April 9, 2015
(via web form contact)
Daniel R. Garodnick
District 4 - Council Member - Democrat
For many years I have been trying to address problems I observe in NYC with only marginal effectiveness.
Recently I was asked by a woman "Have you brought the issue up to your council member?" Shamefully I had to tell her no and to compound my shame I couldn't tell her who my council member was.
I would like to address one problem at a time and this is it:
The Central Park Conservancy has taken over the Belvedere Castle which used to be a Nature Center catering to children, and they have converted it into a 'gift shop' and tourist center for themselves.
This was a bold and thoughtless move on the part of the Conservancy which I feel demonstrates their selfish plans for this precious park.
The Nature Center of the past could have used a makeover, having been poorly maintained over the years, but still it was a place that attempted to educate children and make them become in tune to the environment.
Instead of improving the Castle for children the Central Park Conservancy has turned this once quiet place into a circus with tacky photographers harassing visitors to take their picture like they do at carnivals and selling cheap souvenirs like coffee mugs and fridge magnets. The CPC shows little to no care for the delicate Nature preserved surroundings of the park by selling their cheap and tacky goods and placing them in excessive hard plastic bags where more junk like calendars and maps and other unnecessary environmentally damaging trinkets are given away.
Please tell me how you can help me to make the Central Park Conservancy give back the Castle to the Children of New York City and restore this place back to being an uncommercial non-predatory place for tourists and residents alike.
Lover of Central Park.
October 25, 2012
Dear Mr Blonsky:
I am appealing to you once again to return Belvedere Castle to the Children of New York. Earlier this year the Central Park Conservancy took away this exciting and educational place from the Children of New York to turn it into a gift shop for the CP Conservancy where you sell T-Shirts and coffee mugs and other trinkets. This is shameful and in breach of the contract between the NYC Parks & Recreation and the CPC.
The Central Park Conservancy has turned Belvedere Castle into a cheap and tacky place. Central Park Conservancy employees approach visitors in a pestering manner to take photographs of them which I heard is offered to them for sale when they are trapped inside the Castle. This sort of behavior only occurred in Central Park by outsiders preying on visitors and now this bothersome practice is being done by CP Conservancy employees and volunteers dressed in official looking apparel with the Central Park Conservancy insignia.
Please do not cheapen the park and please make yourself as transparent as possible during the course of your contract which hopefully will terminate once New Yorkers smarten up.
For now I ask that you get rid of that tacky gift shop and return all the microscopes and other equipment which you destroyed from the Castle. Also remove all your paraphernalia and stop using the park to advertise your organization.
Central Park is a place for peaceful relaxation not a place for conducting business.
Please help me to convince The NYC Parks & Recreation Dept to take back Belvedere Castle from the Central Park Conservancy and restore it to the children of New York.
NYC Parks & Recreation Dept
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065
July 20, 2012
Subject: Belvedere Castle, Central Park
Dear Adrienne Benepe/Veronica White:
I am writing to you with an appeal to restore Belvedere Castle to its original purpose as an educational and enjoyable place chiefly for children.
The Nature Center at Belvedere Castle has for several decades been a place for young boys & girls to visit and learn about their environment from exihibits and tools at the Castle’s Nature Center and through excursions and explorations in the nearby Ramble and Shakespeare Garden. The Castle was a place, though inadequate and in dire need for improvement, where a young person could be inspired to appreciate the natural world around them. Sometime at the beginning of the year this place was thoughtlessly taken away from our young people and turned into a gift shop and information center for tourists by the Central Park Conservancy.
Please restore the Nature Center at Belvedere Castle and use that opportunity to make the necessary improvements to keep it up to date and interesting to modern children without loosing the Castle’s timeless charm.
Here is the contents of my communication with the President of the Central Park Conservancy concerning this matter:
Dear Mr Blonsky,
I am trying to find out what happened to the Nature Center at Belvedere Castle. Any information you can offer will be appreciated.
Dear Mr. Karim:
Doug Blonsky asked me to respond to your recent email regarding the Belvedere Castle in Central Park.
The Conservancy operates Belvedere Castle as a visitor center and gift shop, provides maps and public information to park visitors, and staffs and maintains the facility. From time to time, the Conservancy also provides free public programs in and around the building covering a variety of topics (nature, ecology, history, etc.) relating to the Park.
The most recent exhibits on display at the Castle were removed due to their worn condition. In addition, the old exhibits were very cumbersome, and impeded the flow of visitor traffic to the facility, which has steadily increased over the years. Prior to the installation of new exhibits, which will likely include significant technology upgrades that will enhance the visitor experience, the Conservancy will have to undertake much needed work to the Castle's infrastructure.
Very truly yours,
July 1, 2012
Thanks for writing me. I'll take it that the answer to my question is that the Nature Center has been eliminated by the Central Park Conservancy. I just wanted to make sure that it was not relocated without the knowledge of the people to whom I made inquiries.
What used to be one of the few places designated for children (as pathetic as it was) has now been completely eliminated as the Central Park Conservancy continues what appears to me as their out of control quest to turn the park into a sterile tourist-orientated arena for mindless entertainment and selfish self promotion.
Try to measure the value of stimulating a child's mind by furnishing Belvedere Castle with new microscopes, telescopes and other exciting scientific tools against what can be gained by taking that away and giving out maps to tourists. Do you think much thought for the long term benefits of NYC residents went into transforming that attractive venue into a tacky gift shop to sell worthless trinkets?
If there were any decent minded people in decision making positions in the NYC Parks and Recreation Department they would not allow children to be stepped over like they are presently. Perhaps if children find something wholesome and rewarding to do in their early visiting years in Central Park they may find this potentially stimulating place in their later years useful for more that carving their initials into the trunks of trees and doing drugs in nooks and crannies throughout the park.
Transforming Belvedere Castle from a child-friendly venue into a visitor center and gift shop is selfish and self-serving on the part of the Central Park Conservancy. It is shameful that the NYC Parks and Recreation commissioner allowed this to happen.
I would like to see the return of the Nature Center at Belvedere Castle with much more improvements over its past state. I would also like to see more educated people operating it instead of the under-qualified staff of the Urban Park Rangers. With some effort I am sure the many universities and other scholarly institutions which abound in NYC may offer some advice and perhaps they may even be able to volunteer some of their own staff to contribute to wholesome educational and fun activities for children visiting the park.