Friday, October 17, 2008

Jackson Square Gets Armed

I like to check in now and then on the saga of my favorite condo/park couple, Jackson Square.

As reported before, it seems like the park has been sort of "adopted" by the condo. Formerly (and still) a park known for its rough-around-the-edges populace, homeless men and women, disaffected queer kids, etc., Jackson Square has been getting cleaned up, wired up, and greened up for its debut as the front yard for condo One Jackson Square.

Now, in their latest endeavor to prepare the park for the sensibilities of its new residents, the city Parks Department has placed armed guards at the perimeter.

"Armed," in this case, means carrying a nightstick with permission to "use physical and deadly force," as given to NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. They can also "make warrantless arrests, carry and use handcuffs" (Wiki).

In wondering about this new security presence, I've been chatting with some of the officers and only later found this informative Daily News story. To sum it up, Armani and the Jackson Square Alliance have indeed adopted the park, much like entities can adopt a highway with the purpose of keeping it free of litter. They're running a big clean-up and that includes hiring Parks Department officers.

Who is the Jackson Square Alliance? Says the Daily News, it's "a nonprofit comprising local residents and businesses," and their president "is vice president of Hines Interests, the firm leading development of One Jackson Square."

What are the implications when a private, luxury-based company forms a non-profit to "adopt" a public space for the purpose of improving their own profits? How about when they hire guards who also happen to be public servants?

It's worth thinking about what this means and where it could go. If only certain types of people are allowed to visit a public space, can it really be considered public? Are there forms of back-door privatization?

Follow the saga here:


Ken Mac said...

the concrete wave that ate the once charming Jackson Square

Anonymous said...

what's next, Abingdon Square? space along the Hudson is gradually being privatized. and then there's the Hi-Line, the penultimate sacrifice of the urban exposure fantasy. perhaps Central Park will soon be owned by The Plaza residents. the real estate crowd is really doing a number on Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

You people are crazy. A park gets cleaned up, and people complain. I think its great that the developers are helping pay for the cleanup. Would you prefer the taxpayers foot the bill? IMO, the park is more public with the security, because previously, many memebers of the public (myself included) did not feel comfortable in the park.

Anonymous said...

Are the guards refusing to let scruffy-looking citizens into the park, or are they just hanging around? I've lived nearby for fifteen years, and while I hate what's happening to the Far WV, I've usually avoided that park due to the drug-dealing that's always gone on. If the dealers disappear thanks to the rent-a-cops, then good riddance (soon to be replaced by yuppie douchebags, of course; choose your poison.)

BTW Abington Square was renovated a few years ago largely with funds from 299 W12th Street, the swanky prewar condo that faces it. I believe they also pay to maintain the park. It's been nice for the neighborhood, as we've gotten a nicer park, and there's no feeling that 299 W12th owns the park (and I don't live in that building.)

As for One Jackson Square, all I can say is "yeeeech!"

Anonymous said...

How altruistic of 299W12 residents to revamp & maintain Abingdon Sq. Park. Some yrs. ago, the word in the 'hood was that renovation was paid for by real estate interests with ties to an aspiring pol named Quinn. The benches along Hudson St. were removed supposedly to discourage undesirables from loitering. Have they been replaced?

ArtBlog said...

Not that I'm suggesting anyone do this, but a little super glue poured right into the keyhole on the gate would keep the Aristos out of the park as well as the pleebs

Anonymous said...

I think the 2nd commenter is right on the money when he asks, 'are you people crazy.'?

Really, are all those who are supposedly defending the WV nothing more than paranoid head cases?

When I read the reporter's story I really thought he'd segue into the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory, as one of the possible underlying reasons for the park cleanup.

Does everything that is done to improve our public spaces have to come under such intense suspicion as some diabolical act to undermine the constitution?

Sometimes, the motive is as simple as sprucing up a park and making it nice for all to use and enjoy. Sometimes the benches need to be fixed or replaced. Sometimes trees have to be removed and replanted. And sometimes drug dealers and prostitutes take over public parks to commit illegal acts. So, sometimes it's nice when a private entity decides to help with the costs of all that stuff.

One person here couldn't help themselves by almost apologizing for wanting those drug dealers to vacate the park. (Now there's a hardcore WV lefty liberal!)

Moving drug dealers out of Jackson Pk seems to highlight the dichotomy of West Vill sensibilities: They don't want the drug dealers, but also don't want to give those poor souls the heave-ho.

L'Emmerdeur said...

When you want to clean up a park by getting rid of drug dealers, you do this by using the police and the Parks Department, using public funds. The public pays for it via taxes, and the public benefits from it by being able to use the park free of the nuisance and danger.

If we can do this properly with a massive park like Central Park, we can do it with any and all parks.

When a "non-profit" which is really an extension of the developer of the property "adopts" a park, do you really think they won't jump at the first opportunity to turn it into the next Gramercy Park? Do you really think Bloomberg & Co., men and women of their class and wealth, won't approve of such a move, citing how much money this will save the government and the ongoing cooperation between the public and private sectors?

