The controversial music and food festival that wrecked Prospect Park for two years in a row will not be invited back to party, a Parks Department official told city council at a Thursday hearing.
The weekend-long Great GoogaMooga wrecked the park’s Nethermead meadow both go-rounds, forcing the field to close for costly clean-ups and raising the ire of park patrons who said that the big-ticket event had no place in Brooklyn’s backyard — and the city finally seems to be listening.
“After two years of assessing [GoogaMooga] in that site, we pretty much feel at this time that it’s probably not the appropriate venue for something like that,” said Parks Department assistant commissioner Betsy Smith at the hearing about the private use of public parkland.
Smith said that the fest caused “more damage than we thought” after this year’s gated event, which attracted tens of thousands of attendees and left the park fenced off for repairs for most of the summer. The Parks Department deemed the event “too big” for the park’s Nethermead meadow, Smith said.
Green space advocates cheered the news that the big festival will not be making a three-peat of the long lines and drunk crowds that they say were better suited for a stadium than a rolling lawn.
“It’s certainly really good news,” said Geoffrey Croft, director of New York City Park Advocates. “The event obviously should have never been sited there in the first place. It’s a completely commercial event with a non-park purpose.”
Organizers with Superfly Presents, the company that organizes the event, said in a statement late Thursday night that they get it, okay?
“We understand and support the Department of Parks & Recreation’s decision, and we look forward to continuing a great working relationship with them, both on this project and others in the future,” the company wrote. “We thank the Prospect Park Alliance for the opportunity to bring GoogaMooga to Prospect Park the past two years, and we pledge our continued support for their mission to make the park an enjoyable and world-class public space.”
Thursday’s council hearing came nearly two weeks after a festival thrown by cable kids network Nickelodeon drew 35,000 children and their families to the Nethermead and further wrecked the big field, according to park regulars.
Park preservationists who are opposed to the park hosting big, ticketed events like GoogaMooga and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play have said that the security guards, corporate logos, and long set-up and break-down times show a clear privatization of the commons but, despite the GoogaMooga snub, park officials do not see it that way.
“Large events occur because New Yorkers demand them,” Smith told the council. “They love them and they turn out in large numbers to enjoy them.”
Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) said at the hearing that his office was inundated with phone calls from concerned users of Frederick Olmsted’s public playground after GoogaMooga and the Nickeledeon bash.
“It does feel to people like their park is being taken from them and they don’t like it,” he said.
Park officials said that the reason for requiring tickets and putting up barricades at large-scale events, which are typically free, is simply for crowd control.
But the events do bring money to the city. The Parks Department charges a fee to any organizer hosting an event in a city park that draws more than 500 people. The fee is often negotiated for large-scale events like GoogaMooga and is calculated based on the duration of the event, the impact the event will have on the park, and the level of commercial activity the event generates, agency officials said.
Smith said that the fee has nothing to do with how much money party organizers make, but some councilmembers argued that it should be factored in.
The Prospect Park Alliance, which manages Prospect Park, made $75,000 on a fee from GoogaMooga, $41,500 from the movie-party Tropfest, and $150,000 from Nickelodeon. The funds help pay for park maintenance and free programming, according to the Alliance.
Any organizer hosting a large-scale event is required by contract to pay for any damages that occurred as a result of the event.