Let’s pave over Central Park…The notion is ridiculous. New Yorkers would be justifiably outraged and you could expect such a proposal would be met by such scorn that any politician that proposed it would be run out of town.
Yet, back in the 1950’s it almost happened. Robert Moses, Mayor LaGuardia’s Commissioner of Parks decided that parts of Central Park would need to be paved over to serve as a parking lot to accommodate the large number of automobiles in Manhattan.
As Commission of Parks and also Chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority, Moses wielded tremendous power He controlled millions in income from his projects' revenue generation, such as tolls, and he had the power to issue bonds to borrow vast sums, allowing him to initiate new ventures with little or no input from legislative bodies. This allowed him to circumvent the power of the purse as it normally functioned and the process of public comment on major public works.
Against this backdrop in 1956 when Mr. Moses ordered bulldozers to tear up a playground in Central Park to make room for a parking lot, Stanley Issacs the then Manhattan Borough President stood up against Mr. Moses to save Central Park. A liberal Republican, Isaacs associated himself with Theodore Roosevelt's progressive brand. Mr. Isaacs rallied the neighborhood mothers and together with their baby carriages demonstrated in front of the bulldozers. Rather than battle dozens of mothers and babies, Mr. Moses gave in and Central Park was saved.
How ironic is it that the public housing buildings where the current Mayor is building the Marine Transfer Station at East 91st Street is named for Stanley Isaacs. Today, mothers who protest are arrested for disorderly conduct as the Mayor moves forward building a dump less than 400 feet away from 2000 public housing units.
The true progressive notions that Stanley Isaacs fought for, the green space for New Yorkers that yearn for are once again being paved over. A truck ramp now bisects a park with a soccer field on one side and a toddler’s playground on the other.
Perhaps the solution is to honor Mr. Isaac’s name and turn the truck ramp into a skybridge and the dump into an extension of Asphalt Green. Let's save this park and not pave over it just like Stanley Isaacs saved Central Park.
Let's honor Stanley Isaac's memory and do something really progressive. Let’s Build a Park and put an environmental center on it where today's kids can go to learn about recycling and the East River watershed which is making a comeback. Or a basketball court that can be used year round. Let's Build a Park, not a Dump!
And with the money saved from building the dump let's fund the shortfall in Pre-K funding throughout the 5 boroughs. Now that would be truly Progressive!
LET'S BUILD A PARK NOT A DUMP!
Below is my vision of what a Park at the site of the E91st MTS could look like. Imagine a jewel of a park, an extension of the East River Esplanade sitting in the East River used by the public rather than a dump in front of public housing.