It’s bureaucratic bull worthy of a Kafka novel. While Fort Greene Park erodes into disrepair, the money dedicated four years ago to its refurbishment sits mired in governmental red-tape.
This tale of bureaucratic inertia begins in the heady days of 2003, when the Bloomberg Administration was pushing through its rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn. As a carrot to local politicians, “Downtown Czar” Joe Chan — then an assistant to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff — set aside $350,000 so the Parks Department could hire a consultant to devise a plan for the resurrection of the park.
Charles Jarden, the head of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, was at the meeting.
“We thought, ‘Oh okay, now Parks has all this money to commission a master plan,” said Jarden.
In landscape architecture circles, the term “master plan,” refers to a comprehensive strategy for the restoration of a public space, in this case the 160-year-old park designed by Olmsted and Vaux (the same guys who designed Prospect Park in addition to a well-known, yet inferior, park in Manhattan).
Sadly, Jarden wasn’t taking into account a little-known city Catch-22: before a master plan can be created, elected officials must figure out some of the repairs the master plan will call for, and then allocate money to the Parks Department accordingly.
But what makes sense to city bureaucrats proved a “counterintuitive conundrum” to Jarden. “We thought we had this money designated, but now we can’t use it.”
This isn’t the first time momentum for the park’s restoration has been squandered. About 20 years ago, Quennell-Rothschild, a prominent landscape architecture firm, drafted a master plan.
“It was delivered to the Parks Department and probably put on a shelf somewhere,” said Nicholas Quennell, a partner in the respected firm. “It was an appeal to preserve and restore the park to what had been intended originally.”
Which brings up another question: Does the Parks Department even need to commission a new master plan? Why not just work off the old one?
“The recommendations … are no longer valid by today’s preservation standards,” said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson, who also pointed out that “the Quennell-Rothschild Master Plan was a draft report submitted in 1988 and … was never finalized or approved by Parks, Landmarks Preservation or the State Historic Preservation Office.”
Meanwhile, Jarden continues to confront the labyrinth of governmental policies with admirable equanimity.
“It is the history of a park to have fits and starts,” said Jarden.
“This park is one of the great parks, and we want to get it right. That’s our only relief from the frustration — that we are making a difference slowly.”
Watch out Jacob’s Eye! A new funky accessories shop has just landed on Dekalb and Clinton Avenues, and it’s promising its older counterpart some stiff competition. Tessan Boutique owner Aissatou Minthé calls her business “a contemporary men’s and women’s accessories shop conceptually inspired by the small communities of Senegal.” …
Finally! After weeks of caffeine-withdrawal headaches, Pillow Cafe has reopened at its new spot on Myrtle Avenue, between Ryerson Street and Grand Avenue. You can check out their offerings, and their hours, at www.pillowcafenyc.com. Or you can just stop by. …
Speaking of the beloved Pillow Cafe, the Society for Clinton Hill will hold its annual newcomers party there on Friday, Feb. 23. The Society requests that newbies — and old-timers who’d like to meet newbies — RSVP by Feb. 20 to Roslyn Huebener at (718) 499-8382 ext. 11.
©2007 Community News Group
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