Conservancy proposing ‘trash structure’ for Madison Square Park

Trash from the park is currently kept in dumpsters on the east side near the southern corner, just south of the public toilet right outside the park. The Conservancy has proposed the structure to be built behind this space. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced at a Community Board 5 Parks and Public Spaces committee meeting on Monday that it will be constructing a 1,000-square foot structure to hold trash at the southeastern side of the park.

Tom Reidy, senior project manager at the Conservancy, said at the meeting that there are currently dumpsters on the east side of the park adjacent to the Department of Transportation self-operating toilet that Shake Shack uses for trash now and one of the goals of the new structures is to have a more closed-in space for garbage that staff for the Conservancy could also use for dumping refuse collected from park garbage cans. Reidy said that the trash cans around the park get emptied three times a day for five months out of the year during warmer months and two times a day for the rest of the year, so the amount of trash is substantial.

The Conservancy also uses space behind the Shake Shack to store various equipment and tools, so another goal of the new structure is to free up space behind the restaurant’s building. The Conservancy also has a 400-square foot storage space in Long Island City for seasonal equipment that could be partially stored in the new building, although Reidy said that they will likely still have to store some items in that storage space.

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Madison Square Park Conservancy installation confronts climate change

“Ghost Trees” will appear in Madison Square Park next June. (Rendering courtesy of Pace Gallery)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced on Tuesday that artist Maya Lin will design the 40th public art commission for the park, set to debut on June 8, 2020. The new “site-responsive” installation will focus on the impact of climate change on woodlands around the world. The piece, titled “Ghost Forest,” will take the form of a grove of spectral cedar trees sourced from the surrounding region, and will be presented in contrast to Madison Square Park’s existing tree line.

Lin worked with the Conservancy to source dead trees from the tristate area, including from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, which is a site that has suffered severe deprivation. The Atlantic Cedars that will be installed as part of the piece were afflicted by extreme salinization during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as a result of flooding and salt-water inundation, and were slated to be cleared to encourage the regeneration of surrounding trees.

Lin’s piece takes its name from the natural phenomenon of “ghost forests,” which are tracts of forestland that have died off as a result of climate change, due to sea-level rise and salt water infiltration. Lin frequently addresses climate change in her work and this installation will serve as a call to action for the public visitors who pass through the park on a daily basis.

The installation intends to emphasize the grim reality of this naturally-occurring phenomenon to the public in a dense urban environment and encourages viewers to consider natural practices that can help restore and protect the ecosystem.

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Peter’s Field to get turf coating for Little League during park construction

Peter’s Field on East 20th Street at Second Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Parks Department will be installing turf surfaces at three asphalt playgrounds in Community District 6 to provide alternative spaces for Little Leagues along the East River during construction for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.

The mitigation project, which representatives from Parks announced at a joint Land Use and Parks Committee meeting for Community Board 6 on Monday night, includes installing turf and painting lines for baseball, softball and soccer. The changes are planned for Peter’s Field at Second Avenue and East 20th Street, as well as St. Vartan’s at First Avenue and East 35th Street and Robert Moses playground at First Avenue and East 41st Street.

The Peter’s Field playground space is connected to Simon Baruch JHS on East 20th Street and Sarah Neilson from the Parks Department said at the CB6 meeting that the agency talked to the principal of the school, who approved of the plan. The basketball hoops will still be available on the playground, although in response to a question about replacing the nets on the hoops, Nielson said that is unlikely since the nets often get vandalized and the hoops often get damaged because kids hang from the nets and pull them down.

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Man arrested for robbery at Asser Levy Park

A second suspect, seen here in a nearby 7-Eleven following the robbery, has not yet been arrested.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police have arrested a homeless man for a robbery that took place inside Asser Levy Park during the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning.

The 47-year-old victim told police that he was walking near the park on East 23rd Street and Avenue C around 4:15 a.m. on September 30 when 24-year-old Rahkeem Williams allegedly grabbed him and pulled him behind the park.

The victim said that Williams was working with another person, who has not been arrested yet, and Williams allegedly menaced the victim with a knife before taking his wallet and his phone.

Police said that Williams and the other suspect also searched the victim further and kept him at the location against his will, then both fled the scene in an unknown direction. The victim suffered injuries to his face after Williams allegedly punched, kicked and pushed him.

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First new park for Chelsea in 40 years opens

The new park was constructed on a lot formerly occupied by a sanitation garage. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson joined State Senator Brad Hoylman along with other local elected officials, community board members, park advocates and neighborhood residents for the ribbon cutting on a new park on West 20th Street at the end of July.

The quarter-acre park between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was built after the former Sanitation facility on the lot was demolished by the Department of Design and Construction.

