Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Slides Don't Rule

I bow to few in my admiration for water parks. The flues and slides and wave machines and spurious soaking devices are part of what makes America great. I am proud to visit as many as possible. Among my favourites are the Algarve's Wet N' Wild, San Dimas' Raging Waters (aka Waterloo!), and Hawaiian Waters.

Note that I haven't included the Six Flags in New Jersey among them, mostly because I don't consider water parks a dignified pursuit for area with temperate climates. Which is why I'm a little wary of throwing my ginormous weight behind the new Randall's Island water park proposal. Does not the fact that one has to get on a plane or, worse, a NJ Transit bus, add to the experience?

The plan, as far as the above-linked Daily News story goes, is for there to be a "massive" water park on the northern tip of the island, complete with water slides and so forth:

"But the park - which was proposed originally in 1999 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 12 acres - is drawing concern because of its swelling size, now set at 26 acres."

Sound impressive? It's not. Raging Waters covers 50 acres, and that's pretty cozy. Hawaiian Waters, which I'm fairly fond of because it's fairly quiet, is 25 acres. Building a state-of-the-art water park on that kind of space is simply not possible, especially if the Randall's Island park's 25 acres includes a seven-acre beach. Crazy slide space will be at a premium. And forget about the pointless very slow-moving river where the kids hang out.

I don't really have a take on the wisdom of bulldozing the baseball diamonds to make way for the park. I wasn't convinced, in particular, by one observer's remark: "As it is now, children from the surrounding neighborhoods have to travel 2-1/2 hours each way to get to a comparable facility." Of course, by that token, we also need a IKEA in the Five Boroughs. Oh, wait...

I was going to use this post to rant on a little longer about how little legal nous Chuck Schumer possesses, as evidenced by his recent performance at the Alito hearings. But I think I've gone on quite enough. So here's one of those topical mp3 postings that get the hipsters so agitated:

Royal Trux - "Waterpark"
Buy "Veterans Of Disorder" at Walmart. It seems oddly fitting.


At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Harry Bubbins said...

Here is another example of an unfortunate project in the wrong place without it seems sufficient community empowerment to significantly ameliorate the horrendous ramifications of yet another example of alienated Park land. The slippery slope of supposedly beneficial projects that require forsaking open space and parkland continues to grow, if the proposed Yankee Stadium plan wasn’t enough. In this csae there isn’t a neighborhood of residents on the site to organize. This has been a predictable outcome of isolating Randall’s Island. There are agreements in which the NYSDOT which leases the Harlem River Rail Yards in the South, South Bronx, are to ensure that the leasee, the Galesi Group, are supposed to implement the NYC Greenway Plan and construct a brduge to Randall’s Island. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened, yet. In addition, the East Harlem Pedestrian/Bike Bridge is closed much of the year, further isolating the increasingly privated Randall’s Island from a local constituency, notwithstanding the periodically bused in students that are often touted as evidence of community involvement. These and other factors have spurred the South Bronx Greenway initiative of a wide variety of stakehilders to access randall’s Island by way of the exisitng Amtrak Viaduct, a project that could be easily implemented if the Mayor’s team would make it a priority. We would much rather see a committment to greater accessibility to this precious greenspace for people of color and poor communites adjacent to Randall’s Island, and all New Yorkers, than the Icahn Stadium, the parkinglot for Cirque d’ Soleil, the closed off tip of Ward’s Island in the summer and the other privitatzation schemes that prohibit community access and are continuing to degrade the natural environment of a still beautiful natural retreat. , PLEASE HELP STOP THE PRIVITATZATION OF RANDALL’S ISLAND!!!
and let me add that there are numerous local priorities for waterfront access and green space on the Harlem and east Rivers that would allow NYers to really ply the rivers and experience the shore and the natural life with minimal investment. We welcome communications to identify and partner with appropriate city agencies like NYCEDC and others to achieve equity in the South Bronx and reap a great return on our taxpayer investments in imporved education, reduced crime and greater sustainable economic development.

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Gringcorp said...

Thanks, Harry. I had no idea there was so much feeling about the park.