Funny thing is, if this happened to every park in the city, not a single one of those defending these projects in these and other comments would qualify for a key to any of these parks.

Then again, I'm the real fool for arguing here any more... as you fools continue to argue in favor of these shenanigans, wealth is being gleefully destroyed at a breakneck rate, and before long, there won't be any money for park maintenance, public or private.

You are more than welcome to disagree with me and even slander me as "crazy". You jackasses have been wrong, and I have been right, for eight years, and no amount of Fox-news-like fact twisting will change the lint in your pockets back into gold doubloons.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. When the city wants to fix up a park locals cry out that it is meddling in community matters, and that they're forcing an unwanted 'improvement' job down their throats. When a private entity wants to fix up a park in their own neighborhood, they're attacked for having ulterior motives.

Who can figure that rationale out.

Oh, and Central Park is largely maintained by the millions raised annually by a non-for-profit called the Central Park Conservancy. Of course, that largely Republican, mostly wealthy bunch is doing all that work just to maintain values of their penthouses and floor-thrus.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What's the difference between this and the various BIDs all over the city?

Anonymous said...

if accuracy is important in this blog, it might be important to note that Abingdon Square Park is maintained largely by revenue raised from generous members of the surrounding community. It has also benefited from grants from the many small businesses in the area, foundation grants and film production companies.

the park is maintained by Abingdon Square Alliance, a park association that is currently directed by one of the founders of the park restoration. it's mission began in 2000 with successful grass root petitioning of the New York City Council, for which an allocation of over $800,000 was acquired.

if you would like to support the efforts to maintain Abingdon Square Park, feel free to send a fully tax deductible contribution to:

Abingdon Square Alliance
302A West 12th Street #113
New York, NY 10014

Abingdon Square Alliance is currently fiscally sponsored by a well known land conservation group by the name of Open Space Institute.

Anonymous said...

Given some of the rather interesting comments regarding "Jackson Square Gets Armed", I'm not sure where to start.

For those who believe that Central Park was made safe and beautiful through use of NYC taxpayer dollars alone, think again.......ever heard of the Central Park Conservancy (CPC)? Had it not been for this not-for-profit group raising millions in donations, arranging corporate sponsorships and rallying public support, Central Park would still be a decaying haven for homeless people and drug dealers, just where it was headed in the 70s. Without the partnership of the CPC, I doubt the city would have had much incentive (or funding) to do it on their own. The result of decades of hard work speaks for itself!

As far as Jackson Square Alliance (JSA) is concerned, it was initiated by the board members of two large EXISTING coop buildings who share the park as their "front yard." Two buildings full of taxpaying residents who were fed up with the constant fighting amongst the drunkards in the park every day, fed up with bums stopping traffic along Greenwich Avenue begging for money, fed up with being fearful of walking along the perimeter of the park and being accosted by a vagrant and tired of not being able to use the park to relax or watch their children play because some unsavory character could be urinating in a bush or defecating in broad daylight in front of them. Speaking from my own experience, I've seen these things happen.

Unfortunately, the answer was to essentially take matters into our own hands by creating the JSA and raise funds and pay for Park Enforcement Patrol officers to help remedy the unhealthy situation. The effort, in conjunction with support from the Parks Department, has led to the complete replanting of the park, addition of an irrigation system, tree pruning, fountain restoration and more regular maintenance.

Keep in mind, the Jackson Square Alliance has on goal; TO MAKE THE PARK A CLEAN, SAFE AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT FOR EVERYONE TO ENJOY, regardless of income, age, ethnic background, religion, etc. etc. etc. Of course, there is one stipulation.....visitors to the park must behave in a manner that is appropriate for a public gathering space without infringing upon the safety or enjoyment of others. The PEP officers were deemed necessary to guarantee that environment.

Does JSA include support from the developer of the One Jackson Square condo currently under construction on Greenwich Avenue....yes, and why shouldn't they support the effort? The future residents of that building have the same interests as the current ones at 2 and 14 Horatio Street. If the controversy regarding the new condo is REALLY about the design, that's an entirely different subject and not relevant to this discussion.

But make no mistake, the JSA is by no means under the undue influence of ANY outside interest that would interfere with the mission stated above....PERIOD. We are trying to preserve the park for everyone to enjoy now and in the future.

Jeremiah Moss said...

john g, glad to hear from a member of JSA and thank you for writing in.

the overhaul of this park has fascinated me since its inception, which began after the condo One Jackson Square began moving in to the former parking lot across the street.

what i hope to call attention to and offer up for critique is the phenomenon in this city of big money altering the public landscape for its own gains. the park is a vivid illustration of that phenomenon.

while neighborhood folks may have long wished for these changes to the park, it appears it could not happen without the condo's interests and significant power getting involved.

i guess, personally, i'd rather see neighborhood people out doing the planting, the watering, the securing. not teams of city workers sponsored by luxury corporations.

the end result is not the main issue. it's the process and what that process means about the city in which we live, where poor, working, and lower-middle class new yorkers live without power to exert change on their own steam.