Volunteer Opportunities in Manhattan and the Bronx

When considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on other neighborhoods, we are very fortunate to have not sustained extensive damage in Council District 8 and we believe that it’s time to give back to others who have not been as fortunate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Below are volunteer opportunities that could use your help:

MANHATTAN – 

  • On Friday, November 2nd at around 12:00 noon, we will be meeting up with Council Member Margaret Chin (District 1), where Hurricane Sandy hit the hardest in Manhattan, at the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation (CPLDC) on 60 St. James Place.  From there, volunteers will be assigned to different tasks to assist downtown. While transit is still a challenge downtown, the M15 Select Bus Service on 1st and 2nd Avenues (which will again be free tomorrow) is a great option to get to CPLDC.

BRONX –

  • The Food Bank needs volunteers at their warehouse in the Bronx. People are needed tomorrow (Friday, November 2) to repack donated food for delivery to emergency food organizations. The volunteer shifts are 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 1:30 – 3:30 PM. For more information, contact the Food Bank’s Triada Stampas at 917-568-3389. Address: 355 Food Center Drive, Bronx NY 10474. It is accessible by subway/bus combo: 6 to Hunts Pt, then the Bx6 bus to the Hunts Pt Market.
  • Lehman College is currently being used as a shelter and is taking volunteers. Address: 250 Bedford Park Blvd, Bronx NY 10458

Additionally, the Parks Department is accepting volunteers to help aid in clean-up and recovery of parks citywide. For those who would like to volunteer, please follow the provided link to submit a volunteer application. When showing up to help, please remember to dress appropriately – closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get dirty are appropriate. Bring a water bottle and snacks (water refills and restrooms will be available at each site). All supplies for the clean up effort will be provided. Children 12 and older are allowed to lend a hand.

MANHATTAN – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Randall’s Island (Friday & Saturday only)
  • Happy Warrior Playground (West 98th and Amsterdam Avenue)
  • Annunciation Park (West 135th Street btwn Amsterdam and Convent Avenues)
  • Carl Schurz Park (East 87th Street and East End Avenue)
  • Anne Loftus Playground (at Fort Tyron Park – Broadway at Riverside Drive)

BRONX – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Van Cortlandt Park (1 Bronx River Parkway)
  • Orchard Beach (Park Drive and Orchard Beach Road)

Council Members Mark-Viverito and Brewer Urge New Yorkers to Respect Directive to Stay Out of Parks

Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito (Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee) and Gale A. Brewer, who represent districts on the east and west sides of Central Park, issued the following statement to urge New Yorkers to follow the City’s directive to stay out of parks.

“Hurricane Sandy has had a devastating impact on our city’s public parks, including over 250 downed trees in Central Park alone. As Council Members who surround the park, we are strongly urging our constituents to please heed the directives to stay out of Central Park and all of our parks until further notice. This directive is meant for everyone’s safety. 

“We have already had incidents of people who have tragically been killed by falling trees in the wake of Sandy. Just because the storm is over, it does not mean that branches can no longer shift and fall down. Unfortunately, we have heard reports of individuals trying to defy the directive to stay out of the parks and force their way in. The Parks Department and the Conservancy are hard at work to clean up Central Park and make it safe for everyone’s enjoyment as soon as possible, but in order to do so safely, they need the park to be free of non-essential personnel.

“We are clearly in the process of a long recovery from the storm in areas across the city, including our public parks. This is a time for us all to come together. There are people in neighboring communities who are in desperate need of assistance, and so the most efficient use of our city’s resources has become more important than ever. We ask that everyone please respect directives from the City that are only intended to keep us all safe and allow the clean-up efforts to move forward as quickly as possible.

“Like all New Yorkers, we look forward to the reopening of our parks and thank Parks Department staff, conservancy groups and all those that are helping in the clean-up efforts across the city.”

