Tag Archives: NYC Park Advocates

Pol: Report crime stats for more parks


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Here in the largest city in the country, crimes are only reported in 31 parks. Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. wants to fix that problem.

Vallone, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, held a hearing on November 22 in connection with his proposed law that would require the NYPD to submit to the Council crime reports for all city parks and playgrounds larger than once acre.

The councilmember said the amendment will close a “loophole” from a bill he passed in 2006.

That legislation originally required the crime reporting of 20 parks, but was supposed to be extended to hundreds more over three years. But, according to Vallone, the NYPD didn’t need to make those increases if the technology wasn’t available to do it.

“We can no longer allow the NYPD to hide behind a claimed lack of technology to avoid providing the public with this vital information. This bill will improve upon my original bill and increase the amount of parks covered from 31 to over 870, and publish this information on the web,” said Vallone.

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, doesn’t believe Vallone’s legislation goes far enough in “closing the loopholes” because it doesn’t cover the majority of the city’s recreation and green spaces.

According to the Parks department, there are more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities in the five boroughs.

“If passed this law would continue to endanger the lives of the public, the police and PEP [Parks Enforcement Patrol] officers by not requiring the city track crimes on all park properties,” said Croft.

Vallone said he is also “looking for ways to include playgrounds and other areas smaller than an acre, but larger than a patch of grass.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Spike in crime sparks push for park safety


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The city may continue to report decreasing crime rates, but its park safety is up for question.

Crime in city parks this spring was 44 percent higher compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD data.

From April 1 to June 30, 128 crimes were reported in the 31 city parks for which the police department reports stats.

During the same time in 2012 there were 89.

It’s the largest jump since 2006, when a law was passed requiring the NYPD to provide the City Council with park crime statistics, said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

“[These stats] are obviously cause for alarm,” he said.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park reported the most crimes of Queens parks, with 27 complaints, 12 more than the same time last year. These included 22 grand larcenies, two robberies, two felony assaults and one grand larceny/assault.

It was the second most crime-ridden park in the city, following Central Park, which had 37 complaints.

Six crimes were reported in Alley Pond Park and two in Forest Park during the same period.

In the wake of the crime jump and a rape in Forest Park last week, the second time a female jogger was tasered and then sexually assaulted there this year, there have been calls for Forest and Flushing Meadows to have their own precincts.

Central Park is the only city green space to have a dedicated NYPD precinct. Flushing Meadows, the fourth largest park in the city, at 898 acres, is slightly bigger than Central. Forest Park, the third largest green space in the borough after Alley Pond, is 544 acres.

“These are public spaces and people should feel safe,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.

The jump in crime, he said, is no doubt a result of the lack of dedicated officers assigned to the parks.

The NYPD did not comment as of press time, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has reportedly stated that park crime has been consistently low and only accounts for a small percentage of overall city crime.

Vallone wants to require the department to extend the crime reporting beyond 31 parks to every city park over one acre.

He said the NYPD says it’s only providing data for so few parks because they don’t have to submit the information if they don’t have the technology to do so.

“It’s now been seven years since the law was passed and it’s ridiculous to think that they haven’t been able to come up with this technology.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Push to inspect trees as family mourns pregnant woman killed in Kissena Park


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city is inspecting the felled tree that killed a 30-year-old expectant mother in Flushing as her family makes arrangements to mourn her.

“They’re just distraught,” said attorney Anthony Como, who spoke on behalf of the grieving family. “Right now, we’re just trying to investigate to find out what happened, how something like this could occur, and obviously to get some answers at this point.”

Yingyi Li, who was six months pregnant with a baby girl, was sitting on a bench in Kissena Park around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 4 when a fallen tree struck her from behind, police said.

The 50-foot oak tree snapped eight feet above the ground, city officials said.

The Parks Department said it was thoroughly examining the tree’s condition. It was 70 years old, said spokesperson Arthur Pincus.

Expert arborists who are unaffiliated with the department said the oak, which typically can live for 400 years, had signs of ongoing decay and was hollow in the base.

“The wood strength that is needed to keep the tree upright was no longer there,” said Carsten Glaeser, a Flushing-based tree consultant. “If the wood is no longer there, then the tree falls. All it takes is a little force and the tree keels over.”

