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]
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
Williamsburg'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.
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.
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]
It'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.
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.
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.
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 AppelbaumAll-City Cross Country Race [NYC Mountain Bike Association]