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by Anne Schwartz, Jan 01, 2000
 

Two lawsuits continue to postpone construction of a temporary baseball field in Brooklyn's Parade Grounds for a Mets minor league team. The City's Economic Development Corporation is offering a number of compromises if the plaintiffs -- Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden and community activism group ACORN -- agree to abandon the lawsuits. Changes include reducing the size of the facility from 4,500 to 2,500 seats and making an arrangement for parking that doesn't use playing fields, a provision that soccer officials had strenuously opposed. The Mets have also agreed to leave after two years, whether or not a permanent stadium is ready. Most significant, perhaps, is EDC's offer to finance the renovation of the entire Parade Grounds. The organizers of the youth baseball and soccer leagues, who were at odds with each other over the original plan, have worked out their differences. Seeing this as a prime opportunity to remedy terrible drainage problems and restore barely playable fields, the leaders of baseball, football, and soccer leagues now strongly favor the Mets plan, provided the EDC's offer is put in writing.

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On December 13, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice James Hutcherson let the lawsuits stand, and scheduled the next hearing for January 10, while urging City lawyers to sit down with both plaintiffs and work out a deal. As of mid-December, ACORN was in negotiations with EDC and optimistic that an agreement could be reached. A spokesman at the borough president's office said there were plans to meet with the City. Meanwhile, the Mets were reported to be looking at alternative sites in Queens. Construction of the field must begin soon in order to be ready for the June opening of the Class A New York-Penn League games.

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A November article in the New York Times discussed the wonders the Central Park Conservancy has bestowed upon Central Park through its fundraising, largely from the elite who live in proximity to the park. It also addressed the issue of what happens when we depend on private funds to maintain our parks, and how parks in poorer neighborhoods miss out. There are a few exceptions, like Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project, which as been cleaning up parks in northern Manhattan, and the Trust for Public Land, which helped fund the purchase of the threatened community gardens. But most of the big money goes to places affluent donors know and frequent. Privatizing parks maintenance is another way to widen the already shocking gap between rich and poor in our city. What happened to the idea that parks are public spaces and should be supported by the government, for the benefits they provide to all members of society?

Anne Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues. Previously, she was the editor of the Audubon Activist, a news journal for environmental action published by the National Audubon Society, and an editor at The New York Botanical Garden.


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