A letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris —
February 11, 2014
Dear Deputy Mayor Shorris:
I understand that Prospect Park Alliance’s Emily Lloyd is being considered for the post of Parks Commissioner in the De Blasio administration.
I am not in favor of Ms. Lloyd’s appointment as our next Parks Commissioner. I feel strongly that Ms. Lloyd’s appointment would signal continued support of former Mayor Bloomberg’s privatization of our public spaces – and we’d never be able to get away from this overused, unwelcome model! While Ms. Lloyd may have positives about her, in her time heading up the Prospect Park Alliance, she closed the boathouse to the public on weekends to rent it out for weddings and functions; she repeatedly allowed large corporations and promoters to use the Nethermead which limited access to park goers and left long lasting damage to the grounds. The Great Googa Mooga is just one example; when people protested this usage of the park, there was an incredible lack of responsiveness from her private organization. That is not what we want to see at our city’s Parks Department.
We need to shift it away from the privatized and non-responsive model former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe pushed and Veronica White and Liam Kavanagh have continued. The De Blasio administration can be at the forefront of this shift.
I have been uncovering via my blog what went on at Washington Square Park with a private conservancy created behind closed doors over two years and pushed through based on deceptions and lies in which Bloomberg Administration’s Parks Department officials played a key role. I reached out to Bill de Blasio as Public Advocate and he had his office look into this (unfortunately, the Parks Department’s response to his letter took so long that, at that point, he was transitioning to be Mayor!). I FOILed and obtained copious amounts of information about how the Parks Department colluded to keep things from the community which had long resisted the conservancy model at Wash Sq Park. This private group came before the public saying “we’re not really a conservancy” while 501(c)(3) documents and internal emails outlined that not only were they attempting to be one, but, in fact, planned to become a full blown one. Park advocates are tired of this model. Currently, the community around Wash Sq Park is trying to push this back. I would welcome the De Blasio administration discussing with me what could be done about this situation.
Privatization of our public spaces again and again leads to: less transparency, less accountability, decreased public access, change in usage, increased commercialization and corporatization, and allows affluent, real estate and corporate interests to take hold. (Bryant Park, anyone?)
New York City needs a Parks Commissioner who will create a new model to fund our parks and not be stuck in Mayor Bloomberg’s old model; we have an opportunity to lead the way for other cities on what public space means, how important it is, and why it should be funded by our government and not handed over to private entities and interests in the way that it has been over the last twenty years or more.
Who your administration chooses is so very important — I hope you will look to other candidates than Emily Lloyd.
I write the Washington Square Park Blog (an independent, hyper-local site) and have written about privatization of public space (“Privatization of the Commons in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York”) at the Huffington Post. Bill de Blasio was my City Councilperson for a long time and we worked together on environmental issues in Brooklyn and continued contact during his time as Public Advocate.
Thank you so much.
writer/blogger, publicist, advocate
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog: