Park advocates fear film fest crowds will destroy damaged meadow

Unfit land: Tropfest, a massive outdoor short film festival, will descend upon Prospect Park on June 22 and park activist Ed Bahlman says the green space is in no condition to host the event, considering the damages that were left behind on the Nethermead from last month’s Great GoogaMooga.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Some Prospect Park-lovers are outraged that a massive outdoor short film festival, billed as the world’s biggest, is coming to a popular meadow in Prospect Park next weekend, especially after the controversial Great GoogaMooga music and food extravaganza, they say, wrecked the greenspace last month.

Tropfest, a burgeoning international annual film festival that started 21 years ago in Australia, will make its Brooklyn debut on June 22 on the park’s Nethermead field. The event, which is free and open to the public, is expected to draw more than 10,000 film lovers to the borough’s backyard. Park watchdogs claim that the much-loved meadow, still riddled with muddied ruts from GoogaMooga’s massive two-day party that drew more than 40,000 revelers on May 17–18, is in no condition to host yet another extravaganza, which they say will only do more harm.

“Tropfest is, of course, going to just worsen the already significant damage visibly apparent in the Nethermead,” said Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident Seth Kaplan, who feared that the second coming of GoogaMooga would leave the park in ruins.

But park officials said that they do not expect the event, which they claim is vastly different from GoogaMooga, to do any damage.

“It is a substantially smaller event,” said Eric Landau, the vice president of government and external affairs for the Prospect Park Alliance, which manages the park. “It’s totally different in size and scope and doesn’t require nearly the same level of load in and load out as GoogaMooga did.”

Landau said that the damage caused by the music and foodie extravaganza are scheduled for repairs, but the work had yet to start due to recent weather conditions. Slated repairs will include reseeding and fencing off affected areas of the Nethermead in a restoration plan estimated to take eight to 10 weeks.

Greenspace activists say that it’s irresponsible for park officials to let another festival further trample parkland that is in such desperate need of repair.

“The damage there is just so huge that if they were going to try to repair it seriously they couldn’t have any event there,” said park advocate Ed Bahlman. “This has to be a joke. I would figure it would be cancelled or moved.”

One of the reasons why the Prospect Park Alliance allows events like GoogaMooga and Tropfest is because it is a way to generate funds to pay for operations, maintenance, and free programming, according to officials. The Alliance made $75,000 off of a rental fee from GoogaMooga and will receive a yet-to-be-finalized fee from next weekend’s film festival.

Tropfest, the brainchild of director John Polson, made its American debut last year when it was held in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and hosted by Hugh Jackman.

This year, actor and producer Liev Schreiber will host the day-long event, showing a handful of nominated short films on a massive silver screen. A panel of celebrity judges will pick the best film, whose makers will receive a grand prize of $20,000.

Food trucks will be lined up on the park’s Center Drive for the event, which will also feature live music.

“It’s kind of sad when an event with 10,000 people, a VIP area and a ‘black carpet’ is considered small,” said Kaplan.

Landau said that if any damage did occur from Tropfest, organizers of the event are required by contract to pay for them to be fixed, just as GoogaMooga’s organizers are paying to repair the damages it caused.

Tropfest organizers did not return calls for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

Damage such as this from last month's GoogaMooga has yet to be repaired, and park advocates worry that Tropfest's crowds next weekend will turn the Nethermead into an even muddier mess.

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