The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Monday, May 21, 2012

State Fair Comes to Prospect Park

The hating on the Bourgeois Brooklyn State Fair (a/k/a Great Googa Mooga) has reached a fever pitch on the interwebs, but the Q isn't about to join the griping about the event itself. Having attended countless state and county fairs in my youth, the event seemed about right to me. Overpriced food; long lines, overwhelmingly pasty-white attendees, mediocre music (though with an "ironic" bourgie twist - for instance Van Halen tributes and the actual Hall &  Oates could have co-headlined the State Fair in Nebraska this year, and probably did). As with other State Fairs across the nation, this one perfectly mirrored its constituency. Where the Iowa fairs of my youth included butter sculptures, 4-H contests and world-class heifers, hep Brooklyn had myriad "artisanal" $6 sliders (read: very very small sandwiches) and wine-tasting tents. The Main Street USA vibe may have blown some relocated hipster fuses, and the many dissatisfied customers probably need to remember that "festival" experiences are usually a mixed-bag and that the keys to a good time are shady grassy knolls, blankets, bringing in your own water, and sunscreen. And zen-like patience. The people watching is really the star attraction. But wow, for Brooklyn this is mighty white people watching:

The Great Googa Mooga - Day 1 - Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC

Thanks are due to my Secret Jewish Santa (thanks man!) for the free-but-hard-to-come-by googie-moogie tickies, my family got a gander from the inside. Many weeks ago, when they were dropping the free tix on the masses, I had no idea what a Google-Moogle was, nor did most of the 80,000 lucky squat-on-the-website ticket holders. Brilliant gotta-be-there-or-be-square marketing left Brooklynites drooling for tickets...right up to the day of the gig it seemed to be working perfectly. Then the reality of logistics kicked in, and the rest is whiner history. Snafus and lack of food in the VIP Extra-Mookie part left many huffing and demanding refunds. Blah-blah-blah, ho-hum better-luck-next-time or don't-bother-going-next time. End of story.

No. Not end of story. For there was some intense urban soul-searching and perverse poetry to be gleaned from the event. Really.

Ever since the brilliant "Concert in Central Park" by the reunited NYC favorite sons Simon and Garfunkel drew 500,000 people to a free surprise concert back in 1981, our City parks have been host to big ol' shows from time to time. Wary of potential for violence or even terrorism, the move has been to try to contain the events through fences and security checkpoints. So just to do a concert in a public park you now need to go through One Police Plaza's checklist, gain their approval, and agree to their monster budgets. (Without elaborating, let's just say that Black Eyed Peas are more of a shoo-in than, say, Lil' Wayne. Simon and Garfunkel was probably a pretty easy sell even back in the bad-old-days of Central Park. Their hardest rockin' tune was Mrs. Robinson for gosh sakes.) Estimates for police coverage at events like this range from $300,000 to a million bucks. A negotiation typically takes place. Sanitation needs to get paid, and the Parks Department and Prospect Park Alliance have huge costs that need to be covered. While many have wondered if the Park is making big dough off events like this, it is in fact making SOMETHING, but nowhere near the numbers one would hope for closing down huge important areas to the public. Maybe they'll clear a couple hundred grand if there aren't a lot of unforeseen expenditures. I'm guessing, but it's an educated guess.

Some critics have been particularly vocal about how wrong it is to close a park at all, even for free events. I've enjoyed A.O. Scott, film guy at the Times, and his Twitter rants.  It's a compelling argument - that parks are "sacred ground" and deserve to be left unsullied by ads and commercialism (Celebrate Brooklyn and the bandshell aside, of course, being built for that purpose, sort of). For those of us on this side of the park, the combination of the Lakeside Project construction and the Extra Cookie entrance to the Grape Koogle Woogle meant that the Park was essentially closed for business, save the sliver between Ocean Ave and the roadway. But hey, once a year or so, what's the biggie? So the Nethermead dogrun was shut down. So the Audubon Boathouse was off limits. This was a BIG DEAL, this Kooky Wooky, and in the end, it was probably an experiment worth trying at least once.

But when you actually got there, and realized that nearly 1/3 of the Grated Googoo Mama was completely off-limits even to the free ticket holders...that you needed $250 smackers to even hear James "LCD" Murphy and Anthony Bourdain and Dirty Dozen Brass Band (thankfully they wandered around the plebe section later, probably just as dazed by the VIP thang as anyone)...NOW you're talking big collective cultural bummer. It's one thing to ticket an event, albeit free, for security reasons. It's another to make whole sections of the park off-limits to anyone who can't afford to drop a quarter of a thousand dollars on some haughty fried chicken and celebrity chef mischief.By the by, it's the VIP folk who are most miffed by what they say was shoddy planning and lack of food. (Yes, hunger hurts).

I suppose the whole thing was a marketers dream. Even the free folks were EXACTLY the demographic for countless luxury foods, wines, beers and lifestyle brands. On the VIP side, where Lexus golf carts were available when you became weak from the hunger, folks of the demographic AND the means were corralled in a nifty little pen. I can only hope that at least one lifelong Lexus owner was procured.

