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April 14, 2013– Essay by Steven E. Greer, MD
They’re baaaack. Asphalt Green is claiming to be in business once again, accepting memberships for summer camp and gym memberships. More than 1,700 families and 3,000 individuals of Downtown were burned two years ago when they paid their fees, then received promises after promises of ever shifting opening dates. Only after BatteryPark.TV uncovered the behind-the-scenes secret fighting between Asphalt Green and the BPCA which was causing the opening delays did real progress happen.
Throughout the two-years of delays, Asphalt Green management was well aware that the BPCA was misleading the public. Claiming that city building permits were the cause, the BPCA’s CEO, Gayle Horwitz, and her Misinformation Team, led by still-employed Anne Fenton, duped the public until BP.TV got on the case. After our exclusive story that the BPCA had been paying a high-powered litigator to renegotiate the contract with Asphalt Green, Ms. Horwitz promptly “resigned” the next day, and the new BPCA Chairman, Dennis Mehiel, proceeded to open Asphalt Green.
Throughout all of this, not a peep was made by the Asphalt Green leadership: Executive Director Carol Tweedy, Chief Operating Officer Paul Weiss, and his marketing/media relations person, Christina Klapper, Marketing Director. Fielding thousands of questions from parents and hopeful members from 20011 through 2012, nothing about the true reasons for the delays were ever mentioned by this management team.
Now, that same Asphalt Green management is asking for your faith, once again, in signing up for summer camp. The facility is not yet opened or even officially turned over to them by the BPCA. Asphalt Green has many dozens of staff to yet hire before meeting the summer camp deadlines.
The only reason that the community should be willing to make the leap of faith with Asphalt Green management, despite years of apparent incompetence, is that the new leadership of the BPA has signed a modified contract and is publicly trying to move the process along. The post-Hurricane Sandy repairs are nearing completion, and the May 1 date of turning the facility over to Asphalt Green is on schedule. Faith in Asphalt Green really boils down to one man, Dennis Mehiel of the BPCA.
While the new Asphalt Green will finally provide some much needed competition to the mediocre offerings from Bob Townley’s Manhattan Youth, the performance of Asphalt Green is very much up in the air. Has the heretofore inept Asphalt Green management been placed in a straightjacket by secret deals cut to “play nice” with Bob Townley? New secrets are revealed every time we request a Freedom of Information Law document. Despite the MOU having been defeated, for now, will Asphalt Green be so afraid of Anne Fenton and elected officials that they will become corrupted just like the old regime of youth pimps?
One thing is quite clear in New York: Community centers are magnets for corruption. The recent high-profile arrests of New York state and city officials were all related to some form of kickbacks or bribery surrounding community centers.
New Asphalt Green members should have sharp oversight eyes focused on the new Asphalt Green management to make sure that it does not become just another source of Downtown corruption. As the great philosopher Pete Townshend wrote, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”.