Live From The Parks & Waterfront Committee Meeting
Filed under: 11206, 11211, 11222, Culture War, East Williamsburg, East Williamsburg Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg, Williamsburg Brooklyn
As I have intimated last night’s proceedings were rather contentious. Don’t take my word for it: seeing (and hearing) is believing. Enjoy!
Video 1: Dewey Thompson, Community Board 1 member, member of the Parks and Waterfront Committee kicks off the proceedings by explaining what OSA (of which, it should be noted, he is a board member and whose Executive Director also happens to be Community Board 1’s Parks Supervisor) does for north Brooklyn’s Park.
- OSA is a conservancy not unlike Central Park or Prospect Park.
- Mr. Thompson notes that concert/concession sales (as a result of this conservancy) will go exclusively to parks under OSA’s supervision. In other words: not into the general fund for all the city’s parks.
- Mr. Thompson points out how OSA saved East River State Park from closing this winter.
- Mr. Thompson notes that OSA got $330,300 in net profits (benefiting our parks) from the shows conducted last year at East River State Park. $200,000 of which went to East River State Park. That leaves $130,000 for all the parks in Community Board 1. Or as Mr. Thompson states “In Greenpoint and Williamsburg.” Make a note of this.
- Per Mr. Thompson these concerts are delivering (and I quote) “Major value back to the community”.
- Chairman Caponegro kicks off the Q & A session.
- Facts: OSA employs 35-40 security people plus New York’s Finest versus 1,000 attendees.
- Adam Perlmutter states in the interest of inclusiveness (my term) that there will be family-oriented entertainment and a “Latino show”. Among other things.
Video 2: Community Board Member (and Parks Subcommittee) Katie Naplatarski asks for some clarifications regarding weekend shows.
- Ms. Thayer says there will be no Saturday or Sunday shows in July or August. Fridays are open.
- A citizen speaks/complains. If she wanted to attend an East River State Park concert she can hear it from her building.
- Ms. Thayer states it is not intent to upset the neighbors and mentions that she will be working with Officer Adamo (of the 94th Precinct) to have better policing after these concerts.
- Another citizen notes the impact these concerts have with her neighbors and states that fifteen concerts in one summer are too many. She also notes what happened at her building when a storm hit and a mass exodus of people attempted to flood her building.
- Yet another citizen speaks. She is VERY unhappy and likens the noise to an “x-ray” which permeates everything around her. (This is really worth watching.)
- Caponegro speaks. Among other things he notes that OSA (or would that be 311? Or lack of complaints given to Community Board 1? This was a little unclear.) makes it seem like “no one complains”. The audience begs to differ.
Video 3: A lady named Sara asks “Why are we privatizing a park?”
- Sara gives quick primer as to the provenance of East River State Park and reminds the representatives of OSA that East River State Park (at 7 acres) is not Central Park. Or Prospect Park. In other words: it does not have the space needed to host an event without displacing fellow park-goers.
- Sara inquires as to how how much money OSA gives to East River State Park.
- Sara points out the obvious: most people in north Brooklyn do not have a private backyard to enjoy. When they want to experience the outdoors it is done at our public’s parks. By closing off/monetizing East River State Park the Open Space Alliance is, in fact, denying a great many people access to open space.
- A long-term Williamsburg resident makes it known that it was people such as himself who made north Brooklyn a desirable place to live. (This is VERY compelling stuff so do give it a listen. I cannot even begin to give it justice.)
Video 4: Del Teague, Community Board Member 1 Speaks
- The most compelling part of this video (if you ask me) is when Ms. Teague points out that the owner of the Edge— who is apparently a supporter of OSA’s concerts— refused to allow distribution of fliers announcing this meeting.
- Ms. Teague concurs that East River State Park is not appropriate venue for events of this scope.
- Concerns about how neighboring properties— including affordable housing— will be impacted are raised.
- These concerts/influx of concert goers are likened to an “invasion”.
- Praise is given to Summer Starz and questions are raised as to when it will be scheduled this year. Apparently the organizers have been told Thursday evenings are not available.
- Ms. Thayer replies that OSA is not done scheduling concerts (hence why East River State Park is not making Thursday evening available) and recommends that the weekends— or McGolrick Park— be used for this film series.
- It is observed that the concerts are getting priority.
- The specter of the Brooklyn Night Bazaar arises.
- A recommendation is made that these concerts be conducted in the South Bronx. (What did they ever do to us? — Ed. Note)
Video 5: The Owner of Artists & Fleas Speaks
- The owner of Artist and Fleas notes the absence of local business owners present and extols upon the benefits these concerts bring to local business.
- A citizen presents an invoice showing the damage done to her car by a drunk driver who attended one of these concerts.
- A woman opines that Brooklyn Brewery’s owner, Steve Hindy, benefits from these concerts— not the residents of said community.
- It is intimated that Mr. Hindy has undue influence over our community.
- Civil disobedience and a protest are suggested
Video 6: Steve Hindy Speaks
- Mr. Hindy mentions his involvement with the Prospect Park Alliance and asserts neither he nor Brooklyn Brewery benefited from this relationship.
- Mr. Hindy states a needs for fundraising for New York City’s parks.
- Open Space Alliance is based upon the model of the Prospect Park Alliance.
- Mr. Hindy gives a history of beer concessions at concerts. Both Brooklyn Brewery and Anheuser-Busch gave $50,000 upfront and all profits from beer sales were donated to Open Space Alliance.
