The Future is Now?

This is from an article published at <www.cityandstate.com> by Seth Barron on 23 July 2013. It’s about High Line Park in Manhattan but it may have some application to issues here in Queens. Bank on it! So without further ado, some excerpts…

The High Line is revered internationally for repurposing a post-industrial wreck into a refreshing aesthetic public experience. The park has also anchored an explosion of billions of dollars of high-end development in the [New York City] Council-rezoned “Special West Chelsea District,” designed specifically around the High Line.

The organization that built and runs the park, Friends of the High Line, is dominated by a wealthy and politically connected coterie of real estate developers [emphasis added] and property owners, which has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars, directly and as  intermediaries, into Christine Quinn’s mayoral election campaign. Friends of the High Line, formed in 1999 as a tiny nonprofit by two civic-minded fans of urban decrepitude, has quickly become the richest park conservancy in the city, after the Central Park Conservancy. Friends of the High Line raises double the revenue of the Prospect Park Alliance, for instance, and takes in more than 20 times as much as the Friends of Hudson River Park.

There is something about Friends of the High Line, however, that makes it very different from these other organizations. First, there was the actual Central Park, and later the Central Park Conservancy was formed to take care of it. In the case of the High Line, first there was a group of real estate developers called Friends of the High Line, and then they built a park to be friends with, making sure that zoning rules were changed to facilitate the right kind of residential property alongside it. The development of the High Line was coterminous with the development of the area around the High Line.

The City Council, first under Gifford Miller and then Christine Quinn, has doused the High Line with cash. Estimates of city funding for the High Line before it even opened ranged between $130 and $170 million. This money was only for the improvement of an existing structure, because the rail line itself was donated to the city by the CSX Corporation.Since the park opened, despite the largesse of FoHL and its claims that 90 percent of park expenses are raised privately, the Council continues to make allocations to its expansion and maintenance, including a $5 million capital disbursement two years ago.

When the City Council “slush fund” scandal was revealed five years ago, it turned out that the largest beneficiary of these improper disbursements was the High Line. The scandal, in which the Speaker’s office budgeted Council funds to shell organizations in order to dispense the money later to favored groups, resulted in $290,000 going to FoHL. The group has received yearly allocations of $75,000 to $100,000 from the Council since then…

The real question is, why give money to the FoHL at all? They don’t need it. The organization is awash in cash from its board and corporate sponsors. The High Line floats in the center of billions of dollars of residential real estate that was built specifically around it. One of the highest paid staffers for the FoHL is a person listed officially as “Director of Food,” who makes more than $100,000 per year. It doesn’t seem like they would miss an annual five-figure disbursement if the Council decided to direct the money toward some other park.

Perhaps the Council’s little allocations are more like tribute than funding: annual tokens that the Speaker makes to real estate and special interests to whom she owes so much. And they accept it because it affirms to them that here, here is someone we can trust, who will continue to do our bidding…

Director of Food? NoWay QueensWay.org warned you about these out-of-towners and their fetish with food! See the All The News That Fits post (23 March 2013).

Meanwhile the Trust for Public Lands, that unsavory coterie of lawyers, bankers, and real estate interests, along with their lackey FQs can’t wait to grow up and be just like their bloated, gentrifying big brothers from Manhattan, feeding at the public trough.

Tell Me Again…Why Do We Need a Bike Path?

Saw this in the New York Times (06-05-2013, p. A21).

If 96% of all New Yorkers live “within a 10-minute walk, or a half-mile, of a park” according to the out-of-town Trust for Public Land, why are the FQs so insistent that their boondoggle is important enough to ruin property values, destroy quality of life, and threaten public safety along 98 Street in Woodhaven?? 

New York Parks Rank No. 2 in a Survey of 50 U.S. Cities

By LISA W. FODERARO

Published: June 5, 2013

New York City’s park system ranked second, behind Minneapolis’s, in a survey of the nation’s 50 largest cities by the Trust for Public Land.

The trust, a nonprofit conservation group, looked at a number of factors, including park access, size, services and public investment to determine scores that ranged from a single park bench to five (a perfect score). New York, which last year came in third, scored 4.5 benches.

The success of New York City in the survey, to be released on Wednesday, was an affirmation of the tenure of Adrian Benepe, who served as New York City parks commissioner for more than a decade before decamping last fall to the Trust for Public Land, where he is senior vice president and director of city park development.

