Veronica M. White: Who Is The New Parks and Recreation Commissioner?

Yesterday, the Voice reported on Parks and Rec Commissioner Adrian Benepe's resignation.

Benepe's legacy is a polarizing one: His decade-long tenure is marked by tremendous expansion of the city's greenspaces, but also characterized by controversial policies barring artists and performers from parks, as well as pushes for private fundraising. Many also felt that Benepe fostered a corporate culture at the city's parks -- and might have threatened their vibe as public spaces open to all.

That said, there's a lot at stake with his replacement, Veronica M. White.

White now heads up the Center for Economic Opportunity, a Bloomberg-backed anti-poverty lab she founded in 2006, which has an annual budget of $100 million. The Center has conducted experimental welfare efforts, such as paying low income individuals to go to parent-teacher conferences.

But who is she, exactly?

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Snow Day! What Are You Going to Do With Your Time?

Sledding in Prospect Park.
You are probably aware that snow has come to New York City. Considering you can't yet spend your snow days watching the city's online map that will track when salt spreaders or plows went down city streets (if you're intrigued you can watch Mayor Bloomberg discuss the tool at this morning's press conference), you have to find some other ways to occupy your time. We're aware of your predicament, and we'd like to help with some suggestions of things to do.

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Crime Down in New York City for 2011; Central Park After Dark Now Just 'Boringly Safe'

At Mayor Bloomberg's press conference about public safety today, he announced that crime in the city has been driven down 34 percent in the last 10 years, and that serious crime is down overall this year compared to last year, factoring in a change in the state's definition of felony assault. As of yesterday, the city had 499 murders in 2011, the third fewest since record-keeping began. "If you take a look at the NYPD, the resources that we devote to this size population, it is greater than other places," said Bloomberg. "We have funded the police department and the fire department to get these results."

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The High Line Is New York City's 'Make-Out Park'

Ed Yourdon/Flickr
Union Square may be the loneliest place in New York City, but, not to worry, the High Line has now been dubbed the "make-out park of New York City." This according to a Parks enforcement officer who spoke to the New York Post, which today reports on the High Line as the drinking-est, most romantical park in New York City. Or, at least, the drinking-est, most romantical park in which the most people are caught and ticketed for drinking. Between January and November, 113 summonses for drinking outside in the park were given, mostly to tourists and lovahs who wanted to toast with wine or champagne as they watched the sun set. (A/K/A, these are not hardened criminals, nay, they are more "the philharmonic crowd and the upwardly mobile.") In any case, they can't help it.

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Bo Diddley's Son Arrested for Occupying Bo Diddley Community Plaza

Ellas Anthony McDaniel, the son of legendary rhythm and blues artist Bo Diddley, was arrested Friday morning in a park named after his father while participating in the Gainesville, Florida offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests. The Independent Florida Alligator reports four protesters, including McDaniel, were arrested for trespassing in Bo Diddley Community Plaza while it was closed. "This is my father's park. For them to arrest me in that plaza is ludicrous. ... I'm an American. This is freedom of assembly," McDaniel said. Your move, little Tommy Zuccotti.

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5 More New York City Parks Will Get Free Wireless Internet This Week

Earlier this year the city announced a five-year plan with AT&T to bring free Wi-Fi to 26 spots in 20 New York City parks throughout the boroughs. This Thursday, Astoria Park in Queens, Herbert Von King Park and McCarren Park Field House in Brooklyn, Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan, and Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island will all join the list as Internet accessible.

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Leon Reid's 'Tourist-in-Chief' Project Gets O.K. From Parks Department

Leon Reid IV
Despite a unanimous vote in favor from Community Board 5, the Parks Department had seemed bent on denying "Tourist-in-Chief," the public art project by Leon Reid IV in which he hoped to dress Union Square's George Washington statue in tourist accoutrement: "I Love NY" cap, camera, subway map, and shopping bags. But it seems they've had a change of heart. The artist wrote to us today to let us know the news: "'Tourist-In-Chief' has been permitted by the Parks Dept."

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There Will Be a Giant Lightsaber Battle in Washington Square Park This Month

On Saturday, September 24, there will be an epic event in Washington Square Park, a night to remember, Jedi vs. Sith, hands aglow with lightsabers, battling to the pain or to whatever one battles to with a lightsaber. The brains behind Lightsaber Battle 2011, Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner of Newmindspace, are known for their hosting of giant, free events in cities, like, for instance, pillow fights in Union Square. This one, too, is free, but for the cost of a $5 lightsaber, which you know you want, and can reserve here. (If you already have a lightsaber, feel free to bring it. We will not judge you.)

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George Washington Tourist-in-Chief Project, Denied by City, Gets Support from Community Board

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George Washington, of Union Square, was a superhero for a few days in January. He and fellow statues around the city donned capes to promote the premiere of an NBC show about a cop-turned-superhero. George held a basket of flowers once, too, for Arbor Day in 2008. But the City of New York Parks & Recreation Department won't let him play New York tourist for a day, as part of the Art in Odd Places festival. Leon Reid IV, the artist, is befuddled at the department's decision. Last night, after hearing a presentation by Reid, equally befuddled Community Board 5 members decided to lend their support to the project.

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The Scene From Evacuation Zone A: Police, Escape Vans, and Kids Walking Papillons

Depending on who you listen to, come Monday morning East River Park will look something like this. Sitting smack dab in the middle of dreaded Evacuation Zone A, the park is vulnerable to any storm surge Irene has up her sleeve. For now, however, it is full of joggers and dog walkers. We are about an hour away from the city's mandatory evacuation time of 5pm, but apart from a few empty vans and buses waiting to pick up evacuees from the Jacob Riis Houses, you could hardly tell.

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