Oh that's enough from me. I'm not out to blame anything on anyone. After all, it's ultimately City Hall's call, and we voted 'em in. The City's current administration is eager to please big business and court bourgeois culture. There was probably little reason to suspect anything but a win-win-win-win-win-lose-win-win-win scenario. If the Crate Cooky Wooky were to ask me, I'd say by all means come again. But have it somewhere else not quite so public parky. I'm with our neighbor A.O. on this one (I think he still lives around here, doesn't he?) Let's keep the park the park and leave the festivals to the fairgrounds. Or the desert. Or Tennessee. Or wherever they're having them these days.


Anonymous said...

I was disappointed to find out just how much of the park was blocked off by this thing. I did not attend, assuming preemptively the disasters that attendees encountered. I thought, though, that only the Nethermead would be blocked off, much like Singapore day, so I was very surprised to find that I couldn't even really get into the park on our side at all. I hope that park made a shit ton of money from this thing, otherwise I would say it was far too much of a compromise of a public resource.

Anonymous said...

Private money should not be allowed in public space. Currently it is a few days a year, but I am afraid as the park gets more popular , we will start seeing more shutdown days.

I was walking with my kids trying to cross the Nethermead last Tuesday and was kicked out by two guards.
They are shutting it off one week before and after the event for construction. Very very annoying.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, and know that it isn't PC, but if you're going to have such white/bougie activities why don't they go and shut down part of the long meadow near Park Slope?

I didn't go to this horrid thing, and yes I actually got emails about it telling me to sign up for tickets and when. Rather than getting sunburn and paying way too much for food that I can get any other time, I decided to say no. Theoretically, I am in the demographic of individuals who this sort of event should appeal to, but I guess I believe a park is for quietness, picnics, and simply enjoying.

Perhaps I would've been less annoyed at the whole thing if it was like an Iowan, or where I'm from Central Pa, type of fair. From what I remember the state/ county fairs that I went to did NOT have a stupid VIP area. The only areas that were off limits was where the workers gathered for a few minutes of respite from serving the crowds. Anyway, I guess I'm pissed. I was annoyed at the closing of the park, and I'm really annoyed now given the ruts and the yellow grass that is in the park from taking everything down after an all day rain. Also, there is a lot of trash on the trail from the Neathermead to the ball fields/9th street exit in Park Slope - cos what do most of these people care? They don't regularly use the park. arg.

Anonymous said...

If Prospect Park Alliance made two million bucks off of this then I'd be all for it. That much cash could do wonders to improve the other 363 days of the year in festival-free Prospect Park. Would I trade one weekend of no Neathermead/Audubon Center for a restoration of the Oriental Pavilion or the Vale of Cashmere? You bet.

But if they made only $100k-$200k I think we all (meaning everyone in BK) just got shafted even worse than the folks in Extra Mooga.


Anonymous said...

Let's start the "Next Time: Longmeadow!" campaign, letting PPA know that the next big event needs to be hosted on the rich side.

Band shell events don't count :)

babs said...

How about if all the PLGers who are signed up to attend the Party for Playgrounds at the Audubon Center next week get together there to have a chat w. Emily Lloyd? First Singapore Day and now this - I'm in favor of NO Googa Mooga ever again in a "public" park!

babs said...

BTW, Superfly, the organization responsible for the event, is refunding ALL the Extra Mooga tickets. Please so not try this again next year, at least not in Prospect Park!

Naomi said...

I'd be down for a Longmeadow campaign. Why do these festivals always take over "our" area of the park? Spread the love! At least Singapore day left most of the paths across the park clear. The Googa Mooga took over everything and the people doing security were uninformed about which paths were open.

Anonymous said...

i have never seen the lawn in the Nethermead so trashed it will not recover until 2013. It is not even Memorial Day and the whole area is an eyesore. We need to voice our disapproval!!!

MadMommaCarmen said...

I spent some quality time on the Nethermead this weekend and holy cow! I know folks had previously mentioned the bad shape it was in, but man! They f*%$ed up the lawn!! There's big o'le patches where its just dry mud, absolutely no grass. You can tell where cars were driven all on the lawn. Oh, and the goodie is that they left consolation prizes. My kids managed to find lots of metal goodies left over in the grass (some small, some huge pieces). Fun times all around.

babs said...

And just to return to your state fair analogy for a moment, Q: aren't state fairs usually held in special-purpose places, called fairgrounds? As opposed to in supposedly public parks and scenic landmarks? This is just wrong on so many levels, and the pathetic mea culpa issued a few days ago by the PPA shows they know it. Now our job is to keep such things from ever happening here again.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Babs. State fairs are held in permanent fairgrounds that exist only for that purpose. Because tens of thousands of people plus heavy trucks and equipment is just not what you put on the grassy lawn of a park intended for the public to enjoy year round. I hope the park made a lot of money on it too but even if they did it's not the appropriate venue for events like Singapore Day and Googa Mooga. If the park needs to earn money by regularly hosting such things then they need to carve out a less picturesque part of the park to create a permanent fairground spot. Like maybe on what will be the new parking lot for the new Lakeside project?