In today’s (September 4th) Wall Street Journal, there’s an article about Adrian Benepe, New York City’s Park and Recreation Commissioner.
Mr. Benepe climbed the entire ladder to the top, starting with his first job picking up trash in a park on the Lower East Side. It was in his next job, as a roving ambassador and security-providing Park Ranger, that he had an epiphany. An elderly man told him that New York City suffered its collapse because it abandoned its parks to thugs and vandals.
From that experience, Mr. Benepe developed his belief that parks are what civilizes and transforms a city from a collection of buildings and people into a community. He argues that given the density of the city, New Yorkers are dependent on the parks not only for recreational purposes but also for social and political life. “Take even a tiny little triangle like Abingdon Square in Greenwich Village. If you fix it up and make it green, suddenly it becomes a magnet for people. If, on the other hand, it’s allowed to become gray and grimy, it becomes just the opposite – a haven for drug dealers.”
NDDC Vice President Joe Grundhoefer has been advocating for years that the downtown parks, Bridge Square and the adjacent piece overlooking the falls, should have picnic tables like the other parks in town. It would provide a nice respite for office workers, a little treat for mothers with small children, and a forum of political discussion for youth and seniors.
Joe has been told that picnic tables are hard to mow around and easy to throw in the river. As Kellen Kirchberg, Rick Estenson, Dave Shumway, and Eric Emmons will tell you, the City has at least one picnic table that would be awfully hard to toss into the river.
According to Mr. Benepe’s theory, the decision on picnic tables is clear: community or crime.