Free Self-Defense Training Workshop in Central Park

Following the recent disturbing, violent attacks towards women in our parks, Melissa, along with Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Council Members Gale A. Brewer and Jessica Lappin, will be sponsoring a Free Self-Defense Training run by The Center for Anti-Violence Education. This workshop is open to all over the age of 13, including seniors, although it is geared towards women and the LGBT community. Here’s your chance to learn how to defend yourself – RSVP today & make sure to wear comfortable clothes!

WHAT: FREE Self-Defense Training Workshop
WHEN: Sunday, October 7th, 2012 from 2 – 4 PM
WHERE: North Meadow Recreation Center in Central Park (Mid-Park at 97th Street)
RSVP: events@council.nyc.gov or 212.788.6871

* Training will also be provided in Spanish / También se proporcionará capacitación en español 

New York Restoration Project Winter Planning Meeting and Gardens for the City

The New York Restoration Project will be holding its Winter Planning Meeting on Friday, February 17th at 6pm. Come to La Cabana Restaurant (2277 First Avenue – corner of 117th St. and First Ave.). They are working on getting more trees, vegetables, and garden beds in East Harlem/El Barrio. There will be free tacos and nachos and all are welcome to attend.

In addition, NYRP is accepting applicants for the Gardens for the City Program. This program offers support to transform property accessible to the public. Schools, community centers, and non-profits can receive building materials and support in construction, horticulture, forestry and environmental education. Applications are due by February 15.

Frederick Douglass Memorial Dedicated

Photo by William Alatriste.

On Tuesday, Melissa, Congressman Rangel, Senator Perkins, Councilwoman Dickens, and a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass gathered for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Ribbon-cutting Ceremony. The memorial honors Douglass, an African American abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. The portrait sculpture of Douglass stands eight feet tall and is encircled by a large fountain with ornamental and symbloic features. The design was crafted by Gabriel Koren and Algernon Miller.

The crossroad of Central Park West and 110th street had been designated for Douglass in 1950, but the site laid unimproved for many decades. In the 1990s, there was a renewed public effort to complete the site, which included a series of community-based design workshops organized by the Central Park Conservatory. In 2003 Koren, a Hungarian-born sculptor, and Miller, a Harlem-based artist, were selected to complete the site following an intense design competition sponsored by the Cityscape Institute.

Also in attendance was Tony Award nominee Andre Deshields, who dressed as Frederick Douglass, delivered excerpts from “Oration In Memory Of Abraham Lincoln,” which was made by Douglass originally in 1876 at the unveiling of Freedmen’s Monument in Washington D.C. Melissa was deeply moved by the speech and hopes that everyone will read it patiently and with sincere appreciation: “The struggle against oppression continues today and will endure for years to come. Douglass’ words are an invaluable inspiration to keep fighting for justice.”

Council Member Viverito Responds to NLRB Decision Regarding Central Park Boathouse

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the New York City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee, issued the following statement in response to the decision by the National Labor Relations Board to issue a legal complaint against the Central Park Boathouse and to seek a judicial order that would force the restaurant into contract negotiations with the New York Hotel Trades Council:

“The forthcoming NLRB ruling will substantiate what we’ve suspected all along — that the workers of the Boathouse have experienced severe violations of their right to organize,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Now that the NLRB has weighed in, the Parks Department can no longer remain silent on this matter. I urge the Department to step in and ensure that Dean Poll complies with the findings of the NLRB. If he does not, the City should immediately terminate the contract. We as a City should have clear expectations from all those entities we do business with that the rights of their workers must be respected.  We cannot sit idly by and continue to allow an employer operating on city-owned land to willingly and willfully violate workers’ rights.”

Tomorrow: Celebrate the Launch of Senior Hours at Jefferson Pool with a Pool Party!

