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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is the Gubba Mubba Worth All That Hubbub?

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 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.


Alex said...

Good points, Tim.

And then there's this...


Anonymous said...

There is a lot of money on the other side of the park but not in PLG. I am fairly confident that if you took a poll of all residents that reside in PLG less than 1% would have donated money to the Prospect Park Alliance. Reason being is that there is a TON of poor people living here. They can barely afford a meal at Wendy's let alone donate money to the park. The only way Prospect Park will meet even a 1/4 of the donations that Central Park receives, is for PLG and Prospect Park South to gentrify faster.

Alex said...

I should elaborate.

True, parks can be used for whatever, and I am fine with that. Festivals, fenced or otherwise, are perfectly fine in a park. But they should be planned properly. Having Giggly Miggly in the fall when killing grass isn't a big issue would make a really huge difference. I guess we should just hope that they manage a miracle and bring the grass back to life soon, and that a bit more common sense enters the picture for future event planning.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Good idea, Alex. A crisp fall day would have made much more sense. I suspect, however, that the GM is gone for good. Those pictures from the link you shared are pretty tough to argue with. And the tide has definitely turned.

JDB said...

I for one loved the Goog. Went on Friday night and had a fantastic date night with the Mrs. steps from our apartment. The event was extremely well run. Food and music were great. It was a pretty diverse scene, despite what the haters have said.

As a member of the Prospect Park Alliance, I would have liked the park to get a few more bucks out of the event but its not chump change either. Also, lots of people joined the Alliance in order to get tickets.

I hope it comes back next year. Alex's idea of having it in the fall sounds like a pretty swell idea.

Anonymous said...

they tried, they failed. no more googa moogas.

ElizabethC said...

The police helicopters looping the park and thus buzzing my building every ten minutes or so made th weekend pretty painful. I wouldn't miss it.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

3:10 Anon - You obviously haven't been noting the census and housing trends to suggest that money is not moving very rapidly to the east and south sides of Prospect Park. Plus you seem to show disdain for poor people, whom you seem to think are incapable of supporting anything other than a fast food restaurant. And when you say:

"The only way Prospect Park will meet even a 1/4 of the donations that Central Park receives, is for PLG and Prospect Park South to gentrify faster."

you demonstrate no aptitude for math nor logic nor cultural sensitivity nor basic understanding of the history and economy of NYC.

Methinks "owner" may have made an encore appearance.

JMB said...

Considering that the park got $75k for the GM to shut down half the park for 10 days and take a big dump on it, and 5 hours of renting the Boathouse for a wedding costs $4k, the math just doesn't add up.

That's bad business however you look at it. It's one thing to be open to trying new things to raise revenue, but it should be done responsibly.

Anonymous said...

Q, I must defend my logic here. I am Anon 3:10.

I have looked at the latest 2010 US Census figures for tracts 8, 81, 327, 802, 804, 806, 50803, 79601, 79801, and 79802 from the NYTimes interactive census map which roughly covers the boundaries of PLG. The median household income for 2010 was about $40,825 vs. the 2000 median household income of $40,162. This equates to an overall increase of only 1.65% for that 10 year period. During that time inflation rose 26.6%. So in real spending power terms the median household income actually dropped 24.95%!!

In addition Q, the total population for all of the census tracts noted above lost 3,645 people. Meaning the overall income power of our neighborhood has dropped by 6% due to this population decrease. So in conclusion, yes I think its hard in socio-economic terms that our neighborhood can support the Alliance based on the data above.

Being poor is not something to poke fun about and I was not trying to do that. In reality a lot of people choose meals at fast food restaurants because the cost is relatively affordable and in terms of walking distance from their homes is convenient. If I was worried about how I am going to pay my higher rent or how to scrap together a meal for my kids, I sure as hell am not going to worry about how can I donate time or money to Prospect Park.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Okay. You're right. You're probably not "owner." And you show some perspective. Still, you don't know the meaning of the word "median" income.

And a person living on limited income doesn't necessarily aspire to eat fast food. A much more economical choice would be home cooked. Fast food is actually a terrible choice, given the means-tested subsidies available for groceries, like WIC. All I was suggesting is that you were playing to stereotype of the ignorant inner-city poor person, not the broader notion of someone struggling to make ends meet. They're not the same thing. In my time in NYC I've really gotten to understand the difference. I know even college educated folk who qualify for the latter group, and plenty of hard-working long-time New Yorkers and immigrants too, so it's just not fair to lump everyone together.

The census, and the median income (not the mean, also called average), doesn't account for the large number of middle to upper income folks who have bought expensive houses and apartments in the neighborhood. Plus, it's notoriously inaccurate. It takes a snapshot, but also does a terrible job of accounting for immigrant neighborhoods like Flatbush. Remember, 2010 is also THREE WHOLE YEARS AGO. Independent research has shown it undercounts the outerboroughs by as much as 10%.

As to who gives and doesn't to the Alliance, you're right that Lefferts and Ditmas/PPS lag the Slope and Prospect Heights. But I would argue that it's not just means. It's also a matter of outreach and perception. We should all be giving, and the Alliance could do a better job of making its case.

There's research done too that shows that people of limited means actually give MORE of their income away to charity percentage-wise than do rich folks. Look it up. Remember, I'm a fundraiser. I'm not completely ignorant on that count!

diak said...

"... 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 ... We could all do our part."

Thank you, Mr. CB! Googa Mooga is an easy target... the real abuse of Prospect Park goes on day in day out by park goers who well, to call them "pigs" is insulting to perfectly good pork chops. Maybe you hate the whole event—I don't care for it myself—but at least the GooMoo promoters step up and take responsibility for their mess. (I understand they subcontract the cleanup to a company that specializes in "sustainable maintenance" although that might just be jargon for not throwing everything in a Dumpster...)

Could you do your part? Can't afford to go the Alliance black-tie benefit gala? Too much? Or join the PP Alliance? Still too much? Could you volunteer a couple of hours a week? No time? Maybe you could pick up after yourself and your dog? Too hard to bend over? Sorry for asking... you're right, its all GoogaMooga's fault.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with JMB here. 10 days for the event including set up and removal at only 75k. Quite literally "chump change" and Prospect Park Alliance are the chumps! I absolutely will not be renewing my membership. Last year, I merely got a dismissive form letter when I wrote them about Googa Mooga's damage to the NetherMead. I honestly hoped they would assess the damage and learn from it by restricting access of motorized vehicles on the the NetherMead or the like. Some sort of substantial restrictions should have been implemented to try to do better by the Park this time around.

While I have supported the PP Alliance for years as our advocates in protecting the park, it is clear that they are a embarrassment who are clearly viewed as "pushovers" by event organizers. The continued damage sustained by this event is simply unconscionable.

Shame on you PP Alliance!

WinFlatBed said...

I represent the Brooklyn Bird Club and, having a place at the monthly Community Committee meetings hosted by Emily Lloyd and the PPAlliance, I have made known our general opposition to the GoogaMooga for a number of different reasons.

First is the event's conception which you address in your post above. The food festival is better suited to a less natural environment that can better suit the massive load-in and load-out; the Jacob Javits Center for instance. The scope of the event is simply too massive for the location and, though we didn't get the incredible rains of last year, the driving of large trucks onto the grassy areas, even with the protection they used, inevitibly causes damage to the lawns. They will reseed or resod but the lawn will not fully recover until next year when they plan to show up again.

Next, the Nethermead lies in the natural heart of Prospect Park surrounded by the wooded areas of Lookout Hill to the south, the Quaker Cemetery Ridge to the west, the Lullwater to the east and the Midwood to the North. Most of these areas have undergone an impressive restoration in the last few decades. The natural beauty of the area is what attracts Superfly Productions. They envision a Woodstock style extravaganza of peace love food and music but the natural setting of the area is what makes such an event wholly inappropriate which brings me to my final objection.

The timing could not be worse. Set up of Googa began on Thursday May 9th, two days before International Migratory Bird Day, the height of the spring songbird migration, and the load out continues today on the 23rd, over two weeks of event intrusion.

Prospect Park and the areas around the Nethermead are an recognized Important Bird Area and is a sanctuary for migrating songbirds many of whom face severe threats on their survival in these times of habitat loss. Migrating Songbirds fly all night and look for habitat when the sun comes up. If they happen to be over the sea of concrete and asphalt that is our urban area they funnel in to the few patches of green that are our large urban parks. As a result, the density of migrating songbirds is extraordinary in Prospect Park. There is this important natural phenomenon happening just as the industrial scale production with it's noise, traffic and lights is ramping up.

We hope the PPAlliance can at least schedule the next year's Googa in June or July but ideally they would move it out of the Nethermead entirely. We understand the PPAlliance's need to raise money and support that cause but the GoogaMooga just has too much working against it.

Anonymous said...

Re: 10 days for the event including set up and removal at only 75k. Quite literally "chump change" and Prospect Park Alliance are the chumps!

I don't have strong feelings about Googa Mooga, but I wonder why the Prospect Park Alliance settled for this amount of money when it could have gotten more. There seemed to be plenty of money to go around according to the reported amount of profit.

Why Nethermead? Why not use the area by the bandshell?

The Snob said...

Why not Coney Island?