We have, as you can find elsewhere on the site, a little bit of a problem with stupid private development projects in Brooklyn.

Good luck taking them on, although i have to say that even with a decent level of community opposition it's very hard to take these things on.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger Friends of Brook Park said...

Subject: City Council Committee on Parks & Recreation Oversight Hearing on Randalls Island (Wednesday)

City Council Committee on Parks & Recreation Oversight Hearing
on Status of the Possible Exclusive Use of the Athletic Fields
on Randall's Island by NYC Private Schools

January 31, 2007 @ 10:00 AM
250 Broadway, 14th Floor
Chairperson(s): Helen D. Foster

Bullet Points:

"Preserve Randall's Island. Terminate the Aquatic Development Contract.
Protect the wetlands and shoreline. No exclusive use deals for public ball
fields. Open the 103rd Street Ped/Bike Bridge. Community representation on
the Sports Foundation."

Press Conference City Hall 9:30 AM

Letter in the Sunday Times City

We are winning!

See the editorial at:

And my letter in reply below.

Email The Mayor and tell him:

"Preserve Randall's Island. Terminate the Aquatic Development Contract.
Protect the wetlands and shoreline. No exclusive use deals for public ball
fields. Open the 103rd Street Ped/Bike Bridge. Community representation on
the Sports Foundation."

Email the Mayor here:

The City
Public Parks and Private Schools

Published: January 21, 2007
In a city of gaping economic disparities, public parks have long been the
great equalizer. New Yorkers take pride in their egalitarian green spaces,
which are open to everyone. But acreage has always been at a premium, and
public money cannot keep pace with the costs of upkeep and improvements.
Over the years, the city has thus come to depend on private donations to
fill the gaps.

Public-private partnerships can reap great benefits, as long as private
interests don’t overtake the public’s right of access. The city will have to
work hard not to tip that balance the wrong way on Randall’s Island, a
480-acre public park that sits in the waters separating East Harlem, the
South Bronx and Astoria, Queens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe want to enter
into a contract that would allow students at 20 of Manhattan’s wealthiest
private schools exclusive use of most of the island’s playing fields during
prime after-school hours for the next 20 years. In return, the city would
get a real prize: upgraded and repaired fields which those schools have
already been using for soccer, softball and other sports for 15 years, along
with dozens of new fields, all financed by the private schools. Their total
investment could be more than $80 million.

The schools had originally wanted a 30-year contract and exclusive rights to
80 percent of the fields during prime time. They’ve scaled that back to 20
years and two-thirds of the fields, leaving public schools and community
groups with access to one-third of the space after school hours. The city
should claim a larger share of prime time for public schools < perhaps 40
percent to start, with a possible increase to 50 percent if demand

There are also objections in principle. New Yorkers for Parks, an
independent monitor, warns the deal could set a dangerous precedent, in
effect selling off public parkland to the wealthy and giving a new twist to
the words “pay to play.”

There’s another very important point here, lost in the back-and-forth over
contractual details. For people without private transportation < and that
means public school children < Randall’s Island is reachable only by a
footbridge or the Triborough Bridge, with ferry service added for special
events, like concerts. The Randall’s Island Sports Foundation transports
children from disadvantaged neighborhoods on the weekend. But public bus
service is virtually nonexistent.

This explains why private schools have so far had the place mostly to
themselves on weekdays. City Comptroller Bill Thompson and Manhattan Borough
President Scott Stringer insist that as part of any new contract the city
should guarantee better public transportation. It’s an excellent idea.

The contract is to be voted on soon by the Franchise and Concession Review
Committee, a little-known panel with six votes < four controlled by the
mayor. This is the committee that approved the contract for Snapple soft
drinks in public schools as well as the contract with a private company to
build a 26-acre water park on Randall’s Island, drawing an objection from
Mr. Stringer over a projected $40 ticket price.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has often shown impatience with government process,
wants to change the committee rules to expedite its work. But in making
decisions about the use of Randall’s Island and other public spaces, the
city needs more deliberation and transparency, not less.


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