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World’s Fair group seeks park chief’s ouster

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David Oats, the chairman of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association, said the park did not provide a proper response to the attacks.He called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to replace Assistant Queens Parks Commissioner Estelle Cooper, who heads the park, and was appointed under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani."The buck stops at the top," Oats said, indicating that he believes Bloomberg is responsible for the poor situation he alleged exists in the park. "The mayor would not tolerate this lack of accountability if it were the police or education."In a report the 40-year-old association released Feb. 5 titled "The State of the Park 2007," it said the park was being damaged through poor management and destructive uses.The report recommendations included the removal of Cooper, the creation of a full or partial police precinct in the park, and a halt to the practice of allowing parking on the grass during sporting events, among other ideas.The World's Fair Association is a small organization led by Oats and Greg Godfry that does no fund-raising and has no formal membership, Oats said. It was founded in 1967 when Robert Moses, who was president of the World's Fair Corporation from 1964 to 1965, encouraged the formation of a group to keep an eye on the park, Oats said. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe defended the park's conditions and its leader, saying the Parks Department had invested $420 million in city parks over the past 13 years."There is not the slightest consideration of removing Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Estelle Cooper from the position she has held for the past 13 years," Benepe said. He then criticized Oats' association as being an ineffective advocate for the park."To my knowledge, the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association has not raised funds or actively done anything to improve the park," he said.The report listed a number of problem areas in the park.Oats said Benepe did not respond to the crime spree between Nov. 22 and Dec. 25 that left a Ridgewood man dead and a Little Neck man in a coma. At least 10 others were robbed. It was not until after the police went public with the wave of violence on Dec. 26 that three men were arrested and charged in a number of the attacks.The Parks Department works with the 110th Precinct and Patrol Borough North to reduce crime in the Flushing Meadows, Parks spokeswoman Abigail Lootens said."Following recent incidents, we have increased Parks Enforcement Patrol and surveillance to supplement the NYPD officers assigned to the area," she said.The report also cited the delay in replacing a warning light on the New York Pavilion, the breaking of a historic marker, the parking on park grass during large sporting events and the neglect of a wildlife sanctuary and Willets Point.The report said there were positive developments in the park, praising the Queens Theater in the Park, the Queens Museum, the New York Hall of Science, the new Mets stadium and other features.The full report can be seen at www.theparkwatchdog.org.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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