Community Board 2 Votes To Approve Washington Sq Park Conservancy — A Note to The Board and C.B. 2 Chair Response

by cathryn on June 21, 2013

A much more comprehensive piece to follow on last night’s Community Board 2 meeting on the Washington Sq Park Conservancy vote. The overview: The Community Board, after public comment on this issue and others, then proceeded with comment and debate amongst the board members over a resolution from the Parks Committee to approve and endorse the Washington Square Park Conservancy (“with stipulations”). After some discussion, the full board was then presented with a substitute resolution that spoke to waiting and reviewing additional information on the Conservancy (such as bylaws) and readdressing the matter at the September board meeting. This was voted down and then the Community Board voted on the original resolution to support, presented by the Parks Committee, and in favor of endorsing the Conservancy.

This morning I sent a note to Community Board 2 Chair David Gruber and C.B. 2 Parks Committee Chair Rich Caccappolo and I received a response from the Chair! I have posted the back and forth below.

Dear Community Board 2 Chair David Gruber and Community Board 2 Parks Committee Chair Rich Caccappolo:

 Whatever all the arguments are ‘pro’ and ‘con’ of the Washington Sq Park Conservancy, for Community Board 2′s Parks Committee to vote on this body without seeing the bylaws, for one, and ignoring public comment and concerns, and then for Community Board 2 as a whole to: ignore the letters by two elected officials, public comment, numerous questions and concerns, and then turning it around to — “we can’t turn away civic-minded people, they will just do it with out us” (the horror of that vs. having a proper, reflective, inclusive process), well, I’m really shocked. I feel that you fell down on the job and role as representing the community, and as stewards for the park.

Sincerely,
Cathryn Swan

Response from Community Board 2 Chair David Gruber:

HI Cathryn

You are certainly entitled to your own opinion, just not your own facts. More people spoke for the conservancy than against so the Board can hardly be accused of ignoring public comments. The letters of the elected officials were read, heard and considered by the board. The debate and ensuing votes were done in the most democratic even handed way possible and everybody on the Board had a full, exhaustive and uninterrupted chance to talk pro/con or otherwise.

The fact that you didn’t agree with the final vote should be not cause for you to tell me or anybody else on the board we fell down on the job or that the issue was not dealt with in a “ reflective or inclusive” way >> what are you talking about >

It’s an extremely one sided view of what happened last night and I am sorry that you choose to attack people personally or the Board in general because you didn’t like the outcome. I wonder if you will put my full response in your next blog entry so that you could act in the proper and inclusive manner you accuse CB2 of not doing.

Best regards

David Gruber

I felt this required a response, as follows:

Hi David,

People came and spoke before the Parks Committee on June 5th and also wrote letters. While I realize it was important to come speak before the full board, I don’t know that people felt that they had to come again or perhaps more would have. However, I believe if substantive issues are presented then those need to be addressed first. Substantive to me would be — the fact that this group did not offer nor did the Community Board insist on seeing their bylaws, and a few others, including the fact that at Madison Square Park, it also started as an innocent “friends” group, two years later that group had full control of that park with commercialization and private influence being large issues. It’s unclear why the park administrator has a “dual role” as “executive director” of the Conservancy if they do not intend to go in that direction. No one knows what the bylaws say about “succession” of future members in the Conservancy. Getting those questions answered first before voting would be what I feel is serving the interests of the community and the park.

I am happy to post your response on my blog and thank you for your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Cathryn Swan

 

More coverage to follow!

Visit here for all WSP Blog coverage on private conservancy at Washington Square to date.

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica M June 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Good for you for speaking out Cathryn!

I am not surprised at the outcome. The wealthy with their insatiable need to further increase their incomes are really taking over society by many means including via one park and one politician at a time. Perhaps there will come a time when the middle classes will revolt, but we are not there yet.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are 2 parks in my Upper East Side neighborhood that have been completely or almost completely taken over by the wealthy. The first is the Queensboro Oval which is rented out 10 months of the year to a private organization — Sutton East Tennis — and the other is the waterfront park behind the co-op located at One Sutton Place (City fought to get back property after co-ops lease ran out in 1990 and now the City is allowing the co-op to design the park to exclude the public and of course, they are taking years and years to design it.) Meanwhile politicians cry that there is so little parkland in the UES and are looking for scraps of land on which to place mini parks for the proletariat.

This is the beginning of a class war as the insatiable wealthy continue to consume everything in their paths.

Reply

GVreader June 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Dear Mr. Chair of the CB,

A few observations about the points you offer in your letter to this blogger, if I may.

1. Voting the same sentiment as a majority of the public in your meeting does not itself imply that you took into consideration all public comment. Discussing letters sent to you by other public officials does not completely show it either. If solid, important arguments are made to you, even by one person, and you show no indication that you are registering and weighing those arguments, it certainly *can* be said that you appear to be ignoring public comment. You are mixing up being sensitive to sentiment, with being accountable to ideas put to you. You have to show, by actual words spoken during the process, or explanations published on the side, that you have registered and reflected on the points, otherwise there is no indication to anyone that you did so.

2. Wrt/ quality of the decision and grounds for requesting a tabling: Some ideas, once put to you, may have intellectual and even legal merit even if no one speaks up to reinforce them; your internal process should be sufficient motive for duly addressing such ideas regardless of whether it is majority sentiment of community members attending a meeting on a particular day.

For example, point: until the mission statement and operating methods (by-laws) of this group seeking special endorsement as “Conservancy” are reviewed, it is premature to vote, because you don’t know what you are endorsing. Indeed, you can’t competently write stipulations if you don’t know what the document being amended even says.

I gather that this argument was put to you from a variety of people. What is there about it that in your eyes is refutable?

3. To your question “what does it even mean” when the suggestion is put to you that your process was not conducted in a reflective or inclusive way:

a) CB2 apparently did not seek any sort of input about alternatives (it can’t get more nonreflective than that, when making an important decision whose consequence will likely stretch over decades).

b) CB2 becoming party to what was, since last fall until the very last minute, a secret process deliberately designed to prevent the slow-to-respond public to get its position together in front of the Board by the tactic of keeping the public in the dark with the complicity of public officials.

And re inclusiveness, when you met with this group and came to know their intentions (when was that by the way?), did you ask yourself whether your public consituency would want to know this asap?  Surely, given the strong sentiments around the idea of anything called a Conservancy which have existed for decades, there would be good reason to do so.

Thank you.

Reply

cathryn June 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Hi Monica,

Thanks for the support. Sorry, delayed response.

I’m shocked (should I not be?) at what is going on at your neighborhood parks. I agree that this a class war. Anyone but the uber-wealthy is at a loss with our Billionaire Mayor at the helm.

In this instance, if only the Community Board would have taken their community’s concerns seriously. It almost felt like a backlash against the previous incarnations of the Village. Truly, too few radicals on this board. Maybe they all lean a certain way now in the city but at least there ought to be proper process and review.

Taking a stand on NYU 2031 and the University’s expansion plan is an easy one. The C.B. was not being bold there except at least they did take a stand. Yet they are not concerned abut NYU’s future influence over the park. That was pretty much dismissed as a non-issue.

GV Reader,

Very good questions — you expanded upon my note with a framework that is very thoughtful and spot on. Those are exactly the points of the matter that somehow the CB missed.

Thanks for writing!

Cathryn.

Reply

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