In some ways, the furor over the Great Googa Mooga, the last day of which was canceled due to rain, shows how far Prospect Park and Brooklyn generally have come since their nadirs. 20, even 10, years ago few people even knew where the Nethermead was let alone waxed rhapsodic about its delicate infrastructure and crucial spiritual significance to the soul of the borough. They used to VERY occasionally have opera out there in the 1970s, but it was wicked weird to do it. They held full-bore equestrian events out there - you know, horse shows. And festivals of one kind or another have been common - often fenced-in ones - through the time that even the Q has lived here (that goes back 25 years now...oy). So before we all get our collected panties all bunched up we might be served to remember that the Giggy Miggy did not invent the idea of a festival in the park. In fact, urban parks throughout the country and world do this kind of thing ALL THE TIME. Often in the grassy parts. Yes. In the grassy parts.
Does that mean the Greek Geeky Meeky is a good idea? Probably not. But the reasons why it is not a great idea, in my opinion, which I'll elaborate for those who care, have nothing to do with the mission of "a" park or "this" park, or the Prospect Park Alliance, or the NYC Parks Department or any other nonsensical statements I've heard or read. Parks are what we want them to be. If enough of us don't want the Googa to come back, it probably won't. Last year the complaints were out there, but it was hardly an uproar. But given the dire state of funding for the park, and the fact that the Alliance administers the park and is always looking for new earned revenue and ways to bring in new members and ways to be creative with its extraordinary resources - generally in the interest of making the park better, stronger and more fun - I said and still believe that it was worth giving them a couple years to experiment with a generally well-respected outfit like Superfly (the Googs and Bonaroo's organizer) and see how the vendors, attendees, and most important the lawn, reacts.
And what's the verdict, after two years of the Grape Gaple Maple? Last year ended in a hung jury. After this year, every last participant seemed to have been hanged and is still swinging in the breeze. Vendors got stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars of unsold food. Superfly didn't make it's dough. The park didn't get the public relations bounce it was hoping for (see the nasty NY Times diss). The Sunday bands like De la Soul and Kool & the Gang didn't get to play. And tens of thousands of ticket holders didn't get to go at all, many waiting in line for a couple hours being teased by the organizers into thinking the show must go on.
To the event itself: I went Saturday afternoon-eve, and the rain had kept it to under 20,000 attendees. It was great. Geeky, but great. (I think the wilder, zanier, druggier more "Burning Man" kids were at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Queens). It was a lot of fun, good clean fun, this Guggly Muggly. The concert on Friday was apparently a blast. This was just the sort of urban festive good time I've come to love about NY summers. The biggest problem, as has oft been noted, was that the location is a grassy respite, not a big dirt box or parking lot, which is really the right location for something like this. I agree that common sense dictates that (see picture at the bottom). State Fairs, which the Gaggy Maggy most resembles, are never held on grassy meadows intended for grassy meadow style recreation. They're held on dirt-bag drag-race mud-pits.
Some interesting random thoughts I picked up off the inter-wires included Ryan Sutton's piece on why it's not a very interesting idea in the first place to have a bunch of restaurants showing off their wares outside. As in, this sort of things happens at places like the Brooklyn Flea's Smorgasburg (now, gulp, in Manhattan too!) already every weekend. And we've got food trucks, and you can even get some of these upwardly priced wares at Nets games and Rat-Center events. So the whole specialness of the thing, which seemed so provocative even just a year ago, is kinda Goot Moot when you think about it. Then there's the mildly entertaining aspect of reading contemporaneous tweetage.
But the big point I want to make is this. It's not like the event was created by Monsanto and featured live beatings of baby seals to the sounds of neo-nazi skinhead music. It was a well-intentioned event created by a beloved music festival featuring dozens of local restaurants and well-regarded bands, many local, and beer and wine makers, many local, that was so popular they had to limit the FREE tickets to a lottery so as not to overtax the once-underused Nethermead. Even 10 years ago, the NY Times was talking (unfairly, and quite elitist-ly if you ask me) about the nastiness of our side of the park, starting at, yes, the Nethermead.
But lastly I must ask, to all of you who feel so passionately that this park must remain pure and untouched and fully sodded and uncommercialized...now that the City has handed over control and an expectation that we will raise a certain amount of money towards the Park's upkeep...are you prepared to kick in some dough to make that happen? Because Prospect Park ain't gonna maintain itself. And let's be honest, here. We ain't exactly the cleanest park patrons either. Folks who frequent our side of the park are known to litter and leave whole truckloads of trash behind after picnics. The Parthenon over by the Parade Ground sometimes looks like Fresh Kills. Even the Nethermead gets trashed, even on non-Googa weekends. We could all do our part.
Lakeside, the big brilliant soon-to-open skating and lake-reclamation project is soon to be the pride of the east side. We've got our lovely Lincoln Road and Imagination playgrounds. We've got the Boathouse and the Nethermead and the Carousel and Lefferts House and Zoo. We have the lake, the Drummer's Grove, the other drummer's circle down by the lake, the Oriental Pavillion, ,concert grove, lovely paths etc. etc. That dude who wrote that NY Times piece claiming we got the short end of the stick was high, high, high when he wrote it, or rather, things have definitely taken a turn for the better. Given all that, I think we could all stand to cut the Alliance a break, and recognize that they're looking for new models to cut their deficit, because they're not getting the sort of private support that Central Park gets. And that's a shame, because there's PLENTY of money in Brooklyn right now. But that money hasn't deemed it worthy to walk its green presidential legs on over to the jewel of the borough. Let's hope that begins to change, Giggy Miggy or not.
Alas, it does look like the 'Mead took it pretty hard. Gothamist took this shot and many others.
The Q at Parkside
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.