basketball court,  NBA 2K14 video game kiosks. A large videoboard perched 30 feet above Broadway and Fifth Avenue for fans to watch the show which included live coverage of the Miami Heat's championship ring ceremony.

"Why are we here talking about this,"  Clayton Smith, chair of the parks committee asked Emil Lissauer, the Deputy Executive Director of Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO).  

Smith stated that the board got a commitment from the city not to hold these types of large scale events in the future after the previous event.

"I don't remember it that way," Mr. Lissauer replied. 

Mr. Smith pointed out that this event is even bigger. 

Worth Square- between 24-25th St.  The proposed concert area would extend up to 26th Street and include Broadway and Fifth Avenue. 

The SAPO representative also said area residents and businesses would be given priority to tickets but did not say how many tickets would be available or how they would be distributed to the pre-ticketed event.  

The representative also said the Parks Department requested an eight-foot high fence be erected so that the public cannot view the event from Madison Square Park, an idea that the parks committee chair described as, "gulag weird."

A Parks Department spokesperson disputed SAPO's claim regarding who requested it.

"Parks did not request this fence. It was a suggested solution to a concern we raised of protecting plant beds in areas where site lines might allow viewing to an otherwise ticketed event," said Sam Biederman.  

At the meeting  Mr. Lissauer also said that there was a possibility that at least part of the park property would be utilized on the park's west side.

"The western sidewalks of Madison (Square Park)  will be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel – these areas are not being used for production or viewing purposes," the Parks Department spokesperson said. 

The community board also did not appreciate that the Street Activity Permit Office rep did not present a site plan at the January 5th meeting. 

In their letter to Mayor De blasio the Board said they, "unanimously found that the event is inappropriate in terms of scale, duration, volume, and impact for this dense commercial and residential area of our district, and will result in an unacceptable impact on neighbors and businesses.

Community Board Five strongly stands in opposition to this and, frankly, any event of this scale in this pedestrian plaza, whose creation by the Department of Transportation was designed for passive use.  We do not support the usurping of this public space, the dislocation of all of its public amenities, and the considerable inconvenience to the neighborhood’s stakeholders by events of this size and magnitude, " the January 9th letter stated.                  

The Board was also not pleased that the city was bypassing submitting a special event application for park activities which the Community Board would normally have the opportunity to officially weigh in on and vote even though the event would be utilizing two parks properties - Worth Square  -  and the sidewalk in Madison Square Park. 

When asked how the applicants were able to get away with this the Parks Department spokesperson said the application for the backup site in Times Square was amended after the January 5 Parks Committee meeting. 

"The application requesting Duffy Square was amended to list Madison Park.  It is our practice not to require applicants to file anew if a requested venue is decided against or unavailable; rather we allow an amendment to the application." 

The Flatiron/23rd Street BID will get a "significant fee," according to the SAPO representative.  The city confirmed that the Parks Department was also getting a fee but that nether fees had been worked out yet.

The sidewalks on the western side of Madison Square Park will also be closed to facilitate an emergency lane for authorized personnel.  An eight-foot high fence will be erected to prevent the non-ticketed from being able to see the event, an idea the CB 5's Parks Committee chair described as, "gulag weird."

The Community Board also questioned why the Street Activity Permit Office is being given sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for pedestrian plazas instead of the Department of Transportation which is the city agency responsible for their oversight.

The board stated that no mechanism had been put in place to ensure proper public review of large events in the district’s pedestrian plazas and said that to date, there have been no modifications to the existing procedure by which the Street Activity Permit Office manages the placement of large events in these public spaces.

They also ripped into the fact that there was no mechanism for public review of these events.

"Residents and business owners in our district are deprived of any notification of proposed events in these public spaces. Nor does the community have any opportunity to make their voice heard at a public hearing, as they have come to expect from event applications that are submitted to the Parks Department for events that take place on parkland. This is a systemic dysfunction that it is past time to address," the letter said.  

They called on the city to "put an end to out-of-scale commercial events in spaces that are far too small or otherwise inappropriate."

Despite repeated requests for comment  the DOT refused to answer questions from A Walk in the Park.   The city says SAPO is still reviewing the site plan,  including any items the BID and Community Board have raised.

 The massive production will require moving over 100 granite blocks and standing planters. 

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (South) Many of the items moved from across the street to accomidate the event are expected to be relocated to the southern pedestrian plaza btw. 23nd & 22nd Street, rendering this plaza equally unusable over the four days.

Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza (South) 

The proposed concert area would include Broadway (L) and  Fifth Avenue (R) and the Parks Department's Worth Square between 24-25th St. seen in the background.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

15 Community Gardens Could Be Destroyed In De Blasio's Affordable Housing Plan

In October residents volunteered to clean up Morningside Height's Electric Ladybug Garden  located at 239-37 West 111 St. in Morningside Heights. They started clearing it out two years ago after being vacant for three decades. Nine of the gardens slated for development under De Blasio's affordable housing plan are in Brooklyn and six are in Manhattan.  (Photo: via DNAinfo)


At least 15 community gardens on city-owned property could be bulldozed to make way for new buildings under the de Blasio administration's affordable housing plan, community advocates said, according to DNA info.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development published a list this week of city-owned sites that housing developers can apply to build on, shocking those who tend to and enjoy the green spaces.
Developers were asked to submit proposals for nearly 180 sites — which could include rentals for families earning nearly $140,000 a year and paying $3,000 in rent — by Feb. 19.
Locked garden - January 15, 2014. Residents were looking forward to planting this spring. The garden is now on a list of city-owned sites that could be developed under the city's affordable housing plan.  (Photo: Sybile Penhirin/DNAInfo)

John McBride, one of the residents who helped Morningside Heights' Electric Ladybug Garden get off the ground, was surprised Thursday when he found the city had already padlocked his block's space.
"We were just getting ready to start planting for the spring and now it's padlocked," said McBride, 46, who was part of a two-year labor-intensive effort to clear rubble from the vacant lot on his West 111th Street block and replace it with clean topsoil from the Parks Department's Green Thumb this summer. 
McBride said he understood the de Blasio administration's "huge commitment to housing," but he didn't understand why the city was targeting lots with flourishing gardens when it owned other parcels of land that were sitting truly fallow.
Of more than 1,000 HPD-owned vacant lots, approximately 74 have community gardens, according to research from 596 Acres, the nonprofit that helped provide technical support to transform Electric Ladybug.
Nine of the gardens slated for development are in Brooklyn and six are in Manhattan. They range from spots like East Harlem's Jackie Robinson Community Garden, which has been around for more than 20 years, to Williamsburg's La Casista Verde, which opened in September.
"We're not in denial about the terms of the use [since the garden sits on HPD land]," McBride said.
"What we're reacting to is a sense of misplaced priority.  It would be so easy to avoid affecting these gardens when you look at HPD's inventory.
"This garden has allowed people to create a sense of community where it didn't exist before between the old timers and the newcomers. I think people are surprised at how quickly the garden has flourished. It's really given the block a positive tone."

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DNAinfo  - January 16, 2015 - By Amy Zimmer and Camille Bautista