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.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Cancels Christmas

Couldn't help thinking of our old friend Burgermeister Mesiterburger at the BBG Picnic Night. (Talk about first world problems, but the Q's going for it, so settle in.) If you spend the roughly $100 for a membership to our dear Garden, one of the greatest treats of living in Central BK, you get invited to the after-hours Member Nights on Wednesdays during the summer. And on a few select evenings, you're even allowed to picnic on the grass! Oh hurrah, and hurray, say the little children. A chance to run and play on the most perfect lawns, with parents sipping wine and talking to neighbors and old friends from the playground, school or 'hood. Most Leffertsians seem to congregate on the beautiful open spaces just west of the cafe. It's a truly joyous occasion, and always leaves one with the most utter respect and love for the garden and its carefully coiffed arboretum.

Until last night.

Just after 6pm, as parents were laying out blankets and pulling out the corkscrews and quinoa salads, first one then two security guards show up, looking none too pleased. That's okay wethinks. They're just here to make sure the Garden's many manicured plants and trees are treated respectfully. Just as some girls have taken off their shoes and start engaging in the night's first cartwheels, and some of the boys start chasing each other, the directive comes loud and clear.

"Children must not play or run. If they continue you will be asked to leave."

The parents looked at each aghast. The children must not play or run? That's like telling the pope not to wear a funny hat. Or telling the fat lady not to sing. Or telling birds not to eat worms. Or telling Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account (is he actually gonna keep that once he's President? "Had lunch with Goofy Angela Merkel today. Her ratings are terrible. Not attractive. Doesn't have the best words.") No one can even believe it. The kids look at us like someone just cancelled Christmas. "What, no toys this year?" Clearly this directive came from someone without children, right? Lots of kids. Nice weather. Food and happy parents. Luxurious grass. Perfect setting. Good food. running or playing. Might as well ask the dollar vans to slow down.

So the Q wouldn't be the Q if he just sat there, so he goes up to the guy and asks what's going on, but this only makes him more adamant. So the Q goes to his superior, who says the rules are to protect the garden. Fair enough. Stop the kids who are climbing on trees or ripping up grass, I say. Escort out the parents whose kid bludgeoned a toddler with a plastic light saber. But don't tell our kids not to run and play. Nothing. So now I ask to be directed to the head of security and the membership manager, whose job it is to keep the numbers up for memberships. I walk all the way to the Brooklyn Museum parking lot entrance, and as I approach they say "there he is." Someone has radioed ahead. As I start in explaining you can tell children not to eat the bamboo, but you can't tell them not to do cartwheels the security man says "I was with you til you said cartwheels. Our job is to keep the children safe, and they simply can't be doing cartwheels." I ask if he knows what a cartwheel is, but that's not going anywhere good. So I hear them out. Sometimes picnic night gets out of hand, children running willy nilly, parents not watching them, pretty soon someone gets hurt or lost and the BBG gets sued. Has anyone sued the BBG over picnic night? No. But no matter. I try a different tack. "Why not tell your guys to find some middle ground? Stand down a bit, let's see how it plays out. The parents will do their best to keep the kids from (I gulp) hurting themselves by playing on the hard, hard, nasty, sharp grass. (Okay, I didn't say that, but I wanted to.) Much to my surprise, they agreed.

Eventually, the parents and children so outnumbered the garden personnel that they were forced to concede defeat. A few of our girls actually approached the guards themselves and asked why the "no play zone?" We were proud of course that our seven year olds were self-possessed enough to approach their elders like that, and the guards agreed that a few cartwheels, well designed and executed, would probably be all right. Pretty soon the garden was back to reasonable chaos.

By the end of the night we felt happy again, though with a bit of WTF taste on our tongues. Then today comes word from a local parent that during regular hours today she and her kids were aggressively scolded for getting too close to the sprinklers. They weren't even running. Or playing, really. So unnecessary. Simply not nessa.

The Q loves the garden so much. He's been going for more almost 30 years. He was in love with the Chunky Chicken Salad and saddened, no HORRIFIED, when they discontinued it. Then this new caterer comes in, and frankly, the lines are long and the food overpriced. The chili tastes fine, but it's too much broth and not enough, er, stuff. There's only two registers when there used to be three. Even the longtime workers seem unhappy. And don't get me started about the absurdly long construction time on the new garden areas. Is it, like, one guy doing all the work? They hired a landscaper from Long Island to come in on his days off?

To the Garden. Please. Three nights a year, for two and a half-hours at a pop, let the kids run free. And at other times, don't harass us. If you see something truly dangerous or disruptive, fine. But let people walk without their shoes off for chrisakes. This is about enjoying nature and appreciating the botanicals. And while the reeds near the little creek and the leaves on the trees are beautiful, they ain't the Mona Lisa. Tiny damages, when they happen, will grow back. Tiny damages, like the rift that opened with my beloved garden last night, will heal. Just..chill out, y'all. For the sake of the children.


ADL said...