Local elected officials and community residents had been working to open the park for almost 10 years, since the space became available after the city was no longer using the Sanitation Garage on the lot.

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Opinion: Turning over a new leaf at Bellevue Park South

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

For almost four decades, Bellevue South Park has provided Kips Bay residents a much-needed oasis for recreation and relaxation in an area otherwise starved for green space. Unfortunately, in recent years, the park has become a hotspot for illegal activity that includes drinking and drug use. These behaviors make the park unwelcome and unsafe for the families in the neighborhood. We must address these problems as a community and make the park a safe and enjoyable place for all.

Bellevue Hospital, which operates over 300 psychiatric beds, and the 850-bed 30th Street Men’s Shelter are just steps away from the park, making it a natural hang out spot for homeless individuals as well as those with mental health issues. Often these groups overlap, creating even greater challenges with providing services. Further complicating the situation is the nearby The Children’s Center, whose clients are city’s most vulnerable children waiting to be placed with a foster family. Teens in the facility face incredible emotional stress and unfortunately have a history of being involved in violent incidents around the neighborhood.

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New installation in Madison Square Park

Leonardo Drew’s City in the Grass debuted in Madison Square Park in June and will be on view until December 15. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Artist Leonardo Drew has sculpted a sprawling carpet for the latest installation in Madison Square Park, creating a topographical view of an abstract cityscape titled City in the Grass.

“You’re Gulliver and looking down on Lilliput, so to speak,” Drew said, referring to the satire by Jonathan Swift in which Gulliver is shipwrecked on an island inhabited by six-inch-tall Lilliputians.

The piece marks the 38th commissioned exhibition for the Madison Square Park Conservancy and opened in the spring, running through December 15.

Drew said that he’s never worked outdoors but was excited about the possibilities and appreciated the Conservancy’s guidance, or lack thereof, with the piece.

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Million Millimeter March celebrates one million visitors to math museum

One of the points along the march through Flatiron (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The National Museum of Mathematics just north of Madison Square Park (a.k.a. MoMath) celebrated its millionth visitor in one of the mathiest ways possible: with a million-millimeter march. The March began in front of the museum on East 26th Street on 6/6 (June 6) at 6 p.m. in honor of the institution reaching visitor number 10 to the 6th power (also known as one million).

Translated into a more recognizable measure of distance, the March was 0.62 miles throughout the Flatiron District, starting at the museum and heading south to landmarks throughout the neighborhood, including Madison Square Park and the Flatiron building, with signs along the way indicating how many millimeters participants had traveled up to that point.

The march went down Fifth Avenue towards the Flatiron building, around the landmark and looped back up through Madison Square Park, then ended back at the museum on 26th Street.

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Ecological City Procession for Climate Solutions returns

Ecological City, a march with performances aimed at highlighting climate change, made its way through the East Village and Lower East Side on Saturday. (Photos by Rachel Elkind)

Environmental activists resembling aquatic creatures as well as land animals and other nature-inspired characters marched, danced and recited poetry as they made their way through the East Village and Lower East Side on Saturday.

The colorful costume parade was the second annual Ecological City Procession for Climate Solutions, organized by Earth Celebrations founder/director Felicia Young.

(Click through to see more photos from the procession)

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Madison Square Park dog run to get fully renovated

The Madison Square Park dog run as it appears today (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park dog run is getting a makeover, courtesy of a project from the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which presented its plans for the run at a Community Board 5 meeting on Monday.

Tom Reidy, a senior project manager for the Conservancy who presented the project at the recent meeting, said that one of the main goals of the renovations was to expand the small dog area in the park by flipping the orientation.

“Right now, the small dog area mostly gets used as a time out spot for bigger dogs,” Reidy said of the current configuration. The small dog section of the run is currently on the northern end, so the plans would have the area for small dogs in the southern end, giving them more space to run around.

Both the small and big dog areas would include small berms, or hills, with K-9 turf, a type of artificial grass designed specifically for dogs that is supposed to offer better drainage than the surface currently in the dog run.

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ESCR will mean lots of noise for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

East Side Coastal Resiliency Project rendering showing the Stuyvesant Cove area

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project has found that construction on the flood protection project will likely create disruptive noise for some residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

The document, released by the Department of Design and Construction on Friday, April 5, predicts that construction on the flood protection system will result in “significant adverse noise effects” for 315-321 Avenue C and 620 East 20th Street in Stuy Town and 601 East 20th Street, 8 Peter Cooper Road, 7 Peter Cooper Road, 530 East 23rd Street and 520 East 23rd Street in Peter Cooper.

