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Nature vs. nurture at Prospect Park

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The Prospect Park Alliance has closed its historic boathouse on the weekends so that it can generate more cash from leasing the space for private events during peak hours — but a flock of animal lovers are chirping mad because now they won’t be able to fly to the Audubon center housed there on a Saturday or Sunday.

Members of the new group “4 Audubon @ Boathouse” say the park’s plan to replace the Audubon Center at the Boathouse located inside the landmarked 1905 beaux-arts building with a “pop-up Audubon” on the weekends that will offer free children’s programming in tented outdoor areas is robbing them of a cherished public place.

“It is a public building and now it has become privatized,” said Elaine Marvin, a longtime Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident and former environmental teacher at the center who helped form the group last month right before the facility closed on the weekends.

The boathouse underwent an extensive $5-million renovation more than a decade ago when it was turned from a storage facility into Brooklyn’s first Audubon center, complete with interactive educational exhibits, live animals, a library, and a station to document animal sightings within the greenspace.

Marvin argues that the nature center is most utilized on the weekends when parents are out in the park with their kids, and wants it to remain open on weekends when the facility hasn’t been rented.

“Saturday and Sunday is where the usage is needed,” said Marvin.

But the Prospect Park Alliance, which manages Brooklyn’s 585-acre backyard on a $9 million budget, says that it can only afford to keep the boathouse open on Thursdays and Fridays, and the closure will give park coffers a much-needed boost that can be used for maintenance, operations, and free programming, according to Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson.

“We don’t have the staff to open the boathouse when it is not being rented because it is not cost-effective and the staff is out working at the very successful pop-up Audubon,” said Nelson, who added that for the first two weekends there were more than 200 participants at the pop-up Audubon compared to the 20 to 30 park-goers that visited the Audubon center when it was open within the Boathouse on weekends.

“We had to make a tough choice, but the overwhelming response to Pop-Up Audubon clearly indicates we made the right one,” he said.

But Avid birdwatcher Neal Frumkin, who leads expeditions from the Boathouse, says that the new tented outdoor activities for kids do not compare to the enlightening experience people get at the boathouse’s Audubon center, which is also equipped with bathrooms and a visitors information desk.

“It is a portal to understanding what little of a natural environment we have in Brooklyn,” said Frumkin. “What they are going to have is a skeleton of what they used to have. You had a two-story building and now you have a tent — it’s a very different experience.”

But Nelson said that the programming at the pop-up Audubon takes place during the same time that the Audubon Center would have been open on the weekends and that it “takes advantage of the greatest resource we have — nature itself,” adding that the tents act as a meeting point for nature walks.

The Audubon Center weekend closure is not the only amenity to get nixed from the parks’ budget. The cafe at the boathouse has also been closed, and the electric boat rides are out of commission until the park finds an operator.

“The boats are very expensive to maintain and operate,” said Nelson.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Updated 1:07 pm, April 24, 2013
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Reasonable discourse

Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Yes, it's very important to close off public access to park land in order to make money. After all, why should the taxpayers get any return on their money?
April 24, 2013, 7:02 am
diehipster from Harpooning Harpers says:
Can you imagine the faux-Brooklyn snobbery and nasal conversation that would be happening in there if these so called "Private Events" [yupster parties] happen?

(Yah, my son little Ethan has joined the Bushwick abandoned lot Polo club; we drop him off with our 3 person bicycle every Saturday - what does your child do for recreation?)

(Oh that's so, like, weird because, yah, my precious Xander just joined the Gowanus Canal Water Polo team! Pass the wine and cheese I pretend to know all about.)
April 24, 2013, 8:34 am
ty from pps says:
Mom -- Perhaps you're ignorant about what pays for maintenance and operation of the park and it's recreational and educational programming, but you could have learned a lot if you read this article. Here, I'll copy the important bit.

"But the Prospect Park Alliance, which manages Brooklyn’s 585-acre backyard on a $9 million budget, says that it can only afford to keep the boathouse open on Thursdays and Fridays, and the closure will give park coffers a much-needed boost that can be used for maintenance, operations, and free programming, according to Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson."

