Indie-rock fans bereft over the restoration of McCarren Park Pool to a swimming (and skating) spot might have some comfort after all: A leader of the community board in North Brooklyn says the city can set up a parking lot along the waterfront between North 9th and North 10th streets for live music as early as the summer of 2009. Evan Thies, who heads the board's environmental committee, says the thicket of deals under way to convert an old gas plant to a 28-acre waterfront park has revealed a lot the city can easily acquire and clear in eighteen months. “There needs to be space for arts and music in Williamsburg and Greenpoint,” says Thies, who wants to win the district's city-council seat next year and start a progressive caucus focusing on land use. If the proposal he's sent to the Parks Department actually flies, Thies may just win himself the pivotal “dude, should we check out this band?” vote before the campaign gets in full swing. —Alec Appelbaum
Funny thing we learned from the Times today (no, not that Bush thinks Alberto Gonzales was the victim of overpoliticization, though that's funny, too): Apparently it's illegal to wade in fountains in New York City. Which means all these kids frolicking in Washington Square Park earlier this summer were potentially liable for $50 fines. And all this time we thought it was merely gross.
Is That Quick Dip a Cool Idea, or Not So Hot? [NYT]
Sure, if you want to be a snob, you could insist on Waikiki Beach on Oahu or Kirra Point on Australia's Gold Coast. But you can't get to either of those with a MetroCard — and today the city's Parks Department opened New York's second surfing-only beach in the Rockaways. Until 2005, a musty law banned surfing anywhere within the five boroughs. But that year a stretch of seashore at Beach 90th Street was opened to surfers and closed to everyone else, and, well, it was gnarly, dude. Today, after the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation cleaned the area and a Parks commish Adrian Benepe led a small ceremony, the strip of sand at Beach 67th Street was also turned over to the boarders. It's just an A-train ride away — and, on that note, we think we'll call it a week. Catch you Monday.
Last night, for the umpteenth time, the Parks Department unveiled its latest plans for a new, improved Washington Square Park. Being a bit obsessive-compulsive, we're stoked that the blueprints propose to move the fountain so it aligns with the arch; it's been bugging us for years! Still, just like the earlier iterations of the same plan, this one is likely to die at the hands of the community representatives. "People feel very strong about this park," the Sun quotes a Parks spokesperson deadpanning. An understatement, that. In 2005, local activists killed the proposal to put in gates because it would "take away from the tradition of openness"; a plan to level several seemingly functionless mounds was met with even more indignation. As of now, there's a total of five lawsuits dragging down the project, the latest two of which protest the environmental impact of the renovation. Plus there's the little matter of old burial grounds below. In other words, it's time for the Parks Department to consider bold new steps if they want this thing ever done. Here are two that we think could instantly convert nearly all Greenwich Villagers to the renovation cause: a fenced-in hacky-sack zone and a parkwide ban on acoustic covers of "No Woman No Cry."
Washington Square Park Plans Get Cool Reception [NYS]
Softball and cookouts are all well and good, but now there's an entirely new sort of activity available in New York City parks: A so-called "Challenge Course," also sometimes called Project Adventure, or just a ropes course. Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe is unveiling the course today in Queens' Alley Pond Park; with a climbing wall, a 60-foot-high pulley called a "flying squirrel," and all manner of other things to scale, vault, and balance upon while perched high in the air, it's the biggest such installation in the Northeast. Summer-camp groups will get the course Mondays through Wednesdays; on Sundays it's open to the public. Other times, the city hopes to rent it to groups and corporations for team-building exercises. Benepe views it as yet another new tool for fighting childhood obesity. "We now have two mountain-biking courses, half a dozen skate parks, and an outdoor Velodrome in Queens, and our park rangers run canoeing on the Bronx River," he boasts. It's like some sort of weird, modern-era pentathlon. —Alec Appelbaum
Today's Times brought the news of new beachside mats the Parks Department installed in Brighton Beach, bringing the joys of sand and surf to the wheelchair-bound. But as it turns out, that's far from the only accessibility initiative Parks is set to unveil, and they're all largely thanks to Victor Calise, a 35-year-old Queens native who has used a wheelchair since he flew over his bike's handlebars — without a helmet, folks — in a 1994 accident and in October became the Parks Department's first accessibility coordinator.
Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 blueprint isn't all doom and gloom. To keep the city's projected 9 million inhabitants from cranking their environment-destroying A/C, you’ve got to give them places to play. So part of the plan calls for finishing eight major parks abandoned in decades past — with amenities that might be better suited to ESPN2 than Channel 13. There'll be a salt marsh to explore in the Bronx's Soundview Park, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told us, and a cricket pitch near the nature preserve in Highland Park, on the northeastern Brooklyn-Queens border. To keep New Yorkers in shape even during the annual monsoonlike rainfalls we'll be experiencing, there'll be a new indoor running track at Ocean Breeze Park, near Staten Island’s South Beach. Community boards will get a chance to submit additional ideas starting this fall.
It is, finally, just the sort of weather that makes a vigorous young New Yorker want to frolic — or at least eat and drink — in the great outdoors. Like, for example, at that bar-and-restaurant place inside Union Square. (It's technically called Luna Park.) But wasn't the city planning to do some renovation at the north end of the park, something with that restaurant? Indeed, and yesterday Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe caught us up on the planning. In 2004, he announced plans to complete the Square's beautification by joining the park's two playgrounds and creating a year-round eatery where that weird fortresslike structure now stands, near 17th Street. But after local sputtering, Benepe confirmed to us, Parks has ditched the controversial year-round part.
In Central Park today, city officials will reopen one of the city's oldest troves of bling. The Bethesda Arcade — that archy thingie under the big staircase down to the Bethesda Fountain — was the only major architecture in Olmsted's 1843 park plan, and it was covered in intricate, custom-made ceramic tiles. And those tiles, over the years, wore and broke. A $7 million renovation has restored them to their original beauty and luster. "It's a combination of spectacular detail," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told us, explaining the investment, "and one of the most romantic spots in New York City." Excellent. It's also, we'll add today, the rare spot from which you can enjoy the park even in the pouring rain. —Alec Appelbaum
It sounds pretty sci-fi, but as City Limits reports, our own New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is in final talks to put a one-of-a-kind power facility on Randall's Island: The plant's turbines will harvest wind, solar, and tidal energy at once (that's right: earth, wind, and fire). Not only will the newfangled contraption power pretty much the entire island — including the lighting for its ball fields — but it could be doing so as early as 2008. So let us quickly just say, Wow. Who knew the Parks Department was even in the alternative-energy business? Apparently, very few: The project has been so hush-hush that even the City Council member representing Randall's Island says she hadn't heard about it until now. The secrecy is almost enough to make us paranoid about other city agencies. If Parks sneaks underwater turbines into the city, who knows what Health and Mental Hygiene is up to?
Underwater Power Generator Could Be Wave of City's Future [City Limits]