Tomorrow is the official launch of hours exclusively for seniors at El Barrio/East Harlem’s Jefferson Pool.  To celebrate, Melissa’s office will be co-sponsoring a Senior Pool Party tomorrow at 9:00 am in conjunction with Age Friendly NYC, the Parks Department and the New York Academy of Medicine.  Senior hours will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to 11:00 am during the months of July and August at Jefferson Pool (112th Street and 1st Avenue).  Tomorrow’s Senior Pool Party will include snacks and music, as well as give-a-ways including free swimming caps, t-shirts and locks.

Senior pool hours is the latest initiative to come out of the El Barrio/East Harlem Age Improvement District (AID), which is coordinated jointly by the New York Academy of Medicine and our office and seeks to make our neighborhood more liveable for older adults.  Our AID is the first to launch in the city, and El Barrio/East Harlem is the first community in New York City to have specialized hours for seniors to swim in a public pool.

The idea for senior pool hours emerged directly from surveys completed by local older adults as part of the AID initiative.  Seniors expressed a desire to take advantage of the health and recreational benefits of swimming but were hesitant to do so at times when pools were more crowded with children and families.

Please help us spread the word about tomorrow’s Pool Party and our new senior pool hours!

NY Daily News: Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

Cross-posted on the NYC Council Parks & Recreation Committee blog.


Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

BY DANIEL BEEKMAN
DAILY NEWS WRITER

If you build it, they will come – but not to Randalls Island.

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

“Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue,” he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

“Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?” she asked. “It was shortsighted and now we’re paying the price.”

“From day one, we were concerned there was no need to build so many” new fields, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “Now that has come to fruition. The result is the fields are empty.”

The park boasts fancy golf and tennis centers, but no basketball courts, he added.

During the rehab, the city took heat for a $2.2 million-per-year pay-to-play scheme involving Manhattan private schools. It was struck down in court after East Harlem and Bronx community groups sued.

“The fields were built mostly to accommodate the private schools,” Croft said. And Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called the park “a private playground … designed to bring in revenue.”

There’s a move afoot now to try and spread the word about what’s in the park. Randalls Island fields go unused partly because they are isolated and more people need to be made aware of the space, said Frances Masrota of Manhattan Community Board 11.

A renovated E. 103rd St. pedestrian bridge is set to reopen soon, while the M35 bus runs between the park and E. 125th St. – but few youngsters make the trip.

The Parks Department has assigned a representative to attend Board 11 meetings and share info related to Randalls Island to try to spread the word on what’s there.

The fields are “generally permitted to capacity” in the evenings and on weekends, Parks spokesman Zachary Feder said. The park foundation also offers a free summer program, he noted, and softball leagues
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/06/14/2011-06-14_kids_unaware_or_unwelcome_after_120m_randalls_island_fixup_theres_a_park.html#ixzz1PG07ybD9

Melissa Chairs Hearing on the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program

New York City Parks Enforcement patch

Image via Wikipedia

Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program.  The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.

PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons.  They also review park facilities for health and safety issues.  There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks.  There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.

Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland.  Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.

The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.

In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.

Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing:

Melissa Stands with Central Park Boathouse Workers

Melissa spoke at a rally last Thursday for the workers of the Central Park Boathouse, who have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging unfair labor practices and union busting.  As Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee and the Council Member representing Central Park, Melissa has made clear that any union busting efforts will not be tolerated, particularly within our city-owned public parks.

Speaker Christine Quinn, and Council Members Gale Brewer and Elizabeth Crowley also spoke at the rally.  You can watch video of Melissa’s speech above.

Melissa was quoted in a Crain’s New York Business article about the event:

City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents the district the Boathouse is located in and also chairs the City Council Parks and Recreation Committee, called on the Parks Department to do more to pressure Mr. Poll to comply with his contract. She said she “wasn’t really pleased with the response of the [Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe] so far.”

“I interpreted his response as a little dismissive,” she said. “I would hope that we’d have a strong partnership with the Parks Department and this administration on these concessions.”

Melissa Writes to Parks Department Regarding Offensive Statue Outside Central Park

 

Photo by J.C. Rice, New York Post.

Melissa sent a letter to the Department of Parks & Recreation regarding an offensive statue outside of Central Park in El Barrio/East Harlem, asking that the statue’s location be reconsidered, and also inquiring regarding broader policies on statues and monuments that communities may find offensive.  This statue was the subject of an article in Sunday’s New York Post as well.

 

The statue in question honors Dr. Marion Sims, who helped make advancements in women’s health, but who did so by performing experimental surgeries, without anesthesia, on female slaves.

Take a look at the letter below:

What do you think?  Does this statue belong in El Barrio/East Harlem?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Major Mid-Year Budget Cuts Avoided in Deal Negotiated by the City Council

The City Council has negotiated a deal with the Bloomberg administration to avoid mid-year budget cuts to core services, from case management for seniors to shelter beds for homeless youth, as well as to defer increases in recreation center fees and parking meter rates.  This deal only applies to the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

 

Melissa questions the FDNY Commissioner at a Council budget hearing (Photo by William Alatriste).

 

By proposing alternative cuts, such as a reduction in the Department of Education’s private contracting budget, the Council was able to:

  • Defer proposed nighttime fire company closures
  • Restore funding for nearly 200 ACS staff positions in the areas of child welfare and child protective services
  • Fully restore case management services for seniors
  • Fully restore runaway and homeless youth programs and preserve the number of available slots in other afterschool programs
  • Defer parking meters increases above 86th Street and outside of Manhattan
  • Defer the doubling of recreation center membership fees

The City still faces a $2.4 billion deficit for the next Fiscal Year and the  Bloomberg administration is already proposing over a billion dollars in cuts for Fiscal Year 2012 (which begins in July).  Melissa strongly maintains her position that the only way to fully address these recurring budget deficits is to ask the wealthiest New Yorkers to put in their fair share through progressive taxation.

New Parks & Recreation Committee Blog Launched

We have launched a new blog to help New Yorkers keep up with the work of the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee.  The blog can be accessed at www.parksnyc.wordpress.com.

 

Click to open blog.

 

The blog will feature reports from committee hearings and parks events as well as news on parks issues throughout the city.  It also features a list of legislation currently being considered before the committee and a schedule of upcoming hearings and events.

You can subscribe to the Parks Committee blog by entering your e-mail address at the top of the column on the right side, and then activating your subscription after you receive a confirmation e-mail.

Parks Committee to Hold Hearing Tomorrow on Tree Safety

Tomorrow, October 6th at 10:00 a.m., Melissa will chair a hearing of the Parks & Recreation Committee regarding the protection of parks users and pedestrians from damaged trees. Over the past few years, there have been a number of tragic incidents related to trees, one of the most recent being the death of Gianna Ricciutti, a six month old who was killed by a falling tree branch in Central Park this past summer.  The hearing will be held at 250 Broadway on the 14th Floor.

The snapped tree branch that killed Gianna Ricciutti in June. Photo courtesy of A Walk in the Park (http://awalkintheparknyc.blogspot.com).

The hearing will focus on the Parks Department’s process for tree inspections and maintenance, if the current resources dedicated to Central Park tree maintenance is sufficient, what oversight the Department has over non-profit entities that manage public parks within the City and what steps are being taken currently for the upcoming winter season.

Tomorrow: Tour East Harlem’s Community Gardens

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 18th, join us in celebrating East Harlem’s Community Garden Appreciation Day with an exciting tour of the neighborhood’s community gardens.  The tour will begin at 11:00 a.m. at El Gallo Garden on 118th Street and Lexington Avenue and will end with a performance at Modesto Community Garden on 104th Street and Lexington Avenue.

The tour is sponsored by Melissa’s office and co-sponsored by Hope Community, Inc., Harlem United Gardens and the New York Restoration Project.  We hope you can join us!

