So Apparently There’s One More Way the City Can Fine You for Enjoying Yourself
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]
New Plans for Washington Square Park Revealed! Again!
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]
Go Climb a Tree in Queens
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
New Williamsburg Park Welcomes People, Bans PoochesWilliamsburg’s new waterfront oasis — East River State Park, it’s officially called — opened for business Wednesday, liberating the grass-starved locals to get down to the riverfront. But their dogs remained oppressed. City-run parks welcome dogs, but this state park doesn’t. “Look, I understand that when you have dogs here, you’re looking to give them exercise and let them play,” said Rachel Gordon, city director for the state parks office. “But we don’t allow dogs in any of the state parks in the city.” One fear, she explained, is that the dogs would damage the new vegetation.
No Parties Today, and No Pool
Sigh. Again no parties. And generally overcast weather. And scattered thunderstorms forecast for tonight and tomorrow. And the brand-new, spiffy Floating Pool is broken. (Yes, broken: Apparently some ballast tanks flooded, according to Gothamist, and now the whole thing is tilted. And closed.) We’re starting to think it’s going to be a long summer.
When Days Are Hot, When Days Are Cold…
The Floating Pool, the four-foot-deep pool-on-a-barge that’ll be anchored off Brooklyn Heights for the summer, welcomes the public tomorrow. But opening-day celebrations were held today, as notables including Parks Commish Adrian Benepe, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and — of course — Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz all took dips, as did 9-year-old Nayhira Baird. The barge also features a beach, volleyball courts, and space for sunbathing — plus, we must say, a pretty awesome view.
Related: Floating Pool’s Opening Signals Start of Brooklyn Bridge Park [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
• The Rent Guidelines Board last night split the difference between a tenants’ proposal and one from landlords and settled on renewal increases of 3 and 5 percent for one- and two-year leases, respectively, in rent-stabilized apartments. Both sides, predictably enough, railed against the decision. [NYP]
Parks Commish’s Dad Founds Greenmarket, Wins Award, Scolds SonIt’s no accident Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe grew up to be a leaf lover. His father, Barry Benepe, 79, co-founded the city’s greenmarket network more than 30 years ago, filling parks like Union Square with farmers’ goods at a time when they were better known for yielding dirty needles than heirloom tomatoes. (There are now 30-odd markets citywide.) Benepe père then helped found Transportation Alternatives, and for all this urban do-gooderism, the Rockefeller Foundation just awarded him one of its first Jane Jacobs medals, which come with a nice $100,000 prize. The now-retired Daddy Benepe (who lives, appropriately, on Jane Street in the Village with his wife, Judith) talked to New York about the greenmarkets’ gritty early days — and picked a few bones with his son.
Biking Dutchman Hijacks Governors Island Planning Meeting
Walking into a presentation by the five finalists vying to design a new Governors Island park last night, everyone thought there were two front-runners: James Corner, who has proposed a “superthick” promenade abutting a dense lawn and a “fog forest” with misters to lead you to soccer fields, and Joshua Prince-Ramus, whose plan calls for a patchwork of parcels around the edge that can adapt to private development. But then Adriaan Geuze, another of the finalists, rode into the Chelsea auditorium on a wood-frame bicycle, and he stole the show. Geuze is a Rotterdam architect with corkscrew hair and, last night, a floral-print shirt, and he got the crowd laughing when his PowerPoint presentation showed a butterfly landing on the island and then spreading into a “poetic pattern” of zany footpaths.
Starchitect Showdown! Will Rockwell or Gehry Build the Better Playground?It’s never too early to start Manhattan tykes on high-end real-estate mania. The Parks Department has just announced that Frank Gehry will be designing a no doubt titanium-clad playground for Battery Park — which puts the L.A.-based starchitect in head-to-head competition with New York’s own David Rockwell, the man behind countless restaurant and hotel interiors, some of Broadway’s wittiest set designs, and a planned “imagination playground” on Burling Slip, a bit uptown on the East River. How do the two compare? See for yourself.
No Olympics, But Maybe the X Games?
