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Little guys win big: City must give locals complete report related to Ft. Greene Park’s redesign, judge rules

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Now they can get to the root of it.

The Department of Parks and Recreation must hand over an unredacted report related to the controversial makeover of a corner of Fort Greene Park to a group of locals, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

And the members of neighborhood group Friends of Fort Greene Park, which in April took the city to court to get their hands on the report after receiving a heavily edited version of it, can’t wait to read the documents in full, according to their attorney.

“We will be very interested to read it,” said Michael Gruen, who on the group’s behalf filed an Article 78 motion to challenge the city’s decision to proceed with the redesign.

The locals requested the redacted version of the Parks Department’s report on Fort Greene Park’s history and current condition earlier this year via a Freedom of Information Law request, after filing a separate foil request for another city study on the lawn’s trees, and uncovering that Parks officials fibbed about the health of dozens of the green things in an attempt to advance a $10.5-million plan to remake a corner of the meadow near Myrtle Avenue and Saint Edwards Street.

And when the redacted report on the park’s history and condition arrived with roughly one-third of its 150 pages blacked out, the residents wondered what else the city might be withholding in order to move forward with the makeover — which is set to begin next year after the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 2 approved it last fall despite significant pushback from some community members.

Following Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth’s ruling, the Parks Department now has 30 days to turn over the full report, which the friends of Fort Greene Park hope will shed further light on why the city redacted parts of it, and why officials want to chop down perfectly fine trees, according to Gruen, whose clients previously said they may use the newfound information to try to stop the agency from axing some of the green things.

“You wonder why on earth the Parks Department was so insistent on removing about one-third of the report,” the attorney said. “I think that there are clearly flaws with the design of the park, and the concept of removing a very large number of trees.”

And Bluth, in issuing her decision, noted the city did not provide sufficient reason for removing the information it did from the document the group received.

“Respondent also failed to justify the redactions made on the report by mischaracterizing where the redactions began,” the judge wrote in her decision. “The court cannot simply accept respondent’s justifications for its redactions, considering that it appears not to know where those redactions were applied.”

The ruling isn’t just a win for the locals, according to Gruen, who said the decision benefits everyone seeking information from public officials.

“I think the court did a great job of pointing out that the city cannot win a foil case just by saying ‘No,’ ” he said. “It has to really spell out exactly why it’s doing it and I think a lot of agencies don’t get that.”

A Parks Department rep said the agency is currently reviewing the judge’s decision.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 8:20 am, October 19, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Carla from Ft Greene says:
The Parks Dept. has become a boutique design operation under Commissioner Silver. He has no feeling for trees or other growing things. He's an exterior decorator, not an environmentalist. Silver's into "concepts" of parks, not parks as refuges where nature can thrive in the city. This ruling is a kick in his insensitive face. Good for the people who pursued this devious attempt to pretend the trees are sick so Silver can get rid of them.
Oct. 18, 8:13 pm
Lk from Fort Greene says:
This is a win for transparency from our government. It's sad the only way to get information out of an agency is to FOIL them and then on top of that take them to court so they abide by the law. Maybe one day we will find out why Mitchell Silver thinks it is a good idea to speed up global warming by removing large trees and replacing them with hardscape. It's great the way the judge spanked the incompetent lawyers who were sent by the City's Corporation Council to represent a case they knew nothing about.
Oct. 18, 8:47 pm
Protecting Our 'Hood From Tree-son! from Dwindling Livability Blocks says:
SO...what's the Dept of Parks hiding? Excess wasteful spending of taxpayer $? Do Silver/Maher think they're the NSA? We pay their salaries -they need reminding that what they do as 'employees' working for New Yorkers, is for us to evaluate-not for them to suppress! Those living across the street from FGP in NYCHA residences, have already been through ongoing NYC mismanagement hell...now-they'll be the ones subjected to years of miserable construction- environmentally negative consequences-only to find their green spaces replaced by an antiseptic 45' 'corridor' Plaza....that is unless their secrets are 'outed'. Great ruling...hope springs eternal!
Oct. 18, 8:56 pm
Rosie from Bronx says:
how about #ParksWithTrees instead?
Oct. 18, 8:56 pm
good government? from Ft Greene says:
NY Democrats rail at Trump's Republican service to the wealthy while they operate from the same playbook of duplicity and lies. We want better from our elected officials. You can't claim the high road while engaging in the same behavior locally. The Parks Department agenda of serving big Real Estate is clear: why else destroy a beloved green space unless the real purpose is to shove out current use and users with a plan that is so barren?
Oct. 18, 11:04 pm
Lawrence from Ft Greene says:
This is great news! We're tired of the lies from this corrupt De Blasio administration. The notion of "Parks Without Broders," meaning parks without trees, plants and grass and, on the case of Ft Greene Park, without trees, plants, grass and the unique A.E. Bye mounds is truly insulting and another example of government waste. This $12,000,000 nonsetnse right across Myrtle Ave from the NYCHA houses that don't have working boilers and have mold and rats because the Mayor is too busy trying to run for President to give a damn. But he lets Comm. Silver blow millions of dollars cutting down wonderful trees in the park. It's great to learn there's a straight dealing judge in town. A lovely surprise.
Oct. 18, 11:42 pm
Tree Hugger from Fort Greene says:
Real estate interests march mindless bureaucrats like Mitchell Silver around like marionettes dangling off their strings doing their bidding so they can add to their billions. Bootlickers like Silver turn themselves into despised tools and dress up their hackneyed work as innovation.
Oct. 18, 11:49 pm
Schellie Hagan from Clinton Hill says:
Parks Without Parks Without Borders!
Oct. 19, 1:24 am
George from Ft Greene says:
You're right we need to close the borders, send the illegals back where they came from and stop cutting healthy trees in the parks. NYC should be a sanctuary for trees, not illegals.
Oct. 19, 10:25 am
Rosie from Bronx says:
No waste of taxpayers money should be ignored. And since I dont live in the Amazon, I can't advocate for those trees but I can advocate for the trees in my backyard. #ParksWithTrees
Oct. 19, 11:41 am
Tree Hugger from Brooklyn says:
We need to stop building new parks and playground and start repairing the ones falling apart. And Parks with no Trees is taking public land for private use. Follow the Money Just as private $$$ in charter schools are minimizing public schools so is private $$$ taking our public parks away. Save the trees. No more development!!!
Oct. 19, 11:47 am
Janine from NYCHA from Fort Greene says:
So we don't get heating in the winter, we have scaffolding that stays up for years on our buildings, we have ceilings that fall down on our beds, black mold in our bathrooms and lead in our water. The one think we had was a beautiful shady tree area to share with our friends, children and our families. The Parks Department plans to take that away from us and give it to the new wave living in the expensive high rises down the street. They want to open it up to commercial ventures and kick us out. They leave us with nothing. Me and my neighbors are so upset about this.
Oct. 19, 12:07 pm
Khalil from Clinton Hill says:
Commissioner Silver is advancing the new Patks Department: Parks Without Trees.
Oct. 19, 4:18 pm
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Of course ‘locals’ should have access - though one would think this is public information - the question is could they comprehend it
Oct. 20, 1:59 pm
peasant from Fort Greene says:
We lowly peasants have indeed been scolded by Parks commissioners for not comprehending architecture and not comprehending the grand vision of Commissioner Mitchell Silver. We are also invisible and our voices negligible in the PWB outreach. Will your Highness please enlighten us with the justification of paving over greenery and cutting down 58 mature shade trees? Just silence us so we can get an education and stay quiet in our cottages.
Oct. 20, 3:25 pm
Citizen Architect from Fort Greene says:
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Fort Greene park is one of the best parks in the city. It has the best trees and the worst turf. Parks wants to destroy its best feature. Parks Department is literally killing itself, destroying our parks. Residents do not want what Parks is selling. Parks is trying to pull off a blatant destruction of public value in exchange for private value. They are scheming to destroying public health, the very thing they are tasked with promoting. When things just make absolutely no sense, one has to wonder where this logic is coming from. How could it be that it’s a coincidence that all this is happening as soon as new private construction occurs accross the street from the Park? It’s already a tragedy that this developer tower, complete with a chiller tower on top, was allowed to be built to rival the Martyrs Monument and block views to the sunset and the river where the Prison Ships were. Architectural poetics is replaced with greed. Now Parks wants to remove decades-old, mature shade trees to further accentuate a new residential tower? They want to give better apartment views to new real estate buyers and lifeless, inhumane space to park-goers. Who does this Administration work for? Someone needs to investigate to get to the bottom of this madness.
Oct. 21, 8:43 pm
Confused from Fort Greene says:
This plan to cut down huge numbers of Park shade trees is coming from the same administration that wanted to rid Time Square of street performers by turning the pedestrian promenades into vehicular thoroughfares. They don’t seem to have a clue on how urbanism for people actually works.
Oct. 21, 9:16 pm
Bethanne from Ft Greene says:
Yes cutting trees in parks is outrageous but so is taking streets away for b.s. pedestrian plazas. The one in Times Square attracts thieves and molesters and hustlers of every type like the ones disguised as Mickey Mouse and Big Bird. Proper urbanism is trees in parks and streets in the city, not streets torn from the grid choked into dead zones.
Oct. 21, 10:15 pm
Tree Hugger from Fort Greene says:
Do you know what the Pks Dept says about the benefits of trees on their own website? Mitchell Silver should read the website. https://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/trees_greenstreets/images/treecount_report.pdf Did you know? ƒ A large, healthy tree removes almost 70 times more air pollution each year than a small, newly planted tree. ƒ London planetrees remove more than 77 tons of air pollution each year, over one-quarter of all pollutant removal by NYC’s trees. ƒ Each year 272 tons—the equivalent of 40 adult elephants—of air pollution are intercepted or absorbed by trees in NYC ƒ Average electricity and natural gas cost savings in NYC are $47 per street tree ƒ Each year 313 tons of air pollution are avoided because of energy savings resulting from reduced emissions ƒ The average street tree in NYC intercepts 1,432 gallons of stormwater each year;
Oct. 22, 2:42 pm
Healing by Trees from Clinton Hill says:
Before I begin, in Japan, spending time in the forest is a medical prescription for health. Practitioners of energy medicine such as reiki, tai chi, or Incan Shamanism understand that trees, like other living beings, have energy centers like humans do, "chakra" in Sanskrit. They need healing sometimes, and they help us heal sometimes. Many people practice Tai Chi in New York City Parks not just because they are free, open space, but because they have trees and grass and sunlight, elements that help us thrive as humans. Ode to the trees of Fort Greene Park: I first discovered this park and trees on a bike ride to Prospect Park in the early 00's and was awed by their size and shade. Coming through the park on my bike at night was a ritual aspect of my commute, one that magnetized me to the neighborhood as in 2008. Since then, Fort Greene became my favorite park in Brooklyn. I have communed with those trees, their energy has released locked muscles in my body, relaxed me, given me sanctuary when my life otherwise seemed to be falling apart. I have sat with these trees, slept under them, and visited them at night. I wish I could convey the visceral intensity of these experiences with others so they understand how precious trees are to our psychic existence. This and all the other wonderful inspiration and health trees provide in their beautiful existence on our planet. How do we get our officials to connect with the trees this way?
Oct. 23, 9:52 am
Healing by Trees from Clinton Hill says:
Before I begin, in Japan, spending time in the forest is a medical prescription for health. Practitioners of energy medicine such as reiki, tai chi, or Incan Shamanism understand that trees, like other living beings, have energy centers like humans do, "chakra" in Sanskrit. They need healing sometimes, and they help us heal sometimes. Many people practice Tai Chi in New York City Parks not just because they are free, open space, but because they have trees and grass and sunlight, elements that help us thrive as humans. Ode to the trees of Fort Greene Park: I first discovered this park and trees on a bike ride to Prospect Park in the early 00's and was awed by their size and shade. Coming through the park on my bike at night was a ritual aspect of my commute, one that magnetized me to the neighborhood as in 2008. Since then, Fort Greene became my favorite park in Brooklyn. I have communed with those trees, their energy has released locked muscles in my body, relaxed me, given me sanctuary when my life otherwise seemed to be falling apart. I have sat with these trees, slept under them, and visited them at night. I wish I could convey the visceral intensity of these experiences with others so they understand how precious trees are to our psychic existence. This and all the other wonderful inspiration and health trees provide in their beautiful existence on our planet. How do we get our officials to connect with the trees this way?
Oct. 23, 9:52 am
Terry from Ft Greene says:
Bureaucrats don't have psychic lives. They can't be expected to "understand trees." They understand being sued.
Oct. 24, 3:55 am

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