Li had been married to Aleksandar Dikov, 20, for a little more than a year, their lawyer and neighbors said.

“The two of them were always together, very happy,” said Christina Leib. “She was very loved.”

The pair was living in Flushing with Dikov’s parents, who were too heartbroken to speak to reporters.

“They lost their first and only grandchild,” Como said.

Li owned her own clothing business in Flushing, the attorney said. She met Dikov, a military man, at the Flushing YMCA.

“She was a beautiful girl, so beautiful,” said neighbor Farida Yesmin. “I’m so upset. I can’t even explain.”

Congressmember Grace Meng said she intervened with Customs and Border Protection to allow Li’s father, Zhong Liang Li, to fly in from China.

His American visa was set to expire while he was traveling, Meng said.

Li’s uncle and a family friend were also arranged to enter the country.

At least 13 people have been injured or killed by city trees in the last two months, said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.

The Parks Department said there were six zone inspections this year in Kissena Park, including one in June. There are more than two million trees on city streets and inside parks.

The department is in the process of contracting an independent tree consultant to review all tree management procedures, a spokesperson said.

Croft and State Senator Tony Avella said the city should suspend its Million Tree Program and use the funds for tree maintenance.

“These tragic accidents can no longer be thought of as ‘acts of God,’” Avella said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-Ed: Let’s not make a deal


| oped@queenscourier.com


BY GEOFFREY CROFT

In a recent op-ed (“A new alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” March 10) Councilmember Julissa Ferreras argues for the need to create a new nonprofit alliance dedicated for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP).

The alliance would collect money from the USTA and other businesses using the park and spend it exclusively on the park. Agreeing to a deal that puts money into a park fund in exchange for a yes vote, along with a few other “concessions”  is a misguided policy that would allow the USTA to expand and set the stage for more businesses to try and take more public parkland.

That is exactly what is not needed for the park.

It is the city’s legal responsibility to properly fund our public parks, not that of private businesses.

Make no mistake this is NOT like the Central Park Conservancy or the Prospect Park Alliance model as she has attempted to claim.  There is a huge difference between receiving philanthropic contributions from civic-minded people seeking nothing in return and establishing a fund explicitly created for extracting money from businesses exploiting the park.

She said she is doing this to “to help protect this irreplaceable park.”  The park does not need this type of “protection.”

A detailed plan on how this alliance model could work has already been drawn up.  It was devised with the help of a Parks Department partner group New Yorkers for Parks, in concert with the councilmember, working behind closed doors.

Despite repeated requests Ferreras has refused to voluntarily provide a copy of this plan.  For the first time in 15 years I’ve had to resort to FOILing a councilmember. This is not a good sign.

These deals only weaken communities and make it easier for the next encroachment. They also allow the very people whose job it is to properly fund and protect our public spaces off the hook.

The councilmember was correct, though, when she said the park has not received the attention and resources it deserves.

Whose fault is that? Does anyone think our elected officials are doing their jobs when FMCP has only 14 employees for a 1,200-acre park?  That’s disgraceful.

Each year our elected officials allocate a fraction of the funds desperately needed to properly maintain, operate, secure, and program our 29,000 acres of public parks.

This year is no different.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s current $70.1 billion proposed budget allocates just $ 283.2 million or o.4 % in tax levy funds for parks.

Over the last 40 years no other city agency has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than the Parks Department.  This happens year after because the public does NOT demand accountability.

The city continues to try and abdicate its responsibilities by entering in these public/private agreements that officials are not only allowing but actively encouraging.  They are increasingly resorting to these pay-to-play funding schemes.  This welfare mentality has to stop.

These deals hand over enormous power and decision making authority to these groups with little transparency and accountability on what is supposed to be public land.

We need our elected officials instead to allocate proper resources for our parks; it’s what the public pays taxes for.

Until communities begin to stand together and demand accountability from officials and “so called” park advocacy groups, the public can expect more of the same – our parks being sold out.

Geoffrey Croft is the founder and president of NYC Park Advocates, a non-profit watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks. He is also a founding member of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a coalition of community-based civic and environmental groups opposed to the commercial encroachment of FMCP.   