Melissa Publishes Opinion Piece on Synthetic Turf on CityLimits.org

Melissa has written a new opinion piece for CityLimits.org on the issue of synthetic turf in New York City’s public parks and playing fields.  Below is an excerpt:

The issue of synthetic turf appears deceptively simple. With such a high demand for recreational open space throughout our city and a rising obesity epidemic, who would not want to facilitate greater use of our athletic fields? However, the debate over the proliferation of synthetic turf in our public parks is far more complicated than it appears at first glance. In evaluating these surface materials, policymakers must balance the health, environmental and safety implications of this surface material with community members’ desire for reliable, all-weather recreational space.  Click here to read the entire article.

City Limits has dedicated its September issue to the topic of synthetic turf.  New Yorkers for Parks recently released a report card on synthetic turf fields in our parks, which demonstrates serious deficiencies in the maintenance of these spaces.

Melissa & Speaker Quinn Publish Op-Ed in Today’s New York Times on Community Gardens

Today’s New York Times features an op-ed written by Speaker Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito on the protection of the city’s community gardens.  Click here to open the op-ed.

New York’s community gardens, planted on city lots, are more than just pretty patches of green in the concrete jungle. They provide open space and healthful food, increase the value of neighboring property and offer a strong sense of community. Gardens are as much a part of our city as the Empire State Building or Times Square.

Yet it wasn’t long ago that their existence was threatened. As mayor in the late 1990s, Rudolph Giuliani tried to auction them off to developers. But gardeners dug in, held rallies. One protester chained himself to a building in a garden. The state attorney general filed a lawsuit to stop the auctions. Some of the gardens were sold to nonprofit groups. And, in a settlement agreement in the lawsuit, almost all of the rest — nearly 300 of them — ended up under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Department. The city agreed not to sell many of them for eight years.

That eight-year period ends next month, and our gardens are in need of permanent protection.  Read More

Melissa Testifies in Response to Proposed Community Gardens Rules

Melissa testified this afternoon at a Parks Department hearing regarding the Department’s proposed community gardens rules.  She expressed her concerns that the rules do not go far enough to provide the protections that our gardens need.  Her testimony can be viewed below.

Additionally, we recently created a new page which contains a list of community gardens in District 8.  Our district is among those that have the greatest numbers of community gardens.Click here to view that page.

Melissa Stands with NYC’s Community Gardeners to Call for Greater Protections

Melissa joined Speaker Christine Quinn and the NYC Community Garden Coalition for a press conference yesterday to call for greater protections for our city’s gardens.  Community gardeners have expressed serious concerns with a set of rules recently announced by the City, which they feel do not go far enough to protect these spaces from development.

Video from yesterday’s press conference:

There will be a public hearing on August 10th at 11:00 a.m., where Melissa will provide testimony expressing her support for community gardens and her concerns with the rules as they stand.  The hearing will be held at the Chelsea Recreation Center (430 W. 25th Street).  Click here for more information.

Next month, the agreement between the City and the NYS Attorney General’s Office, which has protected gardens since 2002, will expire.  A new set of rules promulgated by the City will provide critical short-term protections, as Speaker Quinn, Melissa and gardeners work together with the Bloomberg administration to identify a long-term preservation strategy.

“Community gardens provide vital open space and sources of fresh produce in neighborhoods across our city,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I remain very concerned that the proposed rules by the administration do not go far enough to provide the strong protections that our community gardeners deserve. While we will continue to work toward long-term preservation strategies for the gardens, it is my hope that additional language can be added to the current rules that will offer greater security to ensure that our communities do not lose these important spaces to development.”

Parks Update: Budget Hearing & Bill Signing

Yesterday, Melissa chaired the Parks Committee’s Executive Budget Hearing. The Department is proposing deep cuts of nearly $41 million, including a headcount reduction and hiring freeze on employees, including those responsible for the maintenance of our city’s parks.

