This Week In the News: Toyota gets naming rights to an East Village park… NYPD wants precinct in Flushing Meadows Park… Randalls Island ruling allows athletic field construction… Privatization and Parks

Toyota Park*Toyota gets its own park in the East Village! Curbed and the New York Times report on the Toyota Children’s Learning Center (photo) on East 11th Street. The landscape architect told the Times, “The notion of the Toyota Garden is of learning and discovering.” But as Curbed noted, “Discovering the joys … of driving a Toyota!” In addition: “The park was spearheaded by Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, and the opening was accompanied by a VIP gala in Tompkins Square Park.” The New York City Parks Department hands oversight of certain parks and community gardens over to New York Restoration Project. I read the The New York Times article first and there was no reference to Toyota’s monetary involvement so I naively sat there pondering … could this park really be named for Toyota, the car company? Then it was confirmed that, yes, it is.

*The New York City Police Department wants to place the 110th Precinct IN Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. As the New York Sun reports, this is NOT to oversee the park but the whole district – to take the place of the precinct currently on 43rd Avenue. It’s hard to imagine there is no other location in Flushing, Queens that the NYPD could utilize versus putting a police precinct within a park, which should be open, public space.

*At Randalls Island: The New York Times reports that despite a court ruling last year stating that NYC – against the wishes of Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe – could not “grant [20 private] schools priority in using the [athletic] fields in exchange for $45 million,” construction of the fields continued. Now, a new ruling states that the city can continue building (even though they had been – ?) but they still can’t utilize money from the private schools. Where the money for the construction is coming from, no one knows. Commissioner Benepe stated, “We are pleased that today’s decision lifts a cloud over this important endeavor.” The NYC Parks Department seems to have a lot of clouds over their endeavors since most every project they put forth encounters a lawsuit by communities attempting to stop them.

*Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church and author, writes about privatization and parks in “When is a Gate Not a Gate” in this month’s Brooklyn Rail. She relates an experience she had ‘sneaking’ into Gramercy Park (which is a private private park — the park is only ‘accessible’ to the nearby neighbors whose buildings line the park). In discussing how Gramercy Park is open three days a year to the public, she comments that sometimes it doesn’t even open on those days, much to the confusion and disappointment of those awaiting these brief opportunities.

Reverend Shaper writes: “I wondered about the privatization of parks. Gramercy is the gold standard. But Bryant Park is also a new “public/private cooperation.” Soon Washington Square Park will have the Tisch Fountain at its center, although the movement grows to name it the “People’s Fountain.” Let the Tisch’s pay for it if they must. But giving them the name and the privatization feels like more than the fountain, which is nearly priceless, is worth.”