Not content to sprinkle skate parks amid its acreage, the city will open its first BMX and mountain-bike trail this Saturday in Washington Heights’s Highbridge Park. The three miles of trail includes jumps and a BMX track and will give cyclists a legal place to ride. “We had had mountain bikers riding through historic landscapes, so we had to criminalize it,” says Parks Commission Adrian Benepe. “This was a way to come up with a positive use for a remote area of the park.” The New York City Mountain Bike Association supported the trail with money and volunteers, and the commissioner hopes the peer endorsement will keep kids from turfing the city’s lawn. Alec Appelbaum
All-City Cross Country Race [NYC Mountain Bike Association]
Will Uptown Dogs Run in Downtown Parks?
Not too long ago, we got excited about the imminent Doggy Liberation of New York: In the face of a protracted lawsuit, most city parks without dedicated dog runs would acquiesce and declare “leashless hours” between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. Then came the infuriating news that the new rule would benefit only uptown dogs. Class war! Well, not quite. According to doggy-listserv chatter, there’s hope for downtown yet: The Parks Department will do a walk-through of East River Park next week to determine what areas could be designated as off-leash. (Very few, say the dissenters, who find the park far away and inhospitable.) There’s also talk of putting in a proper dog run there. Until then, uptown is still for the dogs.
Earlier: Doggy Liberation Limited to Uptown Only [NYM]
They Paved Paradise
To make good on his PlaNYC promise of putting every New Yorker within a ten-minute walk of a park, Mayor Bloomberg will need to break out some sledgehammers in Brooklyn. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey tags the borough as the most paved-over place in the United States. Yup, Brooklyn rocks even more blacktop than Manhattan. It achieves the distinction mostly through its sheer size — 70.6 square miles, only 8 percent of which is parkland. One can see the statistic as yet another wistful reminder that we’re islanders living in a finite space — and quickly running out of it. Or, as befits Brooklyn, we can simply shrug: Fuhgeddaboudit, who needs parks, anyway? You can always barbecue on the subway.
Trees? Nah. Blacktop grows in Brooklyn [NYDN]
Dan Doctoroff’s Dream Lives On, in Queens
Remember when City Hall’s plan was for the Olympics to save our city? We had our doubts, and the IOC didn’t cooperate, but, even so, Queens residents are still getting one benefit of the plan: A 50-meter pool in Flushing Meadow, originally intended to host the Michael Phelpses of the world, is under construction and set to open to the public by fall, according to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “It’s most ambitious structure ever built in a park,” Benepe said of the 110,000-square-foot space, designed by local firms Handel Architects and Hom & Goldman. The Parks Department even managed to squeeze in a separate diving pool, making this the first city property usable for NCAA swim meets. We’re looking forward to toting our flippers and goggles on the 7 train. —Alec Appelbaum
PlaNYC Fine Print: Gnarly New Parks, Dude, But Who’ll Prune the Trees?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.
A Lifeline for the Upper High Line?Last we checked in, it seemed that the officials were willing to let a successful bidder for the MTA’s Hudson Yards site tear down the part of the High Line that runs through it. But now it seems that the old rail trestle, slowly becoming a park, has a better chance of survival. Real Estate Board of New York president Steven Spinola, the developers’ rep in the bidding process for Yards site, tells us that the Hudson Yards Development Corporation showed a presentation yesterday that included a preference for cultural institutions, lots of open space, an attempt at affordable housing, and sympathy for the High Line. “They likely will say to developers: We would like to see the High Line continue, so explain what the ramifications would be of keeping it,” Spinola said. “I think they started off negative about the High Line and they’re now looking to keep it an open question.” Will developers — who must sink more than $300 million just to install a platform over the rail yards — willingly invest around an elevated park? “The High Line, if done properly, can clearly be an attractive amenity for the city,” Spinola says. “A few months ago people said, ‘Of course it’s a problem,’ and yesterday people said, ‘We’ll analyze it.’” —Alec Appelbaum
Earlier: The High Line, Suddenly Not as High?