- Mr. Hindy gives a break-down of concert revenue: these netted $400,000 last year. $200,000 went to East River State park for upkeep and maintenance. $200,000 went to Open Space Alliance for operating costs including Ms. Thayer’s salary (which as of several years ago was ~$80,000 lest any of you are wondering. — Ed. Note.).
- Mr. Hindy notes that if it was not for OSA’s efforts East River State Park would have been closed last winter.
- Mr. Hindy tells the attendees present that if they “do not want us” he understands. An audience member replies “We want less of you.”
- Ms. Thayer gives some additional details as to how revenue was tendered and spent at East River State Park. The parks of Greenpoint and Williamsburg get the remaining $130,000.
- The amount of space these concerts take up— including pot-o-potties— and mentioned and a request for an annual report from OSA is made.
- A Kent Avenue resident inquires what measures are being taken to mitigate the impact these concerts make on the surrounding community. Noise and garbage are specifically mentioned.
Video 7: A Northside resident speaks of public intoxication and urination.
- A visual demonstration of the aforementioned behavior is given.
- Another call is made as to what measure will be taken to mitigate the impact on the surrounding community. Chairman Caponegro notes that this question has been asked “all night”.
- Adam Perlmutter of Open Space Alliance and OSA Presents states that he is glad this meeting is being conducted. (Somehow the rest of this footage has gone MIA. I will endeavor to find it. — Ed. Note)
Video 8: A Northside resident queries Ms. Thayer about his block being cordoned off.
- He cites having problems parking on his block (Wythe Avenue at North 8 Street).
- 94th Precinct Community Liaison answers this chap’s query. He states the block should not be barricaded unless a concert of letting out.
- Ms. Thayer states that Wythe Avenue is open. This chap begs to differ.
- The NAS concert was brought up. A woman states she saw a melee involving 30 people at North 9 Street afterward. She alleges the police ran away.
- The need for more police presence is mentioned.
- The question is raised as to how much money OSA spends on police patrols.
- Mr. Adamo states that he does not have this information.
- The question is raised as to who pays for this added police presence.
And then my memory— and wherewithal— ran out. Here’s what followed (not necessarily in chronological order):
- A representative from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office spoke. Among other things she said he was a fan of musical events. She was shouted down.
- Questions were raised— and not answered— regarding exactly how much money OSA/the Parks Department spend on police presence for these events (Once again: as opposed to the money raised and distributed so as to benefit our public parks. The more observant among you might have noticed even members of OSA cannot seem to be in agreement upon exactly what this figure is.).
- Julie Lawrence, a member of Community Board 1 (and member of the Public Safety Committee) spoke. She implored for more transparency on the part of OSA.
- Lincoln Restler spoke.
- Chairman Caponegro made it clear that Community Board 1’s opinion is only advisory.
- I left.
But onward it went. Here’s what one hanger-on had to say:
the committee meet with stephanie (Thayer — Ed. Note) & adam (Perlmutter — Ed. Note) sitting in … katie (Naplatarski — Ed. Note) looked like a force with being sure the community’s voice was heard … the resolution which aaron (Short — Ed. Note) will write up can’t really apply to this year … interestingly the committee chair did ask dewey (Thompson — Ed. Note) about him wearing many hats … don’t remember how he phrased … well put … i asked how someone could be on the task force and all you got to do is ask … from what i gather the main task is to hold osa accountable … it was a GREAT meeting … can’t wait for public safety …
New York Shitty Analysis/Commentary/Observations:
Since Community Board 1 does not have the power to place a ban on waterfront concerts at East River State Park I am not going to belabor the manner. What’s more, what transpired at last night’s meeting was not really about concerts at all. Rather, it is the growing pains of a community in transition. The battle ground (so to speak) in this case were our public parks (and to whom they belong). The answer is simple: all of us.
Inasmuch as the folks of OSA would fancy themselves as being inclusive the fact of the matter is they are not. Their events are of very limited appeal to the older, long-term — and yes— diverse residents of North Brooklyn. If they (Open Space Alliance) were forthright about who their target demographic is (20 – 30 something, younger, newer residents) at least they would have been honest and everyone— like it or not— would be on the “same page”. But this is not the case. In this respect I find touting one “Latino show” as an overture to be disingenuous at best.
Above all, I came away from last night’s meeting reminded of the serious (and depressing) disconnect there is between OSA and the older residents of the community. The latter made their grievances (like the delivery or not) and questions quite clear. In return OSA did not provide answers. Rather, they kept re-stating the same facts (and in the case of actual money raised/distributed were somewhat contradictory) and stuck to the same sales pitch. This was— and is— in no way conducive to a productive dialogue with the community OSA purports to serve. Sadly, this does seem to be their modus operandi. I am of the distinct opinion it is just this pattern of behavior which made this meeting of the minds necessary in the first place.
Here’s the deal: north Brooklyn’s public spaces belong to just that: the public. No one organization— especially those ostensibly raising money for park space and advocating on the public’s behalf* — is more important than any another other group of citizens. But it would seem that OSA is getting preferential treatment.
The chap in that third video (John Ricco, owner of Grandma Rose’s) is right: it is people such as him who have made Greenpoint and Williamsburg a place where people like them— and myself— want to live. These concerts would not be happening if this neighborhood had not been shaped by people like him. For this reason he and people like him have my utmost respect and admiration. In fact, I consider myself honored to be their neighbor. It would be nice if Open Space Alliance would follow suit. If I had to recommend a first step I would say some empathy, transparency, solid answers and yes, respect— not sales pitches— on their part would be a good start.
*and in my opinion concerts are an incredibly poor way to raise money: $130,000 or even $200,000 spread over the entirety of north Brooklyn’s parks is a pittance.