I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, you're right: no big. On the other hand, it's pretty annoying to go to the peaceful garden and see (as I have seen many times):

Kids peeing in the bushes/shrubs/creek/wherever because their parents are too lazy to take them to the bathroom (most recently it was because mom wanted to take some pictures--not a case of nature calling urgently)

Kids fishing out fish from various mucky bottoms (Most recent response: "Don't worry, he's not gonna catch any, and if he does he'll put them back." Then why the Ziploc?)

Kids running utterly amok as they sometimes will when parents feel it's safe enough to ignore them.

This past Wednesday it seemed to me that there were plenty of kids playing rambunctiously but not (too) destructively. A little screamy for my tastes, but they seemed to be having a good time and enjoying the garden that's always nice to see.

To be clear: it's a parent problem (and, yeah, being a parent is super hard, and yeah, parents do deserve a few seconds of relaxation too). If you encourage selfishness--it's okay to pluck a flower if nobody sees, it's okay to piss where you want if it's easier, it's fine to scream as long as you scream far away from daddy--then that's not cool.

The chicken salad I can't speak to.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I've never seen the peeing thing happen. It's an outlier. Kids pick things. It happens. If the parents don't gently scold the kids they're being shitty garden visitors and if a guard sees it they can box the parent's ears for all I care. Pre-emptive dumb rules is unnecessarily antagonistic. Especially on picnic night, when the whole point is breaking the rules for an evening.

ADL said...

Yeah, true; I guess shitty visitors will find a way to be shitty visitors regardless...

I enjoy the blog, by the way!

Anonymous said...

I really feel it's just numbers. More and more people are moving here every year and the city as far as I can tell is just pushing the issue down line hoping that somehow it will fix itself. Every time I travel elsewhere I wonder why the parks in NYC are so much louder, dirtier, and inconsiderate. Too many people and not enough space. I'm a runner and being bored to tears circumnavigating the loop have gotten to know most every small corner in prospect park and in the past ten years the amount of trash accumulating in the recesses have increased substantially. Don't get me started on the toilet paper everywhere from people using the park as their latrine. Pack it in and pack it out in not in anyone's vocabulary. It's really not a pleasant place to go any longer during the summer weekends so there is probably a bit of spillage over into the gardens. All of this said I would agree that the garden's security may be a bit harsh, but it could be a result of increased traffic and rule breaking happening during normal hours.

Anonymous said...

Oh I've seen a parent take a kid to pee on a tree when we were in sight of the visitors center. I was in the same party and even suggested the bathroom a few yards away.

Anonymous said...

Q, that's the point he was making...children need boundaries, and it's a parent's responsibility to ensure that they stay within them. Moreover, what do you mean that because it's "picnic night, when the whole point is breaking the rules for an evening?" What you're not considering is that children learn by example; children need consistency. The same rule applies at all times, to all, regardless if it's "picnic nigh or not." Children need to be thought to respect the property of others and more importantly the Botanical Garden or other public places belongs to all of us; and therefore we need to take care of it, respect that it will remain as pristine and beautiful for years to come and for others to have the opportunity to appreciate in the future.

Q, generally I agree with you...but this laissez-faire parental style I strongly believe cause our children to grow up with this sense of entitlement; with an elitist attitude. I see this in my line of work, every day…and it is worrisome.

babs said...

They do have one designated children's picnic night. That's the one I usually skip. Otherwise I try to locate myself far enough away from any kids not to have them run through my picnic or on my hand (both of which have happened to me there).

Clarkson FlatBed said...

"Children need boundaries." No shit, Sherlock! I'm glad that you chose to use the 2 1/2 hours of Picnic Night at the BBG to make this point. Frankly, anyone who wants to go global with this very specific issue (no running or playing in the garden during picnic night at the BBG - that's the business at hand) should choose a parenting blog to do so. You may well be right that this crop of Brooklynite children are spoiled brats in need of a firm hand, but that's hardly what I was talking about it. I tend to agree with you, though I think the fact that we're all living on top of one another makes it easier to judge the parental foibles of others. Hard to ignore the brats when they're running around like rats, in and out of your pantlegs.

BBG: Don't call it a "picnic" then ban horseplay. The idea that the kids are somehow in danger defies logic. It's grass. They're kids. It's a picnic. Get it?

In no way am I suggesting that children be allowed to climb trees or destroy plants or pee on the bald pates of grumpy old men. If you lay out a blanket and eat upon the grass, expect a little loosening of the yoke around the kids' necks. Jet outside of NYC for a minute and you'll see children off their leashes to a much greater degree than in NYC. Give the decent parents a break and let their kids "run and play" a bit. So much to ask? And yeah, if they take a dump on grampa's head or pull out an axe and start hacking the Camperdown Elms, toss 'em and their wretched parents out on the Flabenue.

In other words - enforce the egregious, let loose the harmless.

babs said...

Unfortunately, some parents can't be trusted to assure that their kids don't get out of hand and spoil things for other adults. The vast majority of kids are well-behaved, but those parents don't feel the need or inclination to supervise their kids ruin the party for everyone.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Kick the bad eggs out; don't enforce silly rules. If they actually DID kick out parents and kids guilty of Herbicide, I bet they won't be back without kiddie straitjackets and muzzles. If at all.