Due to the Prospect Park Alliance, the "taxpayers get [A HUGE] return on their money"
April 24, 2013, 8:36 am
Bella from Brooklyn says:
Just yesterday on the leonard Lopate show...
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2013/apr/23/selling-and-giving-away-nyc-parks/?utm_source=sharedUrl&utm_media=metatag&utm_campaign=sharedUrl&fb_action_ids=10200173113543512&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
April 24, 2013, 9 am
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
lol dh - the midwestern bred smugness being thrown around at those parties would be unreal.

Beard1: 'yah that is very good to get Xander involved in Brooklyn events at such a young age. Little Caleb Jr. is only 2, and he already has learned how to craft a Penny Farthing out of breastmilk latte foam, which will help him get by in the whimsically magic land of Bushpointburg. We're even having him learn a musical instrument.'

Beard2: 'Yah, he's going to be like soooo Brooklyn. which instrument is he learning? I can play like 5 myself - not that it's a big deal, I'm just naturally gifted that way; my mommy said so'

Beard1: 'oh, it's pretty obscure - like yah, you've probably never heard of it.'
April 24, 2013, 10:21 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
If there's one thing midwesterners are known for, it's smugness.

God, you people are so lazy.
April 24, 2013, 10:35 am
Jbob from PS says:
They can only afford Thursdays and fridays? THsts absurd. They can allocate their budget however they see fit. Shoe the public how youre allocating YOUR ENTIRE BUDGET before these claims have any credibility.
April 24, 2013, 10:50 am
Parent from Park Slope says:
Shame on the PPA. I take my children there on weekends because - guess what? - I work during the week and they go to school.

Emily Lloyd has been a terrible administrator for this park. Googa Mooga destroys parkland and closes it off to the public. Now this.

Pathetic.
April 24, 2013, 11:35 am
Parent from Park Slope says:
Shame on the PPA. I take my children there on weekends because - guess what? - I work during the week and they go to school.

Emily Lloyd has been a terrible administrator for this park. Googa Mooga destroys parkland and closes it off to the public. Now this.

Pathetic.
April 24, 2013, 11:35 am
Paul from Lefferts says:
I'm sorry, but only 20-30 visitors on weekends? Those sound like some seriously massaged (down) numbers. That place gets nice and busy on the weekends.

Our real anger should be not at PPA, but at the fact that they have to manage the whole park on such a shoestring budget.
April 24, 2013, 1:28 pm
Seth from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
"20 to 30 park-goers that visited the Audubon center when it was open within the Boathouse on weekends."

While I disagree with the current park administration under Emily Lloyd, I did not think it would resort to lying. Sadly, I was mistaken.

I hope when Mayor Bloomberg's term is complete that a new administrator can be appointed for Prospect Park and we can return to thoughtfully balancing the needs of patrons, the health of the park and efforts to raise revenues.

Ms. Lloyd is the wrong person for the job and has not shown any ability to evolve or change in the two years since her appointment. She needs to go.
April 24, 2013, 7:46 pm
JAY from NYC says:
hmm the budget works out to $15, 384 dollars per acre. That seems like plenty considering that alot of it is closed off to the public and behind fences, or underwater.
I would like some one to explain to me how that kind of money is not enough, and justifies this kind of thing?
If the electric boat is not running because you can't find someone to run it, maybe that should tell you something about what people want?
They are not spending the money on picking up the trash or enforcing the trash laws or the non-smoking, non drug use laws or stopping and horny people having sex in the park, or keeping bicyclists out of pedestrian lanes and off the sidewalks, or stopping cars driving illegally in the park at hours they are not supposed to be there. So what are they spending it on? The fancy golf carts the park administrators ride their fat a**es in?
Is the money spent paying the cops who park off of center drive and then take a nap or text on their phone while people run red lights right in front of them?
How much did the whole pop up thing cost anyway? I don't get it.
April 24, 2013, 8:12 pm
Jonathan from Brooklyn Heights says:
Readers should also know that this latest installment in the privatization of Prospect Park relates to the new parking lot planned to serve the under-construction Lakeside Center skating complex, slated for completion by next winter.

