Somehow, Park Development Becomes Blood Sport

Staffing and funding levels have accordingly risen for the department in the Bloomberg administration, with about $1.21 billion being devoted to capital investments in the mayor’s first five budgets. That number is compared with $1.07 billion for the prior five years, and $665 million for the five years before that, according to inflation-adjusted figures from a Citizens Budget Commission Report and the city comptroller’s office.

With respect to community opposition, the Parks Department emphasizes its full plate of projects, saying that a wide array of initiatives is bound to attract controversy.

“No great urban development project comes without temporary inconveniences to the community and even controversy,” Mr. Benepe said in an e-mailed statement. “Parks are our common backyards, and most New Yorkers have strong proprietary feelings for their parks and are not shy about expressing their opinions.”

The agency also noted that it consults the community boards about park alterations, and has an active community engagement program.

But critics claim the frequent dissonance with the city stems more from the decision-making process at the Parks Department, saying the agency fails to take in community input and is inflexible in its positions.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who has criticized many recent park initiatives, said the city has an “inherent arrogance that has been more in evidence over the last few years.

“Scarcity creates conflict; scarce parkland is a hot commodity,” she said.


IN MULTIPLE PARKS projects, the tactics of opponents have been similar, relying on a lawsuit to delay or to stop the project. Taken with the support of a local elected official, such opposition can either block the initiative or result in changes to the plan to help mitigate concerns.


Construction of the pavilion at Union Square is now delayed indefinitely as a judge considers a lawsuit, which claims the city needs state approval to make way for a new restaurant.

In the fight over the redesign of Washington Square Park, a plan that many community residents vehemently opposed over numerous design issues, opponents held up the project for months with multiple lawsuits. The project, to which the Tisch family pledged $2.5 million to help move and redo the park’s central fountain, is now moving forward after the city made some changes that community members requested.

Somehow, Park Development Becomes Blood Sport