New entrance at Madison Square Park will highlight monument

A landscape renovation will make the Eternal Light monument, pictured during a Memorial Day ceremony, a focal point of the park. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has announced it will be creating a new park entrance at 24th Street for the Eternal Light Flagstaff.

The conservancy shared the plan at a flag-raising ceremony that was held just ahead of Memorial Day last Thursday.

The conservancy will be working with the United War Veterans Council and the Parks Department to renovate the landscape in the park and give the monument, which is located inside the park facing Broadway at 24th Street, street-facing prominence.

“We have to honor our veterans,” City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, who was at the event. “This is the single most important monument for veterans in New York City and it should be a focal point in the park.”

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Historic park fence finally repaired

A section of fence gets lifted into the park late last month. (Photo by Mark Thompson)

By Sabina Mollot

After years of delays due to budget and contractor related issues, work finally began to complete the restoration of the historic cast iron fence that surrounds Stuyvesant Square Park’s east section.

Starting late last month, large sections of the landmarked fence were hoisted in via crane as were the fence posts, which were placed temporarily on the lawn.

At some point in the coming months there will be a ribbon cutting, but in the meantime, the construction itself is something to celebrate for community activists who’ve been pushing for this project’s completion for 20 years.

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Kips Bay dog run delayed due to city budget errors

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A dog run for Bellevue Park South has been stymied by bureaucratic funding woes and miscommunications between the City Council and the Parks Department, Town & Village learned last week.

The Kips Bay Neighborhood Association had been working with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez on the project and last year, Mendez allocated $1.2 million for the new dog run. However, Mendez said she was later told by the Parks Department that the project would ultimately cost closer to $6 million.

She said officials at the city agency told her last May that the project wouldn’t be able to move forward unless it was fully funded and in the meantime, she learned that McKinley Playground on Avenue A and East 3rd Street needed about the same amount that had been allocated to the Bellevue South project, so before the city’s budget was approved in June, she decided to move the money to the McKinley project instead.

“I figured that I could either put the $1.2 million into the Bellevue South Park and have no projects move forward, or I could have another project get completed,” Mendez said. “I decided to move forward with the other project and that’s the decision I would make again today.”

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Santacon’s organizers deny it’s a pub crawl

Revelers at an East Village bar during a previous year’s Santacon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

Revelers at an East Village bar during a previous year’s Santacon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

By Sabina Mollot

Santacon, the annual event in which revelers stumble from one watering hole to the next while dressed as Santa, is apparently not a pub crawl at all.

So say the organizers in an open letter to local elected officials who on Monday, in their own letter, had asked the organizers to rein in the massive event, and publicly disclose its route ahead of time.

Santacon’s letter was signed by the group’s attorney Norman Siegel and nameless “NYC Santacon organizers,” who wrote, “Santacon is not a bar-crawl as you call it. Thousands of your constituents participate in and enjoy Santacon.”

The organizers have steadfastly remained anonymous. This letter, sent to the media via email, came from “Kristopher Kringle” and an interview with a head organizer in Gothamist would only reveal that he was a 40-year-old resident of the East Village.

The letter also claimed that the organizers had disclosed the route for this year’s event, which takes place on Saturday, to the NYPD.

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Flatiron plazas to be redeveloped

The city is seeking community input on the redesign at an upcoming workshop. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The city is seeking community input on the redesign at an upcoming workshop. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Flatiron pedestrian plazas and Worth Square (just north of the plazas) will be redeveloped, The Flatiron Partnership and New York City Department of Transportation have announced, and the city will be seeking input from the community at a public workshop on November 10.

Flatiron Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Brown said that development of the plazas has been theoretical for a while, but earlier this year there was enough funding through the city to officially start the design process and consider options for more permanent fixtures for the spaces.

