WSP Private Conservancy Watch: Separate Community Board Public Meeting – When? | What You Can Do

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After last week’s Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting, I posted a report back on the performance issue (one of the topics of discussion) at Washington Square Park. Part II with latest updates on the park is next.

But, as I wrote previously, the fact remains that the Parks Department is stalling a discussion of a private Conservancy at Washington Square Park.

The Parks Department does not want this discussion to happen — sooner rather than later — because, as people have stated who were involved in the many meetings around the park’s redesign, it was widely believed that the issue of a Conservancy had been taken “off the table.” Two people with long connections to the redesign “process” have used that exact term, others have stated basically the same in other words.

And so, at last week’s Parks Committee meeting, between fearing the other ‘hot button’ agenda item of “new [Parks Department] rules” [for] expressive matter vendors” (i.e., possible new “performance crackdown”) would consume much of the meeting, and the fact that the Parks Department told the committee that they would not attend if the Conservancy remained on the agenda, the Conservancy issue was tabled. But until when? 

Some history

I spoke with Former City Council Member Alan Gerson recently. He was very involved in, as he said, “mediating, advocating, negotiating” between the community and the Parks Department over the years while he was in office (Washington Sq Park being in his district — note: his replacement, Council Member Margaret Chin, has been very hands off, to put it mildly).

The former Council Member told me that in those meetings with the city’s Parks Department when talk of the possibility of a private Conservancy came up, it was specifically stated, that if such a thing were to be considered, it would be “open and transparent, subject to community input and normal oversight.”

I asked Alan Gerson, “Did you feel it was clear to the Parks Department that the process was to be ‘open and transparent?'” He said emphatically, “Yes, Absolutely.”

So, despite that, the city agency, instead of being above board on the issue, as The New York Post wrote, “met privately [with the Conservancy] founders because they feared a public backlash could halt talks.”

Community Board

On the Community Board 2 web site, the amended version of last week’s Parks Committee agenda looks as follows:

Washington Square Park: Introduction to the new Administrator, Sarah Nielson, and discussion of park-related projects and issues including status of Phase 3 renovations and PEP officer staffing.Note: the topic of a WSP Conservancy will not be discussed at this meeting; rather it will be the main topic of a separate meeting in the near future. Changes to Parks Dept rules governing expressive matter vendors: Senior Parks Dept. representatives will attend to explain the new rules and enforcement thereof.

The original meeting announcement had “planned creation of a conservancy” as a topic, and, as I mentioned, it was tabled.

I’ve asked Community Board 2 to hold an entirely separate public hearing on the Conservancy issue rather than waiting another month until the next Parks Committee meeting for the topic to surface. That is what the Parks Department wants.

What you Can Do/Action to Take — Asking for Open and Transparent Process re: Private Conservancy

If you would like an open and transparent process on the issue of a private conservancy at Washington Square Park, please write to Parks Commissioner Veronica White, tell Commissioner White that the Parks Department is a city agency that needs to be “open and transparent” with the public; private conservancies are not right for every park (if any park) as the community and park users had already expressed.

Actions:

1) Write to Parks Commissioner Veronica White here[email protected]

2)  Also, write to Community Board 2 here: [email protected]. Parks Committee Chair Rich Caccappolo said they had received a “huge response” about the topic. Let’s keep the discussion going! A month from now is too long!

3) Please visit Washington Square Park Allies and sign up to “Be An Ally” to the park!

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** This is Part II to this topic (tho’ many posts precede this one on it…look under ‘private conservancy’ or ‘privatization’ in categories).

See Part I: Private Conservancy Looms at Washington Square Park | Will City Privatize This Public Space Against Community Wishes? April 22, 2013