Melissa Questioning Parks Commissioner Benepe at Budget Hearing (Photo by William Alatriste)

Melissa and others at the hearing questioned how the conditions of our parks will be impacted by the loss of so many maintenance staff members. The Department argues that their volunteers as well as anti-litter initiatives will be enough to help our parks remain clean and well-maintained in spite of these cuts.

The Parks Department also announced the locations of the four pools slated to be closed, one of which, Wagner Swimming Pool, is in East Harlem.

Mayor Bloomberg Handing Out Pens He Used to Sign Local Law 19 (Photo by William Alatriste)

Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg signed Intro 123-A, Melissa’s Parks Surface Material Advisory Committee legislation. It is now known as Local Law 19 of 2010, and will be implemented the next time the Department uses a new surface material on playgrounds or athletic fields in New York City.

Council Passes Melissa’s Playground and Athletic Field Safety Legislation

Today, the City Council passed legislation introduced by Melissa that would create an advisory committee to examine any new surface materials put into our parks.

Artificial turf is known to retain high levels of heat which can cause severe burns, and in some cases, has been found to contain toxic substances.  At Thomas Jefferson Field in East Harlem, tests revealed a high presence of lead on the fields, posing a serious danger to local residents who are seeking out opportunities for recreation.

Going forward, whenever the Parks Department introduces new surface materials in our athletic fields and playgrounds, an advisory committee will evaluate those materials for health, safety and environmental risks, and provide the Department with a recommendation.

The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.

“Ever since Thomas Jefferson Field in my district was found to contain high levels of lead, I have been very concerned about the potential dangers posed by the use of synthetic turf on our athletic fields,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “At the same time, I do recognize that many New Yorkers value synthetic turf, since it creates more opportunities for recreation in our parks.  This legislation will help ensure that the Parks Department is looking at issues of health, safety and environmental impacts when considering the introduction of a new surface material on our fields and playgrounds.”

Parks Department Axes Central Park Tennis Bubbles

Following vigorous community opposition, the Parks Department has decided to drop its controversial plan to put up tennis bubbles in Central Park during winter months. Parks recently axed a similar plan on the East Side.

The Central Park Tennis Courts (Photo Courtesy of Westside Independent)

On Tuesday, the Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee, Chaired by Melissa, held an oversight hearing on concessions. At the hearing, Council Members, advocates, Community Board representatives and members of the public criticized the Parks Department for its lack of transparency in awarding concessions and for not involving the surrounding community in a meaningful way, using the Central Park bubbles as a prime example.
“Community input, community dialogue, community planning–that’s what this whole debate was about,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “If the Department of Parks had just given the larger community the respect it merited then this very public showdown could have been avoided. In the end, I thank Parks for conceding to what we all knew to be true–that these intrusive and enviromentally unfriendly bubbles within the heart of this cherished oasis would have defaced this historic landmark.”
The plan would have allowed for a concessionaire to inflate 35 foot bubbles over the Central Park tennis courts during colder months. The bubbles were to be inflated by diesel generators, which raised environmental concerns. Meanwhile, the concessionaire proposed charing up to $100 per hour, leaving the courts far out of reach for so many New Yorkers.

For more information on this victory for advocates and the Westside community, see the NYC Park Advocates Blog.

Melissa Testifies on New Proposed Rules Regulating Vending in Parks

Melissa testified at a hearing held today by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation regarding new proposed rules regulating vending in some of our city’s parks.

These rules would limit vendors to a limited number of specific locations in Central Park, Union Sqaure Park, Battery Park and the High Line in an effort to reduce congestion.  For more information, click here.

In her testimony, Melissa raises a number of concerns with the proposed rules.  Please see a copy of the testimony below:

NYC Council’s Parks Committee to Hold Hearing on Concessions in NYC’s Public Parks

Please see the hearing notice below for information on an upcoming hearing held by the NYC Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee, which Melissa chairs.  The hearing will explore the policies and practices around concessions awarded by the Parks Department.