Brown said that the plazas, which stretch along Broadway from East 21st to 23rd Street and north of 23rd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue adjacent to Madison Square Park, have been the way they are since 2008 using temporary materials like the epoxy gravel surface that is starting to wear out and the temporary granite blocks that protect the spaces from street traffic. The workshop, which will be held in the Porcelanosa building at 202 Fifth Avenue from 6 to 8:30 p.m., is geared towards getting input from the public about different design elements.

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Police Watch: Arrests for robberies, ‘Drunk’ driver busted near Stuy Town

TWO NABBED FOR ROBBERY NEAR UNION SQUARE
Police arrested two people for a robbery in front of 3 East 17th Street last Wednesday at 3:41 a.m. Amara Camara, 22, and Ibrahim Johnson, 21, were charged with robbery and possession of stolen property. Police said that Camara and Johnson hit the victim in the face and grabbed his bag, which contained credit cards, cash and other personal effects. The pair then allegedly threatened a second victim and stole his Nikon camera. Police said that the two men were seen in front of the location and were positively identified by a witness. They were allegedly found in possession of all the stolen property, including the bag with the wallet and the camera.

VICTIM CHOKED IN ROBBERY ON SECOND AVENUE
Fifty-year-old Charles McKinley was arrested for robbery in front of the Central Deli at 515 Second Avenue last Thursday at 10:02 p.m. Police said that McKinley choked the victim and then stole his cash. Police then searched the area for McKinley and found him as well as the victim’s cash. McKinley was also charged with obstruction of breath and possession of stolen property.

APPLE ‘SCAM ARTIST’ BUSTED
Police arrested 61-year-old Lamont Knight for fraudulent accosting at the corner of Broadway and East 22nd Street last Saturday at 12:48 p.m. Knight allegedly approached an undercover officer and offered him a MacBook Air and an iPad Air for $400 for both of them. After the officer identified himself, Knight allegedly told him that the boxes contained cut up newspaper and not the MacBook or iPad.

FIGHT OVER MASSAGE ON LEX
Police arrested a man and a woman for fighting outside Top Nail Salon at 133 Lexington Avenue last Monday at 3:23 a.m. Thirty-nine-year-old Daniel Chinault, who was also charged with criminal mischief, got into an argument with 29-year-old Isabella Ricci over massage services and allegedly damaged the nail salon’s door by punching it. Police said that Chinault and Ricci started fighting and Chinault allegedly wrestled Ricci to the ground, causing a cut on her head and causing his nose to bleed.

‘DRUNK’ DRIVER BUSTED OUTSIDE STUY TOWN
Police arrested 32-year-old David Acquaye for intoxicated driving last Thursday at 3:31 a.m. in front of 545 East 14th Street. Police said that during a vehicle safety checkpoint, Acquaye had a 200 ml bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue on him and had slurred speech. He was allegedly unable to walk steady when he got out of his car and had watery eyes, as well as a “moderate smell” of alcohol. Police said that he blew a .141 on a Breathalyzer at the scene.

MAN BUSTED FOR PHONE ‘THEFT’
Police arrested 34-year-old Shawn Mayes inside the 13th Precinct last Tuesday at 12:25 p.m. for possession of stolen property. Police said that Mayes was in possession of a stolen phone that was taken in a burglary that occurred inside Reiko Wireless Accessories at 18 West 27th Street on April 21.

PARKS DEPARTMENT ELECTRICIAN ARRESTED FOR ‘FLEEING’ ACCIDENT
Police arrested 48-year-old Roman Klyshko at the 13th precinct last Friday at 8 a.m. for leaving the scene of an accident. Police said that Klyshko, an electrician, ran over a co-worker’s foot with a Parks vehicle and after realizing that he did so, did not wait around to file a report but left the scene.

MAN ARRESTED FOR ‘STOLEN’ WALLET
Kadeem Turner, 35, was arrested for grand larceny and theft in front of 111 West 28th Street last Tuesday at 3:50 p.m. Turner was walking down West 28th Street from Eighth to Seventh Avenue. He appeared to be looking around and looking back towards Eighth Avenue. Police said that he was holding a black t-shirt in his hand, which had a black wallet inside it. He looked inside the wallet and then wrapped it back up in the t-shirt. Police said that he is not the owner of the wallet and did not have permission to have it.

6 TRAIN ‘ROBBER’ NABBED
Police arrested Percey Freeman, 38, for robbery at the Park Avenue South/23rd Street station last Friday at 4:16 a.m. The victim told police that Freeman approached her while she was on an uptown 6 train. He allegedly attempted to grab her purse, pulling it away from her, and police said that he also put his hand against her throat to choke her while still pulling at her bag. Freeman was also charged with obstruction of breath and possession of a controlled substance.

CREDIT CARDS STOLEN FROM GYM LOCKER
Police arrested 21-year-old Shawnice Bettis inside the 13th precinct last Wednesday at 2 p.m. for grand larceny and possession of stolen property. Bettis was allegedly in possession of credit cards that she didn’t have permission to have. Police said that the cards had been removed from a gym locker.

MAN BUSTED FOR OFFICE ‘ASSAULT’
Police arrested 37-year-old Tony Wright inside the 13th Precinct last Monday at 11:30 a.m. for assault and menacing. Police said that Wright chased the victim around their office with a chair, attempting to hit him, and also allegedly picked up a vase and threw it at him. The incident occurred on May 11 at 7 p.m.

ASSAULT ON EAST 25TH STREET
Police arrested 69-year-old Dennis Griggs for assault in front of 208 East 25th Street last Thursday at 11:49 p.m. Griggs allegedly grabbed the victim by the hair and began punching him/her in the chest and right arm (the gender of the victim was not made clear in the report), causing pain and swelling to the victim’s head, chest and arm.

MAN ARRESTED FOR ‘THEFT’ INSIDE CAR
Police arrested 55-year-old Robert William for criminal mischief, petit larceny and unauthorized use of a vehicle in front of 5 East 26th Street last Thursday at 5:45 a.m. The victim told police that he saw William in his car and when he got closer to the vehicle, saw that the front driver’s side window was smashed in. When William noticed the car’s owner, he allegedly ran off and was stopped in the uptown 6 station at Park Avenue South/East 23rd Street. When the victim went back to the car, he realized that $20 to $30 was missing.

GROCERY ‘SHOPLIFTER’ ARRESTED
Police arrested 69-year-old Frank Ho for petit larceny inside the Gristedes at 355 First Avenue last Sunday at 6:43 p.m. Police said that he took one salmon steak, a pint of Haagen Daaz and two candy bars, which he hid in a shoulder bag and allegedly attempted to leave without paying.

Ribbon cut at newly expanded Asser Levy Playground

Feb5 Asser Levy Garodnick equipment

Council Member Dan Garodnick tries out the adult fitness equipment. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Friday morning, in near-freezing weather following the second snowfall in a week, local community leaders and politicians cut the ribbon on the newly expanded Asser Levy Playground.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver joked that “It’s a pleasure to cut a ribbon on this warm and sunny day,” as the politicians on either side of him sat bundled up for the cold. He then went on to say the project had been successful in terms of being both “on time and on budget and that gets a double round of applause.”

New features along the two-block-long park that was formerly a street include a track, adult fitness equipment, a synthetic turf field, drinking fountains, lighting, trees, tables and benches.

The work was funded with allocations of $1,175,000 from Council Member Dan Garodnick, $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation, and $670,000 from the mayor.

While at the podium, Silver joked that Garodnick was so enamored with project, “he named his son Asher.”

In response Garodnick confided that he’d actually told his son that the playground had been named after him.

“There are no limits to my deception,” he quipped. “I told him it was a typo on the sign.” He added that since he also has another son, “We’ll have to see what we can do for Devin.”

While construction had been underway at the site, the Council member said he and both of his young sons would pop by each day from their apartment in Peter Cooper Village and ask the project supervisor for status updates. And, he added, the supervisor was very nice about it.