The two-rink facility will operate year-round, day and night, for ice skating (winter) and roller skating (other seasons). Although the old 300 car parking lot adjacent to the demolished Wollman Rink is happily gone, a *new* 140-car lot is to be situated on top of currently underutilized Breeze Hill.

Unfortunately, that means bringing cars in from Lincoln Road, across East Lake Drive and up the hill overlooking the Boathouse and the Lullwater. That's bad news for park goers (including birders, fishing folks, painters and everyone else) seeking out the relative tranquility and isolation of the area as it is now. And it will certainly make unpleasant and less safe the experience of walkers, runners and cyclists crossing Breeze Hill.

The connection of the planned Breeze Hill parking lot to the Boathouse closure is direct: it's ideal for serving all of those private revenue-generating events that the Prospect Park Alliance thinks will help make ends meet. But certainly *not* good for average park users.

One solution: move the parking permanently to the Flatbush Ave/Empire Blvd exit drive, where Boathouse event-goers currently park.

But prioritizing automobile parking deep inside one of Brooklyn's only public green spaces is wrong-headed. Why not eliminate it altogether? Turn Breeze Hill into the green public space it deserves to be. And use revenue generated by Lakeside Center to support full public access to the Boathouse and its nature programs.
April 25, 2013, 7:55 am
Rina Kleege from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
Privatization of public park land? Not a good idea. The kids need this space, and they need it to be permanent, not a pop-up, which discourages regular use. Prospect Park should be doing all it can to further educational experiences for children rather than knuckling under to Mammon.
April 26, 2013, 4:54 pm
JD from Park Slope says:
The figure quoted by Mr Nelson concerning attendance at Audubon Center events is simply untrue. I have been to the Boathouse on many weekends , most recently during Earth Day Celebrations, and there were easily a few hundred people who passed through that building- mostly parents and children. With the cafe gone, it's quite obvious that the purpose of the visit was to participate in Audubon activities or to enjoy the architecture of this historic building.
April 30, 2013, 9:54 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
Hmm, 200 participants at pop-up Audubon over two weekends = 50/day. Compare that to >400 people when the Audubon Center was open recently for Earth Day. I suspect that the claimed "20 to 30 park-goers" per day at the center were counted on especially stormy days (IF those numbers aren't a complete fabrication). Don't get me wrong; I think pop-up Audubon is a good idea, but IMO it should be a supplement to the Audubon Center rather than a replacement.
May 1, 2013, 8:03 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
Hmm, 200 participants at pop-up Audubon over two weekends = 50/day. Compare that to >400 people when the Audubon Center was open recently for Earth Day. I suspect that the claimed "20 to 30 park-goers" per day at the center were counted on especially stormy days (IF those numbers aren't a complete fabrication). Don't get me wrong; I think pop-up Audubon is a good idea, but IMO it should be a supplement to the Audubon Center rather than a replacement.
May 1, 2013, 8:03 am
Neal from Lefferts Gardens says:
Paul Nelson's statement that 20-30 people daily visited the boathouse on weekends is BS. 1st Sunday bird walks alone have 20-35 participants starting out from the boathouse. Too bad it's not open for our use!!!
May 13, 2013, 7:05 am
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says:
Closing off the Audobon center, especially after it's renovation and the added Victorian-era experience afforded by the lake, landing area and entrance of the building itself is another awful decision. On the heels of the Wollman rink boondoggle and (planned) usage of open space grass/ballfields for private/for profit concerts.. Perhaps our Brooklym elected officials should inspect where both Parks Dept and Alliance funding is going (vs the intended PUBLIC uses of Prospect park).
How much of that 9 mil budget goes to inflated salaries? Maybe that needs investigation.
May 16, 2013, 8:36 am

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