Despite the increase in outside noise, the DEIS predicts that the decibel levels will actually be considered acceptable inside when the windows are closed because the buildings in ST/PCV have insulated glass. Other buildings within the project area farther downtown, as well as the Asser Levy recreation center, appear to have non- insulating glass windows and are expected to experience noise levels higher than the threshold recommended for residential use, according to City Environmental Quality Review noise exposure guidelines, due to pile driving and other construction work west of the FDR immediately adjacent to the rec center building.

The 961-page document examined overall potential impacts of the plan that the city has chosen to provide continuous flood protection for the East Side, in addition to considering the impact of not building any flood protection and four other alternative plans that the city considered.

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Protesters slam squirrel feeding ban

song

Wildlife feeders, including a performance artist dressed as a pigeon, sing protest songs at the gates of City Hall on Tuesday. (Photos and video by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With a full wildlife feeding ban expected to start this summer in city parks, animal rights activists rallied against the Parks Department’s proposed ban on Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.

Bronx resident Lucia Maria led the rally with her group, Bronx Animal Rights Electors, and said that the mayor had responded to a caller during Brian Lehrer’s “Ask the Mayor” segment on March 22, saying he would more closely examine the opposition to the ban. However, he has since approved of the ban, agreeing with the Parks Department’s argument that feeding birds and squirrels is also feeding the city’s rat population.

“The mayor made it sound as if city parks were over-run by hordes of wildlife feeders who littered parks with all kinds of debris from balls to balloons to bottles to old shoes,” Maria said. “It’s true, parks are littered with these items, but they are not from bird or squirrel feeders. The truth is that less than one percent of park-goers feed birds or squirrels. Of this percentage, most of the people who do feed them are senior citizens, the disabled and families. These are the people the Parks Department and the mayor now want to label as criminals.”

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Park’s late champion to be honored for service

Rosalee Isaly, who died last July from cancer, helped revitalize Stuyvesant Square Park after a period of decline.

By Sabina Mollot

Last July, Stuyvesant Square Park lost its top overseer for half a century with the death of Rosalee Islay, the longtime president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, from pancreatic cancer at age 81. This year, the organization for which she volunteered will honor her posthumously at its annual benefit gala. The theme will be “Sowing the Seeds for the next 50 Years.”

“We’re honoring Rosalee for all she achieved over the decades,” said Phyllis Mangels, a board member of the SPNA. Additionally, going forward each year’s event will be named for Isaly though the name hasn’t yet been established. Miriam Dasic, the organization’s vice president, joked to Town & Village that with a name like Rosalee, the potential for flower puns are endless, though she promised “nothing too corny” after this reporter suggested “Everything’s coming up Rosalee.”

Meanwhile, the flowers that bloom consistently in the park today are there in large part due to Isaly’s efforts, which involved starting — and later expanding — volunteer gardening events. They’re now held around the year at least twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Work ranges from cleanup to planting to making sure bushes are kept at safe heights for visibility purposes.

The gardening program was part of a larger effort spearheaded by Isaly to revitalize the park after a long period of decline. This also included implementing free summer programming like tango classes and jazz concerts and pushing for years to see a multi-million project to restore the park’s historic wrought-iron fence restored.

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Wildlife feeding bans coming soon to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and city parks

By this summer, there’ll be no such thing as a free lunch for squirrels and birds at city parks, even sooner in Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village, at least not from a human benefactor. (Pictured) A squirrel noshes on a park goer’s leftovers at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

Animal lovers who enjoy feeding the squirrels and birds in this city should do so quickly, because soon it won’t be allowed in the places where the aforementioned animals congregate.

As of April 1, it will be against the rules to feed the wildlife in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Additionally, the city’s mulling of a plan for a full wildlife feeding ban in parks has gained steam, with a spokesperson telling Town & Village it’s expected to go into place this summer.

As for the Stuy Town policy, this new rule comes after management conducted a resident survey on the subject (as well as dog-related policies for pet owners) last summer. Then, last Thursday, StuyTown Property Services made sure to remind tenants of the soon to come ban in its weekly e-blast, and the reason for it.

This was “due to several incidents involving resident children being bitten by squirrels.”

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New renovation plan for Bellevue South Park gets support from Community Board 6

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Parks committee for Community Board 6 voted to support a new plan to renovate Bellevue South Park in a meeting last Tuesday.

Representatives for the Parks Department returned to the community board multiple times with revisions to the plans for the park, which the Borough Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Steve Simon said in a previous meeting was an unprecedented move since the agency usually only presents to community boards once for such projects before moving forward.

Residents and park advocates had requested that the Parks Department return for revisions to the plan due to what they perceived as safety issues that the original design did not adequately address.

While many attendees mostly approved of the plan presented by the agency, some dog owners at the meeting still had objections to the department’s unwillingness to use the temporary dog run space as part of the permanent dog run.

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