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CONSERVANCY’S COMING: As you can read in this week’s issue, in an exclusive talking point from Bill Castro, the Parks Department Manhattan borough commissioner, plans are moving rapidly ahead to create a conservancy for Washington Square Park. The issue will be on the agenda of the Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting on Wed., May 1, place and time to be assigned. Rich Caccappolo, the committee’s chairperson, tells us he recently reached out to Steve Simon, Parks chief of staff, for clarification after the issue was broached a bit cryptically at a meeting earlier this month, and Simon informed him the conservancy “is in formation.” Sarah Neilson, who has been tapped to be both the park’s new administrator and the conservancy’s director, will attend the May 1 meeting. Caccappolo told us: “We have asked Sarah to introduce herself and to be prepared to discuss her role (she will explain that similar roles exist in other parks) along with other topics that may come up, such as PEP officers, N.Y.U.’s support, other existing Washington Square Park organizations, the status of the park’s Phase 3 renovations, the recent pillow fight, crusties, etc., and the new “expressive matter” park performer rules — which I anticipate will be a significant discussion itself.” Caccappolo, who was not on C.B. 2 when talk of a conservancy last percolated, about seven years ago, said he’s quickly working to “get up to speed” on the issue and to understand why there was such intense opposition before. “We hope to create a common basis for understanding for all who participate — including Ms. Nielson, so she can be most effective moving forward,” he said. “I don’t expect that we will create a resolution coming out of the meeting; I think we may need iterations of thought and discussion on the topic. This news may seem to have come out of the blue, but it is actually very timely, because the park’s renovations are expected to be completed this summer,” he noted. “If the conservancy is going to help with maintenance, security, beautification and so forth, than it might be helpful to start soon after renovations are complete, or as close to that time as possible, though I am not aware of potential timeframes for its formation. So, I hope all interested members of our community come to the meeting, though the location has not yet been finalized.” Cacappolo quipped: “Tell them to bring sleeping bags and rations because I fear the meeting may go on for a long time…just kidding.” Susanna Aaron, the Parks and Waterfront Committee’s vice chairperson, added, “We will be looking for clarity on terms and conditions: Is there a distinction between the terms ‘conservancy’ and ‘friends group’? I’ve heard that distinction made, but it seems just a point of nomenclature. How will the model of this soon-to-be-formed conservancy differ from longtime community groups active in Washington Square Park, or from other parks, like Central Park or Madison Square? Sarah Neilson will be able to address whether the formation of a conservancy diminishes the money the Parks Department will continue to budget for Washington Square Park,” Aaron noted. “The role of the Washington Square Park Conservancy will be defined by the license agreement it signs with Parks, so I think neighbors will want to know what the terms of that agreement will be. One person mentioned he wants Washington Square Park to continue to be operated by Parks, so as to remain a community park; so there are questions about how one defines ‘community park,’ and questions about accountability, community input, limiting vendors and special events, among other things.” Aaron said she had gathered that a big part of the pushback against a conservancy a few years ago was the fear that big donors would have undue influence over the park’s renovation project. “I wonder, with that capital project mostly behind us,” Aaron said, “what concerns remain today.” Aaron noted it’s her understanding that the conservancy hasn’t completed selection of its board of directors and that the new organization hasn’t been incorporated yet — nor even signed an agreement with the Parks Department. … Hmm, what’s next, a conservancy for Tompkins Square?!
RIDE ON! We were walking down E. Ninth St. past the old P.S. 64 Sunday afternoon when J.K. Canepa came zipping along on her bicycle. The East Village environmentalist had just come from Union Square — with a detour at the Tompkins Square rhumba circle — after tabling against T.P.P., a.k.a. the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She explained to us that this trade agreement, between the U.S. and 10 other nations, will give foreign corporations the right to sue our government when the U.S. laws block their environmentally destructive projects and toxic exports — and that the multinationals would even be able to sue for millions of dollars in future profits they claim they’ve been denied. “T.P.P. is a time bomb ticking down to the finish line in October,” Canepa warned. “It would be the last trade agreement that would ever need negotiations. The president is just trying to fast-track this through Congress, which has not been privy to the language.”
RAY’S LEASE RENEWAL CRISIS: Ray of Ray’s Candy Store, at Avenue A and Seventh St., who just turned 80, tells us his lease is up for renewal July 15, and that it’s likely his rent — now $4,100 — will double. But he can’t afford to pay that without doubling his prices, and is now wondering if, after 40 years, he’ll have to “give up the business.” While some European countries have commercial rent control, he noted, New York never will. Three years ago, the community pulled together to help Ray pay his rent through the winter, until he finally could make it through to his peak summer season, and also finally get his long-delayed Social Security, which had been snagged in bureaucratic red tape. But this lease renewal is a serious new challenge. While Jerry Leshko, the store’s former landlord, had wanted to give Ray a 99-year lease, he died about 15 or 20 years ago before he could follow through on the pledge. … Meanwhile, on the bright side, Ray’s new specialty, fried Oreos, is selling like hotcakes, and they are, mmm-mmm good!!! For a video of Ray talking about his lease, his love (Kathy D., 71 — unfortunately, unrequited, because she feels Ray is too old to marry her) and other issues, visit www.thevillager.com .