More on the Community Board 2 vote on the Washington Square Park Conservancy in a moment, but, first, I prepared this document that I handed out to the board right before the meeting last night tho’ it was probably a bit late.
Community Board 2: Please Hit ‘Pause and Review’ on Washington Square Park Conservancy (June 20, 2013)
- There was a premature vote by the Parks Committee after June 5th meeting addressing the Washington Square Park Conservancy – There was no Review of Conservancy’s Mission Statement, Bylaws, Certificate of Incorporation or Organizational Materials – none of this was provided to the committee or the public – and yet a vote was taken.
- Former Council Member Alan Gerson (who was the liaison between much of Washington Sq Park redesign process between the community and the Parks Department) stated that it was “absolutely clear” to the Parks Department that any introduction of a Conservancy would be brought forward in an “open and transparent process … with full community input and oversight.” Putting together an organization behind closed doors out of public view is not an “open and transparent process.”
- Washington Sq Park Conservancy founding members filed their NYS incorporation paperwork in October 2012 – they put together a board, bylaws, COI (certficate of incorporation), hired an employee all by March. Yet community members only found out about this almost by accident as Sarah Neilson assumed the position of WSP Administrator and “executive director” of the Conservancy and starting using her “dual title” in letters, emails and voicemail.
- The Conservancy provided no bylaws or mission statement at the June 5th Parks Committee meeting. Organizational structure and whether there are other board members and/or trustees are unknown.
- There is a reason Conservancies are viewed with caution. Parks with conservancies becomes less public, more commercialized, privatized, and are beholden to private, corporate and elite influences.
- The four WSP Conservancy “founding members” say they do not plan to “run the park.” (Their ‘qualifications’ to run a private Conservancy charged with Washington Sq Park: 1) they live near the park and 2) they have money.) And yet, their very structure says otherwise. Why does the Washington Square Park administrator also need to be their “executive director?” Sarah Neilson said at the June 5th meeting so they “can share news and events about the park.” (They can’t send each other memos?) This is the way almost every other full-blown conservancy in New York City gets started and is set up – Madison Square, Central Park, Randall’s Island, etc.
- At the C.B. 2 Parks meeting, the Parks Department and Conservancy pointed to Fort Tyron Park and Riverside Park as having similar set ups – “dual roles” in which a Parks Department employee is also a conservancy director. (Riverside Park is 222.41 acres. Fort Tyron Park is 67.21 acres. Washington Square Park is 9.75 acres, by the way.)The Riverside Park Conservancy on its web site says that its mission is to “maintain, operate, improve and provide programming in Riverside Park.” The Riverside Park Conservancy is a full-on Conservancy managing and programming that park. Why was that pointed to as a model?
- The Conservancy directors had no idea of their 1st year or 5 year budget or what Sarah Neilson would be paid. (In fact, Conservancy directors are well paid at the other conservancies – getting salaries from the Parks Department and the Conservancy itself.)
- Why is a private organization given undue influence with ties to the Parks Department to raise money, “plant flowers” and “arrange additional trash pick ups?”
- If the park needs money – the Parks Department had previously not indicated that it does – let the community decide how that should be handled. Let’s figure out an alternative model.
- A resolution with conditional approval and “with stipulations” is not appropriate. Let’s find the most appropriate ‘model’ for Washington Square Park and the community and park-users.
- Washington Square Park is an important park. This park has a lot of influence and significance. A radical history that we are — in a sense — all entrusted with, particularly the Community Board.
Cathryn Swan (ed., Washington Square Park Blog)
Picture was not included.