Please Join Neighbors to Save Rivington House

Clean Up in Front of the BRC

Before:

The overgrown foliage and trash were pruned and cleared up today. Bob and K spent the afternoon getting the front in shape for the eventual placement of new windows that have been promised for a number of years now.

After:

We did discover where people have been going in the absence of 24/7 sanitation access.

Mulching to come…

City Development of Designated Parkland

From City Limits: A Must read for anyone who cares about Parkland. (Excerpt below)

Manhattan Parcel with Murky Origins Could Frame a Debate Over Parks and Development in the City

“Is the Marx Brothers Playground [Marx Brothers Playground—named after legendary comics Chico, Groucho, and Harpo who were raised at nearby 179 E 93rd St] on 2nd Ave between East 96th & 97th Streets a park or a playground?

To realize the scope of its blueprint, AvalonBay obtained City Council approval for changes to the site’s zoning, waivers for parking and open space requirements, and permission to build a higher tower in exchange for affordable housing—a newer tactic that required creating a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) zone. The Marx Brothers Playground, however, presented a more complicated issue.

Back in 2004, when the MTA was authorized to stage its Second Avenue Subway necessities on a piece of the playground, the state law that temporarily permitted the takeover labelled the Marx Brothers as “park lands.” Now known as Chapter 543 of the State Laws of 2004, the bill directed the MTA to “restore the surface of the lands” when it was finished with its project and provide “replacement trees to be determined by the Parks Department” so that the “lands shall continue to be used for park purposes.” As a piece of protected parkland, then, the playground was exempt from all zoning laws and unable to generate useable floor area. A developer couldn’t build anything there.

So AvalonBay once again solicited the City Council for aid. In June 2017, the body voted in favor of asking the New York State Legislature to strip the playground of its parkland status. Called a “home rule request,” the resolution was quickly taken up by both the Assembly and Senate and approved. The playground was officially “alienated.”

The residential tower will be the second tallest building on the east side

Now, as a regular lot, it was immediately subject to the laws of whatever zoning district had jurisdiction. Moreover, the changes that AvalonBay procured through ULURP also went into effect. The former playground now produced floor area. The ECF could officially take possession of the Marx Brothers-COOP Tech site and transfer it to the developer. Demolition and construction teams could finally emerge.

But after news broke of the Marx Brothers’ plan, stakeholders in the community like Carnegie Hill Neighbors [East Harlem Preservation are also opposed] and watchdogs like Geoffrey Croft at NYC Park Advocates got involved. In July, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the non-profit group operating a few blocks west, appealed to Governor Cuomo to reverse the legislature’s decision. More groups followed its lead. In August, the Municipal Art Society, New Yorkers for Parks, and the Trust for Public Land sent off similar petitions (Change.org Petition too). …New York City mayoral candidate Sal Albanese and public advocate hopeful David Eisenbach staged a protest outside the playground on August 17th….

 

Parks. Playgounds. Both terms have a curious history of being used interchangeably. For example, when Seward Park on the Lower East Side was established in 1903, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) observed that it was “equipped as a permanent playground.”

… Aren’t parks and playgrounds just the same thing?

It’s not just semantics. Depending on one’s take, these terms suggest—if not dictate—how the parcel of land is to be treated.

Historically speaking, the City has often claimed playgrounds as part of its park system. In doing so, it may have given them an “implied parkland” status. Under public trust doctrine, all that is necessary for a parcel of land to establish itself as a park is for it to have been “continuously used as a public park.” Moreover, as both the City has dedicated playgrounds for public use and its residents have accepted them as such, the notion of playgrounds as parks has solidified. You can see the idea at work in recent administrations.

In 1986, for example, as part of its Neighborhood Park Restoration Program, the Koch Administration touted spending $4.3 million to “refurbish” 144 Jointly Operated Playgrounds (JOPs). It added 600 workers to the DPR’s roster that year, including 248 “playground attendants.” The Times reported that “more than half of [them were placed] at the rehabilitated playgrounds” and quoted Jack Linn, Assistant Parks Commissioner for Government Relations, as justifying the deployment with this: “It makes sense to put your resources into defensible areas. You invest in something you can hold.”

On February 3, 1999, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani and DPR Commissioner Henry Stern issued a joint press release to celebrate an amazing accomplishment. They had brought the City’s total parkland to 28,000 acres, covering 14% of the five boroughs. “In the past five years,” the bulletin conveyed, “the Parks [Department]” had attained that milestone after “working with other City agencies…to identify potential parkland both for natural areas and neighborhood playgrounds.”

Under the Bloomberg Administration, the City was more explicit. When it released the 156-page tome called PlaNYC for a “greener, greater New York” in 2007, the administration was clear about its view of JOPs like the Marx Brothers Playground. “Today, there are 269 Jointly Operated Playgrounds open for public use,” the Plan read. “Since 1938, JOPs have been considered designated parkland, which restricts how the land can be used.” And, furthermore, when updating the City’s anti-smoking laws in 2011, the City Council not only banned smoking in “public parks,” it also defined what it meant by the term itself: “Park or other property under the jurisdiction of the department of parks and recreation’ means public parks, beaches, waters and land under water, pools, boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds, recreation centers and all other property, equipment, buildings and facilities now or hereafter under the jurisdiction, charge or control of the department of parks and recreation.”

The Marx Brothers Playground—whether originally parkland or playground—is now alienated and poised to supply its development rights to AvalonBay. Because of the de Blasio administration’s current position on the Marx Brothers, it is conceivable that other playgrounds, JOPs, or even parks themselves could have the potential to be alienated for their development rights. The risk is not new: The Bloomberg administration often worked parkland into development projects, from Yankee Stadium to Brooklyn Bridge Park to Flushing Meadows….”

The de Blasio administration is poised to go back on the promised park replacement (that never should have happened in the first place – re Bill Moyers Essay: Yankee Stadium – a scathing indictment from one of the most trusted voices in our country).

De Blasio Housing Plan Seeks Land Promised as Yankees Replacement Park

Village Voice: City Hall says expansion of Bronx green space was never a formal commitment

by Patrick Arden September 5, 2017

“Antonetty and her neighbors still pine for the old parks along Jerome Avenue, which had been the centerpiece of their community. Macombs Dam Park was established in 1897, a quarter-century before the Yankees arrived in the Bronx, and the neighborhood grew up around it. Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks were worn from heavy use — one field was bare, and the grass could often be brown — but they had hundreds of mature leafy green trees, some sixty feet tall. The outdoor space held special importance for families crammed into one-bedroom apartments.

All that was lost in August 2006, when the city closed off the parkland to make way for a new stadium. State law requires the formal “alienation” of parks by the legislature before they can be used for non-park purposes. When Albany lawmakers alienated portions of Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks in 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to replace the green space with a new park on the old stadium site across the street, and with the addition of a set of other parcels elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Locals had problems with the “replacement” parks from the start. In exchange for a unified stretch of parkland, they would get plots of land scattered across more than a mile, with much less greenery and fewer ballfields. One of the largest replacements would sit two stories above street level atop a parking garage, with artificial surfaces and no trees. Small “pocket” parks would be in the shadow of the 4 train’s elevated tracks. A 2.89-acre asphalt ballfield wasn’t even replaced — the city converted it intoanother garage, insisting the land had only been used for parking cars, though project documents acknowledged it had been parkland.”

Yet Adrian Benepe, the city’s parks commissioner from 2002 to 2012, tells the Voice that all of what’s currently built of Mill Pond Park — including Pier 4 and the developed slice of Pier 5 — ended up as part of Yankee Stadium’s replacement parkland. The undeveloped section of Pier 5 wasn’t in that deal, Benepe says, though “it had been envisioned that it might be nice to have a park there one day.”

The neighborhoods didn’t want Yankee Stadium to be built atop their park nor did they agree to have ‘replacement’ parks miles from their homes, nor have their trees cut down, nor be closer to trains and highways all so luxury spots could be built for a billionaire developer. But yeah, lots of things would have been ‘nice’.
A little more history:

And from March 2006 Gotham Gazette:

“What if the city decided to put a stadium in the middle of your local park?

…instead of being set inside a large, green space surrounded by hundreds of mature trees, the fields would be scattered on separate parcels, including the tops of parking garages. The new recreational spaces would be closer to the highway and train tracks and an additional five-minute to half-hour walk from where people live. Most of the trees would be cut down. The new stadium would go smack in the middle of the community’s current park, next to a residential area.”

NYTimes 2008: “None of the replacement parks have been completed, and construction on several has not yet started; however, the parks department has built a temporary replacement park on a parking lot in the area, opened a ball field this spring at a school almost a mile to the east, and is building a sports field at a recreation center about a mile to the north.”

…Mr. Benepe [former NYC Parks Commissioner] said he was sympathetic to All Hallows High School and others …[re].. old Macombs Dam Park… “By the time all of the construction is done, this neighborhood will have one of the finest collection of parks and sports facilities anywhere in the city…”

From Bill Moyers (Updated September 12, 2013):

“There, in the South Bronx, the poorest district in the entire country, taxpayers were being asked to subsidize the private profits of one of the wealthiest franchises in organized sports. The Yankees’ owner at the time, the late George Steinbrenner, had bought the team for $10 million dollars in 1973, and by the time the old Yankee Stadium — “the House that Ruth built” — was ready to be replaced, it was worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Taxpayers were promised big bang for their buck, with new jobs and prosperity coming to a neighborhood feeling the full impact of the recession. The claim was considered dubious at the time, and a study conducted in 2011 found that the 3,400 stadium jobs paid a median wage of $10.50 an hour for non-managerial positions. The Yankees, meanwhile, had grabbed $50 million in tax breaks, $326 million in capital improvements, $1.2 billion in tax-exempt bonds and 24 acres of parks that had been owned by the public (after dragging its feet for several years, outrage over the loss of the parks eventually led the city to complete a long-promised facility for local youths last year).”

