MBCG Puts Parks Dept. "On Notice"

Frustration over massive concrete planters along Oriental Boulevard’s median is riding high for Manhattan Beach Community Group, which put the Parks Department “on notice” during their November meeting.

MBCG’s traffic committee chairperson, Judy Baron, read a letter sent to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe into the group’s record Wednesday. The letter put the blame for future accidents squarely on the shoulders of the city agency and was written after the group was advised that it would make the city accountable in future lawsuits.

The group, with the help of Community Board 15, has spent the better part of two years fighting the tall concrete planters, which they say blocks the view of oncoming traffic for turning vehicles and can be attributed to several accidents, including one recent death. Parks Department officials agreed earlier this year to move the planters by the end of September, but later ditched the plans by saying they’re “too heavy.”

The planters were part of an Oriental Boulevard beautification effort that cost taxpayers upward of $1 million from funds allocated by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Michael Nelson. Kingsborough Community College offered to move and store the planters – free of charge – until Parks could figure out what to do with them. But according to MBGC President Ira Zalcman, the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner was aghast at the idea, saying, “They’re not yours to move.”

In a nod to the absurdity of the situation, which for neighbors in Manhattan Beach has become a symbol of the city’s inefficiency and over-the-top bureaucracy, Zalcman aimed to ease tension with a bit of humor. He read a satirical letter he claims to have received from Barack Obama during the president’s visit to China. The letter encouraged the group to keep fighting and to remember the president’s campaign motto, “Yes we can!” and likened the situation to achieving peace in the Middle East.

You can read the full text of the letter below:

Dear Ira,
Thank you for your letter detailing the non movement of the concrete planters on Oriental Blvd. It is ironic that I am writing you this email from China and experiencing some of the same frustrations as you.
I understand they are heavy and that Brooklyn Commissioner is a formidable adversary but let me remind you of my motto, yes we can.
You might also remember recently when I got involved with NYS politics and asked Gov. Patterson not to seek reelection, so I’m more then a little hesitant to ask Julie Spiegel to resign.
I admire your group for passing a motion nearly 2 years ago to have the planters moved to a safe location. I am also proud of KCC willingness to move the planters and baby-sit them.
Perhaps, if I may say, that it is time that you and Julie have a beer when I get back to Washington.
If you can get him to move the planters, I would greatly appreciate your help in achieving peace in the Middle East.

Here is the group’s full letter to Commissioner Benepe putting the agency “on notice”:

Dear Commissioner Benepe,
The removal of the planters that were placed by the Parks Department on the center median on Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn is imperative.  The enclosed photographs taken from inside a car on November 7, 2009, confirm the extremely dangerous condition for drivers who cannot see oncoming vehicles when turning.  There was a recent death as well as multiple accidents attributed to the height and the location of these planters.
In your September 2009 letter to our organization, you stated that the planters would be removed from the mall by the end of September.    To date, no action has been taken.  The Brooklyn Parks Commissioner, who is fully aware of the situation, has stated that he believes the planters should not be removed even though he has asked DOT to re-evaluate the situation.  Further, he has compared Oriental Boulevard to McGinnis  Boulevard claiming that the situations are the same.  This is not the case. Nevertheless, comparing the two thoroughfares is irrelevant.  If it is dangerous here, it might easily be dangerous elsewhere.
For the record, there is complete unanimity in this community with regard to the dangers created by these planters.  Community Board 15 has also written to Commissioner Spiegel complaining of the dangers.  Further, some Parks Department employees have said the planters are too heavy to move or that equipment is not available to move them.  With respect to moving heavy planters, it would be simple to first merely empty the contents from the planters!  Kingsborough Community College has offered to move the planters to its campus if the Parks Department will allow it or the planters can be placed on Parks Department property on Shore Boulevard, in Manhattan Beach.  But they cannot remain on the mall!
We write this letter to place the Department of Parks & Recreation and the City of New York on notice that having been forewarned, any accidents or deaths resulting from the years of inaction on your part will be deemed the fault of the Department of Parks & Recreation and the City of New York.
Yours truly,
Ira Zalcman