The Gossips of Rivertown--a blog of news and commentary exclusively about Hudson

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your Lame Duck Alderman

The Democratic Primary is over, and, although endorsed by the Hudson Democratic Committee, I lost my place on the ballot to Geeta Cheddie, the candidate who forced the primary. A total of 90 out of a possible 218 First Ward Democrats voted in the primary--each able to vote for two candidates--and a total of 148 votes were actually cast: 55 for Sarah Sterling, 47 for Geeta Cheddie, and 46 for me. Since I did not seek any other endorsements, I am no longer an option in November. Sarah Sterling--running as a Democrat and an Independent--and Geeta Cheddie--running as a Democrat, a Republican, a Conservative, an Independent, and on the Bottom Line--are the only candidates and will be your new First Ward aldermen.

I offer my sincere thanks to all of you who voted for me and my deep regret that, after the end of 2009, I will no longer have the privilege of representing you on the Common Council. Three months remain in my term, and although I'm a lame duck, I will continue to work conscientiously for all of us in the First Ward and for greater good of Hudson. I will also keep this blog going--through the end of this year and perhaps beyond--to keep you informed about the issues that matter.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Soccer and Henry Hudson Riverfront Park

In the question of whether or not to permit soccer playing at the waterfront, Mayor Scalera defines the issue as deciding if we want Henry Hudson Riverfront Park to be a passive park or a playing field. I don't agree with this, mostly because I think Mayor Scalera's definition of a passive park is too narrow and it limits the park's usefulness and benefit to the neighborhood in which it is located--the First Ward.

I spent two decades of my life living within a block or two of Central Park and using it as my "playground," so I decided to do some research to see if I could get some insight into how conflicting uses are handled in this park, which has got to be the most used park in the entire country. My research uncovered the report on a study done this summer entitled The Great Lawn: Its Public Use, Maintenance, and Repair.

For those not intimately familiar with Central Park, the Great Lawn is located in the center of the park from 79th to 85th streets. It is in many ways Central Park's equivalent to our big expanse of grass in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. When I lived in New York, the Great Lawn was carved up into eight ball fields, and the term "Great Lawn" seemed to be something of a misnomer since there was very little grass on the Great Lawn. In fact, something I just read called the Great Lawn of the 1980s "the Great Dustbowl."

In the mid-1990s, the Great Lawn was extensively renovated, and efforts are now being made to prevent the same overuse and abuse from happening again. The study I cited is part of that effort. The Great Lawn today has multiple uses. It is where the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera perform their summer outdoor concerts. It is where huge crowds gather for rock concerts and rallies. But the ball fields are also back--evidence that with some planning and oversight, entertainment and recreation can coexist in the same space.

One distinction mentioned in the Great Lawn report, which I submit may be useful to keep in mind as we contemplate the uses of Riverfront Park, is the distinction between spontaneous and organized recreational activities. We have several places in Hudson for organized recreational activities--the ball fields on Harry Howard, the ball field on Hudson Street, the playing fields at the High School and Montgomery Smith, Oakdale--but we should not be discouraging the kind of spontaneous recreational activity that happens when kids get together to kick a soccer ball around. I don't want to see that activity banned from Riverfront Park any more than I want to see kids running and playing tag, families tossing baseballs, footballs, or frisbees, families playing a casual game of touch football banned from the park. All these activities qualify as spontaneous recreation and should be permitted to happen in the park so long as weather conditions (and possible negative impact of the weather on the grass) permit and these recreational activities do not interfere with other scheduled uses of the park.