On-Line Petition to Ask Mayor to Call the Promised Meeting on Rivington House

On-line Petition to Save Rivington House now available!

Please sign: HERE

Thank you!

Community Info Meeting on Retail Jobs at Essex Crossing in 2018

Bill Moyer’s Site: What Will Happen If We Fail to Address the Climate Crisis

Bill Moyers website. This post first appeared at Jacobin Magazine

By Christian Parenti

“The effects of climate change are already upon us. Here’s what the 2020s and 2030s will look like if we fail to change things.”

If properly planned for, one can imagine how such problems could be managed. But if the current denial continues until markets are caught unaware, there could be regional real estate panics and, flowing from those, major financial losses.

…NYC’s Department of Finance recently estimated the total assessed value of the city’s property for fiscal year 2017 at more than $1 trillion. That is real money, enough to help trigger problems in financial markets more broadly.

Collapsed property values means a collapsed tax base, which means local government will be hard pressed to make costly infrastructure repairs. And it is the infrastructure as a whole that property values depend on.

Defensive Preparations

The NYC tristate area offers a glimpse into the possibilities and pathologies of planning for sea-level rise. After 2012, when Hurricane Sandy did $50 billion in economic damage, including destroying or damaging 650,000 homes, it was clear something needed to be done. Eventually Congress allocated about $60 billion in federal aid for recovery and resilience work in the impacted area. But the pace of disbursement has been painfully slow.

The city is now building a barrier around lower Manhattan, called the “Big U.” Designed to be covered with grass and serve as public open space, the wall will run from 42nd on the East Side, along the shore, and up to 57th Street on the West Side. Construction will take years and cost billions….

…At this rate and in this fashion, it is hard to imagine how the city’s entire 520-mile coastline could be secured. Worse yet, half preparations are, in some ways, as bad as no preparation. …New York City’s largely symbolic efforts thus far, “Barriers, dikes and levees make people feel safe, even when they are not.”

…Meanwhile, in a clear subsidy to unsustainable gentrification, the city is also planning to build a $2.5 billion tramline along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront, where old industrial warehouses are giving way to luxury high-rises.”

And, we would add, spending NYC money to fund Diller Island?

Clean Air, Clean Water, Your Health…….Now Led by a Former Pesticide Industry Exec

Ms. Adcock, a former pesticide industry executive, now runs the Agricultural Department for Trump’s Whitehouse.

From The NYTimes

“….Ms. Adcock had already been meeting with lobbyists, including those from her former employer, the pesticide industry’s main trade group, CropLife America, and its members. CropLife pushes the agenda of pesticide makers in Washington, including easing rules related to safety standards and clean water.

Ms. Adcock, who left the trade group in April, maintained contact with her former industry allies despite a signed ethics agreement promising to avoid for one year issues involving CropLife as well as matters that she had lobbied about in the two years before joining the government….

Ms. Adcock is scheduled to appear Tuesday before subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is tracking Mr. Trump’s deregulation effort.

Republican members of the committee declined to comment about Ms. Adcock’s activities.”

Thanks to NYers for Parks & Con Ed Volunteers Today in SDR Park

It was COLD! But we persisted from 10am to 1pm. Mulching, weeding, raking, clearing out garbage and leaves, daffodil bulb planting near the benches and in the empty tree pits.

Thanks to Emily and Gabriella who led the NYers for Parks crew with Michelle, Kevin and Caitlin:

And the terrific and hard working Con Edison volunteers organized by Christina.

And M’Finda Kalunga’s Jonathan. And K too!

The Sri Sathya Sai Baba handed out food to the neighborhood as they do every Saturday.

NYers for Parks brought coffee and snacks.

We got a LOT done.

Thank you to Captain Sanchez’ PEP officers: Vazquez, Motrechuk, and Villani!

The mulch guys Joe and Samir could not be stopped!

Work and Soup in the M’Finda Kalunga Garden Today

The Soup providers were out today in front of the M’Finda Kalunga Garden.

Some of the soup volunteers did a bit of work in the Garden with Jonathan. K planted aliums, Angela raked, Bob supervised!

And Ted created large posters for the campaign to remind the Mayor to keep his promise to hold a meeting with the buyers of Rivington House and Councilmember Chin: