One helluva sprained ankle has kept me from walks in the park, and this morning it felt great to be back. Deep late-spring green, just after the explosion of spring color has faded, when bridal-veil white takes over in anticipation of June.
I didn't make it over to the Nethermead to see how badly it lies wounded after the controversial GoogaMooga; it was painful enough seeing the overflowing trash cans after the Memorial Day weekend and hearing the whine and crack of yet more post-Sandy tree pruning. The green heart of Brooklyn is a high-maintenance beloved. Reading this article in the New York Times when I got home raised my wrath that, indeed, "creeping privatization" has turned some of our city's most heavily used parks into "beggars."
About 10 years ago, the city already contributed only about 60 percent of the park budget and the Prospect Park Alliance raised the rest, according to alliance board member Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery. Incredibly, the city now contributes just some 40 percent of the park's budget, and the Alliance "scrapes up the rest from corporations and foundations and by insistently shaking a tin cup before city and state legislators," the article states.
It's frustrating to read that the Central Park Conservancy has $220 million in assets, when we're driven to squash the Nethermead under an onslaught of sausage vendors for $75,000 and pimp out the nation's first urban Audubon Center as a party rental. The Googa Mooga was "free," but its tickets were still an exclusive commodity with a luxury-class upgrade available...which rubs me the wrong way. It should be a fundamental covenant that our elected officials manage our tax dollars well enough to keep our parks meeting their mission: to be there for all the people. Including impromptu girl groups on tree stumps.
Comparing Prospect Park to Central Park in terms of philanthropic throw weight is like comparing "golden apples to regular oranges," Steve Hindy says. (Strange, given that Vaux and Olmsted considered Prospect Park, not its Manhattan sibling, to be their crowning design achievement.) “In this country, we don’t really fund public infrastructure
and public spaces as we do in other countries,” Prospect Park Alliance President Emily Lloyd tactfully told the Times. “It’s always a
huge stretch." An even bigger stretch now that Mayor Bloomberg's charitable foundation is apparently cutting Prospect Park out of its quarter-million-dollar annual contribution.
The whole thing reminds me of public schools. They're all "free" and "paid for by our tax dollars," but the kids with rich parents still wind up in lavishly endowed luxury models while the rest of us scrape by. Next time you meet an elected official, just keep saying, "parks," "parks," and then maybe "parks."