As you all know, issues around concessions have had a significant effect on parks in District 8, most notably on Randall’s Island.  The proposal to put up tennis bubbles in Central Park has also generated further interest in this topic.

We encourage all of you to attend this hearing and make your voice heard on concessions in our public parks.  Please see below for more info.

Hearing Notice:

New York City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee to Hold Oversight Hearing on Concessions in NYC’s Public Parks

Please take note that on April 27, 2010 at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, the Parks and Recreation Committee of the City Council will hold an oversight hearing on concessions.  The hearing is expected to address the entire range of the topic, from the planning of concessions to the process of the awarding of concessions (including input by Community Boards) to the enforcement of concessions.  In addition, the committee will hear Int. 0021-2010, By Council Members Nelson, Foster, James, Mark-Viverito and Mendez: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to identifying the location of concessions within a park.

While concessions in parks are an important revenue generator for the City and bring life to our parks, they also take up valuable public open space.  The hearing will look to ensure that the balance is struck in a way that benefits the city and its local communities.

We invite you to come and either testify at the hearing, or simply observe.  If you are planning on providing testimony, please confirm your attendance by emailing hearings@council.nyc.gov or calling 212-788-7210.  Also, please bring twenty copies of your testimony to the hearing.

Melissa Joins Friends and Supporters in Honoring Alberto Arroyo, a Central Park Jogging Pioneer

Last week, Melissa joined friends and supporters of Alberto Arroyo, a well-known jogger who has been called the “Mayor of Central Park,” in honoring his contributions to our city.

The Park’s reservoir, where Mr. Arroyo once jogged regularly, will soon feature a bronze plaque that will immortalize his presence at the track for generations to come.

Melissa with Alberto Arroyo.

Sadly, Mr. Arroyo, who is now 93 years old, is in frail health after suffering a stroke that ended decades of jogging.

Mr. Arroyo’s dedication to jogging has been a source of inspiration for many New York City joggers and runners, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who used to jog with him around the reservoir.

Here is a short video of Mr. Arroyo, filmed in 2002:

Parks Committee Hearing Held Today: Regulating Tree Removals and Replacements

Melissa convened her first Parks and Recreation Committee hearing as Chair this afternoon.  The topic of the hearing was Intro 4, a piece of legislation that will regulate tree removals and replacements on City property.

The legislation will set up a permitting process for City agencies to remove trees from public property, require these agencies to either replace the trees or to pay a fee to the Parks Department to do so, and ensure that the replacement trees planted collectively add up to a caliper size that is comparable to any of the mature trees that are removed.

At the hearing, the Parks Department as well as representatives from the business and advocacy communities provided testimony on this bill.

Intro 4 is expected to be voted on by the committee and get to the floor of the Council soon.

For a calendar of all City Council hearings, please click here.

Melissa and Speaker Quinn Call for the Protection of NYC’s Community Gardens

Melissa spoke at the New York City Community Garden Coalition‘s forum on Saturday, where advocates, elected officials and local community members met to discuss how we can protect the city’s community gardens.

Click above to see NY1's coverage of the event.

The agreement between the City and the State Attorney General’s office that has helped preserve the gardens will soon expire.

At the forum, Melissa spoke about the importance of community gardens in her district and throughout the City, as well as the efforts the City C0uncil will engage in to ensure they remain a part of New York City’s neighborhoods. Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also took part in this event.

Melissa released the following statement about community gardens on Saturday:

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, stated:

Community gardens are more than simply gardens. They are truly unifying public spaces, areas of reprieve and recreation for neighborhoods desperately lacking community space. Local community members have struggled for years to support themselves, oftentimes against powerful forces, and in spite of a lack of support and resources. Today, they know they are no longer alone in this fight and we in the City Council will work until we achieve real permanent protections for our gardens.