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens soccer stadium plans pulled offline after leak


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of A Walk in the Park

The controversial Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park finally showed its face, but then went back into hiding.

According to the blog A Walk in the Park, fans and those opposed got their first glimpse of the proposed stadium on Tuesday, February 26. The renderings were leaked after a video was uploaded of a February 1 presentation at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, where Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects paused his focus on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to give his students a view of what he called an unnamed project at an unknown location.

Hours after the images spread around the Internet, the video was pulled off the SB Nation “Nets Daily” blog, where it was first published. According to the blog, viewers got a taste of the exterior and interior of the stadium and an idea of just how large the structure will be.

The leaked images of the proposed stadium, say detractors, brought to reality some of the problems the project will bring to the community.

“This is a nightmare, now we know why MLS has been trying so hard to keep renderings of the stadium out of the public eye. This is massive. The stadium represents the equivalent of parking three enormous aircraft carriers in the middle of a public park,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates.

Yet, according to Major League Soccer, the drawings show nothing.

“These drawings do not represent what the stadium will look like,” MLS president Mark Abbott said in a statement. “In fact, we haven’t selected an architect yet and will not start the design process until we have an owner for the club. This was simply a concept drawing that was done only to help determine the potential height and footprint.”

Plans for the MLS stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park were announced in October and it is expected to seat 25,000 soccer fans and host 20 games a year.

-With additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Unions back Queens soccer stadium


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Kicking in their support for hundreds of potential jobs, several construction unions have backed the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Hotel Trades Council; the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; and 32BJ SEIU all backed the project for its potential to give union workers jobs and provide nearly 1,000 full and part-time jobs after construction is completed. “

A Major League Soccer stadium in Queens will be good for the working men and women of New York City; it will create good jobs and enhance the park,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ. “We are committed to continuing to work with MLS and the community to make sure this is done in a way to benefit the area as a whole.”

The stadium building is expected to create more than 2,000 union construction according to MLS officials. Unions have already delivered messages of support to projects such as the development at neighboring Willets Point, which is expected to create an upwards of 12,000 union construction jobs.

“The economy in Queens is still hurting,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The recession is still taking a toll on middle and lower income families, and it would be a shame for Queens to be shut out of such a tremendous opportunity for good jobs. That’s why we will fight to make sure this project is successful and benefits Queens’ working families.”

MLS spokesperson Risa Heller said the league was thrilled to garner union backing on the project. The League is committed to creating jobs, she said, both directly at the stadium and spurring economic growth around the park.

“We are thrilled to have the support of unions who represent hundreds of thousands of working men and women,” she said. “They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be. We look forward to working with them to make it a reality.” The stadium, and its economic promises, have been met with criticism from opponents to the project, however.

NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, who’s opposed to the project, said the union backing was part of a “checklist” of gaining support for an unfair project. While he understood there’s a need for jobs in the city, Croft said jobs should be made for bettering the park, and not building in it.

“It’s really sad,” Croft said. “They’re following the standard playbook for supposed support for these projects.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

Officials: No plans for Willets Point casino


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

A proposed casino for Willets Point, rejected by the city months ago, will not be an option moving forward, officials said.

The casino, along with a hotel and entertainment center, would have gone over what is currently a parking lot, according to plans provided by NYC Park Advocates.

Instead, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last June that the area would become a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment center called Willets West.

But Related and Sterling Equities, the two entities developing Willets Point, offered to buy the 61.4 acres needed in the original project for $100 million when a casino was attached. Involved in the proposal were also Triple M, Gateway Casino Resorts, LLC and The Shinnecock Indian Nation. These three companies are not involved in the current development.

To have a Native American casino in an unzoned area would require federal approval, according to the proposal.
“There is no casino being built at Willets Point, period,” said Nicholas Kelly, spokesperson for NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “A proposal in 2011 that included a gaming use was rejected.”

But NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft is troubled that the idea was entertained without public disclosure. Croft, who opposes any commercial development in or around the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was curious why the city had not come out and said it had rejected the plan, as opposed to keeping it under lock and key. Instead, he requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES