Friday, May 21, 2010

Which one will the city choose: park or warehouses?

From A Walk in the Park:

“We believe the residents of Maspeth would benefit from more and better access to public parkland," Mr. Benepe wrote. "The owners of the St. Saviour's site previously indicated their intention to develop the land for housing and had no interest in selling the land to the City. While we could not justify the forcible acquisition of the site through condemnation, we would consider purchasing the land if the current owners are now willing sellers. In addition to the completion of a rigorous municipal land use review process, this would require specific funding covering the full purchase price of the property, its improvement as a park and the cost of maintaining the site into the future. At this time we have no such funding, but we would welcome allocations from the area's local elected officials.”

While this represented a change of heart by the Parks Department, which previously said they were not interested in acquiring the site at all, Benepe’s letter was very troubling in that he stated that the community and local elected officials must not only commit money to purchase the property and build the park but maintain the site in the future as well. This directive favors wealthier communities. Why is this community being asked to come up with these funds? The decision to allocate Mayoral funds for these vital public purposes should not be based in politics but should instead be needs based. We also notice that other communities that are getting new parks are not being issued ultimatums like this. Park maintenance is something our tax dollars are supposed to pay for automatically from the city's expense budget. According to the City Charter, the Parks Department is responsible for this. It shouldn’t be up to the elected officials in each community to designate regular maintenance as special member items, nor is it appropriate for them to be asked to do so. The truth is that if the wasteful spending that goes on in this city were curbed, there would be money for a new park project in every community with funds left to spare.

Benepe's statement was also disconcerting because it revealed the administration’s preference for catering to developers’ interests at the expense of the greater interests of the community. Right off the bat, the Bloomberg administration removed eminent domain from consideration. "While we could not justify the forcible acquisition of the site through condemnation..." Mr. Benepe wrote. Being that parks have always been considered a public use, and given that the site is now a blight on the community and that property owners tend to inflate their asking prices when in negotiations with the City, the declaration is rather startling.

Borough President Helen Marshall’s office asked the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct an appraisal of the property. They did, but would not release that figure publicly or confidentially to the elected official who asked for it. The market value of the property as listed by the Department of Finance is $2.5M. The owners came back with an asking price of $9M. Not having eminent domain as an option will make negotiation that much more difficult.

Independent Budget Office Director Ronnie Lowenstein on March 4th reported to the City Council Finance Committee that the City of New York would end Fiscal Year 2009-2010 with a surplus of almost $3 billion. Apparently the city's financial straits are nowhere near as dire as had been predicted when Benepe issued his ultimatum last summer. Compared to the more than $100M the Parks Department has already blown on a golf course in the Bronx and $64M they are pouring into an amphitheater in Coney Island, the St. Saviour's project would be a drop in the budgetary bucket. luxury condos or sports stadiums, no eminent domain. That's the Bloomberg way. BTW, Bloomberg found $16M for a bike path along the Hudson (even though the city has no money).


Jerry Rotondi said...

As I've already noted...Bloomberg considers Maspeth his chamberpot.

That's what you get from an icy blue-blood...a red-lined nabe.

I'm counting the days 'til your illegal 3rd term is over Emperor Mike!

Anonymous said...

Ya still wanna hang him Jerry?

Jerry Rotondi said...

Only in effigy from one of Benepe's trees.

Anonymous said...

How about in City Hall Park next to the statue of Nathan Hale who was also hanged by the British?

Jerry Rotondi said...

Oh...that's too complicated a cartoon for me to draw with my humble talent. I'm sure I've upset Ms. Natzli Parvisi now too!

Misssing Foundation said...

Look folks, the template for this was established by our friends in the preservation community.

For example, you want landmark designation? Why do the work yourself! What, no one from the Junior Legaue in your community to do the work? No investement banker or A-list resident from the entertainment industry in your community to foot the bill?

Well, that's ok. Do the fund raising yourself!

The point is the city, like society in the 60s, is drifting into two societies, seperate and unequal.

And if our taxes are being used to subsidize the rich people in landmarked districts, the least they can do is to acknowledge intolerable situations like St Savriours.

If not, then we need to pull the supports from the entire system and have it crash down around us.

Anonymous said...

Where is QCC in this?

Oh, its not eastern Queens.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you write letters to the editors in the press? Dog politicans at public meetings? Hound community boards on this issue?

St Saviours may be doomed, but we can make the system howl for its destruction.

Christina Wilkinson said...

Hey folks, I'm working on it. But it's not easy doing this alone.

Joe said...

Helen Marshall’s needs to take a stroll through flushing meadow park is getting worse.
The cement benches by the Time capsules are stained with urine and feces.
Dozens of vagrants lay barefoot in the grass passed out throughout the park.
You could smell some of them from 50 yards away
Garbage is everyplace

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe-

Which bench was Claire Shulman on? The downfall started under her watch.