The playground work was tied to a land deal that would allow the United Nations to put a building on space occupied by Robert Moses Park.While naturally the plan to remove that park space has been met with some opposition from neighbors, Garodnick said Robert Moses Park is underutilized, as the space now occupied by Asser Levy Playground was when it was a street.

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Coyote visits Stuy Town as urban sightings are on the rise

Jan29 coyoteBy Sabina Mollot

While Stuyvesant Town has become known for its wildlife, in particular its famous black squirrels, on Sunday morning, the complex was visited for the first time by a coyote.

The coyote, a young female, which has been named Stella by Parks officials and has since been captured and released into a wooded area in the Bronx, had likely traveled south into Manhattan.

She was captured on the property on the Avenue C side by police officers, who then brought her to Animal Care and Control, where she was given a clean bill of health.

Meanwhile, a Parks official T&V interviewed about the incident said that coyote sightings in the city are becoming more common, and she expects that this trend will only continue. Just a couple of weeks ago, another coyote was found in Riverside Park, and in 2011, another coyote had wandered into Tribeca.

Sarah Aucoin, director of NYC Parks’ Urban Park Rangers, said the coyote’s visit last weekend was “not entirely unexpected.

“We know that many coyotes have been expanding their range,” she said. “Not in Stuyvesant Town obviously but New York City provides a good habitat.”

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CB5 hopes to curtail promotional events on plazas

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Since the city’s pedestrian plazas made their debut in 2009, along with being a peaceful destination for those seeking a place to sit outside – albeit inches from traffic — they’ve also become big business for companies looking to hawk products to passersby.

That ongoing commercialization of the public spaces is the source of some contention for representatives of Community Board 5, who, after hearing about a concert planned for the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza that’s expected to draw a crowd of 10,000, made their displeasure known to the mayor.

The event is planned for February 12 at the north plaza and will require setup for three days prior to it taking place.

This was the topic of discussion held at a CB5 Parks Committee meeting last Monday, according to Jack Taylor, a member of the committee who attended and said he was against it, and that the rest of his fellow members spoke against it as well.

“It stunned everybody,” said Taylor. “They are planning for an audience of 10,000 people largely in but overflowing from the pedestrian plaza on the west side of Madison Square Park. It’s very alarming and massive and if it’s as described or proposed, it’s going to be very hard for pedestrians and drivers and just about anyone in the district.”

Exactly a week after the meeting, CB5’s chair, Vikki Barbero, along with Clayton Smith, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee, penned a letter to the mayor to ask why community boards don’t get any say in the arranging of such commercial events. Meanwhile the city’s Street Activity and Permit Office apparently has sole discretion.

“The Department of Transportation created the pedestrian plaza network and is the city agency responsible for their oversight,” wrote Barbero and Smith. “The area BIDs were chosen to activate, administer and protect these plazas. Why, then, has the Street Activity Permit Office been given the sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for these public spaces?”

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Repair of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic fence to start soon, city says

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

By Sabina Mollot

It was almost two and half years ago, in June of 2012 when the last $600,000 needed for the restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic, cast iron fence and the surrounding sidewalk was finally allocated after years of fundraising. The project, which had been pushed by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, eventually had a total price tag of $5.5 million, funded by local elected officials.

But today, work on the fence on the park’s east section, which needs some of its rotted pieces recreated, still hasn’t begun. A separate project to fix the park’s west section fence had been completed earlier. Work to accompany the fence project, such as fixing the damaged bluestone sidewalk, has also still not been done. Yet another long awaited and related project, to install a curb cut or ramp at the park’s eastern gate to allow access to wheelchair users, has also still not happened.

But fortunately for those whose who’ve been following the progress, or rather lack of it, change does finally appear to be on the horizon.

Community Board 6’s Parks Committee has been assured by the Parks Department that work will begin soon. Or rather, that it already has. Mark Thompson, who heads Community Board 6’s Parks Committee, said he’s been told the official start date of the project was October 20. However, he was also warned that this wouldn’t mean shovels would hit the ground on that date although work would begin internally on the project.

