BIDs setting alcohol policy at City Parks. The latest at Tompkins Square Park: Want to see the movie on the lawn? Have your bags searched first.

wine bottle picnic at bryant park
wine bottle picnic at bryant park

It would be lovely to openly have a glass of a wine or a beer in a park. New York City Parks technically don’t allow that.

The New York Times reported recently about a certain permissiveness around this in Bryant Park.

I was happy to see a loosening of the endless array of rules.

But, it’s never quite so simple when something happens in a park in New York City, is it?

It seems the “policy” is dictated park-to-park and very often by the local BID (business improvement district) or Conservancy (pretty close in composition to a BID).

So Central Park and Bryant Park – most likely perceived as accommodating a certain clientele – sip their wine but Prospect Park and Tompkins Square Park – perhaps a bit more mixed crowd – get ticketed. Or, in the case of Tompkins Square, people have their bags searched before going on the lawn!

On Wednesday, at Tompkins Square Park, as a requirement to gain access to a spot on the lawn to watch the scheduled movie, private security at a gate began searching every person’s bag. At a public park! This is to keep out undesirable elements and undesirable alcohol. The “private security” is hired by several local businesses which are “sponsoring” the movie nights in the park.

So what is the policy? Who determines it?

The New York Times story (July 16) covered the Monday movie nights on the lawn at Bryant Park and the fact that, despite a no-alcohol “rule” in the Parks, people come in with full bottles of wine, sangria, beer and the like.

The security guard, hired by the Bryant Park Conservancy, told the Times, he “turned a blind eye” on movie nights, “so long as it is covered, like in a bag.”

The article states, “The official line from the city’s parks department is that alcohol cannot be brought into city parks, though in the summer of 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suggested that drinking wine at concerts was O.K.” (As I recall, at the same time, at a beach in a poorer neighborhood, people were ticketed for drinking beer in public and this caused some controversy in light of the Mayor’s statement allowing Central Park wine sipping.)

The BID’s or Conservancies (or some other business-related facsimile) – private entities allowed to govern our parks by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Benepe – set the rules.

Will the Parks Department ever stop astounding me by their endless privatizing actions?

However ! The Tompkins Square crowd is fighting back. Join them to protest this bag searching policy by coming to Tompkins Square Park (at gate at entrance to central grassy area) on Wednesday, July 30th, 7 p.m. and … refuse to have your possessions searched.

Read more on this… The full Letter about the incident In the Inbox:

On Wednesday, July 16, the gentrification and privatization of Tompkins Square Park (and the Lower East Side) hit a new low as residents of the neighborhood were told they were not allowed to enter the central grassy area of the park–usually accessible to all–UNLESS THEY WERE WILLING TO HAVE THEIR BAGS SEARCHED by private unidentified “security guards”.

Under the guise of “searching for alcohol” and “keeping out people like the squatters” (an actual quote), a private group that is organizing film showings in the park, hired private security guards who

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Film: "An American in Paris" Showing in Washington Square Park Friday night, July 25th at 8:30 p.m.

"An American in Paris"
"An American in Paris"

There’s a lot going on at Washington Square Park this week!

Just got word that the film “An American in Paris” will be showing in the Park Friday night, July 25th, 8:30 p.m. on the middle lawn on the East side of the park, presented by the NYC Parks Department.

About the film: This 1951 MGM musical is directed by the award-winning Vincente Minnelli and stars world famous actor and choreographer Gene Kelly.

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Expert Doctor on Children's Health Raises Alarm on Synthetic Turf – What will it take to reach Parks Commissioner Benepe?

Dr. Philip Landrigan is a respected pediatrician and expert on children’s health at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in NYC. He has written a letter urging a moratorium and raising alarming concerns on artificial turf to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

No word on whether this same letter has been sent to the NYC Department of Health or NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (who seems to have a difficult time reversing course no matter how stunning the evidence). NYC, under Commissioner Benepe’s direction, has installed 94 artificial turf fields thus far in parks and ball fields. Despite concerns, plans move forward to install 68 additional turf fields across New York City.

Dr. Landrigan writes:

Synthetic turf fields have proliferated in recent years, and there are now more than several hundred of these installations in Connecticut and in other states up and down the East Coast. Almost no assessment of the potential hazards to children’s health of synthetic turf fields was undertaken before these fields were constructed. The stated need for their installation was a desire to improve the quality and enhance the drainage of playing fields coupled with a strong impetus to get more kids out and exercising as a way to combat the obesity epidemic.

These are laudable goals. The problem is that they were pursued without any consideration of alternatives or analysis of potential negative consequences. There was insufficient due diligence. The result now is that we are in a situation in which a number of these very expensive fields have been installed, and we are suddenly and belatedly beginning to realize that they may lead to health problems.

His recommendation is as follows:

1. A moratorium on installation of new synthetic turf fields until a careful, competent, independent study of their potential hazards has been conducted and reported to the public;

2. Immediate study of the suspected chemical hazards of synthetic turf fields.

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Dr. Landrigan’s Full Letter Outlining His Concerns Follows:

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"Cinderella Samba" for Kids coming to Washington Square Park Wednesday, July 23, 10:30 a.m.

"Puppets in the Parks" Production
Cinderella Samba: "Puppets in the Parks" Production

It’s called Cinderella Samba and it’s making its way through the New York City Parks. A “puppet production” (as opposed to show?), New York magazine provides the background: “Set in the lush landscape of Brazil, this puppet version of the timeless fairy tale finds Cinderella and her prince in a samba contest at the carnival ball.”

This photo was taken at the production at Greenbelt Recreation Center on Staten Island and shows Cinderella, “pre-transformation,” and “Eeka” Mouse. The show is put on by the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater.

Cinderella Samba will be presented

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Washington Square Music Festival Two Concerts Left — Tuesdays, July 22nd and July 29th – Don't Miss It!

Washington Square Music Festival July 8, 2008
Washington Square Music Festival July 8, 2008

The New York Times review (July 18th) of last week’s concert of the Washington Square Music Festival at Washington Square Park included some history, commentary on the Park and festival audience:

Perhaps it’s an illusion fostered by the fenced-off reconstruction work in Washington Square Park, but it seems as though the Washington Square Music Festival is shoehorned into a smaller section of the park every summer. The festival, in its 50th year, has done its own shrinking as well. Once a series of orchestra concerts, it is now a handful of chamber music programs, framed by folk and jazz concerts, with ensembles amplified to overcome the ambient noise of the park and the not-so-distant rumble of traffic.

But the festival has an audience, a larger one than its tiny slice of the park can accommodate. On Tuesday evening a reasonably large crowd watched from outside the metal barriers that set off the seating area, and as soon as a seat emptied, someone came in to fill it. In terms of age and race, you could hardly ask for a more diverse audience.

* Next Concert! * Tuesday, July 22nd at 8 p.m.

Pianist David Oei and Gamelan Son of Lion

An eclectic concert of works by

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Recommended Film: "The Visitor" * Footage of Washington Sq Park Pre-Construction * Now Playing at Cinema Village

The Visitor
The Visitor

A few months ago, on a spur-of-the-moment whim, I caught the film “The Visitor” while it was playing at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). I was very touched by the story and recommend seeing it.begins with Walter, a professor at a college in Connecticut, who is sleep walking through his life when he is coerced into presenting a paper at a conference at N.Y.U. He has an apartment in the Village that he rarely frequents. Once he arrives, he discovers he has house guests and, in an unusual mode of behavior, he invites them to stay with him. This opens him up to a re-awakening of his spirit and soul through music, friendships and locales. The story takes some unexpected turns, some sad, some sweet. The acting is all very strong and holds up the premise of how a chance encounter, the moment when a person steps out of his day-to-day conventions, how the reaction to that moment can change a person’s life and open up new vistas.

The film at points takes Walter through Washington Square Park and the footage of the Park, pre-construction, is bittersweet.

It’s a bit heartbreaking to see the trees that once lined the fountain (now chopped down). They were an integral part of the much loved look and feel of Washington Square Park. (How many movies feature that shot from above of the Arch, the fountain, and the trees lining it? Yes, the fountain unaligned with the Arch, this was a classic shot – New York City, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park.)

“The Visitor” is now playing at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street between University Place and 5th Avenue, #212/924-3363.

A. O. Scott of The New York Times’ wrote of “The Visitor”:

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