Ben Haber is a precious NYC resource-speaking truth to power, a task that has largely been forgotten by the city's somnambulent press corps. In the Queens Tribune Haber goes after the sticky fingered thieves that want to steal parkland from a low income community and hand it over to fat cat developers and sports team owners:
"In 1895 Frederick Law Olmstead the genius who created Central and Prospect Parks in this city and other famous parks elsewhere said: “The survival of our park system requires the exclusion from management of real estate dealers and politicians and that the first duty of our park trustees is to hand down from one generation to the next the treasure of scenery which the city placed in their care.”
In the current political environment of Queens, Olmstead would be gutted like a fish-and we have immigrant pols like Moya and Peralta who have quickly adopted the constituent-screwing ways of their native mentors. As Haber points out, parks are just another bartering chip for the current crop of ambitious office seekers:
"But when it comes to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it not only falls on deaf ears, but upon a large group of donkeys who masquerade as public officials, oblivious to the fact that even during the great depression of the 1930s, public parkland was considered sacred and inviolate, not for sale or barter."
And since Haber is not a young man he has a good historical perspective on all of this attempted robbery-tracing the current efforts to their rightful source:
"Since the administration of the late former Queens Boro President Donald Manes through and up to our current Bloomberg administration, FMCP has been up for grabs by all sorts of fat cat real estate and special interests aided and complicit with so called politicians who have not the vaguest understanding of what urban parks are all about and that once parkland a non renewable resource is given away, it is lost forever...
It will be recalled Manes, who disgraced the office of Boro President facing criminal charges, wanted to cut down over one hundred trees and build a Grand Prix race track around Meadow Lake, endorsed at the time by our current Queens Boro President Helen Marshall, then a public official, as well as others and wanted to turn the park into a Meadowlands sportsplex to be named after himself. Since then the USTA was given a significant piece of the park upon its promise not to seek more parkland. That promise was as worthless as a dead tennis ball, it sought and was given more land and currently seeks more as well as the right to increase the size of its stadiums, an environmental blight."
Ah yes, Donald Manes, whose protege Claire Shulman stands at the epicenter of all these unethical and illegal shenanigans. Shulman learned how to finagle and become a toady to developers under the watchful eye of her teacher-a man who is probably smiling someplace warm watching his devious designs bear fruit in the precious park he sought to despoil: "Donald Manes’ dream of a sportsplex in lieu of a park may well come to pass, in which case it should be named after him since the demise of the park would be criminal and compliment his abysmal term in office."
Is there nothing that can be done? Haber thinks it isn't too late to derail the parkicide insanity-and preserve Flushing Meadows for the future:
"While the die has been cast, but since not yet solidified, can anything be done to prevent this from happening? The answer is “Yes.” The people of this city and in particular of Queens, must take Frederick Law Olmstead’s admonition seriously. Flushing Meadows Corona Park must be removed from the city’s jurisdiction and turned over to a professionally trained park administrator supported with tax dollars and with the specific obligation to exclude all politicians, real estate and special interests from any say in management of the park."
It is time to mobilize the Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst communities-and beat back the grasping self servers masquerading as public servants. Haber gets the last word: "Residents of Queens wake up if you want to save Flushing Meadows Corona Park for yourself and generations to come, and insist any person seeking public office must support the above or not receive your vote."