As for when the actual repairs will start, there still doesn’t seem to be a set date for that, and one local tree-planting and park activist, Michael Alcamo, has said he’ll believe it when he sees it.

Alcamo, a Stuyvesant Town resident, had spearheaded a letter writing campaign in 2012 that was instrumental in securing the last of the funds for the project from then-Borough President Scott Stringer. Though he conceded some of the blame for the delay on getting started was finding artisans capable of repairing the landmarked fence, which apparently there aren’t too many of, he said he is now concerned the project is no longer even considered a priority by the city. Alcamo referred to the mayor’s recently announced initiative to focus on the needs of parks in outer boroughs, particularly in poorer areas.

“Has the money been allocated to outer boroughs? That would be useful for the community to know,” said Alcamo.

He added that the fence isn’t even his main concern, but the cracked sidewalk is since that could pose a danger to pedestrians, as is the lack of of a wheelchair ramp.

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

“In 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act required that public facilities, including parks, must be accessible to persons with disabilities,” said Alcamo. “The eastern side of Stuyvesant Square Park, which faces Stuyvesant Town, has not been in compliance for 24 years. We have been asking for four years for a curb cut in order to make the park accessible to persons of limited mobility.”

Alcamo, who recently founded an organization called Friends of Stuyvesant Square Park, had hoped to speed up the curb cut installation by asking Community Board 6 to pass a resolution calling for the work to be done, but, he said, the board’s Parks Committee declined. As for why the committee didn’t want to take that step, Thompson told Town & Village he didn’t think a resolution would be necessary since the community board has already had assurances from the Parks Department that the project will begin soon, including the installation of a ramp.

Thompson added that he did understand Alcamo’s concerns since early on the fundraising process, $500,000 of the project’s funds were reallocated to another Parks Department need.

“It shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” said Thompson. Because of this, CB6 has been “politely” nudging the city about the park from time to time. “We’re all concerned,” he said. But he added, “the money is allocated. It is happening.”

A rep for Parks echoed Thompson in saying the city is not redirecting the project’s cash elsewhere.

“No funds have been reallocated from Manhattan to the other boroughs and all the funds allocated for this project are intact,” Philip Abramson, a Parks Department spokesperson told T&V.

The contractor on the project is UA Construction, who was selected after the initially chosen vendor (chosen for being the lowest bidder) ended up not working out. UA Construction was the second lowest bidder. The lowest bidder, Abramson said, “was not successful in going through the pre-qualification process.”

He didn’t respond to a question about why the first company didn’t qualify though he did say that at this time UA Construction is working with the Department of Transportation on getting a permit for a street closure so work can begin.

Rosalee Isaly, the president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, said she’s had a recent discussion with Parks reps to make sure the dog walkers who come to use the park’s dog run will be able to access it while work is ongoing.

“They’ll be aware of them,” she said of the dog walkers. She added that come springtime, the park’s west side will also get some attention with the installation of an irrigation system. “All that planting that gets done needs water and the watering this past summer was torturous,” she said. “They had to drag in hoses.”

The labor-intensive act of planting should pay off in the spring though. Dozens of volunteers, mainly high school and college students, have been participating in monthly gardening days at the park to plant, paint benches and rake leaves. On a volunteer day in October, around 11,500 bulbs for tulips, daffodils and bluebells were planted.

“It’s really warming,” said Isaly. “I think it’s going to be spectacular spring in the park.”

A DOT spokesperson did not respond to a request from T&V asking about the status of the permit and where the street closures would be exactly.

Edward Snowden statue booted from park

A statue of NSA leaker Edward Snowden gets wheeled into Union Square Park. Not long afterwards, the sculptor, Jim Dessicino, was told he had to remove it. (Photo by Brian Wagner)

A statue of NSA leaker Edward Snowden gets wheeled into Union Square Park. Not long afterwards, the sculptor, Jim Dessicino, was told he had to remove it. (Photo by Brian Wagner)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday afternoon, NSA leaker Edward Snowden made an appearance at Union Square Park. Although greeted with enthusiasm by some, he was nonetheless thrown out of the public space that has been home to countless political protests, by a government official.

Of course, it wasn’t the real Snowden, but a larger-than-life-size statue, which had been on display as part of the annual Art in Odd Places festival on 14th Street.

And as for the reason for its removal, it wasn’t anything political, according to the Parks Department, but the statue’s creator, Jim Dessicino, had apparently needed a permit to have the statue in the park, and he didn’t have one. The statue was scheduled to have been on display at the park from 9 to 5 p.m. but at around 1:45 p.m. the Parks Enforcement Patrol officer told Dessicino that Snowden had to go.

“It’s a funny way our parks are run; even our public spaces aren’t really public,” Dessicino later said. However, he also noted, in an interview with Town & Village, that the officer who told him to leave was very polite, allowing him ample time to cart the statue away to his nearby car. “He said, ‘Listen man, I love your sculpture, but you just can’t have it here. My boss will have my head,’” Dessicino said he was told.

A Parks Department spokesperson, Philip Abramson, later told T&V what Dessicino had been told, which is that the reason for the removal was the lack of a “special event permit.” “No permit was issued though so we asked for it to be removed,” Abramson said.

Edward Snowden statue at Union Square Park (Photo by Brian Wagner)

Edward Snowden statue at Union Square Park (Photo by Brian Wagner)

But prior to the statue leaving the park, it got plenty of attention from the press and passersby, especially international tourists. Those stopping to look and ask questions included a Swedish woman, a group from France, a group from Israel and a man from Tunisia. They also seemed to like the spot Dessicino picked to display the statue, he said, which was a few yards away from the Lincoln monument outside the playground.

The attention it was getting is why Dessicino believes he was singled out while other festival participants in the park got to stay.

At the time he was shutting down his installation, this reporter was in fact speaking to two other artists in the park, both of whom weren’t being confronted by police or Parks Enforcement.

However, one of the artists, Ienke Kastelein, had previously gotten kicked out of another space, the sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. Kastelein’s installation was a bunch of traveling chairs that she was inviting people to sit on and, if they chose to, engage her in conversation.

“A lot of people were getting booted from their spots,” Dessicino said.

And apparently, that is nothing new. Ed Woodham, a teaching artist who’s the founder of Art in Odd Places, told Town & Village that the festival doesn’t apply for permits so artists getting shooed away from the park has happened many times before and artists are also often made to leave the sidewalks in front of various properties. Normally, the festival works around this by letting artists know which areas are typically problematic.

“This year it slipped through the cracks,” Woodham admitted.

Earlier, he’d spoken with Kastelein, who’s from the Netherlands, and who became concerned after being told by Stuyvesant Town’s Public Safety officers that she’d need to take her project elsewhere. At the time, some of the residents were sitting in the chairs.

“She was on the sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town and they told her to leave,” said Woodham. “They’re pretty protective.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ienke Kastelein in front of her installation, “Walking with Chairs” at Union Square Park, was previously told to move on from a sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Ienke Kastelein, in front of her installation, “Walking with Chairs” at Union Square Park, was previously told to move on from a sidewalk in front of Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

But, while Union Square Park has also been typically a place where artists are shooed away, Woodham said one artist had fought successfully for the right to display his piece, “Tourist in Chief” there. This was in 2011, and AiOP participant Leon Reid IV had initially been turned down by the Parks Department in his request to put a Yankees cap, camera and shopping bags on the Washington monument. So, “he got a lawyer and forced the issue,” Woodham said.

This year, he noted how one of the artists behind a project called “Complimentary,” Leah Harper, was also initially given the “private property” argument by a building’s management employees. The installation was a candy dispenser that gave out compliments on paper instead of candy. The employees had argued that the machine was attached to a beam that was part of the building. However, after speaking with a curator, they eventually changed their minds and let “Complimentary” stay.

“They said, ‘We’ve been looking to have art around here, anyway’,” said Woodham, who added that the owner even expressed interest in getting more art in the future.

Things also ended up working out for another artist, Kevin Townsend, who was told he couldn’t draw in chalk on the sidewalk. He ended up drawing in chalk on the windows of the 14th Street Y, after the Y gave him permission to do so, and the drawings remained on view throughout the weekend. Woodham added that the frequent resistance to the installations can sometimes work in artists’ favor. He called Snowden’s ouster from the park “wonderful” for the festival and the artist due to an article it got in the Daily News and other publications, including this one.

Additionally, by the next day, Snowden was back in action, appearing on 14th Street at 9th Avenue. After the festival ended, the statue left the city, with its next destination the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. As for why Dessicino chose the National Security Agency whistleblower as his subject, the artist told T&V he had a few reasons.

“This person was important and I think will continue to be important,” said Dessicino. “Monuments are normally commissioned by governments, but (his) self-sacrificial action is not going to be recognized, and that’s why I stepped in.”

He added that he and Snowden are just a year apart in age. “I thought that he’s become representative of what millennials could do,” said Dessicino. “We often get termed as being self-serving and self-involved.”

As for Kastelein’s installation, during an interview, she said she’d gotten the idea for the traveling sit-down experiment from a residency she’d done at a psychiatric hospital. Patients there, she said, tended to be “disconnected” from their environment.

“In Dutch when you ask someone, ‘Where are you?’ you’re saying, ‘Where do you sit?’ They would say, ‘I’d rather be elsewhere,’ ‘so it’s ‘I’d rather sit elsewhere.’”

“Walking with Chairs,” she added, had been responded to positively by the public. Certain areas, like Union Square and Stuyvesant Town, were the most successful spots along 14th Street, in terms of getting people to actually sit down. “This is one place where people don’t hesitate to sit down,” she said of Union Square.

Meanwhile, in Stuyvesant Town, participants were interested in making conversation. “I connected to several people and had a very nice conversation about not communicating with neighbors, so this was a perfect way to communicate.”

Ground broken on extension to Asser Levy Playground

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured) Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local elected officials joined the New York City Parks Department and neighborhood residents to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new park planned for Asser Levy Place between East 23rd and 25th Streets on Wednesday.

“This underutilized space was screaming for us to do this here,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick, who helped secure some of the funds for the new park.

Garodnick was joined at the ceremony by State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, who rode a Citi Bike to the event.

“The Parks Department has a great legacy in this city and we’re grateful for all the open spaces that you’ve brought here,” Hoylman said. “It’s important to our kids and families to have these open spaces and we want to attract more young people to the community. This park is going to help.”

Kavanagh added that the planned park was the result of a successful land swap and although other parkland was given up, it was beneficial that the city was able to gain more park space in exchange.

“This is a very exciting day because we’re doing more to expand our parkland. This is just the first piece of a bigger project,” Garodnick added, referring to the plan for the East River Blueway.

The new park will be adjacent to the Asser Levy playground and recreation center. The space will serve as a replacement for the parkland lost to the development of a new United Nations building at Robert Moses playground. The new park will offer space for various recreational activities, including ping pong, badminton, volleyball, chess, soccer, football, t-ball and others.

There will be an artificial turf field, adult fitness equipment, benches, tables, an exercise track, drinking fountains and trees. The project was funded with allocations of $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation and $1,175,000 from Garodnick and it is expected to be complete by next fall.

 

Student art exhibit at Union Square

“A View from the Lunchroom: Students Bringing Issues to the Table”

Middle School students and guest artists Christo and Audrey Flack will unveil the largest student art exhibition in Parks history at Union Square Park tomorrow at 11:20 a.m. Nearly 400 NYC public middle school students participated in ten unique works of art, creating art out of mere lunchroom tables. Themes address crucial issues in their communities and the world. The tables will be displayed this summer at ten parks across the five boroughs. The exhibition was created by LEAP’s Public Art Program in cooperation with NYC Parks Department.