- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf The Great Van Cortlandt Park Debate: The City Stirs Controversy by Creating Park Conservancy | Bronx News Networkbronx

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Great Van Cortlandt Park Debate: The City Stirs Controversy by Creating Park Conservancy

First, here's an opinion piece on why the convervancy is a bad idea.

But now let's back up for a minute in the interest of fairness.

There's a parks debate heating up in the Bronx, mostly in Riverdale, about the city's decision to create a public-private conservancy for Van Cortlandt Park. (There are also conservancies for Central Park and Prospect Park)

Why create this conservancy, critics of it say, when there's already a nonprofit organization, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, advocating and raising money to maintain, enhance and provide programming at the huge northwest Bronx park. Well, Parks says the conservancy will only add to what Friends does, rather than diminish what it does. And the conservancy will be able to hire supplemental staffers and throw money at capital projects the city can't afford to fund on its own.

The Riverdale Press' N. Clark Judd first reported about this in December.

Here's last week's story in the Press, with more details about how the conservancy will work.

This week, Parks Commish Adrian Benepe wrote a rebuttal, objecting to what he said was Judd's mischaracterization of the conservancy and also to quiet some of conservancy critics.

Finally, here's the previously-linked-to opinion piece by another critic of the conservancy, former Community Board 7 chair and now dedicated environmental activist Karen Argenti. She says the new conservancy undermines what the Friends of VC Park have been building for years. (This was supposed to run in this week's issue of the Norwood News, but alas, we ran out of space.)

Another interesting twist is that 11th Council District hopeful Tony Cassino is on the board of the new conservancy. How will this affect his standing with Riverdale voters? Will incumbent Oliver Koppell risk criticizing the city and Parks to win over conservancy critics? Does Ari Huffnung, another Council candidate, have a position?

The VC Park debate is officially open here on the Bronx News Network blog. So, read up and let us know what you think.


  1. karen argenti is 100% correct. be afraid, be very afraid of this conservancy proposal. the friends of VC park has been a fierce and appropriate advocate of VC park and this conservancy is totally unnecessary.

    but mayor bloomberg, ever the vengeful one, is mad at them for their position on the filtration plant and perceives them as a base of influence and power that he can't control. as a result he created this unnecessary layer of bureaucracy so he can wrest as much control over the park as possible.

    and if this effort is successful.. can proposals to sell off parkland to the highest bidder for things like for-profit water slide or amusement facilities be far behind... turning free public land into profit-making ventures for his friends?

    again, be afraid, be very afraid.

    as far as mr. cassino's participation, i predict that this will become a large issue in the upcoming campaign which might not benefit the city council hopeful. seems to me it's a shameless grab at support from bloomie.

  2. I welcome the idea of a Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy. I also welcome the many friends of Van Cortlandt Park. By example of Central Park Conservancy, the plan could improve the park tremendously by means of private fund-raising; it's the conservancy's job to improve the park.

    Meanwhile the conservancy can also use volunteers- there is no conflict of interest here.

    Van Cortlandt Park still suffers from under-funding, under-planting, sub-standard landscaping, sub-standard amenities: where are the gardens; a paved path along the Putnam trail; a destination-worthy cafe to match the elegance of the lake?

    The goal here should be improving the park.

  3. No one could dispute your stated goal or your all-too-correct analysis of VC park and its needs.

    The question here, though, is whether the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park can achieve those ends or are they having the rug cut out from under them and being replaced with a conservancy by a venegeful city administration.

    Many of us believe that's what this conservancy is really about and the nice-sounding agendas they're danlging are just a smoke screen.

  4. Van Cortlandt Park is one of the most funded parks in NYC. Millions of dollars were allocated to the park through the Croton Aqueduct Litigation fund to restore natural areas destroyed by the addition of a water treatment plant. However, under the current administration, those funds have been squandered, missappropriated and mismanaged. After four years there is still no work plan, clear goals, or competent leadership. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been needlessly spent on unnecessary items just to make budget numbers, this year alone $200,000 was lost due to incompetent management of funds. Prior to donating any funds to the new VC Conservancy, I would highly reccomend a thorough screening of what the funds would actually be used for, and I would also request documentation of prior years budget numbers indicating years past spending habits, especially in relation to natural area restoration. In addition, Margot Perron, the current VCP Administrator is involved with the new conservency, so anywone donating funds to this new endevor should be very concerned about how those funds would be managed, especially based on the history of how she has misused prior funding, her lack of experience, wasteful practices, and abuse of power.

  5. I am a fairly new resident in the Bronx and have an easy walk to the Park. It is very clear to me we are in a new age where the wealthy use public resources for their own gain and pleasure. It is very clear that this new Conservancy is not needed. First off, Parks Commish Adrian Benepe in his rebuttal says " I specifically informed Mr. Judd that the newly-formed Conservancy will not be responsible for the park's management and will not be modeled after the Central Park Conservancy" and then goes on to describe how they will fund their own parks workers to help maintain the park, and how the Central Park Conservancy is a "wonderful example" (read MODEL example) of how the public and help the city run a park.

    Be very careful of political double-speak. The true intentions always come out if you listen carefully enough and can wade through the long speeches.

    You never give unless you get something back...what would the privileged want from a city park? The chance to use it as their backyard for private social events at the cost of the public dollar. I forget if it was Randalls or Roosevelt Island where the privileged tried to create a private ball-field and/or community center on public land in exchange for some token improvements.

    Watch out for these kind of greedy land grab tactics ala "Columbia University annexations"

  6. The anonymous person who claims VCP is one of the most funded parks in the City does not have his or her facts straight. Let's take one counter example --- I visited the Highline recently, which is beautiful. It cost roughly $150 mill, slightly less than $50 mill of which came from private donations. The rest was tax money -- $100 to build one not enormous park. The $200 million that was given to the Bronx in exchange for taking the filtration plant (a filthy deal) was spent ALL OVER the BRonx -- a few mill went to Vannie. I think the process by which the parks dept manages all its development and rehabilitation projects could use a big dose of economic efficiency -- I don't think much of that can be laid at Margot's feet.


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