Colton to Bloomberg: Smash the digital divide!

Where’s my Wi-Fi?: Assemblyman William Colton sent a letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe expressing the frustration that Southern Brooklynites feel about the digital divide in the borough’s parks.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Bensonhurst Assemblyman wants the city to break our borough’s digital divide and bring the internet to Southern Brooklyn’s parks — a luxury the city has only showered upon hoity-toity Brownstone neighborhoods and up-and-coming hipster enclaves, the legislator claims.

AT&T already provides free wireless service in 20 parks throughout the five boroughs, including Prospect Park, McCarren Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park, but Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurst) said Southern Brooklyn park-goers should also be allowed to log onto the internet as they relax at their local green spaces.

“This will help reduce the difference between those who are more wealthy and those who have less,” said Colton, who claims that his office has received numerous complaints from Southern Brooklyn residents who want to Google while they sit on a park bench and soak up the sun. “These residents are tax payers and feel entitled to a share of the city’s services.”

The Parks Department says it is considering Colton’s request. If it’s approved, wireless services will be available at MCU Park, the Coney Island Boardwalk, Marine Park’s Salt Nature Center, and Manhattan Beach Park, city officials say. Colton also requested bringing Wi-Fi to Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge.

Brooklyn currently has six Internet-accessible parks — more than any in the outer boroughs. Yet, none of those locations are south of 15th Street in Prospect Park.

Mayor Bloomberg defended the program when it was unveiled last year, claiming that it would give New Yorkers a reason to “get outside and enjoy our beautiful parks,” while also doing work in them.

Colton envisions that students will be able to study and do their homework outside rather than in libraries.

“People growing up have to go to libraries to use the Internet,” said Colton. “If they could do it in a park it would be such a value in terms of their education.”

Young park-goers were happy to hear that they may soon be able to log onto the Internet inside their neighborhood parks, and came up with some good ideas on how they’d use the free Wi-Fi — but none of them mentioned studying.

“We got cellphones,” said 19-year-old Frederick Colson, who lives in Marine Park. “I could play Crime City when I’m bored hanging out in the park all day.”

Older park patrons were less excited — and generally more confused — when discussing Colton’s plan.

“We don’t know what the hell Wi-Fi is,” said 67-year-old Pete Terranova. “But our kids might.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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