18 June 2009

The Tourist Mayor

An on-target editorial from the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg's priorities out of whack

By Patrice O'Shaughnessy

Years from now, people will look back in awe at the Alice's Wonderland that New York is becoming before our very eyes.

To build a billion-dollar major league ballpark, they took away Bronx parkland from kids.

Randalls Island is not for people in upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, but for elite private schools to use, because they pay for the privilege.

Ten years and $172 million went into building an elevated strip of park - the Highline - in Chelsea, which consists mostly of weeds poking through the ruins of railroad tracks. There are more dedicated park enforcement officers assigned there than to all of the Bronx, according to an advocacy group.

They shut down blocks of a major traffic artery in the heart of Manhattan so people can lounge in beach chairs on Broadway.

More and more, it feels like "Alice in Wonderland," but underlying the absurdity, it's like a tale of two cities, a story of the haves and the have-nots.

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, had another literary reference.

"The Emperor's New Clothes," he said of elected officials' unquestioning acquiescence to the Bloomberg administration steamroller.

"They are destroying much of our parks system," Croft said. "It's out of control."

Consider the parks that the city gave to the Yankees so it could erect the new stadium and massive parking garages.

Three years after construction of the new ballpark began, none of the permanent parks that the city promised to replace Macombs and Mullaly are there.

The Department of Parks and Recreation had promised that seven of the eight replacement parks would be done in time for opening day. The schedule was pushed back, and a report by the Independent Budget Office revealed that costs had ballooned from $116 million to close to $200 million.

But Croft predicted, "Taxpayers will pay close to $400 million to replace parks that the city should never have taken."

And Heritage Field, a public park with baseball and softball fields, to be built on the site of the old stadium's diamond, isn't expected to be ready until the autumn of 2011. The old stadium hasn't been torn down yet.

"It troubled me that they could knock Shea down before the first pitch at the new Stadium," said Sean Sullivan, principal and assistant baseball coach of All Hallows High School on 164th St.

"And here, we still have two stadia on 161st St."

His baseball team ended the season with a 2-16 record (most games were lost by one or two runs), due to the youth of the team, but it didn't help that there wasn't enough practice time, due to lack of a field.

The diamond they had always played on vanished with the rise of the new Yankee Stadium.

"It was difficult to play home games in Staten Island," said Sullivan. "It was bizarre.

"We had an interim park for practice at 161st St. and Jerome Ave., but everyone was there. People were driving golf balls," said Sullivan.

"But now, that's been ripped up," he added.

Croft said he watched two weeks ago as that park was destroyed to make way for a five-story parking garage.

"Seventy percent of the mature trees in Macombs and Mullaly parks were destroyed," Croft lamented.

Maybe the kids in the Bronx should head on down to Times Square with balls and bats and play right there in the street.

Broadway is now closed for five blocks running through the Crossroads of the World.

The reasoning was to ease midtown traffic congestion. (It took me just 25 minutes to get from 12th Ave. to Sixth during the first week of the plan!)

But the real reason is to keep the tourists happy.

It's great that people from across the nation and the globe want to visit New York.

But do we really need to inconvenience people who live and work in the city?

Yes, the out-of-towners need to plop down and sprawl out after all the stress of seeing "Mamma Mia!" They are exhausted from all the New York things they've experienced, like visiting the Hard Rock Café, and shopping at The Gap.

They need a place to relax.

How about Central Park? Or the Highline? Or any of the other green gems throughout the city?

But don't look for a shady place to stop near 161st St. You can go to the new mall at the ballpark, though, with Applebee's, Babies R Us and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Yes, 10 years from now, we'll be looking back at former Mayor Bloomberg's absurd remaking of a city of unique character to one big homogenized mall, where the tourists feel right at home because it is exactly the same as their hometown.

Oh, wait. Bloomberg will probably still be in office, trying to close off E. Tremont Ave. to all but tourists in horse-drawn carriages.

I'll make a further prediction. In 10 years, we'll remember Mike Bloomberg as one of the worst mayors New York ever had.


Nesta said...

I have the feeling if Giuliani (or Bloomberg) had torn down the High Line, you wouldn't have been happy about it. I haven't been to the park yet but I think the conversion was a pretty cool idea. (Of course giving it that many cops, if true, is silly.)

And how is trying to reduce traffic in Manhattan a bad idea? Time may show that closing Times Sq to traffic didn't work, but it may also look visionary 50 yrs from now. I can't call it from here.

And the old Yankee Stadium was kept intact in case there were construction problems. The Yanks and Mets would have been screwed if one of the new parks wasn't done and they had no place to play. This doesn't mean the new parks were necessary in the first place, or that the So. BX hasn't been screwed on park land, but once the new parks were going up, you need insurance in case something goes wrong.

I'm no Bloomberg fan either but objectivity is always more powerful.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I'm not against the conversion of the High Line, but I see the columnist's point.

Ben K. said...

Why do you feel that eliminating cars in the heart of the busiest areas of Manhattan is a bad thing? It's socially, environmentally and economically a huge plus for the city and the people who live and work here.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I'm not aware of any people who live here who like it. Tourists, sure. It's just another example of how Bloomberg never thinks of the people of New York, but only himself, his wants and the needs of big business and tourists. Please read my previous post on the matter for my reasons.


Anonymous said...

I sure cannot think of an uglier
part on NYC crass and surrounded by visual pollution than the new Times Square seating area.
The Hi line needs all the policing
it can get as when a nut comes
attacking people up there one day
no one will be able to help you way above the sidewalk and street.
I think the hi line stinks too.

When the borderline Chelsea art galleries finally close the Hi line may provide free selling space for some of the displaced artists as the Greenwich Village art show did in the late 1940's when i was a kid

As no one rally is opposing Bloomy
the emperor,what more can we endure
in the new generic city we are becoming,started really by Ed Koch
at least in recent times.