“You can’t have a great city without great parks,” said Mr. Benepe, who, under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, oversaw 1,700 parks and beaches during a period of expansion and major capital investment. Mr. Benepe noted that in this year’s survey, the ParkScore Index, New York pulled ahead of Boston, which it had tied last year. “It’s strong across the board, but particularly with park access,” he said of New York. (The survey was data-driven, so Mr. Benepe did not recuse himself from the judging.)

Park access measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk, or a half mile, of a park. In New York City, according to the survey, 96 percent of residents fall within those parameters. New York also scored high on park spending per resident. From 2008 to 2010, New York’s park expenditures — a combination of capital and operations — averaged $8 per resident.

One area of weakness for New York was median park size. Median park size is a little over an acre in New York, while the national median is five acres. “While New York has some really huge parks, a half-acre park cancels out a 1,000-acre park when you do medians,” Mr. Benepe said. “Sometimes, history is destiny with how cities develop.”

But the city scored high on the percentage of total area dedicated to parks; almost 20 percent of New York City is public parkland, second only to San Diego.

Other high-scoring cities included Boston, which tied with Sacramento and San Francisco for third place…

A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: New York Parks Rank No. 2 In a Survey of 50 U.S. Cities.

See You In September

On Tuesday 14 May 2013, Community Board 9 met at Maple Grove Cemetery. The following comments were made by the NoWayQueensWay spokesperson:

Mr. Chairman; Ladies and Gentlemen:

…Once again, I’m here on behalf of the nearly 200 homeowners and taxpayers of 98 Street in Woodhaven. Once again, I’m here to register their displeasure concerning the proposed bike path through our backyards.

Mr. Chairman, I’m going to take the summer off. My neighbors and I will continue to oppose this bike path, but for the next few months, at least, we will wage our fight in other venues. I plan to enjoy the backyard the bozos from the Trust for Public Lands, along with their local henchmen, hope to destroy.

But before I go, Mr. Chairman, I have two things I’d like to leave with you. The first is a copy of the petition that circulated up and down 98 Street. Over 200 residents responded and over 98% opposed any development along the old Rockaway rail line. Only four ill-informed people favored the bike path.

The second item is a copy of the Reed College study from 2003. Reed College was enlisted by the city of Portland, Oregon to study the impact of various zoning changes on property values. It is a study NoWayQueensWay has referred to time and again. It is a study the proponents of the boondoggle have artfully ignored.

“Trust the people from San Francisco and Alaska, rather than your own neighbors,” they say. “Trust the Trust.” They would rather deal in public relations and cheap gimcracks than with facts and common sense.

Allow me, Mr. Chairman, to quote briefly from the Reed College study:

…trails and cemeteries within 200 feet of a property were found to have a statistically significant effect on a property’s sales price…Specialty parks were estimated to increase sales price…while trails and cemeteries were estimated to decrease a property’s sale by 6.81% and 4.36% respectively…

So please, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, end CB 9′s ludicrous support for this impending debacle, and have a safe, enjoyable summer.

Perhaps you could enjoy an afternoon pedaling along the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. That’s a bike path the City positively, without-a-doubt-about-it, absolutely had to build…and nobody uses it. Perhaps, if it ruined property values and quality of life, it would be more popular with the cognescenti. In any event, I will see you when the leaves begin to change and frost replaces the morning dew.

Thank you.

The Reed College study is now in the hands of the FQs. They can’t claim “Oh, we didn’t know.” The ball is in their court. Next month (June 2013), without waiting for the results of the $500,000 feasibility study, the FQs will organize their Conservancy. Will they be honest and tell the prospective donors, “You’re charitable donation will go a long way to subvert property values, destroy quality of life, and threaten the safety of homeowners, taxpayers, and residents along 98 Street in Woodhaven”? 

Have a Nice (gag) Day!

Well, now they’ve wheeled out the big guns and taken deadly aim on 98 Street.

The FQs are distributing buttons. It’s one of those insipid things that declare, “I (heart)…” something, whatever, who cares. Only the smiley face buttons from the 1970s are more saccharine, more nauseating. Have a nice (gag) day!

State tax dollars collected from the people of New York was taken from the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities budget and other important programs and given to the FQs and their carpet bagging cronies.

(Do FQs even live or pay taxes in NYS? They come from California and Portlandia, Florida, and Alaska. Absolutely none of them live on 98 Street. There must be a reverse residency requirement. You must need an out-of-state address; a foreign passport; Pennsylvania license plates.)

What have they done with this money? Produced those g-d awful buttons. Have a nice (gag) day!

They have the Queens Chamber of Commerce. They have school children from the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School petitioning out-of-towners. They have a Floridian on the New York Times editorial board. They have a group of San Francisco-based “lawyers, real estate professionals, and bankers.” With all this high-powered, well-financed, politically-connected grease, what have they come up with?

“I (heart)…” the erosion of property values, the ruination of quality of life, and the endangerment of public safety. Have a nice (gag) day!

How can <NoWayQueensWay.org> compete? All we have is the Reed College study. We have the long American tradition, dating back to the days before patriotism could be bartered and sold, of private property rights. We have common sense. We have logic. How can we compete?

Instead of “I (heart)…” this cockamamie bike path, the button should read “What, me worry?” Because, it seems, that even Alfred E Newman is an FQ.

We are being continually told, by Alfred E Newman, by Travis Terry, by a small clique on Community Board 9, don’t worry. The Trust for Public Land has the answers. Trust the Trust (nice motto, eh?). Rely on their expertise.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

These are the same folks who promised an open dialogue with the community and an on-line newsletter. These are the same folks who believe that residents of Forest Hills and Rego Park will quit their jobs in Manhattan when this cockamamie bike path is built. They will quit their jobs and seek employment near Kennedy Airport. Why? In order to commute by bicycle. You can’t make this stuff up.

“I could definitely see people using [the bike path] for commuting” to work near JFK, according to Trust for Public Land VP Adrian Benepe (February 2013). Get real, bro.

Adrian Benepe used to be Parks & Recreation Commissioner here in New York City. Years ago he was an Urban Park Ranger in Central Park. It sounds like he got a hold of some wicked ‘shrooms while gamboling through The Bramble. One thing’s for sure…Benepe doesn’t live anywhere near 98 Street.

Well…have a nice (gag) day!

A Road Less Traveled

The following email was sent to Roman Kudryashov, editor of Fresh Meadows Life magazine. The May 2013 issue contains an interview with Travis Terry. Mr. Terry is the Founding FQ. He lives in Forest Hills, far from his proposed bike path, and once told the Queens Courier (12-28-2011) that his bike trail “is something locals have had interest in for some time.” We should be grateful to Mr. Terry for knowing our hearts better than we do ourselves [sarcasm].

And so, without further ado:

Dear Mr. Kudryashov:  Concerning your May 2013 interview with Travis Terry, <nowayqueensway.org> is also available for an interview and a two-page spread in Fresh Meadows Life magazine.

As homeowners and residents of 98 Street in Woodhaven, we are wary of a Fresh Meadows publication, owned by a British company and printed in Pennsylvania, featuring an interview with a guy from Forest Hills about our neighborhood. This is a textbook example of “carpetbagging.”

Mr. Terry and his minions have repeatedly spoken about vague studies (name them, dammit!) that “show…property values of houses close to rail-to-trail conversions” increasing. They have consistently ignored the findings of Dr. Noelwah Netusil, an associate professor of Economics at Reed College in Oregon. The studies Mr. Terry refers to usually bury Dr. Netusil‘s work in a footnote.

Entitled “The Effects of Environmental Zoning and Amenities on Property Values: Portland, Oregon” (2003) the study found that:

“Specialty parks, trails, and cemeteries within 200 feet of property were found to have a statistically significant effect on a property’s sales price…trails and cemeteries were estimated to decrease [emphasis added] a property’s sale by 6.81% and 4.36% respectively.” (p. ix) Again, the people of 98 Street would be better off if Mr. Terry was a
grave digger.

Mr. Terry and his minions, despite their claims, don’t want to “work with communities to help enhance and improve their neighborhoods.” They want to build this cockamamie bike trail no matter what, and the public be damned. They don’t mean to, but Mr. Terry and his minions will ruin property values, destroy the quality of life, and threaten the safety of the residents and homeowners along 98 Street in Woodhaven. They lack the requisite mens rea, but it’s still a crime.

Mr. Terry and his minions know about this report. But they have not and will not, because they can not, address the issues raised by the Reed College study. Perhaps Fresh Meadows Life would be interested in giving equal time to both sides of the argument?

Very truly yours, A Troll from 98 Street

No doubt the cynics will be making book on whether Mr. Kudryashov responds. We shall see.

Suffer the Little Children

Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph!  Is there no limit to their perfidy? Have they, at last, no shame?

The carpetbaggers at the Trust for Public Land have wantonly spent our tax dollars, like drunken sailors on leave, luring pigs to the trough. They have seduced members of CB 9, co-opted the New York Times editorial board, and purchased (no doubt, at cut rate prices) the Queens Chamber of Commerce; all in a conspiracy dedicated to destroying the property values, polluting the quality of life, and imperiling the public safety along 98 Street in Woodhaven. But that wasn’t enough for them!

The FQs have now begun to employ their black arts to corrupt innocent children! They have launched a diabolical “education campaign,” similar, in many aspects, to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Having spun a web composed of woolly-headed goo-goo, pliant politicians, and putative journalists, they seek to snare the souls of “tweens.”

A poorly-written letter is being sent to local officials from a self-described “Social Studies teacher at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) in Queens.” Queens? That’s Rego Park, ma’am. Does this flak even live in Queens? She certainly doesn’t live on 98 Street!

Under the cover of teaching the roots of democracy and citizen participation, the 6th graders at MELS have instead been recruited as foot soldiers in a partisan dogfight. It is an exercise in what George Orwell, in his novel 1984, called “newspeak:”

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

And, apparently, “grassroots movement” is a well-financed cabal of lawyers, financial experts, and real estate interests, with a well-oiled public relations apparatus, willing and able to enlist a Svengali with a teaching certificate to exploit her 6th graders to further a partisan agenda.

What else will she “teach” her captive audience of pubescent charges? That all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others? (That’s an allusion to another book by Orwell this “teacher” probably hasn’t read.) This isn’t a drive safely or don’t litter campaign. This “teacher” has used her class to lobby and petition on behalf of the FQs.

She claims to have spent two months teaching about the roots of democracy in ancient Athens and the Roman Republic. But she seems to have forgotten, if indeed she ever knew, that narrow special interest and plutocracy doomed both Athenian democracy and Roman republicanism. Has she forgotten that both Athens and Rome degenerated into tyranny and despotism? She is oblivious to the corrupting influence of money, not only in American politics, but in her own classroom as well.

Perhaps she should return to school. Here’s a suggested syllabus: the sanctity of private property; the constitutional protection of minority rights; and the cherished principle of limited government. Does she know the meaning of critical thinking? Does her academic freedom give her license to propagandize? Why wasn’t equal time given to opposing views?

She is either a willing co-conspirator in the machinations of the FQs, or a sad, pathetic dupe. In either case, it’s her students who will suffer.

Patriots’ Day 2013

In April 1775, a hardy band of middle-class homeowners stood on Lexington Green to confront the imperial might of an insatiable enemy; an enemy that had traveled 3000 miles to wreak havoc on property values, quality of life, and safety in that quiet New England town.

In April 2013, another band of middle-class homeowners stood on the Jamaica Avenue overpass to confront the political clout of another insatiable adversary; an adversary that had also traveled 3000 miles to wreak havoc on property values, quality of life, and safety along a quiet Woodhaven street.

The first group are called patriots and have been turned into plaster saints; dim historical figures in ponytails and funny hats who seemingly have no bearing on 21st century reality. The second group are called nimbies and are portrayed as selfish cranks; Luddites with vinyl siding and domestic beers standing in the way of the Californication of Queens.

But whether the threat comes from George III and his Hessian mercenaries, or from the Trust for Public Land and its FQ hirelings, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Yesterday it was the Stamp Act. Today it’s a bike path. Tomorrow it might very well be your home!

The minutemen fired a volley and dispersed. The British burned Concord. The people of 98 Street hung a banner (“NoWayQnWay“) and went home. The FQs sent their bully-boys to hack and hew the banner down. The destruction of 98 Street will come later.

Any hint of dissension had to be quashed quickly. The little guy must not be allowed to freely stand up, to speak up. That kind of antisocial behavior might spread. No, no…best to silence the opposition without hesitation, without quarter…If only we could catch them when they’re young and indoctrinate them properly….

If only the FQs were as quick to repair sidewalks, maintain our parks, fund libraries as they are to trample 1st amendment rights, then the sacrifice of those men during that other April will not have been in vain; their fate something better than plaster sainthood.

The Great Gatsby Redux

“They were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made.” 

The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some things, like human nature, never change. The FQs may very well build their bike path. They have the money and the authority and the clout. They think this gives them not just the power but the right. They assumed they can’t be wrong because they mean well.

And when the plan fails; when the property values along 98 Street tumble; when the quality of life along 98 Street lies in tatters; when the safety of 98 Street is but a dim memory…

They will shrug, congratulate themselves for their own efforts, admire each others’ altruism, and move on in search of another neighborhood to ruin.

CB 9 Meeting: 04-09-2013

The following remarks were made during the Public Forum at the Community Board 9 meeting held on Tuesday 9 April 2013 at Villa Russo’s, Richmond Hill:

I speak tonight on behalf of the nearly 200 homeowners, taxpayers, and residents of 98 Street in Woodhaven.

I am here not just to object, in general, to the construction of a frivolous bike path through our neighborhood, but to lodge, in particular, a protest against the latest campaign by the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Lands and their local lapdogs. This campaign is designed to slander the good people of Woodhaven and Ozone Park by describing the neighborhood as an “eyesore, littered and graffiti-filled.”

A few of you have actually been in my backyard. I defy you, right here, right now: tell this audience that you found my backyard to be an “eyesore, littered and graffiti-filled.” All of you are invited. Come on by and actually gaze upon the scene of the crime-to-come.

Admittedly, it is overgrown. We like it that way. It prevents the rapists and thieves from bicycling down from Forest Park and gaining access to our backyards and our families.

If the railway south of Atlantic Avenue has fallen into disrepair, then fix it. Fix it south of Atlantic Avenue and leave one of the loveliest blocks in Woodhaven alone. And if the people of Rego Park want a bike path to Forest Park, then build it. Build it to Forest Park and leave one of the loveliest blocks in Woodhaven alone.

If you insist on helping the good folks on 98 Street, then get us more street trees. Unlike the New York Times, we don’t mind “a forest that only thickens.”

The fact is that those parts of the old Rockaway line that are graffiti-filled or littered, are within the purview of CB 9. These areas should be remedied by CB 9; not by outsiders.

When littered built up on 91 Avenue under the Rockaway overpass, the Sanitation Department was called. And they responded. When graffiti got out-of-hand in Woodhaven, Ed Wendell and the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association went out and cleaned it up. CB 5 has an anti-graffiti program. What’s wrong with CB 9?

Maybe with new leadership in the offing, CB 9 will begin to address neighborhood problems with innovative, sensible, neighborhood-based solutions. As a first step, perhaps CB 9 should formally reverse its stance on this ridiculous proposal

Thank you.

Here’s some other news that may bear, however indirectly, on the issue:

On Wednesday 10 April, Arthur Mercado was buried at the National Cemetery in Calverton. Arthur was a Vietnam-era veteran. He had lived in a shelter since 2009 and died last September at Elmhurst Hospital. His unclaimed body sat on ice for 7 months while the local American Legion Post raised enough money to bury Arthur with some dignity.

The New York State legislature enacted a balanced budget for the third year in a row. They did it by carving $90 million from the budget for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Calculate the loss of federal matching funds, and that’s a $180 million hit.

New York State can underwrite a bogus feasibility study aimed at destroying the property values, ruining the quality of life, and threatening the safety of the residents of 98 Street, but can’t cough up any do-re-mi to bury a veteran or fully fund aid to “the least of our brothers.”

God bless America and drive safely.

Give the Devil Its Due

OMG!!

Since NoWayQueensWay got underway, 98 Street and environs are really getting spruced up. Now the sidewalks are being replaced! We thought you had to sleep with the Mayor, or surrender your first-born to the Prince of Darkness to get new sidewalks.

Boy those FQs really get the job done when you embarrass their sorry selves, don’t they?

What else can we complain about? As soon as we do, the FQs get all flustered and jump in and fix it:  102 Street repaved; the “Out of Order” sign torn off the fire alarm box on 98 Street; the catch basin on 97 Street at 91 Avenue repaired. And now, oh-my-goodness-I-can-hardly-control-myself-as-I-hop-from-foot-to-foot, new sidewalks!!

Let’s see…maybe the FQs can get rid of the DH rule, low calorie beer, chubby middle-aged women in 2-piece bathing suits, domed stadiums, automatic transmissions, bigotry, world hunger, sin, and injustice.

Go ahead…but we still won’t acquiesce in a damn bike path that will lower our property values, ruin our quality of life, and threaten our safety.

Don’t fall for this stuff about poor mothers, weighed down by kids and accessories, on the bus coming from South Richmond Hill or Ozone Park. The purpose of this bike path is to furnish a pleasant few hours to the people of Rego Park and Portlandia, Cobb County and Forest Hills. Provide them with a afternoon of bike riding down to 103 Avenue where they can get a gelato or a cappuccino, before heading back.

Maybe this why the FQs are fixing up our neighborhood?

And while we’re on the topic, has anyone else noticed that there’s no “destination” at the northern end of this train wreck? Middle-class bicyclists will be drawn south to the “new international food festival” that 103 Avenue will become.

But there’s no reason for all those poor mothers, all those poor kids, all those accessories from Ozone Park and South Richmond Hill [remember them?] to travel beyond Forest Park. After all, you really can’t get good gelato or decent cappuccino in Forest Hills, now can you? [Note to FQs: that's sarcasm.]

A coincidence? If you think so, we got some land in Florida you might be interested in…